Adrienne Rich: No ‘Hostage of Power’

From Christopher Soden at the Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner:

AdrienneRich-smallConsidering the literary canon of Lesbian writers, perhaps none have had the pervasive impact and influence of poet Adrienne Rich, who entered the scene early, but continued to learn and evolve as she gained recognition and accolades for her modulated, angry, confrontational, articulate, yet subtle verse. Not that Rich only addressed defiant feminist gender politics. Much of her poetry has a reflective, wistful feel about it. No one (who gave it much thought) would accuse her of monotony or polemics. Married to Harvard economist Alfred H. Conrad in 1953, they had three sons before the epiphany of her actual orientation was fully realized, the territory of her writing symbiotic with her journey of self-discovery.

A pretty good summary of Rich’s poetic career follows here.

Adrienne Rich at Modern American Poetry

Rich interviewed by Don Swaim in 2008 at Wired for Books

On Adrienne Rich at bookslut

A list of online criticism for Adrienne Rich



Harvey Milk

Hilton Als on Milk and Harvey Milk at NYRB:

Milk received eight nominations for this year’s [Academy] awards; among them are [Gus] Van Sant for Best Director, [Dustin Lance] Black for his script, and [Sean] Penn for his impersonation of a man who did not find his true calling until he was forty-three years old. In the film, Milk doesn’t make much of a point about those lost years. “Forty years old and what have I done with my life?” he asks a new lover near the beginning. But the script is never explicit about what prevented him from living fully before 1973, the pivotal year in which he opened his camera store in the Castro. For a better sense of the painful secrecy Milk endured as a closeted gay man living in a pre-Stonewall world, and of the subsequent, purposeful freedom he felt during his belated coming-out, one can turn not only to Robert Epstein and Richard Schmiechen’s exceptional 1984 film, The Times of Harvey Milk (which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1985), but to the bits of documentary footage Van Sant inserts into Milk‘s manufactured world.

Especially moving are the silent black-and-white images that make up the movie’s title sequence, in which well-groomed, thin, and for the most part white young men are rounded up in bars, cuffed, and arrested, while newspaper articles act as a kind of graphic voiceover: “Homosexuals and Police Clash”; “Tavern Charges Police Brutality”; “Police Start Crackdown on Homosexual Bars, Arrest 6.” These prefatory images, set apart from the main narrative, remain the film’s clearest statement of an essential fact: for most of his life, Milk lived in terror of arrest, interrogation, and punishment.  [more]

Queerness & Disability

A review by Margaret Spelman:

Robert McRuer’s Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability examines contemporary culture, yet its argument is rooted in the nineteenth century.  During that century, the notion of “normal” came to dominate medical and social discourses, and the effects of this shift are still felt today.  Lennard J. Davis conducted an extensive study of the rise of “normal,” showing that while it was initially a mathematical (statistical) term, in the 1700s it began to denote an idealized bourgeois position.  Davis explains:

The average man, the man in the middle, becomes the exemplar of the middle way of life … [an ideology that] saw the bourgeoisie as rationally placed in the mean position in the great order of things.  This ideology can be seen as developing the kind of science that would then justify the notion of a norm.  With such thinking, the average then becomes paradoxically a kind of ideal, a position devoutly to be wished.(1)

Davis’ analysis is worth quoting at length here because it provides the link between normality and class that undergirds McRuer’s book.  Although its subtitle identifies the work’s focus as “cultural signs of queerness and disability,” Crip Theory is at heart a critique of neoliberal and capitalist ideologies which construct middle-class, white, straight, and able-bodied as positions devoutly to be wished.  Its title could make it seem a “niche” study, but Crip Theory is in fact an expansive argument showing that every institutional context, local and global, relies on queerness and disability to support the ways it distributes power and access.  Often oppressive, these institutions are also sites where dissent breaks out — or, to use McRuer’s phrase, where “crip reality keeps on turning” (63).

Inversion Therapy” by Margaret Spelman, a review of Robert McRuer’s Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability

Religion & Prop 8

From Wendy Cadge at The Immanent Frame:

There is …  tremendous diversity around homosexuality and gay marriage among local religious leaders today. In a recent small study Laura Olson and I conducted, 13% of Christian leaders in a southern city were uncertain about their beliefs around homosexuality. 45% believed homosexuality was a sin based on their understanding of scripture. And 42% expressed support for homosexuality and gay and lesbian people based on views that homosexuality is innate, part of the structure of God’s creation. Personal exposure to gay and lesbian people in family networks, seminary contexts, and local congregations was the single most important factor shaping clergy’s supportive opinions. Diversity of opinion about homosexuality and gay marriage was evident not just across groups but within every religious group we studied.

Rather than pointing fingers at African-Americans or people of faith for passing Proposition 8, we who support gay marriage across the country need to recognize two things. First, the vote—52% voted yes and 48% voted no—in California was closer than you would expect based on national public opinion surveys about gay marriage. And second, this diversity of opinion exists within families, communities, churches, and racial and ethnic groups. This will not make those of us who lost the right to marry feel better. This is a loss. But as we make our signs and plan our protests, we must do so in groups that include everyone who supports gay marriage—African Americans, people of faith, and others—rather than pointing fingers. Marriage is not a finite resource. Unfortunately, neither is blame.

via 3 quarks daily


From 3 quarks daily:

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s speech on the occasion of Spain’s passage deep fundamental civil rights legislation for gays, queers, and lesbians:

We are not legislating, honorable members, for people far away and not known by us. We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and our families: at the same time we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members.

What has happened in California is this in rewind.  The very public and directly democratic  roll-back of these rights  has made California’s a more indecent society, one in which citizens of the state have gone out of their way to humiliate fellow neighbors, co-workers, friends and family.  Sullivan on this affront and disappointment.


… gay rights campaigners, who spend tens of millions of dollars fighting to oppose Proposition 8, have vowed not to admit to defeat. A petition to dismiss the measure on the grounds that decision of such importance should be taken by state legislatures rather than voters has already been filed to the Supreme Court.

“We pick ourselves up and trudge on,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “There has been enormous movement in favour of full equality in eight short years. That is the direction this is heading, and if it’s not today or it’s not tomorrow, it will be soon.”


UPDATE IIFrom digby on November 5th –

I keep hearing about how this will right itself in the long run, that it’s just a matter of waiting until this new generation gets old enough and then gay rights will magically be “granted.” I hope that’s true. But to paraphrase a saying that’s been overused lately — in the long run all of today’s gay partners and gay parents will be dead. These soothing tones of “patience” and “don’t worry” don’t mean much when you consider that you only have one life to live.

It’s terrific that we are seeing a decline in racism to the extent that we are able to elect a black president. We’ve come a long way and there’s no taking anything away from those who waged the struggle over all these centuries. But our society is not truly changed if it’s still writing discrimination into law.

It’s as if we just can’t be America unless we are taking active steps to marginalize somebody.

Gay and lesbian marriage ban propositions were also passed in Arizona and Florida.  I guess people had more hope for California, since it is so often in the vanguard of progress.