What’s at stake in this election


It’s midterm election season, which means an onslaught of frantic emails and late night TV jokes about how no one cares about the midterm elections. Without a presidential race at the top of the ticket (though frighteningly we’re already having the 2016 conversation), a lot of people are content to let this one pass them by. As with most elections, there’s a lot at stake, and the results will directly impact our lives. I could go on about control of the Senate, extremely close gubernatorial races and state legislatures that have passed everything from Stand Your Ground to draconian voter ID laws. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to focus on some of the issues on the ballot around the country, and opportunities we have to beat back offensive laws or proactively be more bold than our governments are willing to be on their own.


Weekend reading


A great comic by Rasenth shows the damage sexism does to everyone.

Is sex only for rich people?

Mapping the New Jim Crow. (Californians: you can help do something about this by voting YES on Prop 47.)

The casual use of tasers by law enforcement is horrifying.

Why privacy matters, even if you aren’t “doing anything wrong.”

Most Americans say they prefer having a male boss.

Today in rampant sexism, a Republican politician says a candidate will lose because she’s “ugly as sin.”

Amanda Marcotte skewers a guy on craigslist who has very specific ideas about how women should behave.

The police department’s margarita machine is on you

The tragic fates of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others have increased scrutiny of horrendous police practices. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver took advantage of this spotlight to turn their invaluable form of comedic long-form journalism to the practice of civil asset forfeiture.

The New Yorker featured an essential piece on the practice and people who are affected by this flagrant abuse of power last year. Dara Lind at Vox offers a helpful overview of the practice. On what police departments are doing with the money:

In its ongoing investigation of civil asset forfeiture, the Washington Post analyzed several years of reports from state and local law enforcement to determine what they’d done with the money the federal government had returned to them. They found that the most common use of asset funds was for “communications and computers,” with “building and improvements” coming in second. But even “communications and computers” was dwarfed by the amount of money that police marked as “other” — 44 percent of the money that police got back from the federal government went to “other.”

The Post investigation noticed some particularly frivolous spending, like a $600 coffeemaker or $225 for the face-painting services of Sparkles the Clown. But at least the money spent on Sparkles went to community outreach, which is generally cops’ lowest priority when it comes to asset money. Less than 1 percent of all federally returned money went to community outreach — five times less money than any other category.

The above video is well worth your sixteen minutes, running the gamut from the ridiculous justifications police offer for running off with people’s money and possessions, to systems that incentivizing robbing innocent people of their stuff, to the near impossibility of regaining the stolen property. And yes, I would totally watch Law and Order: Civil Forfeiture Unit. 



Weekend reading

photo via nymag.com

photo via nymag.com

Activists held a Michael Brown protest during a St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performance.

“It is past time to stop seeing Malala as simply the girl who survived, as a symbol. (The Times called her a ‘global emblem.’) She is a girl who leads.”

The producers of the great new show Transparent say they welcome debate about casting Jeffrey Tambor as a trans woman.

Good (bad?) news: court rules that gay marriage won’t lead to “sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.”

5.8 million Americans can’t vote because of their criminal records.

A response to anyone who says Texas’s anti-abortion laws don’t place an undue burden on women seeking care.

What it looks like when a lawyer is appointed for a fetus.

Watch Laverne Cox and bell hooks talk about feminism and pop culture.

Islamophobia on American TV news is out of control.

Ladies, here’s what right-wingers think of you

photo via cnn.com

photo via cnn.com

Republicans have reportedly seen the writing on the wall and realized they need to change their ways to appeal to women. Most of the suggestions that have been made public are of course cosmetic and have little to do with changing policy. While thus far this election cycle there hasn’t been a “legitimate rape” moment, conservatives and their allies in the media have found ways both big and small to reveal what they really think of women.  (more…)

Weekend reading

photo via Indiewire

photo via Indiewire

10 female directors who deserve more attention from Hollywood (Of the many great film suggestions to be found in this piece, I especially recommend Night Catches Us, pictured above.)

On a related note, you can help fund a mentorship program for female filmmakers to correct the enormous gender disparity in film.

The outrageous new parental consent law in Alabama allows the state to call witnesses to testify against a teen seeking an abortion and appoints a lawyer for the fetus.

California has passed some groundbreaking laws this year, including becoming the first state to banish the “gay panic” defense.

A new study finds that it’s harder for women to leave abusive relationships if they’re denied access to abortion.

Some police departments want to return military gear, but the Pentagon won’t take it back.

The essence of gender roles in action movies, in one supercut.


Challenging oppression is uncomfortable. Deal with it.

image via theinspirationroom.com

image via theinspirationroom.com

Emma Watson got a great deal of attention, both positive and negative, for her speech at the UN on gender equality. At a time when feminism is receiving a warm cultural embrace, it’s always welcome when more people join the fold and use their celebrity to elevate the cause. But one part of her speech sparked some pointed criticism. As Mia McKenzie at BlackGirlDangerous writes:

In her speech to the UN, Ms. Watson said:

How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation? Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too.

Here, she seems to suggest that the reason men aren’t involved in the fight for gender equality is that women simply haven’t invited them and, in fact, have been unwelcoming. Women haven’t given men a formal invitation, so they haven’t joined in. It’s not because, you know, men benefit HUGELY (socially, economically, politically, etc. infinity) from gender inequality and therefore have much less incentive to support its dismantling. It’s not because of the prevalence of misogyny the entire world over. It’s just that no one’s asked. OMG, why didn’t any of us think to ask?!


Weekend reading

photo via Sociological Images

photo via Sociological Images

Apparently, the way to sell shoes in the 70s was to say they would piss off feminists.

The team behind the movie Dear White People offers PSAs that take down stereotypes about black people. I can’t wait to see this movie.

St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy thinks learning how to spin an officer-involved shooting in the media is “highly entertaining.”

A disturbing report from Amnesty International on abortion in El Salvador shows where criminalizing abortion and policing pregnant women’s bodies can lead.

Apparently when shooting victim and former congresswoman Gabby Giffords tries to hold politicians accountable on gun control, she’s being “mean.”

A Republican congressional candidate wants to track immigrants like FedEx tracks packages.

In Texas, bastion of women’s rights, “creep shots” up women’s skirts are now legal.

The Onion skewers men who think they are dazzling women into silence with their intelligence.

Mark Pryor & the NRA: the scant reward for political caution

photo via viralread.com

There are certain issues and interest groups that politicians will bend over backwards to avoid upsetting. We all know from the abysmal state of gun laws in this country that the National Rifle Association is one of them. Think Progress reports on just what fealty to the gun lobby got Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR):

Last year, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) voted against a popular proposal to require people who purchase firearms online or at gun shows first complete a background check. On Tuesday, however, the National Rifle Association announced a $1.3 million ad buy in Pryor’s home state of Arkansas supporting Pryor’s Republican opponent Rep. Tom Cotton.

Last year, the Senate voted 54-46 in support of a proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases — which, in the anti-democratic institution that is the United States Senate, actually counts as a loss for supporters of gun reform. Pryor was one of four Democrats who opposed this proposal.

The Arkansas senator’s vote ran contrary to the views of his home state. A poll taken the month after the vote found that 60 percent of Arkansas voters support “requiring background checks for all gun sales, including gun shows and the internet.” The same poll found that 40 percent of voters said they were more likely to vote for Pryor if he supported expanded background checks, while only 34 percent said they were less likely to support him.


Weekend reading


A hilarious take on “dad feminism” from The Toast.

It’s not just police departments–some school districts are reportedly getting free military gear from the Pentagon.

A video from the World Science Festival shows how unreliable eyewitness identification is.

How many women are in prison for defending themselves against domestic violence?

9 tips for police to prevent civilian shootings.

A student and a faculty adviser are suspended from the school newspaper for refusing to print a racist sports team name.

25 famous women on not having children.

Worst father of the year award goes to the Missouri lawmaker who is suing to deny his daughters birth control access.