Thursday, April 1, 2010

Recent things of note (from Erica)

As always, apologies for my frequent and extended absences from this blog. Due to personal reasons, I've been too busy and mucked down in my own feelings to be able to focus on anything else, but that's got to stop! So here, to get me back in the game, is a highlight of Things of Note from the past couple of weeks.

First, the Supreme Court of the United States has granted certiorari in the case of the family of Lace Cpl. Snyder, a Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2006, vs. the Westboro Baptist Church. The background of the story is that the WBC- that band of pseudo-Christians led by Fred Phelps- picketed Snyder's funeral and his family decided to sue the WBC for infliction of mental anguish. The case has gone back and forth, with the current ruling holding the Snyder family responsible for paying the WBC's legal fees, but with SCOTUS hearing it...who knows what'll happen? It's going to be an interesting clash between establishing (or extending) a standard of responsibility with freedom of speech and the current laissez-faire interpretation of the First Amendment.

Next up, Melissa at Shakesville has a story about a film that's currently slated to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film, entitled "Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives," takes the names and stories of real victims of transphobia- trans folks who have been murdered because of their gender identities- and makes up a story about other trans folks seeking vigilante justice. I can understand, to a certain extent, the appeal of such a film. Everyone who's ever been victimized by oppression has, somewhere deep inside them, a streak that would love to exact this form of justice (my streak cheers whenever the rapist gets shot in "Thelma and Louise," even though I'm not at all a fan of guns or gun-related violence). However, with the current status of trans folks in our society and the world in general, featuring a film that exploits the murders of real individuals for the sake of entertainment- and perpetuates the stereotype of trans folks as being crazy and out of control- is a really bad idea, to say the least. Add to that the fact that the production team didn't include any self-identified trans folks, and you've got a major problem of misrepresentation and co-optation. For more information, and to get hints on how to get the Tribecca Film Festival to reconsider screening this film, check out the Facebook group.

Looking for more angering but unsurprising news? Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), better known as welfare or cash assistance for people raising children, is not providing the assistance it's supposed to for families who are victims of domestic abuse. The way the law is written, adults have a five-year lifetime limit on receiving assistance; victims of domestic abuse are given a grace period in which to receive assistance without it counting towards their limit. Unfortunately, many victims aren't being given their grace period, and many others aren't being given their benefits at all. Why is this a problem, you say? TANF can offer a family financial support when a victim finds herself suddenly single-parenting, unable to work due to safety concerns, or overwhelmed by bills incurred while dealing with the abuse, such as legal or medical fees. Waiving the time limits, moreover, theoretically offers the victim enough time to make herself safe and find a new level of stability without pressuring her to make unsafe choices for the sake of expediency. Want to know what to do about it? Get in touch with the National Resource Centre on Domestic Violence and let them know you want to help make change.

Lastly, nine teens have been charged with bullying, harassment, and statutory rape after a girl committed suicide in Massachusetts. The girl, an immigrant from Ireland, was apparently harassed in school, via phone, and over the internet for three solid months before she killed herself. Shockingly enough, the school isn't facing any charges for negligence or failure to act, even though it admits that four students, two teachers, and the victim's parents all alerted the school to the problem. This is an unfortunate way of highlighting the fact that bullying isn't taken seriously, and is instead treated as some sort of sick rite of passage that adolescents must endure in order to become adults. Bullying is a serious, pervasive problem. I'm glad the community has opted to charge the perpetrators for their crimes and hold them accountable for the ways in which their behaviour had a negative impact on another person's life, but I'm also sickened that the school won't be charged. In a just world, institutions such as schools- environments that are intended to aid the social and academic development of people- would be held accountable when they fail to teach this lesson to their students by permitting such behaviour to continue.

That's it for now, folks. Stay tuned as Emily and I keep this going in spite of it being the end of our semesters!


  1. Thanks for this post. Most of those news items were outside my personal radar. (08

  2. Fred Phelps. I can't STAND that guy. We almost came close to meeting him once when our school GSA (that I'm no longer a part of for multiple reasons) decided to go support the Laramie Project play in Acton Boxborough. He's the devil incarnate if you ask me. One can differ religiously on homosexuality and not come off with the spite and filth that he does. His whole family gives me the creeps, and all their misguided followers who wouldn't know the message of Christ if it smacked them upside the head.