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A Voice Beyond the Vote

2:34 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Undocubus protesters demonstrating at the Democratic National Convention (Chandra Narcia via Facebook)

Originally posted at CultureStrike

Immigration has been catapulted to the front lines of the presidential race in recent months, thanks to a groundswell of grassroots organizing, mass mobilization by a charismatic movement of undocumented youth, and high profile media coverage of some of the immigrant rights movement’s most dramatic struggles (not to mention its ugliest opponents). Add to that the changing complexion of the electorate, with the expansion of Latinos as a major voting bloc, culture wars over politically conscious public education, and the nationwide right-wing backlash that has spawned critical civil rights debates over fair elections and voter suppression.

Here are some dispatches from the pre-election political fray. Though the election may influence the dialogue or the prospects for certain policies, these issues will continue to burn long after November 6, no matter who gets elected.

CultureStriker Jeff Biggers, a longtime chronicler of Arizona politics and author of State Out of the Unionblogs about the browning of the American electorate in ground zero of the immigration battle:

When 20-year Phoenix resident and businesswoman Maria Maqueada turned in her emergency ballot today at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, thanks to the assertive efforts of Citizens for a Better Arizona, one more vote was cast in what observers are already calling a record Latino vote in Arizona.

Whether such a grassroots surge in the Latino vote will be able to overcome out-of-state contributions and Republican hijinks, including the latest report today on misleading robocalls to Arizona Democrats on polling stations by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Flake, a determined network of Latino and community groups galvanized by citizens fed up with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s notorious reign and the state’s SB 1070 “papers, please” immigration policy has already shifted the political landscape in tomorrow’s election — and beyond.

The reversal of the Arizonification of America is in full force. Read the rest of this entry →

Romney-Rosen Firestorm Is Reminder: We Need to Redefine Gender Justice

7:39 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen


(photo: Don Sutherland/flickr)

Cross-posted from In These Times

It’s almost poetic that this year’s Equal Pay Day—the one day of the year when Americans are supposed to reflect on the value (and undervaluing) of women’s work—coincided with the media firestorm surrounding the American stay-at-home-mom. The “controversy” over Ann Romney’s decision to stay home rather than work a “regular” job should highlight some of the continuing struggles of women to be valued and respected for their work, in and out of the home.

But the partisan proxy war waged over the mommy question only underscores the country’s lacking vocabulary when it comes to discussing the totality of social and economic barriers facing women. Pay discrimination, domestic violence, attacks on reproductive rights, overlapping oppressions facing women of color—it’s misleading to try to lump all these issues together into a blanket term like “woman problem,” but there is one persistent theme: society’s fear of women controlling their own lives.

The distorted framing of the debate is captured in Mitt Romney’s contradictory comments about forcing mothers receiving public assistance into the labor force—in order to instill in them the “dignity of work.” This myopic binary between women of poverty and women of privilege reflects the evolution of the federal welfare state throughout the 20th century.

Poor women, who evidently lack dignity, must redeem themselves through work, while the apparently inborn dignity of their affluent counterparts allows them to embody feminine virtue by staying within the domestic sphere. And if they volunteer to climb the career ladder, they’re vaunted as supermoms.

Part of this mentality stems from a reactionary, often racialized construction of the “deserving” versus the “undeserving” poor. The argument is also steeped in the corrosive cultural assumption that poor women’s social value derives from their labor or reproductive capacity, not their humanity, intellect or relationships.

The counterpoint to Ann Romney’s domestic sainthood is the right’s fictional “welfare queen,” the unwed mother who supposedly leeches off the state with abandon and embodies corrupt, uncontrollable fertility.

And that’s where the “dignity of work” comes in, to discipline the unruly woman and keep her in her place, safely below the poverty line. Neoliberals like Newt Gingrich have sought to broaden the attack on poor women by advocating for the use of the child welfare as a punitive tool, sweeping kids into state custody to “rescue” them from disadvantaged mothers and their communities. So much for family values. Read the rest of this entry →