FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 04-10
GENDER & SPORTS
Bronner & IDF
Jane Anne Morris
Protesting School Cuts
Dolls & Drudges
Epic Recession III
Capitalizing on Disaster
NY For Sale
In Vitro, In Vivo!
Zaps - 04-10
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
From Homophobia To The Cult Of Personality
The U.S. experience of the Vancouver Winter Olympics was shaped, unfortunately, by viewers' access to broadcasts and reports. NBC once again demonstrated its inability to understand this global competition and the sports within it. Apparently, they didn't get the memo telling them that the Winter Olympics is supposed to be about the world coming together in a shared love of sports, exposing viewers to new and old sports.
NBC's nationalistic coverage, however, wasn't really about American athletic superiority. Instead of actually covering the American teams, they promoted certain individuals who had been deemed sufficiently white-bread, cooperative, and photogenic. NBC turned the broad canvas of the Olympics into a tabloid soap opera, complete with wretched production values, pre-selected stars, baddies, exclusions, and homophobic bullies.
X on XX's Ski Jumping
On the first day of competition, we were treated to the gorgeous sport of ski jumping. Until these Olympics, the record for all jumpers at Vancouver's Whistler Mountain was held by an American, Lindsey Van, who, according to NBC, "held the jump record of 105.5m for the normal hill at Whistler until Swiss legend Simon Ammann bettered it on the way to the gold medal in the 2010 Games."
Ammann was able to out-jump Van for at least one obvious reason: women were prevented from competing. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) wouldn't agree to a women's event or allow women to compete against men—with whom they train. One side effect of the IOC's stand is that it diminishes Ammann's achievement by sidelining top competitors. A dozen women ski jumpers took a lawsuit all the way to the BC Supreme Court—pointing to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which bars gender discrimination—only to be told that it's up to the IOC. They've unsuccessfully challenged this discriminatory ban year after year.
Bullying On Ice
Stuck in the Winter Olympics among such hyper-dangerous sports as the luge and moguls, figure skating is forever on the defensive. Johnny Weir, a member of the American figure skating team, is a three-time U.S. National Champion. As long as he's been in the world of competitive skating, he has been the object of homophobic ridicule and scorn. Throughout the Vancouver Olympics, NBC broadcasters described his behavior as "flamboyant" and his often eloquent and elegant words as "sound bites"—in an attempt to marginalize his joyful gender-bending.
Johnny Weir refuses to discuss his sexuality, which he sees as a private matter, irrelevant to his work on the ice. He struts down fashion show runways, does photo shoots in stilettos, and is filmed taking a bubble bath with his best boy-pal, Paris Childers, in the documentary Pop Star on Ice. He designs and sews his own glorious costumes, often pushing the boundaries of camp. This is enough to provoke open horror from skating officials who like their men butch and their women sweet, if not childlike.
The fans feel otherwise. They chose him as winner of the 2008 Reader's Choice Award for Skater of the Year (Skating Magazine) and the U.S. Figure Skating Association was forced to announce this additional achievement.
Despite Weir's prominence in his field, all assumptions about Canadian good manners and good sense were negated by remarks made by the French-language RDS broadcast network's Claude Mailhot and Alain Goldberg, who criticized Weir for "femininity" and for setting a "bad example" by making boys who skate worry that they "will end up like him." Goldberg called for Weir to pass a "gender test" and Mailhot answered that Weir should be made to compete in the women's event. By conflating their homophobia, transphobia, and sexism, these sports announcers raised the specter of the attacks on the South African runner Caster Semenya, forced into so-called "gender testing" after a winning run in a 2009 international meet. The Quebec Gay and Lesbian Council has since demanded an apology.
Weir responded with impressive grace to this frantic gender stereotyping. Speaking afterwards with Olympian skater Dorothy Hamill on "Access Hollywood," Weir was unapologetic. "Every little boy should be so lucky as to turn into me," he told her. At a subsequent press conference where Weir joked, "I grew my beard out a little bit just to show that indeed I am a man," he expanded on his response by talking about his hopes that more children would have both his opportunities and supportive parents like his, who "let me be an individual, who gave me freedom, and taught me to believe in myself before anyone else would believe in me."
Other outlets sought to match the French Canadians' comments. Australian sportscasters Eddie McGuire and Mick Molloy sneered about the skaters' costumes and a rumor that one skater was straight, "But it definitely wasn't this guy," referring to Weir. A Facebook page was quickly established named "Eddie McGuire is ruining the 2010 Winter Olympics coverage."
Then the former Canadian champion Elvis Stojko struck out against "effeminate" male skaters, whom he blamed for preventing hockey fans from loving figure skating. Stojko told Salon.com that he only identifies with skating that has "masculinity, strength, and power." This from a guy who admits to having been called "twinkle toes" as a young skater.
In a February 19 interview, after Weir was ranked a disappointing sixth, despite a beautiful, clean routine, the respectful NBC commentator Mary Carillo asked Weir, "Could you have done something that could have gotten you on that podium?" He replied with gracious comments about both his long-time rival and teammate gold medalist Evan Lycecek and the tough-guy Russian silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko. Then he answered philosophically, "Politically, I don't think it was possible for me to be on the podium. And figure skating is a political sport…. I kinda knew coming into these games that a medal wasn't really within my grasp for me." Later, in a discussion between Carillo and Stephen Colbert, the latter insisted that Weir deserved the silver medal.
Lots Of Gay
The Vancouver Olympics did not utterly lack queer content. The opening ceremony included at least two out gay Canadian performers on center stage—fiddle player Ashley MacIsaac and the singer k.d. lang. According to OutSports.com, there were five openly lesbian competitors in Vancouver, none of them from the U.S. As a home away from home, two Pride Houses were opened by the Vancouver LGBT community to serve athletes from around the world. One Pride House was located in the heart of Vancouver's gay village, away from the Olympic facilities. Set up as an educational and social center, it provided visitors with resource materials about queer places of interest. The other Pride House was established in Whistler, the second Olympic setting, where the major partying was reputed to go on. For some athletes, coaches, and parents, these history-making safe spaces were an invaluable break from the pressures of the closet.
The Cult Of Personality
Regarding NBC's approach, despite receiving criticism after the Summer Olympics, NBC again provided tabloid-like coverage that fetishized a few selected Americans at the expense of, well, showing the events. So even as we were deprived of anything but snippets of many events, American viewers came away with clear impressions of Apolo Anton Ohno's neck mole, Lindsey Vonn's eyeliner, and Shaun White's cascading auburn curls. At one point the cameras followed Ohno's floating head around the ring, entirely severed from skating, competitors, and the rink. Before the matches we saw scene after scene of Ohno yawning—long after we got the point. We repeatedly saw him composing himself before the race. But where were his competitors? What was going on while we stared at him chilling? Where was the wide view of the rink and the fans? Were there any fans other than his dad?
And what about Lindsey Vonn, the Alpine skier? One wonders if she was promoted so much more than her medal-winning teammates because, as we found out later, she has been in year-long discussions to appear on NBC's "Law and Order." An earlier cover photo of her ass up in the air sold a lot of copies of Sports Illustrated, which also didn't hurt her NBC-constructed super-stardom.
Meanwhile, Julia Mancuso (two silver medals—about equal to Vonn's gold and bronze) became the evil one when she quite sensibly pointed out that the relentless focus on Vonn throughout the competition hurt the rest of the American team. NBC turned this into a duel, grilling Mancuso about her "attack" on Vonn and interviewing Vonn so often that viewers were left begging for a bit of actual Olympic coverage instead.
Not only does the undue attention on a few athletes affect the performance of everyone involved, it also impacts their future. According to the New York Times on March 1, "For Lindsey Vonn, Apolo Ohno, and Shaun White, winning medals at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver is their ticket to future endorsements. Their success, good looks, and compelling stories should add to their growing stable of sponsorship deals with a variety of companies, marketing experts say."
In its only nod to international feeling, NBC saturated the airwaves with their coverage of Canada's six-time national figure skating champion Joannie Rochette, who won the Olympic bronze just days after her mother passed away. Her father, who Rochette said was very shy, could not escape NBCs intrusive parent-adoring cameras, despite his obvious discomfort in the public cheerleading role her mother had played.
Rochette's story was indeed moving, her performances were impressive, and I would have been happy to see her interviewed once. Twice. Okay, I could have taken three times. But she became part of the rotating stable of pretty faces used as fillers while competitive events were left sight unseen or relegated to channels no one could get. I wonder how many other athletes at this Olympics were functioning under personal tragedies and challenges.
In fact, there were over 2,500 athletes in Vancouver. Perhaps I missed NBC's profiles of alpine skiers Anna Berecz from Hungary and Leyti Seck from Senegal or of cross-country skiers Erdene-Ochir Ochirsuren from Mongolia, Pakistan's Muhammed Abbas, and Kazakhstan's Elana Antonova. Even worse, what did we hear about the Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen who won the most medals of any 2010 Olympian? An asthmatic with several piercings, this 29-year-old won three golds, one silver, and one bronze at her third medal-winning Olympics. Another Norwegian, Petter Northug Jr., known for his bravado, came second in the overall standings with four medals—two gold, a silver, and a bronze. Do you recognize the names of these champions?
Even the Ads Collaborated
The ads on NBC during the Olympics were echoes of what we were or were not seeing. There was more cult of personality, with Apolo Ohno a ubiquitous huckster. There was the homophobic "joke" in the Verizon ad, in which the father of a family blushes over accidentally admitting that he watches figure skating, to the scornful frowns of his entire family. There was a torrent of sexist and maudlin P&G ads under the slogan "Proud Sponsor of Moms." So even during the breaks, there was no escaping the poverty of the Olympic experience we were given and the frustration of knowing that, while the competitors and trainers were doing their jobs, NBC's cameras were caressing Ohno's headband and Vonn's pearly whites.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.