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Seeking eminism.org button stories for a new zine

Date: July 20, 2015

Friends! Have you bought/worn my buttons? Do you have funny, heartwarming, infuriating, etc. stories about them? Any good conversations or hookups my buttons facilitated? I want to make a zine of button stories. All contributors who are accepted will receive a free copy of the upcoming zine and maybe some special buttons.

Here’s my own example of a (true) button story: I was wearing a button that says “I (heart) MY CUNT” when I was shopping at a convenience store. A South Asian man at the register saw my button, and asked, “what does your button say?” “It says I LOVE MY CUNT,” I replied. “I love my country?” “No no, it says I LOVE MY CUNT.” “What does ‘cunt’ mean?” he asked. Realizing that he may not be familiar with the American vulgarity, I gave him a definition of the word that might have come from some scientific dictionary. “Oh,” he said, totally embarrassed, handing me the change without looking my direction. But as I walked out of the automatic door, he said “it’s good to love yourself.” So while he seemed very embarrassed, he got the message completely correctly.

I’m interested in hearing what sort of conversations my buttons sparked! I’ve been making buttons for 15 years, so I’m sure that there are many other stories that need to be shared. If you have any stories, please do email me at emi at eminism dot org. Please don’t feel intimidated: contact me if you are not sure if it’s worth printing. Thanks!

Apologies for Shipment Delay for my Buttons and Zines

Date: June 19, 2011

To everyone who placed an order for my buttons and zines since May:

I apologize for the shipment delay. I was planning a big batch of shipment on Monday, June 6th, but I became ill and had to go to hospital. My blood pressure went down to 50/20 at one point, which required me to stay in ICU for a couple of days, followed by several days of hospital stay and additional rest at home.

I’m feeling better now, and this Tuesday (21st) I plan to ship all orders placed on or before June 13th. U.S. customers should receive them by the end of the month (if not the week), and international customers during the first half of July. If you do not receive them by then, please email me at emi AT eminism DOT org.

Thanks!

Update 06/21/2011: As previously announced, I shipped all outstanding orders this afternoon except Canadian orders. Orders to Canada could not be shipped due to Canadian postal service workers’ strike.

Update 06/30/2011: US Postal Service began accepting shipments to Canada, and all outstanding orders to Canada have been shipped.

I hate Paypal but at least I can accept orders for my buttons + zines now

Date: January 29, 2011

So anyway, last summer Paypal froze my account because they needed to verify my true identity. I submitted scans of my Oregon ID, bank statement, paystub, and other documents, but somehow they were unsatisfied. It was frustrating, so I just gave up–and my $87.10 sat on my account for five months, as I couldn’t withdraw money out of my account. I also had to stop accepting payments for my buttons and zines via Paypal, which I’m sure hurt the sales.

Fast-forward to this week: just when I was thinking that I really needed that $87.10, I received my W-2 from the payroll company that had processed my paychecks while I was working at Bridges to Independence last year. I decided to give it another try, and uploaded the W-2, and–I don’t know why this time, but Paypal decided to “restore” my account back to normal!

So I hate how I’m totally at the mercy of some random person working behind Paypal’s “security” division, but it’s back and $87.10 is being transferred to my bank account within 2-3 days. What’s more, I can now receive payments for the buttons and zines (and donations) via Paypal again.

So anyway, I apologize for not being able to accept Paypal for a long time, but it’s totally back–so please help me push back my electric shut-off date by ordering my buttons and zines if you feel like it :-) http://eminism.org/store/

Funny.

Perhaps what we need is a truly feminist “pro-life” movement.

Date: January 18, 2009

On this National Sanctity of Human Life Day (which is one of those last-minute proclamations that George W. Bush is pushing through while nobody is paying attention to him), I went to the Pioneer Square Park to observe Oregon Right to Life’s anti-abortion rally and the counter-rally organised by Radical Women/Freedom Socialist Party.

Well, the rally was pretty big. I think there were a thousand people or two, which may not seem that large to some, but I haven’t personally been to many rallies that are so big in Portland. I walked around the square, reading and taking pictures of the signs people were holding, as it has become my personal anthropological research project to survey political rhetoric at political rallies. Some slogans I found on banners and signs that appear to have been provided by the organisers are:

“Stop Abortion Now”
“We Are Women Hurt by Abortion / We Are Silent No More”
“A Pregnant Woman Needs Support Not Abortion”
“Pro-Choice is No Choice for the Unborn”
“As a Former Fetus I Oppose Abortion”
“Women Deserve Better than Abortion”
“Vote Pro-Life”
“Abortion Stops a Beating Heart”
“I Regret My Abortion”

In addition, I saw many homemade signs that participants brought:

“Abortion is a Failure of Love”
“Peace in the Womb”
“Peace Begins in the Womb”
“Right to Choose? Or Right to Be Used?”
“Abortion is the Leading Cause of Death!”
“Human Life at Conception = Biology, Not Opinion”
“Abortion Kills Children”
“Love’s Choice is Life”
“A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small – Dr. Suess”
“Planned Parenthood Kills Babies”
“Adoption Not Abortion”
“How Can You Not Love a Baby”
“Margaret Sanger was a Racist”

I make the distinction between the two types of signs, because I assume that the statewide “pro-life” group, which is an affiliate of National Right to Life Committee, uses focus groups and marketing techniques to pick slogans that prove to be most effective, while individual participants basically put on their signs what each person feels is important or witty. In other words, if homemade signs are a window into abortion opponents’ psyche, professionally produced signs show what messages appeal to a wide audience.

Looking at the list of official slogans, the pattern should be obvious: the blatant co-optation of feminist rhetoric and sentiment in defense of women, which is employed to advance a political goal that deprives women of their constitutional right. As one speaker at the rally said: “we must defend our right to choose life” by prohibiting abortion. Apparently, the coupling of social conservativism with the public display of compassion (“compassionate conservativism”!) is still effective, or else they would not be using it in their signs.

In the meantime, here are some of the signs I found on Radical Women’s side:

“We Will Not Lose the Right to Choose”
“General Strike for Queer Rights”
“Not the Church, Not the State, Women Must Choose Their Fate”
“Pro-Life Bigots Stay Away! Abortion Rights are Here to Stay”
“Keep Abortion Legal!!”

I’m pro-choice, so I happen to agree with these positions–but I find these signs to be too legalistic and archaic almost, lacking persuasive power. At least, it offers nothing to the woman who was holding the sign “I Regret My Abortion” on the other side of the street. While the “pro-life” side is co-opting compassionate faux-feminist rhetoric to court supporters, the real feminists are failing to attract women who are not already “one of us.”

Pro-choice feminists tend to think of the abortion debate in strictly legalistic terms: the question is simply whether or not the State should stop women from choosing abortion. One could justify abortion rights on the basis of individual’s right to privacy or even on the basis of gender equality (i.e. no undue burden on one sex over another), but the bottom line is: there will be greater tragedies and injustices unless abortion is made available legally, regardless of how we might personally feel about it.

Some feminists oppose abortion on moral grounds, but does not believe that the State should enforce her morality on others, either on principle (i.e. State must remain neutral on the matter of morality), or because, as I wrote above, prohibiting abortion would lead to greater tragedies. Many feminists also recognise that abortion is not desirable, even as they support women’s legal right to have one, and work toward reducing the need for it. These stances do not make someone “pro-life,” because, in pro-choice feminists’ construction, being “pro-life” is not about supporting life, but about opposing the legal option of abortion.

But many people do not share these strictly legalistic definitions of “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” When thinking about abortion, many people–especially women–do not just think of just a woman and her body; they think about a woman and the fetus, and it offends them when feminists suggest that a fetus is just “lump of cells”–they agree with “it’s not a choice, it’s a baby.” And they feel sympathetic when they see “I Regret My Abortion” and “Women are Hurt by Abortion.”

The “pro-life” political movement has kept the meaning of “pro-life” deliberately ambiguous, and it is working to their advantage. Who isn’t for “life” after all? It is easy to point to the hypocrisy of their support for the death penalty-loving, war-mongering administration as they scream “right to life,” or their opposition to comprehensive sex education that could reduce the number of abortions that have to be performed, but I worry that the debate is framed to favour the anti-abortion side.

Perhaps what we need is a true feminist “pro-life” movement, which is concerned about women as well as (although not necessarily to the same degree) their fetuses, and for that reason works to end abortion, not by prohibiting it, but by combating unwanted pregnancies, poverty, prejudices toward and lack of publicly funded care for people with disabilities, sexual assault, etc. There certainly seems to be an opening for it. Sure, Feminists for Life already exists, but its positions are no different from traditional “pro-life” groups that employ superficially pro-women rhetoric: it focuses on making abortion unavailable through legal changes, rather than addressing economic and social conditions that make so many abortions necessary.

Pro-choice feminists would insist that such “feminist pro-life” movement is in fact pro-choice, and they are of course technically correct. But wouldn’t we make better pro-lifers than the “pro-lifers” themselves?

Ms. Magazine exploits women in prisons and domestic violence shelters to fundraise

Date: July 15, 2008

Just received a “Special Message” from Gloria Steinem at Feminist Majority that invited recipient to make donations to the “Prison and Domestic Violence Shelter Program” to send imprisoned and battered women copies of Ms. magazine. Big letters stated: “tens of Thousands of women in prison and domestic violence shelters need your support!” Below is an email I sent to Feminist Majority / Ms. magazine in response.

Hello Feminist Majority,

“Tens of thousands of women in prison and domestic violence shelters” definitely need our support, but I do not believe that sending them copies of Ms. magazine is the best use of my or any feminists’ resources if that were the only concern. With all kinds of other, more immediate needs, I seriously doubt that Ms. magazine ranks high in any imprisoned or battered woman’s wishlist.

I suspect that the true purpose of this campaign of yours is for Ms. magazine (and Feminist Majority Foundation) to gain greater volume and reach, and that you are cynically exploiting the plight of women in prisons and domestic violence shelters without a genuine concern for their best interest or wishes.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with trying to sustain the magazine and the organization, but you need to do so transparently and non-exploitatively. You could have pitched it differently, such as “help Ms. and FMF while giving a gift of Ms. magazine to women in prison and domestic violence shelters,” so that you would not be misrepresenting the women’s needs and wishes.

Best,

Emi Koyama

We are experiencing technical difficulties…

Date: October 19, 2007

In case you are wondering why there hasn’t been new post in a while–I’m having some technical difficulties with my installation of MovableType, and am considering switching to another application. Stay tuned…

Another Response to Élise – Retraction vs. Clarification

Date: September 26, 2007

Élise,

This is a response to your comments to “What ‘Veiled Threat’? Response to Élise Hendrick.” It became too long to post as a comment, so I’m making it a new entry.

Certainly Dreger could have picked a different case to put her weight around around, but I don’t think she approached the Bailey case from some vague sense that she wanted to address the importance of academic freedom. In one way or another, she found herself in the middle of it, recognised a problem that nobody else is addressing, and decided to do something about it.

Come to think of it, there’s no reason that I should be focusing on intersex or trans rights, because if I were really concerned about human rights, there are other groups in this world who are more severely in need of advocacy. But people don’t operate like that: we get involved in issues where we have personal connection to, either because we are ourselves impacted by them, or are close to those who are–or sometimes we are led by our curiosities or get exposed to the issues by sheer chance.

As for the difference between retraction and clarification: retraction involves accepting responsibility for the wrong that took place, whether you intended it or not; clarification generally does not.

Your description that Dreger was “endorsing a veiled threat… by Emi Koyama,” to most readers, means that I made a threat. That sentence is unfair if I didn’t actually make any threat, so I am asking you to acknowledge that it was unfair and should have been phrased differently, not simply because some readers might interpret it in a way that you didn’t intend, but because the sentence was factually wrong and hurtful to me.

Clarification would have been appropriate if the meaning of your sentence was ambiguous, and reasonable readers might interpret it in multiple ways. The problem is that your sentence wasn’t ambiguous: most readers would interpret it as saying that I made a threat and Dreger endorsed it. You can’t expect any reasonable readers to understand that what you meant to say was that my comments could have meant something else entirely but Dreger has turned it into a threat.

I can show you a snippet from the private emails I sent to Dreger on September 21:

I’ve publicly criticised some of the things Joelle said in the past (see http://eminism.org/archive/2007/07/04-23.html), but then I’m just an academic outsider. You are an established and well-respected scholar, and I wish you’d cut her some slack… it’s important to support juniour scholars (she’s a graduate student) who are themselves trans.

I’m not suggesting that you can’t criticise her arguments or defend yourself against false or misleading characterisation of your work, but I feel that it was unnecessary and excessive to state that she “is not acting like a scholar” in public.

Here’s another snippet, from September 23:

Same standards [should apply], yes, but I don’t necessarily think that same response is appropriate, because the same response could have disparate consequences and impacts depending on one’s position within the power structure. In other words, someone like Joelle may suffer more as a result of being labeled unprofessional in that context than a non-trans scholar does, which I feel should be considered… But I do agree that she deserves to be treated like a real scholar–it’s just that there is no such thing as a generic “scholar” or a uniform way all scholars are treated.

As you can see, I am in fact confronting Dreger about the very behaviour you are criticising her on your blog for, and yet you wrongly alleged–perhaps unintentionally, but as far as any reasonable readers can tell–that I was the one threatening Joelle. That’s factually inaccurate and unfair to me as an activist.

Regardless,I appreciate that you are willing to engage with me. In the past, I’ve had difficulty engaging with people who are somehow convinced that I am close buddies with Bailey (I wouldn’t blame them if that was actually the case, but obviously it wasn’t and isn’t).

What “Veiled Threat”? Response to Élise Hendrick

Date: September 25, 2007

On Life After Gonzales, Élise Hendrick claims that I made a “veiled threat” against Joelle Ruby Ryan, a trans activist and graduate student at Bowling Green State University.

Élise writes:

Dreger repeats her unsupported and unspecified claims of misrepresentations (in one case “profound” misrepresentations”) and factual errors throughout her correspondence on the subject with Emi Koyama on the Women’s Studies listserv WMST-L, and falsely claims that Bailey’s critics attempted to censor him. She does not enlighten interested readers about the scientific status of Bailey’s claims or his defamatory responses to criticism. She closes the e-mail exchange by endorsing a veiled threat directed at Ryan by Emi Koyama:

I also appreciate your advising Joelle Ruby Ryan “that she was putting herself at risk as a scholar working within a controversial field (trans issues) by tolerating tactics that breed fear and stifle academic freedom.”

I think Élise is getting the context incorrectly. As you can see from the full text of my two WMST-L posts on this matter, I responded Alice Dreger to challenge her, not Joelle. In addition, I had three email exchanges with Alice privately to continue to push her on how established non-trans scholar like her should engage with someone like Joelle, because I was not happy about how Alice communicated with Joelle.

But I also didn’t want Alice to think that I don’t take her concerns about academic freedom seriously (ah double negatives), so I added a summary of what I told Joelle on another list (trans-academics) earlier. During the discussion on trans-academics, Joelle alleged that Dreger’s motivation for writing the paper in question was “clear and direct hatred against the ascendance of transgender people, activists and academics in society”–which I felt was unfair and unfounded.

I was particularly keen on people being attacked unfairly once they are associated with Bailey (for real or in someone’s imagination) because I also received such attacks. Someone named Gina has been going to various blogs that mention my work within intersex movement, and told people that not only was I closely associated with Bailey, but also received funding from Northwestern University, supported eugenics, and also endorsed genital surgeries for intersex children–all of which is false. Please see here and here for more information.

I am not some outside “expert” studying intersex or trans people; I do not hold any academic position or have advanced degrees. I am an activist whose interest includes advocating for the rights of intersex and trans people, just like Joelle. And yet, Gina happened to disagree with me about something (although I don’t think she actually understands how I think), and I went quickly from a fellow progressive activist to the evil eugenicist and oppressor for whom any dirty attacks are permissible. Clearly, Gina got the idea that it was okay to attack me in this manner from seeing it done to Bailey and others perceived to be associated with him.

In the exchange I had with Joelle in trans-academics, I described my experience of being unfairly attacked and said:

The problem Dreger wrote about isn’t all made up. In fact, I have also been accused of being a close associate of Bailey, funded by his Northwestern University clique, endorsing genital surgeries for intersex children, endorsing eugenics, etc. simply because I do not condemn the term “DSD” in similar style.

Of course tactics like these breed fear and stifle freedom–not just for non-trans, non-intersex experts, but those trans and intersex individuals who happen to disagree with the Zeitgeist. That means that you, too, could be on the receiving end of these attacks, assuming that you hold on to your sense of honesty and scholarly integrity, that is.

This is not a veiled threat. I am writing as someone who is in a similar position to Joelle that we need to bond together to oppose political tactics designed to breed fear and stifle freedom, even if we find someone’s comments or publications harmful to us. I’m not saying this because I want to protect our oppressors; no, I’m saying that using fear to fight back at our oppressors will come back and hurt us even further.

Élise, perhaps you might think that my approach is too soft, or you might otherwise disagree with me at some level. But even if we can’t agree on anything else, it’s not a threat and I’d like you to retract that.

Advice to Students who need to Interview Activists

Date: September 13, 2007

While I feel that I made a point that needed to be made in my initial response to the student who kept requesting an interview, it occurred to me that publishing it on this blog would seriously discourage students from emailing me, not just for some class assignments that I could do without, but for everything else–some of which I do want people to contact me for. My point wasn’t that my time is so valuable that students shouldn’t waste it by talking to me; it was that those who engage in research must be accountable to those who are being researched. So I’ve decided to write down some recommendations for students who wish to contact activists and activist groups for a class project.

1. Do your homework. Is it really necessary to take up someone’s time and attention, or can you find the same information if you simply went to the library or dig deeper on the website?

I realise that sometimes teachers specifically require that students interview someone. I find such requirement unethical, as the teacher is basically demanding that complete strangers subsidise the education for which they receive salary. If the teacher requires this, suggest her or him to change the requirement to “volunteer and interview” instead.

2. Offer to volunteer. This is to establish more of a reciprocity between you and the activist group you wish to interview. Plus, you’ll probably have a better understanding about the organisation that way. Some may think that volunteering for an organisation that one writes a paper about would compromise student’s objectivity. But fuck objectivity.

3. Donate or hold a fundraiser. If it’s a cause or organisation you are interested in, perhaps you could show your appreciation by offering to raise money to support its activities. Again, some might say that it would cause perverse incentive for the organisation (i.e. they would say what students want to hear in an interview so that more of them would interview–and raise funds for–the organisation), but I really don’t foresee that students’ fundraising efforts would bring in so much money that it would have a serious impact.

In my case particularly, I fund my organisation, Intersex Initiative, by giving lectures at various universities, so it would be most beneficial if you could get your student organisation or department to sponsor my visit. Think of it as a way to redistribute wealth from universities to activist world.

If you think of any additional advices, please share in the comment field.

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