From Around the Web: 6 February 2017

Links of interest from around the web:

  • SF author Kameron Hurley discusses feminist SF and space operas on the most recent episode of the Breaking the Glass Slipper podcast.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin responds to a letter to the editor to The Oregonian that compares the current US president’s administrations lies to science fiction: “[SF writers] make absolutely no pretense that our fictions are ‘alternative facts.'”
  • And on the topic of the current US presidential administration, check out Dr. Sarah’s post on Freethought Resistance, “Speak out NOW to stop Betsy DeVos“: “The good news is, you may actually be able to stop her nomination from going through.”

 

Q&A with Pantsuit Republic Podcast Producer

Pantsuit Republic, the Texas offshoot of the Pantsuit Nation movement, recently launched a podcast that covers not only politics in Texas but also the issues behind it. I spoke with Emily Dylla, coordinator and producer of the podcast, about the content and direction of the show.

Freethinking Ahead: There are so many media available for getting the word out to folks about politics and calls to action. Why did PSR choose to launch a podcast?

Emily Dylla: We thought it would contrast nicely with all the social media work that we do. Social media is so fast. It’s really up-to-the minute. And in a podcast, you might not be up-to-the-minute, but you can get into a lot more depth on subjects. So we decided to take an educational approach to what we wanted to do with the podcast. It’s really meant to go into any range of topics or issues that we feel are somehow relevant to PSR members and anyone else who tends to more of a progressive approach.

So we thought it would complement all the frantic activity that we do on Twitter, Facebook, and everywhere else.

FTA: Something that feels a lot less ephemeral, right?

ED: Exactly. And it’s really nice because podcasts, for people with crazy schedules, like myself–I’m a graduate student, I work, I have a family, I’m an avid runner, so I’m running all over the place all the time–a podcast is really nice because you can listen to it while you drive to work, while you might be out on a bike ride or running, or cooking dinner in the evening. We thought it would to reach people that way as well.

FTA: What direction would you like to see the podcast take over the course of the 2017 Texas legislative session? And after?

ED: We’re still in the process of determining this, because we are just about to release our third episode this week. We are still finding our comfort zone and a format that we can fall into, but ultimately I’m hoping that the podcast will focus on the four core areas that PSR is interested in. This is women’s empowerment, that’s one. Health care is another. Social justice is a third, and fourth is political empowerment of Texans.

So we’ll certainly be following on the podcast what our teams who are specifically organized to address those core issues be following what they’re doing. They’re tracking legislation and organizing things, for instance, HB 948, that’s the abolition of abortion in Texas act, introduced by a representative from Tarrant County, Arlington. We’ll be checking in with those teams throughout the course of the legislative session.

But we’re also going to be focusing on more broad issues. With this third episode, we’re kicking off a series on reproductive health and reproductive rights in Texas. We start with abortion, since that’s what everyone thinks of, and we pay attention to that a little bit, and then we’ll expand or at least attempt to expand the conversation belong the abortion debate. Often times people end there, they get frustrated with the ideological clash and don’t see much point in having the debate. We’ll be talking about things like sex education, contraception access in Texas, and also topics that people don’t necessarily connect to reproductive rights so much, like livable wage, affordable child care, how reproductive health specifically concerns LGBTQ communities.

So we’ll be both focusing on the legislation specifically but also going off more into topics that we find interesting and hope our listeners will find interesting as well.

FTA: Personal narratives and statements are such a powerful way to show the day-to-day effects that politics has on the people’s lives. Can you talk a bit about including these as part of the podcast? And why you have the authors submit these in their own voices?

ED: We give people the option to do it in their own voices, and we also give them the option to remain anonymous, though no one has taken us up on that yet. We decided on the personal narratives as an homage to our organizational roots. Like so many groups, we spun off of Pantsuit Nation. On the day before the election on the PSN Facebook page, someone said we should have state groups, and all of a sudden, state chapters were popping up all over the nation. What eventually became PSR was started that day by Dona Kim Murphey. I was one of the first people, when she asked for volunteers for moderators, I thought, yeah, sure I can do that.

From the get go, PSN’s argument has been that there is great power in storytelling. Storytelling allows the listener a means by which he can come to understand another person’s perspective or situation in this rich and really effective way. So we thought that was important.

From the beginning, PSR has distinguished ourselves from PSN by being very politically active. A lot of the statewide groups are that way too. We’ve always agreed with Libby Chamberlain, the founder of PSN, about the effects storytelling can have. And we thought there was more political and social good that PSN and PSR and our local chapters can do. So when I started thinking about putting together this podcast, I wanted it to reflect the two sides of PSR: political action on one side and community building and solidarity building through storytelling on the other.

FTA: It also seems to foster an intersectionality. Was that also part of your aim?

ED: Absolutely. From the beginning our two major goals have been one, we’re going to be politically active in Texas–we want to focus on changing the social and poliitical landscape of the lone star state–and also we need to be explicitly intersectional in our approach. We can’t have this be another voice of white feminism. And that’s something that PSN came under fire for. But luckily Dona had already been very vocal in her leadership about making sure that PSR considers not just gender but race, ability or disability, language, all those kinds of things.

FTA: Which is especially salient in Texas, speaking of language, since most people don’t really think about that here.

ED: That was one of those things that we’ve been ranting about this evening. There are so many things to rage about but the whitehouse.gov page taking every single bilingual page down. About half the population in Texas is bilingual, so it’s ridiculous that they would do that.

FTA: This is why we all fight the good fight, right?

ED: Exactly.

FTA: What do you hope Texas listeners will get from the podcast?

E: Like I said before, the PSR podcast is meant first and foremost as an educational tool, so we have episodes planned on everything from the reproductive health and rights series I already talked about to dealing with online bullying and harassment to activism fatigue. We’ve got one planned on intersectional feminism, and we’re trying to frame all of these topics specifically to how they impact Texans.

And so my hope is that our listeners will learn a bit more about a subject with which they already might be a little familiar or a lot about something with which they never really engaged. So basically we want to provide education.

I’m an educator myself, and I’ve been a graduate student for a long time. And really enjoy the teaching process. The podcast is a really interesting medium through which one can at least attempt to teach subjects. So we’ll see how it goes.

FTA: Since many of FtB’s readers are outside Texas, what might listeners across the US get from your podcast, especially in light of the fact that so many state and local elections followed the national trend in 2016?

ED: One of the things I think people can get is that the podcast highlights the work that PSR does as well as our local chapters. We have between 35 and 40 local chapters across Texas that are affiliated–we all work together. PSR has already served as the inspiration for a lot of these Pantsuit Nation derived organizations, because of those two things I mentioned earlier: our commitment to political activism number one, and our commitment to inclusivity and intersectionality.

We talk about ourselves as being not non-partisan but post-partisan, we’re trying to get that term to take off. We’re trying to foster an environment that doesn’t look at political affiliation. We have a lot of Democrats, but we also have independents–I’m one of them–we have Republicans, we have third-party members. So we just tried to focus on issues that are important to all of these people. Because there are Republicans out there who are pro-choice and don’t want to see people have their access to voting cut off. So that’s one of the things that I hope the podcast offers, models for effective engagement in both political activism and intersectionality. I think even more than that, the podcast offers a perspective of Texas.

FTA: Ah, yes, outside all the lovely stereotypes everybody has.

ED: Exactly. I don’t think Texas has quite as crazy a reputation as Florida, but this is a really conservative state. There’s definitely a reputation that we do have, but when you get down into it, there are a lot of progressives who live here. And not just in the big cities. I’m out on a dig, and I talked to multiple guys, and they’re actually really liberal. They’re like, “Yeah, women should be able to choose.” That’s so awesome. So there are a lot of progressives people out here, and our numbers are increasing all the time.

If our podcast can do anything to temper our state’s reputation, that would be awesome. This includes our reputation among Republicans. A lot of them don’t know what’s up with their party and feel like they don’t belong there anymore.

More information about the podcast is available at the Pantsuit Republic website: http://pantsuitrepublic.com/ 

The podcast is available on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/pantsuit-republic/id1196901541?mt=2 

Recommended Reading: Nature Futures

Recommended reading, or in this case, listening.  Nature posts a new science fiction flash story each week in, and last week’s, S. L. Huang’s “The last robot,” is well worth reading. Also check out “The story behind the story: The last robot.” The podcast version is available on iTunes here.

And in the archives, since it’s feeling relevant these days, I also recommend Marissa Lingen’s “The most important thing.”

Fundraiser for DFW Detained

The attorneys who assisted the travelers detained by Trump’s “Travel Ban” at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport are asking for help in maintaining a space to continue their work.  From the DFW Detained GoFundMe page:

These funds will be used to secure meeting space at DFW International Airport and puchase necessary supplies. NOT ONE DOLLAR of the money raised will be used to compensate the attorneys involved, who are donating their time and talents to this humanitarian effort.  Any funds which are leftover after our work concludes will be donated to ACLU.

Chip in if you can.  And if you know of similar calls for funds from around the nation, feel free to post in the comments.

From Around the Web: 30 January 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • Another link to The Coode Street Podcast: Episode 297: Politics and science fiction.  Of note is the discussion on the state of political science fiction, especially given that George Orwell’s 1984 and Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here are selling quite well here in the US.
  • An opinion piece in The Daily Texan, out of the University of Texas at Austin: “National political coverage obscures local threats.”  A reminder from the author that we should keep our eyes on local politics as well as national politics.
  • I’ve mostly written letters to my elected officials–I saw somewhere that this is the most effective method for reaching their staff, though I can’t recall where I saw that now–but I have made a good number of calls as well.  Greta Christina’s post, “Calling Your Elected Officials: Breaking it Down and Making it Easier,” shows us how to take some of the stress out of making those calls.  Putting my elected officials’ numbers in my phone today….

Whose Voice of America?

Though Trump’s recent executive orders speak loudly about his dangerous priorities, he may literally speak to the world through the federally-funded international broadcaster Voice of America (in more than just the usual 140 characters he’s used to communicating in).  From Politico:

President Donald Trump on Monday dispatched two aides to scope out the studios of Voice of America, heightening concerns among some longtime staffers that Trump may quickly put his stamp on the broadcasting arm that has long pushed U.S. democratic ideals across the world.

In an article from last December, NPR reported on recent changes to the governing structure of Voice of America, and the fact that VoA can aim its broadcasts into the US:

For decades, the international U.S. broadcasters were not allowed to present their programs to the United States, but that ban was lifted in 2013, accentuating the concerns of what a Trump administration might bring.

Though the director of VoA told Politco that the broadcaster isn’t “being manipulated by Trump,” Talking Points Memo notes:

Trump’s decision to dispatch aides to the Broadcasting Board of Governors also comes after Voice of America came under fire for tweets about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s Saturday press conference during which he made false claims about the size of inauguration crowds.

The outlet initially published tweets quoting Spicer’s claims about crowd size without any context, prompting swift backlash. Voice of America then deleted one of the tweets and ran a story fact-checking Spicer’s claims.

And MSNBC reminds us about Bush’s use of VoA and asks: “Now, it’s a brand new Republican administration, led by someone with a keen interest in media. What could possibly go wrong?”

 

Abortion in Texas: Good News and Really, Really Scary News

First the good news, from The Texas Tribune: “U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks ruled Texas cannot require health providers to bury or cremate fetuses, delivering another blow to state leaders in the reproductive rights debate.”  So the additional cost–both financial and, especially for those who miscarried or terminated wanted pregnancies, emotional–won’t be placed on women who seek abortions.  For now, anyway.

And now, the really, really scary news: one of our state representatives has filed a bill to make abortion a felony in Texas.  From The Texas Observer:

House Bill 948 would ban and criminalize abortions at any stage, direct state officials to ignore “any conflicting federal” laws, and would no longer exempt pregnancies as a result of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities. The bill would remove the exception for abortion in the state’s penal code for criminal homicide, meaning that women and providers could face charges as serious as murder for the procedure.

You read that right.  Both “women and providers” would face punishment.  Though there have been pushes in the past to punish women for having abortions, this bill sounds an awful lot like something we’ve heard recently from Trump, doesn’t it?

No Soliciting. Really. No, Really.

I’ve lived in my neighborhood long enough to expect the Saturday morning doorbell entreaties.  You should let us inspect your roof!  You should buy this magazine!  You should donate to this cause!  Nope, nope, and nope.  Given that those who press my doorbell button usually follow up with more doorbell button pressing if I don’t answer, I try to catch folks on the first ring.

Putting up a “No Soliciting” sign helped somewhat.  It gives me something to point to when I politely tell those on my doorstep not to bother.  But it hasn’t stopped everyone.

Kids, I get.  I don’t expect junior high students selling candy to raise funds for extracurricular trips to know what “soliciting” is, much less that they’re trying to solicit donations.

I’m far less polite to “home inspectors.”  Really, if you don’t notice the “no soliciting” sign less than two inches from the doorbell button you just mashed a half-dozen times, I don’t trust your ability to inspect much of anything.  Also, you’re a scammer, so go away.

Most of the time, I get religious solicitations.  Usually, I just smile and nod and say I’m not interested.  Thou shalt not lie, right?  But this morning, I’ve been stewing on the religious encroachment on our purported freedoms, both in Texas and across the US.  And not just light refreshing vegetable stew.  Heavy, greasy, meaty stewing.  The anti-abortion march.  The abortion felony bill recently filed here in Texas.  The DeVos nomination and prayer in schools.  I could go on.  Bad, bad, overcooked stew.

So when a couple elderly women rang my doorbell this morning, I wasn’t in a mood to deal with more religious encroachment.  I opened the door and explained that my family had just sat down for lunch.  No apologies, just one of the women opening with, “Well, we’d like to share God’s word with you.”

I inhaled and stopped myself.  These women were not the cause of the issues I was nearly boiling over about. I cut her off and said, “We’re not religious.  And we have a ‘no soliciting’ sign that says no religious soliciting.  Thank you.”  They left.

Hours later, I’m left wondering if I should have had some canned response ready.  These visits come regularly, but not often enough for me to have a response in mind whenever they do come.  Dealing with religious solicitations, for me, compounds activism fatigue.  I’m tired.  Many of us are tired, exhausted by contending with what keeps getting heaped up on our plates.

So I’m not answering the door anymore.  Perhaps it’s not the best solution, or even a good one.  But it’s what I have to do for now.

Texas Governor Threatens to Remove Elected Official From Office Over Sanctuary City Policy

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, falling in line with Trump, wants to “drain away” elected officials who disagree with his views on sanctuary cities.  From The Texas Observer:

Governor Greg Abbott threatened to “remove” Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez from office and cut funding for the agency on Wednesday in response to a policy she’s planning to enact that would limit the local jail’s cooperation with federal immigration officials.

“We are working on laws that will ban sanctuary cities, remove from office any officeholder who promotes sanctuary cities and pose criminal penalties as well as financial penalties,” Abbott said during a live Fox News interview.  “… if [Hernandez] doesn’t [cooperate], we will remove her from office.”

Fortunately, there are no laws in place yet that would allow for removing Sheriff Hernandez. Unfortunately, the Texas brief legislative session has just started up.  So rather than focusing on, say, restoring school funding and other important issues, our legislature could well take up ousting elected officials, right after they’re done patting themselves on the back for the bathroom bill….