Cartoon drawing of a woman in a bathroom, with skull and crossbone flags on all her cosmetic items.

Photo credit: Story of Stuff Project

A couple of days ago, dreaming of summer and the beach, I stopped by the MAC counter with my girl Eesha to pick up some waterproof eyeliner. It may only be March, but I am prepared for a hot sweaty beach, dammit! Waterproof eyeliner requires a serious remover though, so I headed to the drug store and bought something I thought would work well on a recommendation. While in line I noticed that this remover had an ingredient list, and I decided to look up some ingredients on the old internets to see what was up with them. Well, I did not get too far – the very first ingredient I looked up on the cosmetics database had a big, checked box next to cancer. WHAT?

Ok, so I get it – the cosmetics database makes it clear that it’s the ingredient that has been linked to cancer, not products that contain it. And that depends on much I use and how often I do so.  But it sounds kind of scary. And what about the workers at the eye makeup remover factory? How much are they getting dosed?

me, holding a blue bottle of neutrogena oil-free eye makeup remover

Damn you Neutrogena, with your minimalist graphic design that makes it seem like your shit isn't full of junk! Look at that eyeliner though: Day 2, going strong.

I guess I could have looked up in advance what removers out there are a little safer, but I really wish that no one would sell women poison makeup remover on the down low. Once I started thinking about it, I thought about all the products that I use that don’t have ingredient lists, and I almost flipped out. All the makeup I use – ALL OF IT – is apparently full of toxic ingredients. How can I handle making sure I don’t poison myself?  Can this really be on me?

The cosmetics industry and the chemicals used are pretty scary, and keeping track of them is extremely difficult. Even if we have the time, knowledge, and wherewithal to look up every ingredient in all our cosmetics – think about the privilege there – what about the products that don’t have ingredient lists? What about ingredients for which there’s just not enough research for us to know?

This whole thing made me think of a wonderful video that was partially responsible for me even thinking about looking up cosmetics ingredients in the first place: The Story of Cosmetics. It’s from the Story of Stuff Project, and I highly recommend their first video and all the others they’ve made – they are simple, informative, and on-point:

Watch in other languages, or with footnoted script here.

So watch out folks, and pay attention next time you hear about chemical industry regulation. If you can handle it, check out the cosmetics database and search the products that you use, but putting this on individuals is not the solution. Either because we can’t afford the $40 natural makeup remover or because we simply don’t have the time, knowledge or scientific savvy to look up and understand what all this research means, it’s clear that the solution has to be bigger: We need to work to make sure toxic products don’t make it to the shelves. Check out the campaign for safe cosmetics, or get involved with on the side of workers at nail and hair salons – overwhelmingly women of color – by checking out the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance.

For those of you looking for eyeliner that stays on through showers, swims, and sweat, this MAC liner will really, really do it for you – in this department, it is the shit. Seems MAC doesn’t release the ingredients that go in its stuff, though, so who knows what’s in that. I don’t even want to guess.

woman with very short, gray hair, holding a firefighter's helmet. she is among a group of protesters holding signs that say "firefighters for labor" and "workers' rights"

Protesters in Wisconsin. Photo credit: Molly Glasgow

The protests in Madison, WI continue, and as the days go on information about the nature of Wisconsin’s budget crisis has come out:

The Badger State was actually in pretty good shape. It was supposed to end this budget cycle with about $120 million in the bank. Instead, it’s facing a deficit. Why? The governor signed two business tax breaks and a conservative health care policy that lowers overall tax revenues. The new legislation was not offset, and it turned a surplus into a deficit. Now public workers are being asked to pick up the tab.

What’s more, new information is coming out linking the infamous Koch brothers to Governor Scott Walker’s campaign:

Charles and David Koch are conservative titans of industry who have infamously used their vast wealth to undermine President Obama and fight legislation they detest, such as the cap-and-trade climate bill, the health care reform act, and the economic stimulus package. For years, the billionaires have made extensive political donations to Republican candidates across the country and have provided millions of dollars to astroturf right-wing organizations. Koch Industries’ political action committee has doled out more than $2.6 million to candidates. And one prominent beneficiary of the Koch brothers’ largess is Scott Walker. (via Forbes)

Rachel Maddow has also given a spot-on analysis of how this affects elections: the only big money in elections that leans left is union money. Bust up the unions, and all the big money in elections comes from right-leaning institutions.

But Wisconsin continues to stand up, and the spirit of camaraderie and solidarity has been nothing short of amazing. I have seen the social media feeds of my Madison, WI friends offering up couches, places to stay, their phone numbers if anyone is in need of help. A facebook group has been set up to house people coming in from out of town for the protests. People from across the country are ordering pizzas from nearby Ian’s Pizza for the protesters. A full-fledged civil service has been set up for the protests – with garbage collection, recycling, food and water delivery, and an information station.

I am so thankful for the people of Wisconsin – thank you for standing up, now and throughout history. May we all learn from you.

A black and white photo of Audre Lorde; she is speaking, has a small afro and thick-rimmed, black oval glasses.Today is Audre Lorde‘s birthday – the legendary black, feminist, lesbian, poet warrior. Much has been said about her, but her message remains as relevant today as it did forty years ago. She has much to teach all of us. Happy birthday, Audre.

…and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

– Audre Lorde

Hundreds of protesters in Madison, WI's capitol rotunda

Photo credit: NY Times

During the last few days, I have been riveted as the people of Wisconsin have been showing up in the thousands to protest Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal:

Behind closed doors, Scott Walker, the Republican who has been governor for about six weeks, calmly described his intent to forge ahead with the plans that had set off the uprising: He wants to require public workers to pay more for their health insurance and pensions, effectively cutting the take-home pay of many by around 7 percent.

He also wants to weaken most public-sector unions by sharply curtailing their collective bargaining rights, limiting talks to the subject of basic wages.

By taking away union workers’ collective bargaining rights, Walker is directly targeting the dignity of workers not only in Wisconsin, but the entire nation. Walker is also proposing to remove the ability to cut the budget of Medicaid – an essential health care program for low-income people – from the Legislature, putting the decision to slash the program’s budget in the hands of the governor’s Department of Health and Human Services. This measure could lead to deep cuts in the health care of some of the most vulnerable people in the state. As state budget crises need to be resolved, conservative governors from states across the country are watching to see if Walker can pull this off.

Governor Walker’s proposal has implications for all people in Wisconsin, but the hardest hit would be the most vulnerable. Labor is a reproductive justice issue: ability to negotiate for adequate wages and quality health care is essential for women and our families. Moreover, putting Medicaid in the hands of the governor essentially leaves one person deciding on the health low-income people, and this is unacceptable. At a time in which people are struggling more than ever due to an economic downturn, the last thing we should do is make it easier to cut safety-net programs.

But the people of Wisconsin are rising up to the challenge. Massive protests have hit the Capitol in Madison, with people occupying the building starting yesterday; huge numbers of teachers called in sick on Tuesday in protest, forcing schools to close; Wisconsin’s football team (and Super Bowl champions!), the Green Bay Packers, put out a statement in support of public sector workers; and today, the Democratic caucus of the Senate refused to show up for the vote – leaving Wisconsin so that the state police had no jurisdiction over them – delaying a vote on the measure, and giving the people more time to organize, due to a lack of quorum.

The energy is palpable, and as a former resident of the state I am both inspired by and proud of the people of Wisconsin this week. If you would like to support the efforts of some of the finest organizers I know, I encourage you to send a check to the Student Labor Action Coalition, who is taking part in the sit-ins and needs to raise funds for legal defense:


c/o Eric Hoyt

140 W. Gilman St.

Madison, WI 53703

¡Si se puede!

When HR3, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, started getting attention, I was initially pretty excited. But over and over when I read about it, I was dismayed to find media focusing on one piece – a sentence about redefining rape, saying that an abortion could be federally funded only if a woman had survived a “forcible rape.” Let me get this out there right away: this language is revolting, sexist, and absolutely, bottom-line unacceptable. There are many others who have written very articulately about why this is, and I don’t think I need to go into it; it is disgusting and unacceptable, period. People were angry, and rightfully so; they protested the language. What made me upset about focusing on this language is that it mostly ignored the fact that it was just a shitty sentence in a steaming pile of shit of a bill. Yes, redefining rape is egregious and wrong, but isn’t also denying low-income women basic health care?

The media’s focus on this particular language made me upset because this entire media frenzy regarding the redefining of rape is indicative of classism and racism. It ignored the fact that, even without this re-definition, getting an abortion covered by Medicaid for a pregnancy that was the result of rape – any sort of rape – is currently nearly impossible; it ignores the fact that not allowing federal funding for abortion essentially strips low-income women of their right to an easy, legal, basic health procedure. Yes, redefining rape is beyond atrocious, but when we focus on this language are we really seeing the whole picture?  While people of all backgrounds can be and are victims of sexual violence, only poor women – disproportionately women of color – will ever be denied Medicaid coverage of their abortion; it’s not a coincidence which got media attention.

Since the media blitz on HR3, the language that would have redefined rape was removed, but to what effect? We are left with a bill that will continue to deny women basic coverage, expanding prohibitions currently for low-income women into the tax code, and a Congress that can now say that they have compromised to make this a reasonable bill. Some say that HR3 is “just” codifying the status quo; others say that it is far more that “just” the status quo. But let’s be clear: the status quo is not ok. Creating a differential system of access to abortion for low-income women was as wack in 1976 as it is now, and referring to “just” the status quo ignores a very major problem.

My goal here is not to point fingers; I understand the outrage around the “forcible rape” language. But it’s hard to watch an entirely fucked up bill get so much attention without calling out the obvious: that our politicians are so deluded, so unaware about the realities of women in this country, that they are focusing their efforts to get the economy back on track on denying women control over their own reproductive lives. It’s hard to watch a bill about public funding for abortion get so much press only to hear so few voices reminding us that denying public funding for abortion is fucked up, creates a differential system of access for low-income women, and disproportionately affects women of color.

In 1977, Rosie Jimenez – a college student on Medicaid – was the first person who died because of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal funding for abortion the year before. Even though abortion had become legal in 1973, because Medicaid did not cover it and she could not afford the full cost of the procedure, she went to an unlicensed provider. When we talk about the status quo, we have to remember Rosie, and the hundreds of thousands of women who have since been denied access to the procedure because of Hyde ever since. History is important, y’all; let’s not forget what this is all about. The status quo is NOT OK.

A queer family at dinner, holding hands during grace.  There are three children and two women, a couple.  One appears white, and the rest black.

Photo Credit: NY Times

An article yesterday in the New York Times reveals recent census data that shows that gay families raising children in teh U.S. are more common in the south, and that Black and Latin@ gay couples are more likely to be raising children:

The pattern, identified by Mr. Gates, is also notable because the families in this region defy the stereotype of a mainstream gay America that is white, affluent, urban and living in the Northeast or on the West Coast.

“We’re starting to see that the gay community is very diverse,” said Bob Witeck, chief executive of Witeck-Combs Communications, which helped market the census to gay people. “We’re not all rich white guys.”

Black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children, according to Mr. Gates, who used data from a Census Bureau sampling known as the American Community Survey. They are also more likely than their white counterparts to be struggling economically.

Some of this we have known for a long time – that queer people of color struggle economically far more than white queers, that queer people struggle economically more than straight people, that queer women of color are raising kids far more than gay white guys – but it is nonetheless refreshing to see it getting this kind of exposure.  LGBTQ people are thought of in the collective imagination as a group of wealthy, educated white people, and because almost no data collection captures the rest of us, social programs that address our needs are a hard sell.

What really pleases me about the data and this article, though, is the way that it shatters assumptions of where gay people are geographically.  In fact, we are everywhere, and I am ready to be done with antiquated ideas of New York and San Francisco being the only good places to be gay.   I am ready to start centering the experiences of our southern queers, our rural queers, our poor queers, our immigrant queers, our queer people of color; that people in these communities do have particular struggles, but that we also resist, and live vibrant, rich lives.

I live in New York City, and I always recoil a little when a fellow New Yorker talks about the south, the midwest, or rural areas as if they were filled with ignorant, homophobic masses.  This class-tinged insult – because let’s be clear, much of this is as much about class as it is about geography – is sadly common, and I’m ready to be done with it.

A woman at a rally holds a sign that says "Support Higher Education"

Photo credit: Think Progress

I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

-Stephen Jay Gould

When I woke up on Saturday morning, I started streaming C-Span and made breakfast.  The Senate was talking about immigrants and gay people at the same time, something so unusual that it struck me as amazing – even if they didn’t exactly realize that sometimes immigrants are gay, that sometimes gay people are immigrants.

As I ate I watched  the Senate effectively repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and kill the DREAM Act; and I was crushed.  I know DREAM wasn’t perfect – I am not a fan of the military, and I know that recruiters must have been salivating at the thought of newly-available low-income people of color to send off to die in our greedy wars.  But the Senate’s vote that we, immigrants, are not worthwhile, not equals…just puts a heavy weight on my chest.  And sure, it’s good that DADT isn’t around anymore, but making a totally fucked up institution slightly less so doesn’t quite feel like that much of a victory for me.  It makes me glad my queer friends who love military folk can rest a bit, but even as an indicator of how the country feels about gay people, the repeal of DADT hardly brings any relief for me because  I know that vote is a reflection of a certain kind of “acceptable” gay – not the immigrant queers, the radical homos of color, the queer weirdos who resist assimilation. Not my people.  My heart is heavy for them – for us – and for the young people who have put themselves at risk by being outspoken about being undocumented.

But they are wrong about us.  They are on the wrong side of history.  And after we cry, we pick up the pieces and keep moving.  Forward.  Always.

Red umbrella (symbol of sex workers' rights) with text underneath saying "International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers"

Today is the 7th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and there are events around the country and the world to recognize this day.  If you are in New York City, join the Sex Workers Project and co-sponsoring organizations at a free event to hear some awesome speakers and participate in a community speak-out:

Friday, December 17 · 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Metropolitan Community Church of New York

446 West 36th Street, Second Floor Sanctuary

New York, NY

The first-ever International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was in 2003, as a response to serial killer Gary Ridgway, who claimed to have killed prostitutes because he thought no one would notice:

“I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”

It’s important to remember, though, that violence against sex workers is not only perpetuated by violent clients, but also by the state through through the criminalization of sex work. Criminalization disproportionately affects women of color, immigrants, and gender non-conforming people, and is a reproductive justice issue.

I personally want to take this day to send my love to my dear friends and loved ones who are or have been sex workers – I appreciate you.  Big ups to the hos!

image shows doors that are closed: school, heatlh, housing, seniors, youth, libraries, etc.  a barred gate (prison) is open.

Since December 9th, thousands of prisoners in Georgia have been on strike, in what is apparently the largest prisoner protest in U.S. history:

Thousands of men, from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, initiated this strike to press the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m just going to pretend like it’s last summer in Brooklyn, a world in which it’s 87 degrees, this song is blasting out of every window, and the idea of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy seems totally absurd.