Monday, March 30, 2015

Open for Business

“The superior man knows what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.” Confucius
March 28 protest, Indianapolis Star photo by Cherlie Nye

A firestorm has erupted all over the country over Indiana’s recently enacted law passed the Republican-dominated state legislature and signed by Governor Mike Pence allowing establishments to discriminate against gays under the ruse of religious freedom.  A “Boycott Indiana” movement is underway, and corporations are threatening retaliation.  Angie’s List, for example, is suspending expansion plans that would have created a housand new jobs in Indianapolis.   Appearing on ABC’s Sunday news show, Pence looked like a horse’s ass, bewildered that this has become such a big deal.  Six times George Stephanopoulos asked him point blank, yes or no, can a florist or baker refuse to do business with a gay couple?  Pence refused to give a straight answer.  He lamely pledged to ask the legislature to clarify some aspects of the misguided law but will not support a civil rights bill protecting gays from mistreatment.

The Saturday Night Live “news” anchor joked that signs will indicate which stores won’t serve gays and then showed one reading “Going Out of Business.”  The Post-Tribune front-page story on the impact of the new law contains this quote from Anne Balay:

What it does essentially is it tells these people in Indiana that they need to stay hidden.  That’s an incredibly concerning message.  Now life is just this minefield of humiliation.  It’s not so much that people are turned away, as they could be.  Now before you go into a business, you’re just going to kind of curtail your behavior.  You don’t need public embarrassment.

Jerry Davich wrote that he felt shame at Governor Pence’s action, which reinforces outsiders’ image of Hoosiers as rubes.  Noting that March is National Women’s History Month, he profiled Tonj’a Robinson, named “Wanda” in Anne Balay’s “Steel Closets.”  Robinson told Davich, “To my knowledge I am the only open lesbian in U.S. Steel’s Gary Works.”  An electrician, she’s had women tell her that men aren’t allowed in the locker room and she generally avoids showering with others.  “People talk about me, I’m aware of this fact,” she said, “but no one has really gotten in my face specifically about my race or sexual orientation.” 

Anne Balay wrote on Facebook:

The irony of this past year served up this weekend: I'm quoted in the Post-Trib as an authority on queer life, one of my narrators is featured in the Post-Trib as an exemplary region woman, AND after 2 plus years of struggling to keep my job (or any job) in Indiana, I have committed to moving to Philadelphia, where I can find work. I wanted to use my scholarship and its attendant media to bring attention to IUN, and to the region, but they just wanted me quiet, and gone. That makes me sad, but new beginnings are FUN!!! I didn't want this, but since you made me, I'm going to take my toys and go home.
Indiana legislative leaders Tim Lanane (left) and Scott Pelath
Democratic House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, noting that when Democrats tried to amend the bill to protect LGBTs, Republicans rebuffed them.  He said, “This is a national embarrassment.  The bush needs to be pulled by the roots and thrown into the fire.”

Several Valparaiso entrepreneurs, including Christopher “Pino” Pupillo, are distributing “Open for Service” stickers to small businesses opposed to recent legislative action that would allow bigots to refuse service to gays.  Valpo native Josh Driver started the movement in Indianapolis.  Pupillo told NWI Times correspondent Joyce Russell, “Our goal is to show that Valpo is an open, welcoming, inclusive city.”  Meanwhile, VU History professor Heath Carter is leading a campaign to prod the Valparaiso political establishment to embrace diversity in deed as well as name.  He met with Mayor Jon Costas to discuss hiring more minorities, at present comprising just three out of 250 city employees.  Last month Costas participated in a civil rights forum organized by Carter and seems somewhat amenable to persuasion.

Chuck Bednarik

Legendary Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarick passed away.  Born in 1925 in Bethlehem, PA (near my hometown of Easton), the Slovak-American flew 30 combat missions during World War II as a B-24 gunner before becoming an All-American at Penn.  The last of the 60-minute men, he not only played linebacker on defense, he was the Eagles’ center on offense.  He once hit Giants running back Frank Gifford so hard, Gifford was out of commission for more than a year.  On the final play of the NFL championship against Green Bay, he tackled Packer Jim Taylor a few yards from the end zone, then sat on him until finally saying, “The game’s over, you can get up now.”  I was at the game sitting near the opposite end zone and feared that Taylor had scored until I saw Bednarik raise an arm in triumph.  His nickname was “Concrete Charlie” because during off-seasons he was a concrete salesman. Peter King wrote:

They will bury Chuck Bednarik in his Hall of Fame blazer and a bolo tie with a pendant of an Eagle spreading its wings. They will bury the Philadelphia 60-minute man exactly as he was remembered, with hands that looked like gnarled tree limbs and a face distinguished by a razor-sharp jawline and a slight smirk.

Ron Cohen treated Julie Jackson and me to dinner at Miller Bakery Café.  Nancy stayed home to watch the Bulls and Steve Spicer turned down an invitation in order to cheer on his beloved Wisconsin Badgers, who advanced to the Final Four along with Kentucky, Michigan State, and Duke.  Ron teased me for ordering what I always get, steak salad.  To the best of my recollection this was only the second time I’d been there with him, but, of course, he reads my blog.  Julie thanked me for revision suggestions I made after reading a chapter from her manuscript about Chicago theater director Frank Galati.  She had been married to one of Galati’s collaborators, Michael Maggio, who died in 2000, nine years after having a double lung transplant. 

On display at the Gardner Center was an “Art from Excess” exhibition.  Chris Toepfer explained that some materials came from cleaning out a former hardware store.  One piece made use of old cardboard boxes; another contained hundreds of Starbucks cups.
Steinem Last week Nicole Anslower showed an excerpt on feminism that included appearances by novelist Judy Blume, historian Sara Evans, writer Sara Davidson, and Ms. founder Gloria Steinem.  With Nicole’s permission I took a few minutes of class time to describe the importance of these beautiful, remarkable women, now senior citizens.

Born in 1938, Judy Blume first wrote children’s books, such as “The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo” (1969).  Her forte: young adults on such important subjects as bullying (“Blubber”), racism (“Iggie’s House”), teen sex (“Forever”), masturbation (“Deenie: Then Again, Maybe I Won’t”), and menstruation (“Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret”).  Several of her novels for adults, including “Wifey” and “Summer Sisters,” have been best sellers.  After suffering through a  “suffocating” first marriage and a second “total disaster,” she’s been married to George Cooper since 1987.  
above, Judy Blume; below, Sara Evans

Sara M. Evans wrote the path breaking book “Personal Politics: The Roots of Women’s Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement.”  Men in the movement expected women to follow their lead and be content fixing coffee, typing memoranda and other trivial tasks.   Once, when asked about the role of women volunteers in SNCC, Stokely Carmichael infamously answered, “The only position for women in SNCC is prone” – meaning to be there to satisfy male sexual desires.  It was often more of the same in the anti-war movement.   In 1989 Evans wrote “Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America.”  The current protests over Indiana’s new law is a good example of the phrase, “the personal is political.”

For a course on the 1960s I assigned Sara Davidson’s “Loose Change,” which traced changes in the lives of three women, a Berkeley campus activist (Susie), an artist (Tasha), and a writer, Sara, based on her own life experiences.  All three were searching for sexual and spiritual fulfillment, and the men they interacted with generally acted like chauvinists.  One reviewer called “Loose Change” “the searingly honest story of three young women who found that sex was easy but love more difficult.”  Some critics thought the book sex-obsessed.  Susie told Sara that she spent the Sixties searching for a good orgasm and achieved one in seconds with a vibrator.  The book ends with Sara disillusioned about life.  She wrote: “I was approaching thirty and my assumptions about the future were crumbling. I strained to see the visions of the sixties. Had they been a mirage? Nothing felt certain anymore.”   As a character asks in “The Big Chill” (1983), “Was it all just fashion?”  Ron Cohen told me his roommate at Berkeley once dated Davidson.
 above, Sara Davidson; below, Gloria Steinem

A journalist who worked as a Playboy bunny and then wrote about the demeaning experience, Gloria Steinem became a feminist after covering an abortion speak-out for New York magazine in 1969.  Her next article, “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation,” brought her national prominence.  In 1971 she was one of 300 founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus, dedicated to passage of an Equal Rights constitutional amendment.  Steinem founded Ms. magazine in 1972 at a time when the abbreviation “Ms” was actually controversial.  The first issue started as a special magazine supplement, but it sold out within days and tens of thousands offered to be subscribers.  Unlike Betty Freidan, Steinem welcomed lesbians to be active allies in promoting women’s liberation.  Although she once said that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bike, Steinem got married at age 66 to animal rights activist David Bale (father of actor Christian Bale), who died of brain cancer three years later.

Nicole got a lively discussion going on women’s health issues and sexuality.  One student said she devoured Judy Blume books as a teenager and that a school librarian was told to pull them from the shelves.  A man in his 60s got a laugh when he said in Catholic school a priest taught him sex education.  I said that when I used Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying” in a class on the 1970s, one student who read it in the hospital kept it hidden under the covers because of its erotic cover (below). 
Nicole mentioned volunteering for the national Runaway Safeline and lamented that in many small communities there aren’t agencies that she can recommend to young people in need of help.  She showed a brief excerpt from a documentary on sex workers entitled “Tricked” that featured women working for pimps who got ensnared in the trade when they were mere children.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog post, Jimbo. Quick correction to this: "Pupillo told Post-Tribune correspondent Joyce Russell ..."
    Joyce is a staff writer for The Times, and an outstanding one at that.