Shortly after Barack Obama took office in 2009, first lady Michelle Obama kicked off the national slimming program “Let’s Move” and inaugurated an escalation of America’s already deeply entrenched “war on obesity,” seeming to interpret her husband’s campaign messages of “Hope” and “Change” in a manner fortuitous to our country’s $60-billion-per-year weight-loss industry.
During the fever pitch of the 1970s sexual revolution, Margo St. James, the flamboyant matriarch of the national prostitutes’-rights movement, burst out of San Francisco’s bohemian scene with an infectious enthusiasm for her cause: to make prostitution “palatable for the public.”
New York City’s homeless shelters are overflowing with record numbers of people desperate for a bed. The New York Times covered this story in August 2012 by quoting the Bloomberg administration’s homeless commissioner, Manhattan’s borough president (a likely mayoral candidate), the chair of an Upper West Side community board, and a policy analyst.
In the 2008 film Taken, Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a retired CIA operative whose undercover past is called into action when his daughter is kidnapped while traveling abroad and sold into sexual slavery. Using his counterterrorism skills to torture and murder those who stand between him and his daughter’s captors, he eventually rescues his daughter and comes home a hero, with no consequences exacted for the violence he’s inflicted in the name of his daughter’s safety.
Or did it? Maybe it started a few months earlier, when Hillary Clinton downed a shot of whiskey and made some offhand, wrong-footed comments about “hardworking voters, white voters” who still supported her despite her African-American opponent’s lead in delegates.
Filmmakers Eric Stanley and Chris Vargas met at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2005 in a class on film, video, and gender where Stanley was the teaching assistant and Vargas a student. Both were radical activists on issues of prison abolition, queer antiassimilation, and trans justice, and both were heavily influenced by revolutionary feminist and political films like Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames and Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 The Battle of Algiers. Naturally, it wasn’t long before the two began collaborating—their first film, Homotopia, was released in 2006.
The film reflected Stanley and Vargas’s disillusionment with the recent concerns of gays and lesbians in the political sphere. Gone are the days when queers actively and openly resisted heteronormativity; gone are the many prisoner-solidarity projects that Regina Kunzel describes in her 2008 book Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality; gone is the grassroots fervor of past queer organizations like Gay Liberation Front and ACT UP that militated against state invasions of queer lives and politics. In their place are groups like Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who actively set about courting D.C. politicians on same-sex marriage. Instead of arguing that everyone needs health care, mainstream gays and lesbians are now insisting that an unfair system should be extended to include them.
The new film Criminal Queers is the pair’s second attempt to confront the rapid mainstreaming of gay politics. Along with a bevy of radical and enthusiastic friends and lovers, they’ve made a sequel to Homotopia that finds the wedding crashers on the run. One of them, Lucy Parsons, languishes in jail after being denied bail, her gender identity—while she claims female pronouns, her state identity card marks her as male—throwing the state into confusion. Drawing upon the same visual repertoire as Homotopia, Criminal Queers is a mixture of satire and political critique, wrapped up in a classic prison-break narrative. The presence of perhaps the most famous prison abolitionist of our time, Angela Davis, lends weight to the film’s rumination on the prison-industrial complex. Yasmin Nair caught up with Stanley and Vargas to talk about the PIC, the HRC, and feminist film in a genderqueer world.
You flip to your local Clear Channel station to find a shock jock “joking” about where kidnappers can most easily buy nylon rope, tarps, and lye for tying up, hiding, and dissolving the bodies of little girls. Reuters runs an important international news brief about a Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for an alleged sexual infraction—in its “Oddly Enough” section, where typical headlines include “Unruly Taxi Drivers Sent to Charm School.”
What you think about Fuck for Forest, a Berlin-based website that lets subscribers watch videos of environmental activists doing the nasty, depends in part on what you think about porn as a whole. If you think it’s liberating, empowering, and fun for the folks involved, then you can feel good about supporting an organization that channels its massive earning potential toward worthy antideforestation efforts—unlike regular internet porn, the dollars you spend aren’t paying for the gold plating on some smarmy webmaster’s hot tub.
Kate Clinton has been called the lesbian Jon Stewart. Her fans, however, prefer to think of Stewart as the straight Kate Clinton. Her career as a political humorist spans several White House administrations, but the current regime has offered her, like most liberal comedians, endless material for both her onstage comic monologues and her monthly columns for the Progressive and the Advocate.