I read Sarah Goodyear's article "When Being Italian Was a Crime" [April 18] with a great deal of sadness. As the article notes, the Wartime Violation of Italian-American Civil Liberties Act would provide for a comprehensive report by the Justice Department detailing injustices to Italian Americans and a formal acknowledgment by the president.
The Act recently was passed by the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. I have written to all committee members, both of New York's senators, the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate, as well as Vice President Gore, urging support for the measure.
I called for a similar action in 1997, when I sponsored a unanimously adopted City Council resolution calling on the government to formally acknowledge its mistreatment of Italian Americans during World War II.
I also recently contacted city and state education officials to urge that students learn about the Italian American World War II experience. Additionally, I asked state education officials to teach students about the courage displayed by Italians during the war, such as the efforts of the Assisi Underground. (Italian efforts to rescue Jews have been the subject of recent Holocaust conferences in the United States.)
On a personal note, a friend told me about a wartime experience that illustrates the courage of the Italian people. He was a bombardier flying missions over Italy when his plane was shot down. He told me he would not be alive today were it not for the bravery of partisans who hid him until he could be rescued.
Finally, I have to agree with Ms. Goodyear's feelings about the importance of learning about history. As George Santayana wrote: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Peter F. Vallone
New York City Council
I am a journalist and a South African rape activist and HIV/AIDS activist. While reading Mark Schoofs's series "AIDS: the Agony of Africa" on the Internet, I was surprised to see the statement that former health minister Nkosazana Zuma "reversed her policy on [providing] AZT for pregnant women" after a meeting with activist Zackie Achmat ["South Africa Acts Up," December 28]. Achmat and all of us wish that were so.
No such thing has happened. Nor are there any moves to give antiretrovirals to those who have been raped. We have the world's highest rape and HIV stats, and the most profound activism in the world around those issues.
In addition, it was not Mandela's government that enabled activism. I, and most South Africans, love our previous president, but even he would say that this is the country where the peoplenot one personbrought down the walls of apartheid. This is a stridently activist country, and, if anything, activism has diminished under democracy. However, President Thabo Mbeki's strange position on HIV/AIDS is likely to begin reversing that.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Mark Schoofs replies: Former health minister Zuma, following an April 30, 1999, meeting with Achmat and other activists, did indeed reverse her policy not to give AZT to pregnant women, and this was reported in the South African media. However, as my article indicated, her change of heart was quickly overridden by President Mbeki, which is why AZT is not being provided by the government. Additionally, while activism always involves many people, Mandela led the fight against apartheid and for the new South Africa that protects the right to vigorous dissent.
As a columnist for the French-language pro-wrestling Web page Quebeclutte (Quebec Wrestling), I would like to respond to Vadim's article "Grappling With Homosexuality" [May 9]. Although the article raised valid points that often elude the general public, I feel it is unfair to single out homosexuality as a target of pro wrestling. Pro wrestling steals icons and myths from all aspects of society, and articulates them in the ring in a simple battle of right vs. wrong.
Given the visceral nature of pro wrestling, it is no wonder that the matches are heavily charged with sexuality, whether implied or explicit. And it makes sense: These are men pretending to struggle for dominance, and obviously the measure of one's maleness is the resulting prize. Thus, in the ring, it is the wrestlers' sexualities that are conflicting.
This being said, I do not think that the portrayal of homosexuality in pro wrestling is truly hateful. It is used to create a metaphor. Certainly gay characters are portrayed as stereotypes, but in pro wrestling all characters are stereotypes.
I'm a college-educated professional, and I've also been a fan of pro wrestling for almost 20 years. While you're all still snickering, I'm going to use my unique qualifications to take Vadim to task for his shoddy analysis of my favorite vice.
Simply put, to emphasize some imagined homoerotic/homophobic dichotomy is a huge stretcha stretch more painful than even the Iron Sheik's "camel clutch." Yes, there have been unfortunate forays into gay angles with Goldust and Lenny & Lodi. However, these were but two among a host of gimmicks, characters, and story lines cooked up by promoters over time. Vadim uses a couple of isolated instances to make wrestling sound like the "fag bashing" center of the universe.
Looking at wrestling through gay-colored glasses, Vadim chooses to see a mass of glistening, sweaty, throbbing mounds of homo-licious beefcake in neon spandex, a piping-hot meaty fantasy delivered straight to his living room, compliments of the WWF. Millions of the rest of us see only our mindless, escapist Monday-night entertainment.
And if I may, allow me to defend the honor of the late Ravishing Rick Rude, whom Vadim singles out as wrestling's chief example of homoerotic exploitation: Not so fast, pal. Any rasslin' fan who knows his sports entertainment knows that the hip-swiveling, kiss-stealing Rude was the greatest ladies' man in the history of the ring.
The Ravishing One must be spinning in his grave.
Grappling with Glam
Regarding the article "Grappling With Homosexuality" by Vadim: Playing fast and loose with homophobic stereotypes is hardly a new development in the world of pro wrestling. Characters like Goldust and the since departed Lenny & Lodi (where were you guys when they still had jobs?) owe a tremendous creative debt to England's Exotic Adrian Street, a would-be glam rocker/cross-dresser who enraged audiences throughout the southern U.S. during the '70s and '80s.
Evette Porter's article "Tumbling Down" [April 25], about the female athlete triad (eating disorders, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis), was a much needed addition to coverage about how the bodies of female athletes have become commodities in a culture that scrutinizes and objectifies the female form.
With eating disorders reaching epidemic proportions, the female athlete is certainly not exempt from society's obsession with thinness. In fact, she is at an even greater risk for these devastating disorders. The increasing pressure on female athletes to "fit" a certain body "ideal" for their respective sports adds pressure to the strains of training and competing.
The female athlete triad is a women's health crisis that needs to be recognized and understood, not just by the athletes at risk but also by coaches, athletic departments, and personal trainers.
Many women are stunting their growth both physically and emotionally. They are endangering their lives and their health in attempts to excel in the competitive world of sports. Athletes need to be healthy and strong to be at their best, and the myth that a low weight is essential to good performance is a dangerous message for athletes of any age or gender.
American Anorexia Bulimia Association
Help Me, Rhonda
Rhonda Lieberman, in her review of Chris Kraus's new book, Aliens & Anorexia, entirely misses Kraus's point, or perhaps she proves it ["Film Fatale," April 25]. Aliens & Anorexia is about ethics. It asks us to consider what we should care about, who we should care about (starving girls? failures?), and whose experiences count as appropriate points of departure for exploring the larger questions of ethics that have occupied a mostly male pantheon of philosophers.
Aliens and Anorexia works, as did Kraus's first book, I Love Dick, by tempting the reader to reject the ethical importance or emotional seriousness of various people and situations. Lieberman apparently succumbed to this temptation and has yet to recover.
For those of us who do recover, the beauty, compassion, and intelligence of Aliens and Anorexia ring loud and clear.
San Francisco, California
Tristan Taormino is exactly right when she addresses the need for true diversity within the queer movement ["Pucker Up," May 16]. I too was in Washington, D.C., for the Millennium March and found the overwhelming marketing and homogeneity served up to us by the Human Rights Campaign and other groups tiring and insensitive.
The answer to the problems queer people face is not simply to "make nice" and ignore the fringes of our movement. True sexual freedom needs to encompass sexual freedom for all forms of consensual sex, regardless of one's personal preferences. Otherwise "liberation" will give us things like gay marriage and adoption, and nothing more.
Taormino writes that, at a conference for members of the queer press, people praised her for "being so out about [her] sexuality." This shocked me even though I too was at the conference, because I thought everyone there was "out" about their sexuality. But being out and queer and proud is certainly about more than just who we have sex with; it's about how and why we have sex, which is not something we can just place into a tiny box marked "gay" or "queer" and move on with our lives.
Sex is much bigger than that and deserves the respect that Taormino gives it. I'd rather see people dressing, dating, and fucking as individuals with minds and bodies of their own, expressing their unique creative impulses and ideas, than trying to toe a certain sexual line in order to be acceptable to the mainstream.
Rachel Kramer Bussel
I loved the article "Royal Paeans in the Ass" by Chris Barton [May 9]. It made me think of all the cool girls in college who'd show up at parties in unthinkable getups and too-cool-for-school attitudes and have the balls to do whatever the hell they wanted.
They'd inspire obsession in me and I'd have to covertly keep track of their every move. Princess Superstar, as described in this article, has that same effect. How inspiring, how dreamy, how gossipy good!
Ji Un Choi
Trebay Wins Berger Award
Guy Trebay has won the 2000 Mike Berger Award for feature stories published in The Village Voice, it was announced on Tuesday (May 16). In its announcement, the prize committee praised Trebay for his respon-sible use of the broad platform and inde-pendence afforded by the Voice. This is the second time Trebay has won the award. He also won it in 1982.
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