"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Monday, December 31, 2007

My New Year's gift to you:

An excellent post on finding your perfect bra size from Shapely Prose.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Frosty's Winter Wonderland


Frosty's Winter Wonderland

Synopsis: "It’s Christmastime again, and Frosty, the lovable snowman, has come out to play with the children of winter. Of course, no snowman would be complete without a snowwoman, so the children fashion him a bride. Just when it seems that Frosty is on the verge of happiness, the nefarious villain, Jack Frost, becomes jealous of Frosty’s good fortune and threatens to steal his hat--the magical hat that gives Frosty and his newly found bride life."

Have you seen this one? I grew up with the original Frosty the Snowman Christmas special, but unil a couple of days ago, I had no idea that this one existed. And I have to tell you, it totally creeped me out. Frosty is lonely, so the kids decide to build a woman out of snow to be his wife. Assuming she will immediately spring to life as Frosty did, and taking for granted that this newly living being will even want anything to do with him, let alone marry him, Frosty dictates to the children his specifications for the perfect wife. She is given blue eyes and a smile, and she is purposely made a little shorter than Frosty. They name her Crystal. The whole scenario just felt a little dirty to me.

Every man obviously needs a wife, right? And the wife? Well, she wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for his need for her. Apparently, the only reason to build a snowperson with feminine characteristics is so she can serve some purpose for her man.

I entertained a little fantasy in my brain of Frosty balking at the idea of the children building him a bride. Of him being horrified at the idea of forcing some innocent female snowcreature into marrying him. Or of him being offended that they would automatically assume he's straight when he would actually prefer a snowman over a snowwoman.

Yes, friends, in a perfect world, all Christmas specials would be feminist-friendly. In Rudolph, the girl reindeer would get to join in the reindeer games instead of waiting on the sidelines to be wooed by the boys. (They didn't just leave out the red-nosed kid, you know.) Mrs. Claus really would have been able to take her husband's place and save Christmas in The Year Without a Santa Claus.

They aren't all bad. It's just that some of them are just way past due for an update.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mamas, don't let your babies...

Everywhere you look, it always seems that women are getting blamed for something, which is why "victim-blaming" and "slut-shaming" are two subjects that get a lot of analysis and denunciation from feminists. But I want to bring up yet another highly gendered form of criticism: Mother Censure.

I suppose, for many "responsible journalists", it would be too much of a cheap shot to attack the young Jamie Lynn Spears following her recent pregnancy announcement. Spears' mother, however, is apparently fair game. Check out this condescending (and contradictory) article from MSN Entertainment News:

I suppose, in light of the very public (and apparently unending) downfall of her older daughter, Britney, and now, with her youngest pregnant at the age when most of her starlet peers are trying to parlay their TV work into a film career, any advice Lynne Spears might offer on how to raise children seems somewhat suspect. In fact, if the current events are any indication, Momma Spears might benefit from some advice herself.

According to a study done by Lisa Rapport, Ph.D, called "The Relationships Between Professional Experience, Parenting History, and Adult Adjustment," "the environment of the entertainment industry is not necessarily toxic to normal development. Instead, the results support the well-established theory that good parenting serves as a buffer for life stress." Good parenting. It so often comes back to that.

After putting all of the responsibility for her daughters' actions onto Lynne Spears and some huh-LAR-ious specific prescriptions for how to be a better parent to celebrity children, the article goes on to explain that:

Teen moms happen, in famous families, and not-so-famous ones, in lenient households and in strict homes. In fact, teen moms happen a lot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, there were more than 400,000 births in 2005 to 15- to 19-year-old mothers, or about 10 percent of total live births in the United States in that year. When I was in high school, one of my best friends was a girl from a conservative, religious, staid family. Her father was a minister. And although she wasn't on a TV show and she didn't live with an older boyfriend -- yep, she was pregnant at 16, too. She didn't even have an older sister shaving her head and driving over photographers. Sometimes, even with the best-intentioned parenting, it happens.

So, wait. If it happens all the time and can happen to anyone, why the Mother Censure? Why are we so programmed to blame mothers for everything that happens to their children? In a culture where mothers are still often (or at least thought to be) the primary caregivers to children coupled with a societal expectation that women (and women only) sacrifice absolutely everything in order to "raise them right", it's no wonder that (even after the exhausting pregnancy, labor, feeding, caring, clothing, chasing, nose-wiping, diaper-changing, potty-training, and financial-supporting) women are held responsible for their childrens' actions. Even when they aren't children anymore. Even when they're pop music icons or star in their own TV shows.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Brace yourself for the impending slut-shaming media reactions:

I don't mean to be a pessimist.  Maybe we can hope for some great non-misogynist commentary on this.  But I'm not holding my breath for it. 

For those times when your tattoo of a mostly naked woman just isn't enough...

...go the extra mile and add some silicone breast implants to it. That's just what this guy decided to do, and now he's showing it off on his blog with pride.

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The response of his commenters is overwhelmingly positive, but I have to say that this one's my favorite:

"Looks awesome, but she needs a good waxing."

(via Melissa at Shakesville)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Keeping the trend going

Jessica at Feministing totally cracked me up last week by showcasing some of her favorite pieces of hilarious hate mail. (Read from her Anti-Feminist Mailbag here, here, and here.) It got me thinking, because it makes total sense. Rather than get upset at all the hatred and biotry we get from our lovely misogynist commenters and e-mailers, why not showcase the absolute ridiculosity of their responses and get a few laughs in the process?

Here's a comment I just got a few days ago on this post about Bill Maher's woman-hating speech against breast-feeding in public from back in September:

"You all are stupid women, he is not as alpha as your making him out to be. Quit twisting his words around to give yourself a cause to complain about. He is just saying that breast feeding, no matter if it is natural or not, shouldn't be done next to my blooming onion. As for his "misogynistic" comments, ladies, get the sand out of your vag and laugh a little. Breast have many functions, tweaking, twiddling, sucking, and a very small amount is for milk production. :)
If it is such a big deal, attach a fucking milk suction device to them and store the rations for bottle feeding. That way I do not get randy while the baby sucks your sweet tit juice."

He's absolutely right! Silly feminist me. I went and forgot that boobs are solely for men's pleasure. Excuse me while I go clean the sand out of my vag.

One of these things is not like the other

Near the front entrance of my local library, there's a shelf full of romance novels. I usually pass by it without even noticing it, but today, something caught my eye. Right in the middle, surrounded by paperbacks with corseted women submitting to Fabio-like men on their covers, was Marilyn French's The Women's Room.

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It was the same size and shape as all of the novels surrounding it, but boy, did it stick out. I picked it up today and, I'm ready to start reading. Anyone out there who's read it before? What did you think? (No spoilers, though!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

A return to blogging and a story

When I started this little blog last winter, it didn't occur to me that there might come a time when my life would be too crazy to post on it. These last three months or so were definitely one of those times. Between the theft of my computer and taking the hardest, most work-intensive class of my life, blogging really got put on the backburner. Do you ever have one of those times when you constantly have so much work to do that you feel totally guilty for spending time on anything else? I guess that's how I felt about blogging this quarter. As long as there were assignments to read and research paper deadlines, I couldn't justify doing anything else.

But now that the work is done, and now that my insurance company has come through with my replacement computer, I can finally breathe and return to the blog. I hope you haven't deleted me from your blogrolls and feeders!

I thought I would start by sharing this little story of something that happened the other day:

So, the boyfriend and I were amazingly home at the same time on a weekday, and I had the TV tuned to ABC when The View came on at 11. I was working on some stuff and in my own little world when he commented:

"Wow, it's amazing how different the commercials are during 'women's programming" (making air quotes around the last two words).

When I looked up and noticed the Swiffer commerical on the TV, I was pretty sure I knew what he was getting at, but I was curious about what he was thinking, so I asked:

"What do you mean?"

"In this commerical break alone, I've seen three different cleaning product ads, a diaper commercial, and a minivan commercial."

I knodded knowingly.

"Sad, isn't it?" I said.

Knowing that he mostly watches prime time dramas and comedies, X-Play, and shows on Comedy Central, I kept the conversation going by asking,

"What kinds of commercials are you used to seeing?"

His response:

"Um, I don't know. Movie trailers. Ads for upcoming programming. Commericals for I-pods and other electronics. Car commercials, but the kind with fast driving and rock music instead of this minivan kind that show how there's room for groceries and kids (gesturing at the screen). I can't even remember the last time I saw a household product commercial before today."

And there you have it. I have to admit it was slightly vindicating to me that he noticed the difference -- how women are still assumed to be solely responsible for keeping houses and caring for children while men are almost never targeted by advertisers as consumers of products associated with homes and babies. I like to think that he has developed a much keener sense of sexism for having been around me.

But after that feeling of satisfaction wore off, I was left to reflect on how much it totally sucks that this is the way it is. This aspect of advertising is just another huge piece of evidence that gender socialization manages to creep its way into every little nook and cranny of our lives. It happens when I don't even notice it. Like when I am sitting at home with the TV on in the background, unaware that constant images of (mostly white middle class) women cleaning houses, grocery shopping, changing diapers, and carting kids to soccer practice are coming into my home and into my subconscious mind. Ugh.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Owed Explanation

I should apologize for my lack of posting lately. Between having piles of reading for school and having my apartment broken into and my computer stolen, it seems that my posts may have to be few and far between for the next couple of months. Keep checking back. I promise I'll be back in full swing eventually!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Social Justice in the News

I'm up to my neck in assigned reading and homework, so forgive my lack of posting. I did take time to read my daily e-mail from the New York Times, however, and I thought I would pass along some interesting stories:

Despite Denials, Gays Insist They Exist, if Quietly, in Iran: For a country that is said to have no homosexuality, Iran goes to great lengths to ban it, but gays and lesbians keep a low profile to avoid government interference.
The New Affirmative Action: Colleges want diversity. Students want diversity. There's just this little problem with the law.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Feminist Film of the Week: The Education of Shelby Knox

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This documentary ended up not being quite what I expected. Rather than focusing specifically on the content of the "abstinence only" sex education being taught in her Texas high school, it dealt more with a young girl's struggle with reconciling her consevative Christian upbringing with her emerging liberal views. Which I found fascinating, because I can totally relate.

Luckily, I didn't grow up with parents that made me pledge my virginity to them at a formal event, and they never blatantly told me that they thought homosexuality is a sin, but they (along with most of my hometown) were conservative, church-going Republicans, and it felt revolutionary to me when I started to have my own thoughts and realize that I was, in fact, an atheist and a feminist.

The scene where the school board prays together before their meeting hit especially close to home. I can remember accompanying my mom to PTA meetings as a very small child and watching all the parents bow their heads to say the Lord's Prayer before getting down to business. I suppose I shouldn't be at all surprised that this is still going on, even though it's so obviously a violation of the separation of church and state.

I wish that the film would have told more of the facts. That the filmmakers would have made sure to include the real truth after showing footage of the ridiculous pastor/"abstinence educator" spouting lies about condom use and STI prevention.

I also wish that Shelby (and her parents in their process of coming around to her ideas) didn't harp so much on the idea that she was fighting for comprehensive sex ed so that, even though she was still waiting for marriage, all those other kids who don't have her kind of home life and parental support will know how to be safe when they have sex. That bothered me a little, even though I can understand where she is coming from I'm sure she felt (and still feels) plenty of unspoken pressure to make sure that her parents still know that she intends to remain "pure" for them and for God, even while fighting for better sex ed at her school.

But I liked the movie. I liked watching her think for herself and stand up to some pretty powerful religious conservatives, asserting that they have no right to tell her she can't reconcile her liberal views with her faith. I liked that LGBT issues were addressed along with sex ed. I liked that Shelby became an ally in the cause of her fellow students who were fighting for the right to have a Gay/Straight Alliance at their school, despite the wariness of her parents and peers. I like that she didn't compromise.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jena 6 Stuff

Kevin from Slant Truth has a great roundup on what's going on in Jena today, including the link to the CNN video coverage of the protests. Check it out.
Also, BlackAmazon made my day with the information that David Bowie (my most best favoritest musician EVAR) made a hefty contribution to the Jena 6 legal defense fund.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Today in the News

New York Times: Alabama Plan Brings Out Cry of Resegregation
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - After white parents in this racially mixed city complained about school overcrowding, school authorities set out to draw up a sweeping rezoning plan. The results: all but a handful of the hundreds of students required to move this fall were black - and many were sent to virtually all-black, low-performing schools.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bill Maher hates you. Along with all women everywhere. And he hates your babies, too.

Cara at The Curvature often blogs about the "Offensive Remark of the Week", but I think this one wins the award for the most Offensive Three-Minute Monologue of the Year.

I've never watched him consistently, and he's never been one of my favorite people, but I could always get behind some of Bill Maher's political (anti-war, anti-Bush) views. Apparently, his "progressive"-ness does not extend to his attutudes about women. I have defended him before, because I sometimes sympathize when people are criticized or censored for saying controversial things. Except, of course, when the things they say are hateful, ignorant, objectifying, and totally idiotic.

Watch the video of Bill Maher's commentary on recent breast-feeding activism. Start watching at seven minutes in for the idiocy:

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I'm appalled that something this hateful and blatantly degrading was allowed on the air.

The transcript:
"And finally, new rule - and I never thought I'd be the one to say this - but DON'T show me your tits! (laughter) Last week the world's first nurse-in was held to protest the case of a woman who was breastfeeding in public and asked by an Applebee's manager not to leave but just to cover up a little bit. Because the wait staff got tired of hearing, 'I'll have what that kid's having!' (laughter) I'm not trying to be insensitive, here. I know your baby needs to eat, but so do I and this is Applebee's, so I'm already nautious. (laughter) Breastfeeding a baby is an intimate act, and I don't want to watch strangers performing intimate acts. At least not for free. (laughter) It cheapens it. But breastfeeding activists - yes, breastfeeding activists, called Lactivists (laughter) - say this is a human right and appropriate everywhere, because it's natural. Well, so is masturbating, but I generally don't do that at Applebee's. (laughter and applause) Not in the main dining area, anyway. I mean next thing, women will be wanting to give birth in the waterfall at the mall! (laughter) Look, there's no principle at work here, other than being too lazy to either plan ahead or cover up. It's not fighting for a right, it's fighting for the spotlight, which you surely will get when you go all Janet Jackson on everyone (makes flashing motion of opening shirt) (laughter) and get to drink in the oohs and ahhs from the other customers because you made a baby! (laughter) Something a dog can do. (laughter and applause) Only in America do women think they deserve a medal for having a kid. In China women give birth on their lunch hour and that afternoon they're back on line painting lead onto Barbie dolls. (laughter and applause) But this isn't really about women taking their breasts out in public - as much as I'd like them to. It's about how petty and parochial our causes have become, and how activism has become narcissism. It's why Al Gore can't get people to focus on global warming unless there's a rock concert. Melting icebergs, brought to you by Smashing Pumpkins. It's why there will be no end to this dumb war until there is a draft, because at the end of the day, Iraq is somebody else's problem. And by the way, there is a place where breasts and food do go together. It's called Hooters! (laughter and applause)"

(via Feminist Law Professors - with great links to 2 other posts)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Feminist Film of the Week: Bend it Like Beckham

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You've got to be kidding me.

"At one point, an assailant cut the woman's ankle with a knife and used the N-word in telling her she was victimized because she is black, according to the criminal complaints."
If that's not a hate crime, I don't know what is.
"Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham said his office would pursue other charges first because they carry stiffer penalties. West Virginia's hate crime law carries a sentence of up to 10 years."
I suppose it's not so bad if it's a strategic move for toward a tougher sentence... But wait.  It IS that bad.  Why on earth would a hate crime law carry a maximum sentence of ten years?!  Isn't there something wrong with a hate-crime law that prosecuters have to avoid when it comes to crimes that should result in longer sentences? 
Or maybe THIS is the reason it's not being called a hate crime:

"One of the six suspects arrested in the case, Bobby Brewster, had a previous relationship with the victim, Abraham said. He said Brewster had been charged in July with domestic battery and assault after a domestic dispute involving the same woman.

"She obviously had some sort of social relationship," Abraham said. "That is based on the fact that she was present at his residence on a prior date."

If true, that evidence would undercut the hate crime law, which applies to crimes motivated by racial hatred and not by non-race-related conflicts."

I don't understand why previous relationships would "undercut" hate crime law.   Assuming "racial hatred" can't exist if the parties are acquainted?  A previous relationship excludes the possibility of "race-related conflicts"?  This just doesn't make sense to me.

And if this horrific event and its non-hate-crime status haven't outraged you enough, it also seems that the insidious victim-blaming has already begun.


On Accessibility

Ever since Miss Crip Chick inspired me to read and blog about the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon, disability issues have been a little more on my radar screen. Today, this one piqued my interest. The New York Times has an article in which food critic Frank Bruni examines the accessibility of restaurants.
My father uses a wheelchair, which means that we have to think ahead about accessibility nearly everywhere we go, but the article made me stop and think about why I don't usually worry too much about restaurants.  And I think it's because I live in the Midwest.  Where I live, nearly every eating establishment we are likely to visit is only one story, with large waiting areas and lots of floor space between the tables and booths.  They all have expansive parking lots with anywhere from two to twelve designated parking spaces.  There are always ramps, and many of them have automatic doors that will open with the press of a button.  While they may not be the most cultured or character-filled places to live, it's been my experience that urban-sprawl midwestern suburbs are at least new and up-to-date enough to comply with the ADA.
Then I compare my surroundings with the environment discussed in the article, and I can see where the problems are.  I love New York.  But when I visit there, I can really notice how much smaller everything is.  I have to completely readjust how I navigate my surroundings so that I can slink around and among crowds and squeeze into and through tiny spaces.  I've eaten some of the most amazing food of my life in New York restaurants, but spent the entire time nervous that if I slid my chair three inches backward, I would slam into someone else.  I take for granted that even though it's a slight inconvenience to wait for a table while flattened against a wall and to  carefully ascend the narrow spiral staircase to the second level and to squeeze into the itty-bittiest restroom I've ever used in my life (we're talking airport tiny), I can still physically manage to eat at my favorite Upper East Side restaurant: Serendipity 3.   

"But older structures aren't subject to the same requirements. Ms. Davis lives on the Upper East Side, and she said most of the established restaurants she visits in her neighborhood have tiny, inaccessible restrooms.

"I dehydrate before I go out to dinner," she said. "I don't drink anything for an hour and a half.' She also carries around a 12-pound fiberglass ramp that she uses if a restaurant has a step or two up to its entrance, as many do. If a restaurant has a whole flight of stairs, she's out of luck."

Bruni's article makes a good point about wait staff having good intentions in trying to be as helpful as possible to their disabled diners, but how these intentions do not necessarily make up for the lack of accessible facilities.  Or, it often happens that the building may have measures in place for accessibility only to be so tightly packed with guests that they cannot be gotten to.  Not without asking everyone in your path to move, that is.  That doesn't quite count as "accessibility", does it? 
Aside from awareness, the article also dishes out a list of some of the top accessible dining spots in NYC.  I may choose to support these places the next time I go there.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I definitely didn't need this today.

I picked the wrong day to watchdog. I probably should have known better than to look at conservative sites for material today. It's September 11th, after all. Today of all days, for no other reason than my own emotional well-being, I should have only read the writing of kindred spirits.

I would have been fine if I had just done that. If I had just read Zuzu and Jill at Feministe, Amanda at Pandagon, and everything written by Melissa and her crew at Shakesville today, I would not currently be filled with the kind of hopeless feminist rage that makes you wonder in disbelief at how much we still have to fight for equality.  Because while the sites I just mentioned (along with all of the other wonderful feminist, anti-racist, and social justice sites I read) talked about 9/11 today in constructive ways that criticize our government for this unnecessary war or draw our attention to other atrocities that are going on right now, the stupid, fucking Mens News Daily decided to wax nostalgic about the tragedy with a repost of a 2001 article that dared to state the "obvious" - that the biggest heroes on that horrific day were not women, but men.
That's right.  MND blogger Glenn Sacks thought the best way he could honor victims, survivors, and rescue workers today would be to put the ladies in their place by reminding us that most of the people doing the dirty work of saving lives that day happened to have penises.  He didn't have to say it himself, though.  He just reposted an article written on 9/21/01 by Christie Blatchford, in which Blatchford implies that the high ratio of male to female firefighters must mean that women are incapable handling emergencies:
"There were, of course, plenty of women among the 6,000-plus victims still buried beneath the WTC and the Pentagon, and plenty of illustrations of how well they conducted themselves at the moment of truth, calling home to say brave goodbyes. And it is certainly true that among the estimated 300 firefighters who were lost, and among the police and ambulance personnel who perished, were some women who died as heroically as their male colleagues. And it is true, too, that among the fire and police who have worked so tirelessly in that immense crematorium in the endless aftermath are some women.

"But you know what?

"Most fire and police departments resolutely remain predominantly male.

"Most of the firefighters and police who were killed were men.

"Most of the most astonishing acts of courage that we know about, from the man who in one of the towers stayed with his wheelchair-bound colleague so he would not die alone to the male passengers who apparently rushed the hijackers on flight 93, were performed by men.

"Most of the people doing the dirtiest work -- day after day driving the big trucks in and out; clearing the site of giant chunks of debris, concrete and metal; moving the earth; picking up tiny pieces of skin and muscle that thus far form the single biggest category of remains and placing them into little envelopes and the little envelopes into zip-up body bags -- were and are men, in the main blue-collar, working-class boys.

"Even most of the wondrous political leadership, from New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani to George W., has come from men."

Where does one even begin?!  She mentions the fact that there WERE women rescue workers who died, only to immediately dismiss them as irrelevant in order to point out that they were mostly men.  She never provides statistics so we know just how many women she is choosing to marginalize, and it also doesn't occur to her to question WHY men make up a majority of firefighters, police officers, and politicians.  Does it not occur to her that this could have something to do with centuries of denial of rights for women or socialized gender roles that keep women from pursuing such occupations?  (I'm going to reluctantly refrain from commenting on her "wondrous political leadership" comment, since she wrote this at a time when no one was exposing their lies or willing to criticize them for anything.)
But wait.  There's more.  While Blatchford was so busy being enamored with the hunky firefighters, she did happen to take notice of the nearby activity of the womenfolk:
"Women made sandwiches and served 'em, walked about with trays of hot dogs (and even, incredibly, packets of mustard and relish), ministered to the sick, consoled the grief-struck and looked on, with worshipful sidelong glances, in wonder at the men."
To those of you thinking, "Oh no she didn't!", I regret to inform you that she did.  And if that wasn't blatantly insulting enough, she continues to cut us down to size by telling us we have no place being firefighters or cops in the first place:
"I am old enough to remember what some call the "feminization" of these very organizations, and the military, that began all over North America.

"As the rhetoric went then, integrating women into these places would be good for the men, would gentle their inherent violence and risk-taking, temper the soaring levels of testosterone, somehow better the culture.

"The truth is, it did nothing of the sort. If anything, the women who became firefighters and police and soldiers took their cues from the men. And in the end, there remains such comfort in this, in knowing that, push come to shove, should you find yourself in crisis, in a burning building or a car crash, the ground treacherous and shifting beneath your sandal-shod feet either literally or metaphorically, a burly figure will be coming for you, and he will be driven enough to find you and strong enough to lift you up and away."

I can't even imagine how offensive these words must be to a female firefighter, EMT, or law enforcement official who works her ass off every day only to be told that she isn't fit to be a leader, or that she isn't tough enough to do her job.   

OF COURSE I don't think that it is wrong to honor the efforts and sacrifices of everyone who answered the call to duty on September 11th, 2001 and all of the days and weeks and months following it.  But I DO think it is wrong to honor the efforts and sacrifices of only one group to the exclusion of others, especially when that group happens to be the privileged and more powerful majority. 

 I am genuinely PISSED OFF that Blatchford wrote such horrible, ignorant drivel six years ago, and I am positively FUMING that anyone respected this view enough to republish it.  Romanticizing heroic actions is one thing, but unfairly attributing the characteristics related to those actions to one sex and one sex only is completely ludicrous.  And I'm sure that Sacks felt more comfrtable posting this "politically incorrect" idiocy simply because it happened to be written by a woman.  The whole thing (including the comments section) smacks of a "You see, boys?  They're not ALL feminazi bitches!" attitude.  Read it all if you can stomach it, but I won't blame you if you'd rather just avoid such nonsense.  Especially today of all days.





Friday, September 7, 2007

A Post from Riverbend!

Via Feminist Law Professors: Riverbend Blogs That She Is Now In Syria
I've written about her before and was an avid reader of her blog before her last post this past April, which annouced that she and her family had made the difficult decision to leave Iraq.  After all that time, she posted yesterday, telling the story of leaving her home.  I am glad to know that she and her family have made it safely, and I hope she is in a position to continue writing about her experience.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lord Vigo Makes it Official

After months of uncertainty, it's now official that Republican Fred Thompson is running for president. So I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone why I think we should be especially wary of him.

Help Stop Intimidation from Anti-Choicers

I had just gotten my e-mail about this from Planned Parenthood and signed the petition when I noticed that Cara has already blogged about it here.

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What happens in Aurora, happens to me

Read her post and sign the petition. With each signature of support, Planned Parenthood will tie a ribbon outside the threatened clinic in Aurora, Illinois to show how many of us are in support of reproductive rights for women.

And spread the word! Post the link on your own blogs or online communities and take advantage of their e-mail feature to send the message to your friends.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Farewell, ½ Hour News Hour

Remember this little sexist gem from the Fox News "comedy" show, ½ Hour News Hour? Well apparently their genius attempts at parodying liberalism have been in vain, because the short-lived show's last episode will air September 16th. Here's another, more recent example of their right-wing hilarity:

This video really speaks for itself in showing the HUGE disconnect between the ways of thinking of conservatives and those of liberals/progressives. While, they consider things like medical care and education to be "lavish benefits", we (shockingly) tend to regard them as human rights.

All I can say is that I'm so glad this stupid show was cancelled after only 15 episodes. I understand that conservatives probably feel alienated by liberal comedy shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but what I don't think they understand is that there's a couple of inherent problems with trying to come up with a comedy news show for the right: 1) They don't have the benefit of being able to hilariously expose constant hypocrisy and bigotry, and 2) they're hopelessly unfunny. I suppose it was worth a try, righties, but good fucking riddance.

The Onion Redeems Itself

Woman Overjoyed By Giant Uterine Parasite

(via Feministe)

"All you need is a nice white lady."

I nearly fell out of my seat with laughter when I first saw this parody video about the "nice white lady" movie cliche, and now Jae Ran Kim has some great commentary about the trend on which the parody is based.  From her blog Harlow's Monkey:
"Taken as a whole, these movies suggest that people of color can't help themselves without the intervention of a white person. Even movies that aren't outwardly based on this premise often include elements of it, and I'm thinking of movies like 'Bring It On - All or Nothing' (the sequel) in which a popular white teen who is cheerleading captain is transferred to an inner city school and has to compete with her old squad in a competition, and somehow wins over her skeptical cheerleading team to lead them to winning over her snotty, rich, former teammates."
So true.  And I think the best point she makes is how although movies like "Dangerous Minds" and "Freedom Writers" may seem to be intended for a diverse audience, they intentionally put the "nice white lady" character at the center of the story.  Who would the white folks have to identify with, otherwise?  She says: "The critique gets lost because we're so caught up in empathizing with just how difficult it is for the White person to overcome their innocence/bias/prejudice/naivite/whatever so they can get on with the business of transforming 'people."  
Kim mentions the movie "Stand and Deliver" as an alternative example where someone from within the community is responsible for transforming students rather than an outsider.  I haven't seen that one, but an alternative I immediately thought of was "To Sir, With Love", wherein Sidney Poitier's character transforms the lives of his white students while withstanding racism from the community.   Can you think of any other examples that subvert the "nice white lady" story?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Jerry Lewis Strikes Again

Apparently, he's quicker to apologize for his homophobic comments than he is for his misogynistic ones

The Onion IS supposed to be funny, isn't it?

Will somebody who gets it please explain the joke to me?

Video: Breaking News: Missing Girl Probably Raped

Monday, September 3, 2007

And while we're on the topic of Jerry Lewis....

I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that aside from being insensitive to disability issues, Lewis also proved himself to be a raging misogynist with these remarks he made in 2000 (both news blurbs via imdb.com):

Feb 14, 2000: Jerry Lewis proved himself dumbfoundingly politically incorrect on Saturday during an appearance at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, CO. As reported by the Associated Press, Lewis was asked which female comics he admires. "I don't like any female comedians, " he recalled. When Martin Short, who was moderating the panel reminded him of Lucille Ball and remarked, "You must have loved her, " Lewis replied "No, " then added, "A woman doing comedy doesn't offend me but sets me back a bit. ... I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world."
And this is his poor attempt at an apology:
September 5, 2000: Jerry Lewis has recanted his comment made earlier this year that he didn't like female comedians. On Friday, he recanted. Sort of. He told CNN's Larry King that he admires such comedians as Whoopi Goldberg and the late Lucille Ball. But he also said some of them make him uncomfortable. "Why? Because I'm old fashioned, " said Lewis, 74. "I still open doors for ladies, I still move a seat under for a lady, and my wife gets the kind of glorious attention that a lady is entitled to... I have a difficult time seeing her do this on stage, " he added, making a pumping motion under his armpit.
And this is the person America trusts to be an advocate for the disabled?


I can't go back and add it to my last post since I submitted it through e-mail, but the whole blogswarm for the MDA Telethon protest is actually located at Kara Sheridan's blog and can be found here:

Read and enjoy!

Blogging for Civil Rights: The MDA Telethon Edition

I'm sure lots of working Americans are really happy to have the day off today, but not everything is great about Labor Day. For one thing, my local conservative radio station took the opportunity to discuss why they think labor unions are nothing but money-stealing organizations that support lazy people who don't want to work. For another thing, there's the annual Jerry Lewis MDA telethon.
The telethon is widely known as one of television's longest running traditions, but it doesn't take a genius to know that that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing.  People have defended some crazy things in the name of tradition.  And as I blogged here, not everyone is supportive of this particular tradition.  Disability activism has come a long way since the telethon began in 1966, but unfortunately the attitudes underlying this annual fundraiser have not. 
I hate to make this whole argument out of analogies, and I would never want to make any unfair comparisons, but as a social justice advocate, it's easy to see the parallels between disability activism and other anti-oppression movements.  The Muscular Dystrophy Association may have good intentions with what it is trying to do with the telethon, but the problem lies with its approach.  By portraying disability as a horrible, awful thing that makes its "victims" objects of pity and somehow less than "normal" people, it only perpetuates harmful stereotypes about people who live with disabilities.  Stereotypes that affect how others view them and how they view themselves.  And here's where the anaologies come in:  We know that being anything other than a straight white male in our society means that you have a number of forces working against you.  But what if someone were to propose that the solution to inequality was not to fight for civil rights, but to find a way to make everyone become straight white males?  Do LGBTQ activists like it when people argue that they shouldn't be gay?  How do people of color enjoy being told to assimilate to avoid discrimination?  Women bristle at the idea that the way to equality is to act more like men, and of course people with disabilities have every right to be horribly offended by an annual day-long event in which patronizing "normals" try to raise money on their behalf by drumming up pity based on the ridiculous assertion that their disability somehow makes them less than everyone else.  Civil rights activism is not centered around making marginalized people more "normal"; it is about making society more fair, accepting, and accessible.   It is the oppressor that needs reforming, and NOT the oppressed.
The telethon-protest movement (which was actually started by former telethon poster children) has come under a lot of criticism for being "ungrateful" for all the perceived good the telethon has done in its forty years of existence.  But to them ( and quite understandably so), it doesn't matter how much money the telethon makes.  The donations are just unwelcome as long as they're in the name of pity and as long as the telethon contributes to the marginalization of people with disabilities.  The MDA telethon and it's host happen to be downright insulting to people with disabilities, and  HERE's what the disability rights movement would like to see from the MDA (via cripcommentary.com):
1. Immediately fire Jerry Lewis as host of the MDA Telethon.

2. Immediately stop using children in fundraising efforts. Parents can no longer consent to their exploitation.

3. Immediately hire an independent auditor to conduct an honest, impartial, objective accounting of the Telethon's costs and revenues.

4. Based on the accounting, develop a timetable for "weaning" the MDA budget away from dependence on the Telethon

(For links to other posts about the telethon, refer to the comments section of this post at Miss Crip Chick's blog.)


Friday, August 31, 2007

Top Ten Hillary Clinton Campaign Promises (my favorite is #9)

(Updated 9/6/07 to add YouTube clip.)

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Hillary Clinton was her usual poised and articulate self on the Late Show tonight. The best part, though, was when she delivered the Top Ten List:

"Top Ten Hillary Clinton Campaign Promises"

10. "Bring stability and long term security to 'The View.'"

9. "Each year on my birthday, every American gets a cupcake."

8. "You'll have the option of rolling dice against the IRS for double-or-nothing on your taxes."

7. "Having trouble getting a flight and Air Force One is available -- it's yours."

6. "My Vice President will never shoot anybody in the face."

5. "Turn Gitmo into a Dairy Queen as soon as possible."

4. "For over a century there have been only two Dakotas -- I plan to double that."

3. "We will finally have a President who doesn't mind pulling over and asking for directions. Am I right, ladies?"

2. "I will appoint a committee to find out what the heck is happening on 'Lost.'"

1. "One more pantsuit joke and Letterman disappears."

Feminist Film of the Week: Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed

Chishom '72: Unbought and Unbossed

Even though I'm a huge Shirley Chisholm admirer, I didn't even realize this 2004 documentary existed until it was recommended to me on Netflix. I immediately moved it to the top of my queue, it came yesterday, and I watched it last night.

With both a woman and an African American running for the democratic nomination during a time when the nation is divided over a war, this film about Chisholm, the first black woman in Congress and the first woman to make a serious bid for the American presidency, seems incredibly relevant. It was especially so when the film showed footage of Chisholm saying:

"Over 75% of our budget is being spent to continue an immoral war in Vietnam, and yet we have a domestic war here at home in terms of the crises in our cities. There's something wrong with our nation."

Sound familiar?

It was amazing to watch and think about the ways in which we have progressed in terms of anti-sexism and anti-racism, as well as the ways in which we still have a very long way to go. It was directed by the amazing Shola Lynch (read/watch a fabulous interview with her about the film here) and featured interviews with Susan Brownmiller and Octavia Butler, as well as archive footage of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and other prominent feminists. Not only that, but we are so fortunate that the film contains interview footage with Chisholm herself, taken before her death on January 1, 2005. She was eighty years old when she died.

It isn't mentioned in the film, but Chisholm is also well-known as a huge proponent of reproductive rights, and I hear she covered this topic in depth in her 1970 autobiography, also called Unbought and Unbossed, (which is sadly out of print, but check your library) if you want to know more.

For more great classic Chisholm, check out her 1970 speech in support of the Equal Rights Amendment:

"This is what it comes down to: artificial distinctions between persons must be wiped out of the law. Legal discrimination between the sexes is, in almost every instance, founded on outmoded views of society and the pre-scientific beliefs about psychology and physiology. It is time to sweep away these relics of the past and set further generations free of them."

Can you imagine how the world might be different today if we had elected her (instead of Richard Nixon) in 1972?

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Recent Resources: White Privilege

I just read an excellent post from rachels about white privilege:

Why there is a BET and there isn't a WET
I wish there were more teachers who addressed privilege in this way.  Such instruction is desperately needed, especially in white country towns like the one in which I grew up.  I can't tell you how common it is for me to hear questions like, "Why is there a black history month when there's no white history month?"  Posts like this are extremely helpful in giving us the words to answer questions that come from complete ignorance of white privilege. 
(I also highly recommend reading Magniloquence's awesome Race Relations 101 series at Feline Formal Shorts, and listening to Carmen Van Kerckhove's great podcast Addicted to Race.)

A Step in the Right Direction

I'm rather used to seeing pretty ridiculous feature stories on MSN.com (see here for an example), but I was pleasantly surprised today to log in and see the headline "Perfect Mom' Mythbusting: Why you're a great mom, no matter how you mother"
Sounds pretty positive, right?  And, for the most part, it is:
"Fortunately, parenting is not one-size-fits-all. "What works for one mom may not work for another - or her kids," says Michelle Borba, author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know. And it's important to get comfortable with your innate parenting style. "If you're always worrying - am I doing it right? - it could hinder your ability to parent effectively," says marriage, family, and child therapist Lisa Dunning, author of Good Parents Bad Parenting. "But if you trust yourself as a parent, you can focus on what's best for you and your child."
Now for the problems with the article.  The first is that it takes the typical viewpoint that Moms are the only parents who should be worrying about this sort of thing in the first place. I think I can give it the benefit of the doubt on this, though.  Not only does the article comes from Redbook, a publication aimed at women, but it was written in direct response to the overwhelming pressure put on mothers (and mothers alone) to second guess all of their parenting decisions and to be made to feel that the well-being of their children rests entirely on their (and not the fathers') shoulders.  And for taking on that societal pressure and reminding women that they can ignore it, this article is a good thing.
The only other issue I have with the story is that, for an article that aims to relieve mothers of the burden of scrutinizing their parenting, the approach of offering "five steps to get comfortable with your particular parenting style" takes the same prescriptive attitude the article originally seemed to be trying to criticize.  I suppose this advice format is typical of women's magazines, but it's slightly amusing how contradictory the sentiments are.
Still, it's nice to see positive, affirming, pro-woman stories that communicate trust in women rather than patronizing ones that try to tell us how to parent or how to live.  I think it's a step in the right direction.

Because pity never earned anyone civil rights...

I must admit that I've never really given much thought to the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon that airs each Labor Day weekend, but that has changed now that I've read Miss Crip Chick's latest post. In it, she calls for folks who care about ending ableism to blog in protest of the telethon.  If you need help in understanding why, read her post and check out all of her links.  I found the site for the documentary The Kids Are Alright and the Other Obnoxious Comments by Jerry Lewis on cripcommentary.com to be especially eye-opening. 
This quote from the The Kids Are Alright page sums the issue up well:

"The telethon routinely implies that the source of the problems people with disabilities face is their medical conditions and the answer to their problems is curing them. Millions of viewers tune in every year and come away with the idea that people with disabilities need pity and charity rather than accessible public transportation and housing, employment opportunities and other civil rights that a democratic society should ensure for all its citizens. "
Anyone who is involved in any social justice or anti-oppression movement should be able to understand this.  If able-bodied privilege is keeping you from wrapping your head around it, replace muscular dystrophy with any other condition of social marginatlization (sex, race, sexuality, sexual identity, etc.), and it becomes apparent.  Can you imagine how you would feel if charities constantly drummed up pity for you based on the patronizing assumption that you are less than everyone else, and planted a clueless bigot in charge of the effort?
Support the cause by participating.  Comment on Miss Crip Chick's post or e-mail  consciouslycrip@gmail.com to add your voice.

Monday, August 27, 2007

On Confrontation

Feministe guest blogger Nanette wins the award for most inspired post of the week:

Benefit of the Doubt

Friday, August 24, 2007

Feminist Film of the Week: The Color Purple

As I work on trying to get into grad school, my not-very-high-paying-but-nonetheless-cushy-pay-the-rent job involves sitting in a security office and monitoring surveillance cameras during mostly uneventful evenings. The beauty of this is that I have time to do things like study, catch up on my blog reader, and read books while I'm at work. And since yarn was on sale last week at Jo-Ann's, I stocked up and excitedly started making scarves for all of my friends for Christmas. (I'm one of those freaks who is nearly always finished with gift-making and shopping months in advance.) So, needing something to do while I knit for hours and hours at work, I decided to bring the laptop with me and embark on a journey of watching and/or rewatching some of my favorite films about women. And that got me thinking that I should post about these movies as I watch them.

Last night was the first of the series, and I chose The Color

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This film is so heartwrenching and beautiful that I seriously cannot watch it without sobbing. Based on the book by Alice Walker and directed by Steven Speilberg, the 1985 film adaptation was Whoopi Goldberg's film debut, and it won several awards. I know that Walker received some criticism for her portrayal of some characters and for a controversial kiss between two female characters (which she responds to in her wonderful essay In the Closet of the Soul*), but I think this book and film are so incredibly important for casting some mainstream light on the intersection of racism and sexism in early twentieth century America.

The book has been on my reading list for years, but I think it's time for me to bump it to the top of the list. I have a renewed desire to read it and catch any parts that got left out of the movie. And since books are almost always better than movies based on them, I need to know what I've been missing.

*This essay can be found in Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought, ed. Beverly Guy-Sheftall.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Stay out of my uterus, Mitt!

I found out from Feministing that the amazing Cristina Page has a new article about the hidden agenda of the compulsory pregnancy movement, in which she exposes the viewpoints the Republican presidential candidates are expressing in order to gain favor from anti-choice groups.  I can't seem to talk enough about this topic (since I've posted about it here, here, here, and here), but it completely amazes me how vehemently some people are fighting to roll the clock back forty years when it comes to women's rights.  Not just back to before Roe v. Wade, but before Griswold v. Connecticut, too.  And if your average so-called "pro-lifers" really understood that, I think they would be a little bit surprised.  Check out Page's article.  In it, she beautifully critiques the current candidates and delivers the main point of her 2005 book How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America in a one-page message. 

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rock on, Judy Blume!

via Feministe: Judy Blume Updated

"Hope for Hooters"

Not only is this offensive billboard on display all over my city, but the radio station it advertises is getting some press over its super clever and original way of promoting breast cancer awareness events.  (See the Columbus Other Paper's Do 'boob' Jokes Raise Cancer Awareness?)
The strategy they used, of course, was to encourage their mostly male audience to support breast cancer awareness in an effort to "save those boobs". 
The article mentions a lone woman who spoke out against the message they're sending:

"...she was appalled by a message she interpreted as, "We, the guys, need to save (breasts) for ourselves, meaning for our own pleasure, rather than we all of us need to address a serious health issue."


To her, Hannibal's comment was only a continuation of what she considers the Blitz's unenlightened attitude toward women-as demonstrated by its attention-getting billboards that show the torso of a busty woman in a tight, white shirt and urge onlookers to "pray for rain."


The DJ who met the most criticism for communicating this message had a totally convincing defense for why he presented breast cancer awareness in this way:


"Consider the mind of the 18- to 34-year-old male that listens to rock and roll."


It's the "we're just giving our [male] listeners what they want [while completely alienating and insulting our female listeners], and besides, only men listen to rock and roll, anyway" argument.  Makes perfect sense, gentlemen.  Sorry to interrupt your misogyny with my feminist nagging.  Allow me to shut up and sign up for your wet t-shirt contest.


(Fuck you, 99.7.)

Manicures are a Feminist Issue

And not just because of beauty standards.

The New York Times is reporting on problems for workers in the nail salon industry. Problems related to long hours, low wages, and health concerns from exposure to harmful chemicals.

"Owners often force employees to work 60 hours a week while failing to pay overtime or allow lunch breaks. And lower manicure prices mean lower tips for workers who spend their days cutting cuticles and painting on polish."

"In a 2004 survey of salon employees in New York City, 37 percent said they often or sometimes had skin problems, 37 percent said they suffered from eye irritation, 57 percent from allergies, 66 percent from neck or back discomfort and 18 percent from asthma."
It's not new information that the salon industry, which employs women in far greater numbers than men, has a dangerous side that is hardly ever discussed, and often unknown to workers in the business.  (Thinking Girl has a great post about this from a while back.  I'll find the think to it specifically when I'm not hampered by a firewall.) 
"The intensity of exposure for salon workers is 1,200 times what it would be for the average American," said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that seeks to protect public health and the environment. "Immigrant women often don't understand the safety information."
Various environmental organizations (including the EPA) and workers associations are getting involved in trying to educate salon owners, workers, and communities to improve wages and working conditions, and the article cites several pending lawsuits that may hopefully bring about some change, but for an industry that involves so many struggling women, many of whom have the added burden of being immigrants who speak little English, it will take lots and lots of work to make things better.
 "More than 80 percent of the salons in the New York-New Jersey area are Korean-owned, according to industry experts. In California, by contrast, an estimated three-fourths of salon owners and workers are Vietnamese. The Vietnamese community there has been far more outspoken about safety problems than the Korean community has been in New York.

Ms. Lee, the salon owner on Long Island, said many Koreans went into the business because entry costs are low, with entrepreneurs able to open salons for $50,000 to $100,000. Asian immigrants, whether Koreans two decades ago or Chinese today, often become manicurists because the job requires little English and only a few weeks of training."

I've never had a manicure in my life and don't really plan to start getting them anytime soon, but I'm still left wondering what consumers could do to help bring about change.  Would the industry improve for workers if customers were more aware? If there was a higher demand for salons with manicurists who make a living wage?  Or would that only privilege the salons that are able to afford to charge higher prices and hurt the women who work for less pay?  I'm also wondering if that many chemicals (or ones that harmful) are really necessary to the grooming of nails.  Wouldn't it be better for all involved if the companies that make these products were held to a higher standard of safety and somehow forced to develop safer ones?  Thoughts?

Activism Idea: Planned Parenthood Pill Patrol

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If you're like me, you want to put a stop to the ridiculous trend of pharmacists refusing to sell contraceptives to women. If you want to stop feeling so helpless, here's something you can do.

Join the Planned Parenthood Pill Patrol

Planned Parenthood needs our help in keeping pharmacies across the U.S. honest by visiting them and making sure they stock emergency contraception and that they have staff members who will honor customers' requests for it. Just sign up, download their action kit, visit your local pharmacy or pharmacies, and report back to them about what you found.

And while you're at it, send a nasty letter or two to Target and Winn Dixie stores for not having policies that guarantee our right to purchase birth control. (Check here for a list of the top fifty U.S. pharmacy chains and how they measure up.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pink for Women, Skulls for Men

Remember the gendered earplugs? Apparently, the trend has spilled over onto his and hers diaper bags.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Women's Health News


"ATLANTA - Women who use abortion pills rather than the more common surgical method seem to face no greater risk of tubal pregnancy or miscarriage in later pregnancies, according to a new study."

"Generally, surgical abortions completely remove an embryo or fetus and surrounding uterine tissue, but abortions done with pills may leave bits of placenta or other embryonic material. Some doctors have wondered whether that might interfere with subsequent pregnancies, said Dr. Matthew Reeves, a reproductive medicine expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"This kind of squashes any concerns," said Reeves, who was not involved in the study.

The paper is published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine."


The Problem with Mars/Venus

Survey of heterosexual married men: Imagine that your wife offers all the sex that you want, but does it reluctantly or simply to accomodate your sexual needs.  Will you be sexually satisfied?
Yes: 26%
No: 74%
This survey statistic comes from the book For Women Only, by Shaunti Feldhahn - a little relationship self-help title intended to help women learn all about the "inner workings" of the men they love. The book resides in the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus genre of gender stereotyping, in which "doctors" and authors take survey statistics and study findings about men and women and use them to support their claims about certain natural and inherent desires and needs of the genders in the hopes that these "understandings" can improve human relationships. 
I can't help picking up books like this when I see them in the library, because the blatant assumptions and ridiculous conclusions that result from their gross biological essentialism is downright laughable.  Sometimes they do offer nuggets of wisdom that could probably improve the most heteronormative of relationships, but always at the expense of reducing men and women to the most simplistic stereotypes.  And they never, ever seem to get at what I would be most interested to learn:  the real reasons behind different behaviors and survey responses of men and women.  It infuriates me that this writer gave hundreds of men a survey, noted the trends, and then assumed that the answers were based in biological reasons.  And then she used this information to basically tell us, that, "Well, ladies, you saw the survey results.  It seems that menfolk are 'hard-wired' this way, so we had better get used to it, learn to deal with it, and massage their egos." 
I suppose I shouldn't expect so much from literature that is so obviously un-feminist.  Only feminist studies of such phenomena would take the same results and try to examine what in our envirnoment is behind them and then try to propose measures for social progress that would lead to a more desirable outcome.  I guess, in most instances, that's just too much to ask for.  Epecially since this particular text is based in Christian teaching, which means that it is completely supportive of the assumption that men are to be respected and women are to be loved and provided for.  I swear I gag a little bit every time I sit through a Christian marriage ceremony and the reverend says something about the groom being the "spriritual leader" of the household.  I think I was maybe eight years old when I first heard this at a wedding and made a mental note that no such thing would ever be spoken at my future wedding. (Due to cultural conditioning from Disney movies, it hadn't occurred to me yet at that age that it could be an option to simply not have a wedding at all.) 
I got really off-track here, though.  I hadn't planned on going into a tirade about the book in general, but I did want to comment on the particular survey question that appears above.  In the book, Feldhahn uses this particlar statistic to reassure women that, despite what negative things they may have previously thought about men, the majority of them really do care about our desires and our sexual willingness.  In other words, we should be pleasantly surprised that so many men responded positively.  Call me a pessimist, but I looked at this number and my brain immediately focused on the flip side.  Twenty-six percent of the heterosexual married men surveyed answered YES to this?!  So ONE IN FOUR married straight men really don't care how willing or satisfied their wives are, as long as their sexual needs are satisfied.  The gagging has returned. 
Maybe one of the reasons I masochistically read these books is so I can ignore their conclusions but make my own from the deeply disturbing evidence they provide. 

Assumption Culture

A consequence of living in our heteronormative society is that people * even random strangers -- always feel entitled to assume a few things about you. These things include: 1) that you are straight, 2) that you are married or in a relationship (with someone of the opposite sex, of course), or 3) if you aren't married or in a relationship, you want to be in one.

A technician came into my workplace today to fix some equipment, which of course resulted in the type of idle chit chat you make to pass the time with someone you've never met but are forced to be in the same room with for twenty minutes or so. He commented on how he hoped he wouldn't get caught in traffic going home, which led to comparing the length of our daily commutes, which led to naming our cities of residence, which led to him going on and on about how great it is to live by the lake. Upon discovering that I had never spent much time at said lake, his next response was,

"Oh, it's great out there. You should get your husband or boyfriend to take you there sometime."

I acknowledged him with a sort of nod and a look of forced politeness, but inside, I was sort of steaming. I DO happen to be straight, and I DO happen to be in a relationship, but his comment left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This man knew nothing about me and had no business making the kind of assumptions about my sexuality and my relationship status that were required for him to make such a statement. Not to mention the implication that I couldn't take it upon myself to visit a location, but would have to "get my husband or boyfriend" to take me there. It's the type of statement my mom would dismiss instantly as conversational friendliness and tell me I'm overreacting, but It didn't feel friendly to me. It felt patronizing and downright presumptuous.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Feminism Friday: Argh!

Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye

Kate Harding at Shakesville couldn't bring herself to do her usual ranting on this article, and I'm going to try to not waste too much of my time on it either. But it makes me so mad! It would be one thing if the real point was (as first half of the title suggests) to urge us to be ourselves. But instead, it informs women (or, patronizingly, "girls") that even though it used to be that guys wanted us to be dainty and ladylike on the first date, NOW they really like it if we order steak or burgers. I guess it shows that we're not uptight or something. Apparently, ordering salad or anything healthy or vegetarian sends the message that we have "food issues". And heaven forbid we give the wrong impression to men with our eating habits. Because it's all about developing the right strategy to catch a man. I don't even need to say any more. This speaks for itself:

"But others, especially those who are thin, say ordering a salad displays an unappealing mousiness.

"It seems wimpy, insipid, childish,' said Michelle Heller, 34, a copy editor at TV Guide. 'I don't want to be considered vapid and uninteresting.'

"Ordering meat, on the other hand, is a declarative statement, something along the lines of 'I am woman, hear me chew.'

"In fact, red meat on a date has become such an effective statement of self-acceptance that even a vegetarian like Sloane Crosley, a publicist at Random House, sometimes longs to order a burger.

"Being a vegetarian puts you at a disadvantage,' Ms. Crosley said. 'You're in the most basic category of finicky. Even women who order chicken, it isn't enough.' She said she has thought of ordering shots of Jägermeister, famous for its frat boy associations, to prove that she is 'a guy's girl.'

"Everyone wants to be the girl who drinks the beer and eats the steak and looks like Kate Hudson,' Ms. Crosley, 28, said."

Refugees in the News

Imagine for a moment what it must be like to be a refugee. To have to leave your home and nearly everything in it, not knowing if or when you will ever return, and completely rely on charity from governments or communities just to survive.

It amazes me that there are still displaced U.S. citizens from hurricane Katrina, and it's even worse that so many of them have nowhere to go but chemical-ridden FEMA trailers that are making them sick.

"Many residents suffering from symptoms, however, are afraid to complain to FEMA, fearing the agency will take away the only housing they can afford. It was complaints of respiratory problems to the Sierra Club that led the organization to test fifty-two FEMA trailers last April, June and July. Some 83 percent of the thirteen different types tested had formaldehyde in the indoor air at levels above the EPA recommended limit."

My heart went out to Riverbend back in April when I read what could be her final blog post on Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq, where she announced that she and her family had finally decided to leave their beloved home in Iraq for safety. I check her site often to see if she has been able to update to let us know they made it somewhere safely, but there has been no word.

"We discuss whether to take photo albums or leave them behind. Can I bring along a stuffed animal I've had since the age of four? Is there room for E.'s guitar? What clothes do we take? Summer clothes? The winter clothes too? What about my books? What about the CDs, the baby pictures?

"The problem is that we don't even know if we'll ever see this stuff again. We don't know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends. And to what?

"It's difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain."

And today, the New York Times has a strory, video, and slide show that scrape the surface of what life is like for some of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have left their home country for safety from the war in nearby Jordan.

"Aseel Qaradaghi, a 25-year-old software engineer, was pregnant when she brought her small daughter here last summer after receiving threats from Islamic extremists. Her husband, a translator for a South African security firm, stayed in Baghdad to earn money. But when he did not call on her birthday, she knew something was wrong, and only after pressing his friends on a crackling phone line did she learn that he had been kidnapped.

"Now, eight months later, she is earning a small wage at a nursery, but without his salary it is not enough, and she has applied for refugee status. If she is rejected, she will have to return to Baghdad. She does not know her husband's fate, but worries that it will be the same as her brother's, killed for working as a translator for the American military."

I feel so helpless. I don't even know what to say.

One Million Blogs for Peace

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Amazing Grocery Store Finds

So, what is it about these earplugs that makes them "designed just for women"?

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Duh! They're pink, of course!

But wait! There's more! What do the earplugs marketed to men look like, you ask?

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Head meets desk.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Inconvenient Truths for Anti-Choicers

THIS is why the Religious Right wants to take away our access to birth control.  Because of the unproven POSSIBILITY of an fertilized egg not implanting in the uterus. 
I've heard this information time and time again from ardent anti-choicer groups to try to justify why they think birth control pills are the devil and why using contraceptives makes us all baby-killers, but I've never seen it put quite so.... um.... "scientifically"?  One message from the video with which I agree is that people should know the truth.  So here are some of the things this video (or any of the propaganda that comes from the compusory pregnancy movement) will not tell you:
First of all, it is estimated that about half of embryos never implant in the uterus anyway, instead naturally leaving women's bodies completely undetected. Second, it is incredibly misleading to call such an occurrence an "abortion" or a contraceptive that may or may not cause it an "abortifacient."  "Abortion" is actually the termination of a pregnancy, which does not commence until the embryo implants in a woman's uterus and begins to develop with the help of the woman's body.  There mere presence of a fertilized egg floating around inside a woman's body is NOT a pregnancy.  Third, if hormonal birth control really does prevent an embryo from implanting, doctors and scientists have no way of knowing if or how often it occurs. (The video quickly states this but tries to dismiss it as unimportant.)  A fertilized egg is completely undetectable unless or until it implants in a woman's uterus.  And finally, even if studies could be done to detect these elusive un-implanted embryos, and even if they happened to show (however unlikely) that TONS and TONS of eggs were being fertilized despite birth control but never turning into pregnancies, this is NOT a valid reason to EVER take away a woman's right to control her own body. 
Hear that?  Not ever. 

Fortuitous Roundup

There was a ton of interesting stuff last week I meant to write about but never found the time to, so imagine my delight in seeing that the blog at the Our Bodies, Ourselves site has a roundup of the same stuff.  Thanks, OBOS!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Feminism Friday: Pedagogy of the Oppressed

(This post was deleted and reposted due to massive amounts of spamming. The legitimate comments were unfortunately lost.)

It's a common sentiment among feminists that it is most certainly NOT our responsibility as women to reach out to our male oppressors to teach and guide them to understand our plight and to divest themselves of their unearned privilege. The idea is that it's THEIR responsibility to do that work for themselves. It's an argument I hear all the time (and one I completely understand) that our commitment to fighting sexism does not mean that it is our duty to break down into simple terms what we want from men. That we, as an oppressed class, should not be expected to have to take on the burden of reaching out to our oppressors to do the work that, ideally, THEY should be doing for themselves. This reluctance to reach out and explain things in simple terms is especially felt in feminist blog spaces, which are often generally reserved for discussion among "seasoned" feminists, who, already fully or mostly understanding the harmful effects of patriarchy, would rather talk amongst themselves about issues and strategies than to have to constantly backtrack and clearly explain to men or antifeminists that sexism DOES, in fact, still exist. This, of course, makes total sense, because no new discourse or activism would ever be accomplished if all feminists were constantly occupied with repetitious explanations of why there is a need for feminism in the first place. This broken-record frustration felt by online feminists is the catalyst for blog disclaimers, insightful conversations with loved ones, and (my favorite) anti-feminist bingo cards.

So, imagine my surprise when I came across this statement in Paulo Freire's classic text Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

"This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both." (p. 44)

And this:

"Who are better prepared than the oppressed to understand the terrible significance of an oppressive society? Who suffer the effects of oppression more than the oppressed? Who can better understand the necessity of liberation? They will not gain this liberation by chance but through the praxis of their quest for it, through their recognition of the necessity to fight for it." (p. 45)

So, wait. This suggests that we SHOULD be reaching out to men. That, in fact, we MUST, because only the oppressed have the power to see and the ability to show others the extent to which they suffer under oppression. We know that privilege has a blinding effect on those who benefit from it, and yet our frustration over this keeps us from doing the hard work necessary to lift that veil of ignorance for those who just don't seem to get it.

This is in no way meant to criticize spaces and discourses that discourage the often redundant re-explaining of feminist goals. As I described above, I completely understand the frustration, especially when the ignorance with which we are frequently confronted by antifeminist trolls is so cloaked in hate. It's incredibly important for feminists to have safe discussion spaces that are free from the kinds of intrusion that hold us back from furthering our own consciousness. But those quotes from Freire really made an impression on me, reminding me of the importance of also remembering to sometimes come down off our high horses and actually break down into simple terms what it is we are fighting for and why.

To highlight a few of my favorite online spaces that do this important work:

Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog - an amazing resource for FAQs about feminism, and a great place to go to find info that simply breaks down the essential bits of knowledge required to move along to more "advanced" feminist blog spaces

Feminist Allies - a discussion group blog of feminist and profeminist men who confront issues of privilege and how to fight sexism and be effective allies to women

Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed!) - especially this post - whether you're a reader of comics or not, the amazing Karen Healey writes about an art form notorious for its lousy portrayals and objectification of women with such a clear and rational voice, readers have no choice but to finally understand what's so harmful (and annoying) about sexism in art and media

Also, the feminist LiveJournal communities listed in the links at the right of the screen are a great source for reading lots of women and girls' personal stories that directly demonstrate the need for feminism. I especially love the Feminist Rage Page, where posters can rant about the things that frustrate them to no end about being female in a sexist society.

And I also want to mention a source that has been the topic of much controversy, but since I finally got around to reading it and actually really liked it, I'm going to mention Jessica Valenti's book Full Frontal Feminism A feminist primer for young women who may not even realize that sexism is still rampant in today's world, it covers a lot of ground, and in very accessible language. The critics were right in that it's not for everyone, though. And I, too, wish the cover had never been designed that way. My advice? If, when attempting to read it, you find it too simplistic or patronizing, just stop and move on to something else. But I can picture many young women (and men), for whom this book would be an invaluable feminist resource, and I think that kind of influence is something we should welcome.

So, thoughts? Other recommendations for places that make feminism understandable and palatable to neophytes? How about sources that help men realize their privilege?

"Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly." (Freire, p. 47)