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

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)

Thursday, August 2, 2007


First the good news, and then the bad news about The View:

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Well, it was announced yesterday that Whoopi Goldberg, one of my favorite celebrity women, will be the new co-host/moderator of The View. She's so smart and talented, and it's going to be so wonderful to have such a down-to-earth person on that show. Someone who doesn't bend over backward to maintain a super "feminine" image. I happened to catch the show yesterday for the announcement, and I was delighted to see her come out in comfortable-looking clothes, cute sneakers, and very little makeup. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with with the other hosts' dresses and suits and heels and big hair and makeup, but that's certainly not how all women live their lives every day. I think she will be a totally refreshing addition to the show. It may not be as doomed as I thought it was.

Now we just cross our fingers for them to hire Sherri Shepard when they announce the next new co-host in the fall.

In related View news, it's making headlines that former View co-host Star Jones Reynolds is now being up front about the fact that her dramatic weight loss was a result of gastric bypass surgery.

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The excerpts from her Glamour magazine interview are kind of heartbreaking, though -- yet another glimpse into how physical appearance, epspecially weight, can affect womens' self-confidence:

Reynolds, 45, says she was "intentionally evasive" when people asked how she'd dropped 160 pounds in three years. The former "View" co-host opens up about her weight loss and self-esteem issues in a story featured in the September issue of Glamour magazine, on newsstands Aug. 7.

"Everything about me was already so public (mostly my own doing — talk about dumb!), so of course everyone wanted to know what I had done," she writes. "I was also terrified someone would have a tragic result after emulating me without making an informed decision with her doctor."

"But the complete truth is, I was scared of what people might think of me," she continues. "I was afraid to be vulnerable, and ashamed at not being able to get myself under control without this procedure."

Hear that fat-shamers? She felt like she had to "get [her]self under control" (not just her weight, but herself), and she was ashamed that she couldn't seem to do it without surgery. Is this really how you want people to feel? I hope you're happy.