Saturday, December 29, 2007
Thank goodness that The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) is not agreeing with this poppycock. Chris Keates, the general secretary of NASUWT points out the obvious, "Many parents take the decision that their children won't have toy weapons. In addition to that, I think this is a clear example of gender stereotyping."
Friday, December 28, 2007
This was my first year at Fantasy Football. I jumped at the chance to join my work league this year for multiple reasons. (1) You know how I feel about the inequality between male/female sporting opportunities. (2) I was the only woman remotely interested in this league. (3) I was the only woman even asked to compete in this league…the curse of being the token sports knowledgeable lesbian. (4) As the only woman in this league, I felt the need to represent for the ladies. (5) My options for competition grow limited these days so this gave me a way to kick some ass. (6) I thought it might be fun for us to spend our NFL football season interested in the success of players from teams other than the Indianapolis Colts.
I decided to see what the internet had to say about this fantasy football phenomenon. And to be fair, it is better to call it the fantasy sport craze because you can make believe in almost any sport out there. I am also tinkering around with my English Premier League Fantasy Football (soccer) team. Lo and behold, there are articles out there as late as this year focusing on how (*gasp*) there are more women participating in fantasy football now than a mere five years ago and they can't *all* be lesbians.
There are a few articles out there that I would like to focus on in this discussion. Allow me to start with an ABCnews.com video about women in fantasy football: “Women Taking on Fantasy Sports Leagues: Do Men Really Want Women in their Leagues?” This piece annoyed me. First, let’s look at the title. Are you kidding me? 2007 and ABC is putting out a new piece questioning whether men want women in their league? My response to that was a knee jerk “I don’t give a rats-ass what the men want, I want to play in the fantasy league and I’m going to win!” At one point, the news anchor suggests that perhaps men should be open-minded to the role of women in fantasy sports. I’d have appreciated this story more if it had focused more on the fact that women are athletes, period. Alexa Pozniak, a producer at EPSN, tried to do so, but I found the piece in general to be lacking in substance.
The New York Times put out an article that I approve of a bit more: “In Fantasy Leagues, the Field Is Level.” A portion of this article states, “Perhaps it should not be a surprise that more women are participating. Title IX paved the way for more women to play sports, and their elevated interest level is manifesting itself in the stands, in the front office and in front of the computer — competing in the sports world’s alternate universe, where genders are not assigned separate leagues.” Now, while I appreciate the optimism of that statement, it is not entirely true. There can still be sex-segregation in fantasy football. All you have to do is create your own male or female only league. The article "Women Tackle Fantasy Football for the Love of the Game" article mentions: how difficult it was for one woman to join a men's league, gives a shout out to two women's only leagues, and waxes poetic about how one wife enjoys fanstasy football with her husband even though he is in a men's only league. I find that so appalling I am almost speechless. Maybe I am being too harsh here. If men or women want to create their own sex-segregated league, then that is a valid right, no? Well, no. Sports in general continue to perpetuate sex-segregation in the real world as it is. Why on earth do we want to foster that Neanderthal notion in the fantasy world as well?
Friday, December 21, 2007
So, what's a feminist aunt or mommy to do? We want to give gifts that will encourage the kids to explore their many interests rather than just dolls to dress up, but we know that giving a little girl a gift that screams 'for boys!' is a big taboo in Tot Land.
This year, though, I think I've done alright. So, for my fellow late shoppers, or for those re-thinking all the Bratz dolls currently under the tree, I've complied a list of the things that looked like good gender-neutral or girl gifts that I found this season.
10 non-sexist gift ideas for girls:
1. The Anti Coloring Book
2. Magic Set
3. Face Painting Kit
4. Crystal Garden
5. Rock Tumbler
7. Gingerbread House Kit
8. Science Kit
9. Puppet Theater
10. Books that feature strong female protagonists
I'm always on the lookout for good ideas, though, so if anyone has found other good gifts for girls, let us know.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Does the holiday season make you feel stressed? Do the dark days of December bring you down? Then you're probably a lesbian.
Well, maybe not. What this recent survey actually reports is that more women who identify as lesbian say they are stressed during the holiday season than do women who identify as straight:
...four out of five (80%) of lesbian adults say they tend to feel more stressed around the holidays while 64% of the heterosexual women surveyed said they tend to feel more stressed. Additionally, while half (51%) of lesbians said they tend to feel depressed around the holidays, only 36% of heterosexual women said they did.Alright, pollsters, you've caught my eye. The majority of women, straight or gay, feel stressed around the holidays, but that lesbian community seems to have it worse (shocker). But what might be causing the additional stress for lesbians? Well, there could be a lot of reasons:
Estrangement from family, marginalization within and isolation from society, separation from children (sometimes due to custody battles), and inadequate access to culturally sensitive health care practitioners are all factors that can adversely affect mood during a season so identified with ‘family’ activities and 'belonging,'" said Dr. Linda Spooner, Chair of The Mautner Project’s Board of Directors and a practicing physician in Washington, D.C.Ah, so it isn't the lesbian gene that makes some women feel more glum around the holidays - it is that our society treats lesbians like crap - which is particularly evident during the Yuletide season's celebration of happy, happy togetherness. This is an important distinction to note, young "lesbian feminists hate Christmas" trolls.
Unfortunately, the survey did not look very deeply into what the participants themselves felt the source of their additional anxiety might be. In fact, the methodology was surprisingly simple:
The survey of 2,625 U.S. adults aged 18 or older was conducted online between November 7 and 13, 2007... 2,251 [participants] indicated they are heterosexual and 326 self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, with 111 self-identifying as lesbian.All of the women were asked to rank their agreement levels (from strongly agree to strongly disagree) with the following statements: "I tend to feel more stressed around the holidays" and "I tend to feel depressed around the holidays." That's it. We could almost conduct the same type of survey right here in the comments section.
Some Strollerderby readers worry that this poll's findings will provide "one more reason for people to believe lesbians should not be parents," presumably because nobody wants their mommies to be sniffling into their eggnog. Yet, the survey was actually commissioned by the Mautner Project, whose aim it is to improve "...the health of lesbians, bisexual, and transgender women who partner with women, and their families, through advocacy, education, research, and direct service." The Mautner Project goes on to say, "We envision a healthcare system that is guided by social justice and responsive to the needs of all people." Yeah, sounds nice.
So, as it turns out, I totally support the mission of the institution that commissioned the poll, yet I still think they overlooked the most interesting point. So, here is my question to you guys: Do you feel more stress and/or depressed around the holidays? If so, why?
Personally, I think Casmall should embrace #1.
I respect #21 because it makes the profound assumption that your hero is a woman.
Bravo to Habladora for encouraging us all to join in on #5.
I have not had a detailed discussion with my German friend to get a full picture about how the country views Merkel, so perhaps the reviews locally are not as glowing. Be that as it may, I cannot help but be impressed by how she is continually challenging everyone around her instead of simply calling her own shots and assuming that is sufficient.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Fear of cuckoldry is the diamond market's best friend! Because she'll cheat on you if not distracted by constant sparkling. Or perhaps the idea is that her chasing of other tail will be slowed if she's wearing a sufficiently heavy rock?
Masculinity and Its Discontents is annoyed by jewelry ads too, particularly one in which a good-looking, caring guy is shown painting his girlfriend's toes when the announcer cuts-in with the line "Because you’re not that guy, go buy jewelry at Bob’s." Jamie is quite eloquent as he explains exactly why men should be insulted by the ad:
Jewelry ads, then, in brief, work based on the assumption that men are lazy, have no aesthetic sense, don’t know their partners, don’t really care about knowing them or what they’d like as a gift, and want to spend money as they have to on whatever a clerk tells them their women will want.I'm glad that men are insulted by the suggestion that they are emotional morons who don't know their partners, don't care to, and want a generic 'what girls like' formula to follow for all their interactions with women. Men not being proud to be considered stunted in the compassion department, but actually being affronted by the stereotype... why, it warms my feminist heart (via Pandagon).
In fact, my vote for Most Sexist Ad is insulting for similar reasons. It is a Home Depot commercial in which a guy grabs a female Home Depot employee and says, "Be my wife!" She then follows him around the store, pretending to be his Sweetie on Christmas morning as he presents her with different potential gifts, monitoring her reaction. Because women aren't, you know, individuals or anything. And a husband could never know his wife as a unique person with her own individual interests. Nope - women are a generic brand, infinitely substitutable. (The female employee finally gives the happy reaction when presented with a gift card, by the by - 'cause ladies love shopping!)
And then there's this Lifesaver's ad, which Shameless finds "...patronizing to women, fat-phobic and all around offensive... how messed up is it that her 'supervisor' is making derogatory remarks about her body...":
Copyranter is a whole site dedicated to least favorite ads, and is a good place to start if your still shopping around for your Most Sexist Ad pick.
Since we've been talking a bit about heroism and gay rights 'round these parts recently, it seems a good time to mention the small group of churches that are refusing to preform civil ceremonies for any couple, gay or straight, until those ceremonies are legally binding for all:
It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, you can't get legally married at Lyndale United Church of Christ.
The small, liberal church in south Minneapolis was the first of several Twin Cities congregations last year to stop performing civil marriage ceremonies as long as gay marriage is illegal. These churches, and a handful of others around the country that took the same step, will still hold a religious ceremony to bless the unions of straight and gay couples - but straight couples must go separately to a judge or justice of the peace for the marriage license.
This seems like a phenomenally good idea, one which will hopefully encourage other churches to mark the difference between church and state and defuse the 'gay marriage issue.' If a couple wants to form a legal contract that will allow them to take advantage of the legal benefits of marriage, they can get a civil ceremony. If they want that civil union blessed by whatever deity to whom they direct their prayers, they can find a like-minded church to bless their union. If you don't like the unions that one particular religious organization is or isn't blessing, go to another or stick to the civil ceremony. The A.P. puts it this way:
...it's a new strategy for achieving legal gay marriage, with supporters hoping to push toward a society that views civil and religious marriage as separate institutions.
"There's a real shift going on here where I think more and more people are recognizing the distinction, that what the state offers and the church offers are two different things," said the Rev. Mark Wade, pastor of the 540-member Unitarian Universalist Church in Asheville, N.C.
Last year, Wade stopped signing marriage licenses, and now speaks of it as a stand for the separation of church and state. "We tell couples to go to the magistrate," Wade said. "I felt I couldn't serve an unjust law. That didn't make any sense to me."
So, logical arguments in favor of tolerance coming from... churches. It's really different, but I like it.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Since taking over as host of Comedy Central's Daily Show in 1999, Jon Stewart has made "fake news" a part of the cultural vernacular. He has demonstrated that there's a market for smart, political commentary — as long as it also makes people laugh. And he has shown that being really angry can also be really funny.
Fortunately for us, one of the things that makes him angriest — and funniest — is injustice against the queer community.
And now you can watch lots of good pro lesbian rights bits of the Daily Show that the After Ellen crowd has compiled for us, to keep us cheery during these dark days of the writer's strike. My personal favorite, a lesbian centric This Week in God:
The After Ellen-ites left out my favorite Sam Bee moment though, which you can find here. Happy Tuesday, folks!
Monday, December 17, 2007
While the BBC points out that "The justice ministry recently rejected what it saw as 'foreign interference," it has to be remembered that Saudi women themselves were protesting the sentence, and it took far more courage for them to object than it took any foreigner to condemn.
Hopefully we can be as brave when injustices face us from within our own societies.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Evangeline Lilly Wins 'Best Wet T-Shirt Fight Scene' At Strong Women In TV Awards
Reading about the latest atrocity by KBR that is the cover up of a rape of a US citizen by its contractors (apparently one of many), I ask the lawyers a question. Surely there is enough on KBR (formerly known as the evil wing of Halliburton - now independent) now to get a RICO indictment on them, correct?(You can read about RICO - The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act here). ABC News has been updating the story as new details emerge, and Pandagon has been discussing the case as well. Yet, it this is the first you're hearing of it, ABC reports that a 22-year-old KBR employee was raped by her coworkers and, after reporting the incident:
...the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.Jones eventually managed to convince one of the guards to grant her one phone call, and called her father. Her father then contacted their congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, who worked with the State Department to rescue Jones:
"Don't plan on working back in Iraq. There won't be a position here, and there won't be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.
Poe says his office contacted the State Department, which quickly dispatched agents from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to Jones' camp, where they rescued her from the container.MarkH cuts to the chase, asking how we can finally get government contracted KBR for the many atrocities they've committed abroad:
I realize they do this all overseas where they apparently enjoy complete immunity from anything ranging from fraud to cannibalism... Where's the law and order? This poor woman gets raped, and then after reporting it imprisoned in a shipping crate by KBR. Probably the only reason she didn't end up in a shallow grave in the desert is she got a cell phone call in to her father who then contacted their congressman and the state department.
And what is with this arbitration nonsense? At a certain point, such as after gang rape, your contract with your company is no longer valid and you get to sue them in federal court for civil rights abuse.
So, feminist lawyers - how should this case proceed? There are obviously criminal charges to be filed against the rapists, and the company has been complicit in covering up the crime. Racketeering - check (kidnapping). Corrupt organization - check. So - RICO?
UPDATE: Here is the AP story about Wednesday's Congressional Hearing. Apparently other women have come forward with charges of rape and sexual harassment by fellow KBR employees, and one woman was fired after filing a complaint. The Justice Department chose not to attend, drawing some criticism from some members of Congress.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The short version is that a lawyer during a deposition called opposing counsel “hon” and referenced her “cute little thing going on.” ... His excuses are somewhat pitiful. He claims, of course, they were said “out of context” and had the nerve to say that he meant “Hun” as in Attila, not “hon” as in honey. He repeatedly called her “girl” and overall seemed to be a big fat jerk. The Judge in the case ordered he be supervised at all future depositions.Like Maggie, I get this sort of treatment all the time. And like her, I have no problem with it when the stranger calling me 'darling' is some well-meaning octogenarian. But I'm glad that this sort of smiling sexism, used to belittle someone because of their sex or perceived age, was called out.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Huckabee's opinion on gay marriage is out there, but we should also be publicizing Huckabee's opinions on heterosexual marriage. Specifically, what he believes about a women's role in a marriage.
In August of 1998, Huckabee was one of 131 signatories to a full page USA Today Ad which declared: "I affirm the statement on the family issued by the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention." What was in the family statement from the SBC? "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."
The ad wasn't just a blanket, "we support the SBC statement," but rather highlighted details. The ad Huckabee signed specifically said of the SBC family statement: "You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband's sacrificial leadership."
Add "graciously submit" to his "Take back the nation for Christ" statement, and if the media does its job, he's well on his way to being toast.
Can anyone even tell me what 'sacrificial leadership' is? Anyone want to bet on the likelihood that the 'media does its job'? Is Mike 'the Wignut' Huckabee going to win his party's nomination because Republicans think that Chuck Norris is sexy?
UPDATE: Pandagone sites a GQ article in which Crazy Huck states that "There’s never been a civilization that has rewritten what marriage and family means and survived." So, he's scared that the gays and the liberated women will END CIVILIZATION by tweaking our definitions of marriage.
Also, Huck once advocated isolating AIDS patients, writing "[i]f the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague" in 1992 while simultaneously suggesting that AIDS research be privately funded rather than receiving federal support.
Huckabee also thinks that scientifically speaking, this whole global warming thing might be "overblown."
Super crazy. And, as Casmall points out in the comments, he's doing better and better in Iowa. Scary.
Monday, December 10, 2007
The Best Post on Sarah Vowell, Marketing, Christmas, and The Golden Compass to be Published This Morning:
In The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell taught me that the best way to sell anything is by letting people know that it is the best thing - of its kind. And the best way of doing that is to mix broad superlative claims (and never underestimate the power of the word 'best') with some very detailed couching. For example, I could say that Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot is simply the best book to be penned by a New York City dwelling Okie during the early part of the 21st century! Or that Second Innocence is absolutely the best, most thought-provoking feminist blog to to be published out of of northeastern Atlanta by University of Virginia graduates!
This skill is particularly important during the holiday season, since it always feels a bit yucky to lie to your grandma. Now, though, when she give you a hideous sweater on Christmas day you can truthfully say, "Grams, this is simply the loveliest orange sweater that anyone has ever purchased from Target for me!" This superlative clause + detail clause structure is also useful in grant writing.
This new knowledge of spin craft has saved me, for I was thinking that, after months of promoting The Golden Compass, I was not going to be able to review it for SI readers. But now I can tell you that a group of us went to see it this weekend, and I am happy to inform you that it is simply the most wonderful fantasy film set in a parallel universe which stars Nicole Kidman to be released this December!
Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot really should be read by everyone though, no couching required.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Seem a bit more like fun with voyeurism than a genuine attempt to get people to evaluate their own sobriety before getting into a car. But hey, as long as we can moralize while we objectify, it's OK, right? (Via Jezebel)
Friday, December 7, 2007
Clever, wasn't it? Yet, as happy as I am for all my buddies earning spiffy grown-up degrees, it has made me realize that we're, like, adults now or something. I've graduated from the young feminist club and must now go with the adjective-free feminist. And, as Sarah Vowell explains in The Partly Cloudy Patriot, that means that sooner or later we'll all be dead because:
...being a grown-up for real means you're getting old and getting old means you are definitely, finally, totally going to die. My mother is a grandmother and my sister is a mother and I have decided the dressing will be yellow this year, therefore, we'll all be dead someday. (p. 13)Actually, I've never made dressing before, nor made any decision about the preparation of any meal, so perhaps I can avoid acknowledging death for another year or so.
But here's my question, can one still be a grrrl when the term girl no longer applies?
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
...but what is the Discovery Channel Store's excuse? Here's what they advertise as appropriate science gifts for boys:I looked it up. It's all true - go see for yourself. Discovery Channel, you got some 'splain to do!
- Cube Word Series 2 Set ("Create your very own interactive world")
- Discovery ATM Machine ("This at-home ATM is an excellent way to learn about saving money.")
- Discovery Radio Controlled Arthropods
- Virtual Distance Football
- Discovery Star Theater
And here's what the girls get:Yeesh...
- Rainbow In My Room
- Discovery Sew Fun Sewing Machine
- Discovery Pink Slide and Text Messengers ("Chat with your friends wirelessly and transmit text messages up to 15' away.")
- Discovery Diamond Dust Microscope
- Discovery Fashion Design Studio
But, it is nice to realize that, despite corporate efforts to keep girls away from science, our young women are taking home the prizes at the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology this year (Via Feministing).
Storni was an amazing poet and feminist, and quite ahead of her time (and perhaps ours). For more of her poems in Spanish, visit Los Poetas. Does anyone else have a favorite piece of feminist art or literature?
Tú me quieres blancaTú me quieres alba,
Me quieres de espumas,
Me quieres de nácar.
Que sea azucena
Sobre todas, casta.
De perfume tenue.
Ni un rayo de luna
Filtrado me haya.
Ni una margarita
Se diga mi hermana.
Tú me quieres nívea,
Tú me quieres blanca,
Tú me quieres alba.
Tú que hubiste todas
Las copas a mano,
De frutos y mieles
Los labios morados.
Tú que en el banquete
Cubierto de pámpanos
Dejaste las carnes
Festejando a Baco.
Tú que en los jardines
Negros del Engaño
Vestido de rojo
Corriste al Estrago.
Tú que el esqueleto
No sé todavía
Por cuáles milagros,
Me pretendes blanca
(Dios te lo perdone),
Me pretendes casta
(Dios te lo perdone),
¡Me pretendes alba!
Huye hacia los bosques,
Vete a la montaña;
Límpiate la boca;
Vive en las cabañas;
Toca con las manos
La tierra mojada;
Alimenta el cuerpo
Con raíz amarga;
Bebe de las rocas;
Duerme sobre escarcha;
Con salitre y agua;
Habla con los pájaros
Y lévate al alba.
Y cuando las carnes
Te sean tornadas,
Y cuando hayas puesto
En ellas el alma
Que por las alcobas
Se quedó enredada,
Entonces, buen hombre,
UPDATE: More feminist poetry - right here.
Monday, December 3, 2007
THIS IS A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM DR.As I have mentioned (a few times) before, I am excited about the release of The Golden Compass, a film adaptation of the novel by Philip Pullman. Lyra, the protagonist and a (gasp!) girl, is an appealing character with whom children of both sexes will readily identify, and Mrs. Coulter is a memorable villain. Yet, I do not want to draw you to the ticket window under false pretenses - the movie, while promising some charming feminist fun, is going to be far more vanilla than the concerned Rev. Cutshall would have you believe.
Yesterday, I was handed a children's book by a staff member who said, "I think you need to see this." The book is published by Scholastic and is part of a collection of books. The book I was given is called The Golden Compass. This children's book is one of the most alarming things I have ever read. What makes it worse is that a movie based on the book premieres in December. Both the book and the movie introduce atheism to children. The story ends with Adam and Eve killing God. THIS IS A MOVIE THAT WE MUST PROTEST AND OPPOSE AS CHRISTIANS.
Cutshall is, unfortunately, either lying about having read the books, or in his portrayal of their plot; for (Spoiler Alert) Adam and Eve do not kill God... nobody really kills God. In the final book of the trilogy, an aged god-like angel called The Authority merely dissipates happily into thin air under the watch of two characters who are prophesied to be the next Eve and her Adam (yet, they hardly live up to their hype). Trust me, it would have made for a much better story had the children had some more active role, but perhaps Pullman chickened-out (I think the second two books in the trilogy are far inferior to the first). Although Pullman has apparently asserted that he is "...trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief," the books fail at that rather sweeping goal. They might, however, prompt readers to do some questioning of religious institutions and dogmatism, which would be refreshing.
So, the movie will be released 'round these parts on Friday. Anyone interested in going with me to see it this weekend?
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
As Feministing points out:
Pro-choice candidates have consistently been forced by anti-choice rhetoric into positions where they end up compromising on reproductive rights issues; this is no big news... In short, Journey's question last night is an opportunity to not only reframe the abortion debate, but to reclaim it altogether.It's about time! Tip of the hat, Ms. Journey from Texas!
Atlanta police were told seven years ago that the husband of a sergeant on the force was paying young girls for sex — and saw photographs of the encounters — but the tip resulted in no investigation or charges, according to federal authorities.
Terrill Marion Crane was arrested Thursday on federal charges of producing child pornography and is scheduled to make his first appearance in court Friday on charges he paid the young girls as much as $100 and photographed their sex acts.
...A photo shop clerk, bothered by the pictures brought to him for processing, called police in 2000. He gave APD copies of pictures brought to the shop through 2002, according to federal authorities.
As it turns out, Crane's wife, also a police officer, knew of the abuse and decided to cover for him by destroying sexually explicit photographs and their negatives. While she has not been charged with a crime, she has been suspended without pay. U.S. Attorney David Nahmias is now searching for the victims, and has identified four. Nahmias is trying to assure victims that they will now be cared for, after so long being ignored:
"None of the girls are under investigation," Nahmias said. "There are girls out there who were victims. It's hard for these girls to come forward." If they do come forward, Nahmias said, they would be treated "with the dignity and protection they deserve." What does it mean when the very people charged with our protection turn a blind eye to crimes committed by one of their own? Is the refusal to act a symptom of a sense entitlement? Of cowardice?
"None of the girls are under investigation," Nahmias said. "There are girls out there who were victims. It's hard for these girls to come forward."
If they do come forward, Nahmias said, they would be treated "with the dignity and protection they deserve."
What does it mean when the very people charged with our protection turn a blind eye to crimes committed by one of their own? Is the refusal to act a symptom of a sense entitlement? Of cowardice?
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
A book for adolescent girls that frankly discusses the human body? Well, it sounds like both a great idea and a recipe for some disastrously embarrassing birthday parties (I still blush when I remember opening a gift of ... underpants(!) in front of all my friends at my 6th birthday party). Yet, despite Body Drama's potential for some initial awkwardness, it has already gotten the Broadstreet nod of approval:
Because, as Redd herself puts it in the book's introduction, "our educational system spends millions of dollars creating detailed health programs, but those programs skip over the basic ABCs of basic body smarts. We've been so focused (and understandably so) on sexual education that we've completely ignored body education ... How can we respect and protect our bodies if we don't know what real bodies look like? If we can hardly utter the word vagina, much less peek at it without feeling dirty, how can we own and love it and ourselves?How indeed!? This looks like the sort of book that perhaps I should have stumbled upon as a lass. Heck, my body still has the power to surprise me occasionally. With so many of my family and friends experiencing pregnancy for the first time, it seems like I can't go a week without my managing to work "It does what? No way!" into some conversation about completely normal biological functions. So. Giving this book to the kids seems like a good idea. Just slip it to them discreetly, though, instead of assembling a large group of people to watch them unwrap it. The same goes for boxes full of undies.
Rusesabagina, whose story was the basis for the movie Hotel Rwanda, "...used his influence and connections as temporary manager of the Mille Collines to shelter 1,268 Tutsis and moderate Hutus from being slaughtered by the Interahamwe militia" during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. His bravery in the face of such atrocities is astounding. He saved many lives during that time of unspeakable depravity. Yet, as the panelists spoke, it was clear that they had Rusesabagina in their thoughts as they tried to define for the audience what form the denial of the Rwandan genocide has taken, for, as Deborah Lipstadt of Emory's Religious Studies Department explains, Rusesabagina has been advocating a form of denial lately. Lipstadt clarifies:
...deniers cannot, of course, deny that the killings took place but they try to depict them as the "normal" course of business in Rwanda.Deborah Lipstadt spoke with great passion about how important it is not to deny the terrors of the past, for that denial allows for the continued dehumanization of the victimized group. She explained three tacts that denialists of any atrocity often take - putting blame on the victims, arguing that there is no morality in war, or arguing that the violence was a legitimate outburst of anger. She made it clear that a genocide is neither a war of two armed groups, nor is it the consequence of chaos, but rather an organized and systematic attempt to slaughter an entire race of people. When asked why people believe the arguments of the deniers, she pointed out that we would all rather believe that we live in a world where that sort of calculated evil simply does not exist. Lipstadt spoke with great insight and eloquence, and without fear of difficult truths. She definitely makes my list of most admired women.
The mantra of these deniers is: Tutsis have been killing Hutus for years. This was an example of the Hutus striking back.
Other than simply being incorrect, this mantra essentially blames the victims for their own brutal deaths.
I was also impressed by the presentation given by Egide Karuranga, a Tutsi who survived the genocide. Karuranga stayed in the Hotel des Milles Collines under the protection of Rusesabagina himself. Karuranga also spoke of denial as the evil at the core of the genocide - the denial of a group's humanity, the denial of the past, and the denial of justice. Rather than focusing on the pain of his past, Karuranga spoke of the awareness that is needed in order to prevent such atrocities in the future. The American media received much of his criticism. He insists that no help came to Rwanda because the public was ill-informed and distracted. While I see this distractability as the very mark of callousness, I agree whole-heartedly that the media has, and continues to fail us.
Yet, while Rusesabagina was at the center of Karuranga's personal story, and although Lipstadt names him as a denier of the genocide on her blog, none of the panelists evoked his name when discussing denialism. Nor did they presume to define how he or any other survivor should view their own history. While the very title of the discussion prompts some consideration of Rusesabagina (for he is at the center of the only Hollywood movie to discuss the genocide), and while it was clear that the panel felt that it was responding to ideas that he has promoted, the purpose was to inform and warn the general public. And I must admit that I was relieved that no one attempted to chastise a survivor of genocide for what he is saying in the aftermath. The point was clearly that all nations must understand that such things are possible, because if we deny the possibility of genocide, we open the door for it to happen again.
Monday, November 26, 2007
When I was very young, I sometimes wondered why a slight difference in height and strength translated into a huge disparity in political and social power for men and women. After all, I reasoned, if there were as many (or more) women as men, couldn’t women just gang-up on any bad-acting men? As I grew up, though, I simply learned to accept that strength differences have accounted for the predominance of all forms of disempowerment for women across cultures, and I came to believe that any gains we make must necessarily be earned through the political process.
Some women in
Two years after they gave themselves a name and an attire, the pink women have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives and unearthed corruption in the distribution of food grains for the poor.While I would not usually come out in favor of vigilantism, I must admit that I was moved by the plight of these women, and by the courage they have shown in defending one another.
They have also stormed a police station and thrashed a policeman after they took in an untouchable man and refused to register a case.
"Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law in our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers," says Sampat Pal Devi, between teaching a "gang" member on how to use a lathi (traditional Indian stick) in self defence.
UPDATE: One line from the BBC article, "The pink sorority is not exactly a group of male-bashing feminists," has irked Samhita from Feministing. "Why are women that work for the rights of other women labeled as potentially male bashing?" Yeah, that is a stupid take on feminism. Yet, the irony here, is that the while these women may not qualify as feminists in the eyes of the BBC, they are bashing men from time to time- with clubs.
Since the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 went into effect in January, college students and many low-income women are suddenly having to shell-out much more money for prescription contraceptives. According to the New York Times:
..some students using popular birth control pills and other products are paying three and four times as much as they did several months ago. The higher prices have also affected about 400 community health centers nationwide used by poor women.As Cara from The Curvature points out, lawmakers claim that the price hike was an unintentional consequence of the Deficit Reduction Act, and it would be an easy fix since:
The change is due to a provision in a federal law that ended a practice by which drug manufacturers provided prescription contraception to the health centers at deeply discounted rates. The centers then passed along the savings to students and others.
...going back to the old rules and lowering the price of contraception for college students wouldn’t cost tax payers a dime, though it would force the pharmaceutical industry to lose out on a tiny portion of their already-monstrous yearly profits.Yet, lawmakers have been slow to act, causing some speculation that, intentional or not, the higher cost of contraception for poor women and students is widely seen by many politicians as a benefit of the legislation.
While the NYT piece helps to shed light on an issue that has been ignored by much of the press, The Curvature took issue with the article's framing (or invention) of a supposed controversy over whether or not college students should be allowed to purchase contraceptives at the lower rates. The Times article states:
Not everyone is troubled by the price increases. Some people said they wondered why college students, many of whom manage to afford daily doses of coffee from Starbucks and downloads from iTunes, should have been given such discounted birth control to begin with, and why drug companies should be granted such a captive audience of students. Others said low-priced, easy-to-attain contraception might encourage a false sense of security about sex.
“From our perspective, this does bring to light a public health concern, but for a different reason,” said Kimberly Martinez, the executive director of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, which advocates abstinence from sex until marriage. “These young women are relying on this contraception to protect them. But contraception isn’t 100 percent — for pregnancy or for disease.”
After reading the article, I was annoyed that the Times felt the need to go fishing for controversy, and by the deployment of the "latte drinking liberal" stereotype to belittle a problem that is impacting students (who might not be able to depend on their parents for a birth control allowance) and women dependent on community health centers alike. Cara, however, saw the logical fallacies inherent in Ms. Martinez's argument, and her response is too eloquent to merely summarize:
Brilliant synopsis of why this sort of thinking is utterly absurd. Cara's whole post is worth reading, so go check it out.
In short, unless you’re living on the street, you deserve to pay through the nose for basic health care... Of course, this is also the same crowd that argues that the rich deserve tax breaks because “they’ve earned their money.” Why the rich are entitled to keep their money to buy boats but the poor and middle class aren’t allowed to buy coffee without being called greedy, I’ve never quite understood...
But just when you think the fun is over, you realize that the second part is fun, too! You see, if a drug doesn’t work 100% of the time, not only should it not be available at an affordable price, but it’s incredibly dangerous to give to people at all.
And, I mean, it makes sense. Think about it: when people have heart conditions, do we give them medication to help regulate the problem? No! Then the heart patients will just think that they’re cured and start skydiving and eating donuts for every meal! We can’t have that. And do we give insulin to Type 1 diabetics? Of course not, they’d just stop paying attention to their blood sugar if we did. And don’t even get me started on anti-depressants. They don’t always work, and they work differently for different people, so it’s better to just not give the severely depressed any hope at all.
. . . Wait. What was that? That’s not how it works? How odd. In that light, it’s almost as though Ms. Martinez’s argument doesn’t make any sense. I think that I have to go lay down.Or maybe she has a point after all. Maybe we can’t trust the people who we allow to live on their own, have credit cards, vote, join the military and die in Iraq, and operate motor vehicles (but strangely enough, not have a beer) to have TEH SEX. After all, TEH SEX can be dangerous.
As for me, I'm left simply feeling ashamed that our own government does not seem to understand what Brazil's does - that providing women with easily accessible, reliable contraception reduces unwanted pregnancies, and hence also reduces abortions.
UPDATE: The L.A. Times is running an excellent editorial that lays out how this problem could be fixed. The piece also asks "Has the federal government really been so hung up over a minor wording fix, or was there an underlying reluctance about making contraceptives affordable to young college women, many of whom are single?"
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
The book Playing With The Boys:Why Separate Is Not Equal in Sports by Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano was called to my attention so I ran right out and bought it. My hope is to create a little blog mini-series as I read through this book. When a point strikes a cord, I want to dissect it and share with our ever growing group.
So far I have only finished the preface. It is the holiday season after all. However, take heart as I already have a few thoughts. The first few paragraphs address the now infamous Imus "nappy-headed ho" comment. Agincourt and I went off on that at the time. And now, here is a book echoing our initial sentiments. As the book said, "somewhere in the background, with a little less fervor, we heard about gender." How true!
It amazed us how gender was truly left out of the equation. Of course it was a racist comment. However, it was primarily denigrating to women. Oh, how we wished Hillary on her campaign trail or Condoleezza in her power suit or *someone* other than those girls who were lambasted for being excellent athletes, or C. Vivian Stringer who brings out not only the athlete but also the woman in these individuals had stepped up and pointed out the obvious gender outrage.
Who's with us? Who also felt the outrage?
What's not sexy is feminism (not to be confused with femininity), which is directly responsible for the disappearance of our beloved dresses and the adoption of pants by the "new woman." Like all fashions, pants are symbolic of something - in this case masculinity - through their allowance of physical activity. Dresses, the antithesis of pants, symbolize femininity through grace and elegance.See that? Masculinity is about unhindered movement and femininity is about the prohibition of physical activity - about passivity and the resulting venerability. Because nothing says elegance like the inability to move, and nothing is as graceful as a sitting duck.
What, still not crazy enough for you? Then try this one:
The androgynous masculinization of the modern woman, through the donning of pants, suits, uncovered shoulders and unveiled hair, has in a sense led to the slow whorification of ladyhood.Because there is no distinction between showing your hair and selling sexual favors.
Alright, perhaps it is beneath me to take notice of the misogynistic ramblings of a Texan college junior. Yet, it is interesting that this University of Texas at Austin school publication is printing what sounds exactly like the Taliban's line of argumentation, all under the guise of American values - more proof that everyone's crazies resemble each other more than they do the majority of the group that they pretend to represent. Misogynist ideologies are international, and apparently intergenerational as well. If this child is our future, then I'm a little worried.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
(Via Feministing, like so many beautiful things.)
And, if you want to feel like you're actually in the car with us as we drive to Nana's (and I know you do), here is a short list of things we will undoubtedly be discussing:
Why I heart Jill Scott
The Pope and Pharmacists
Have a happy (sexy) Turkey Day!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Go vote for the ad you like best to get it on the airwaves.
Now we just need some commercials defining feminism. Any ideas?
You might have noticed the media stir today about a study that reportedly proves that exposure to blond women makes men dumber. The alleged study, reported in the TimesOnline, concludes that men believe that they are dealing with an idiot when talking to a fair-haired female, and therefore mimic the perceived idiocy:
Researchers discovered what might be called the “bimbo delusion” by studying men’s ability to complete general knowledge tests after exposure to different women. The academics found that men’s scores fell after they were shown pictures of blondes.
Further analysis convinced the team that, rather than simply being distracted by the flaxen hair, those who performed poorly had been unconsciously driven by social stereotypes to “think blonde”.
“This proves that people confronted with stereotypes generally behave in line with them,” said Thierry Meyer, joint author of the study and professor of social psychology at the University of Paris X-Nanterre. “In this case blondes have the potential to make people act in a dumber way, because they mimic the unconscious stereotype of the dumb blonde.”
Of course, the TimesOnline provides no link to the original research, this month's Journal of Experimental Psychology (where the findings were reportedly published) mentions no such study, and a search for "Thierry Meyer" and "Journal of Experimental Psychology" produced nothing remotely similar to the research described.
But, for kicks, let's suppose that this study actually exists.
It's bunk. Experimenters merely had men view pictures of women and then gave them a test? How did researchers establish that men mimic the projected performance of the people seen in pictures? Did the men fail the test after being shown pictures of babies, because they know that babies are dumb? Would they have failed the test if taking it in the presence of, say, a guppy?
Monday, November 19, 2007
When John McCain laughed-off a reference to Hillary Clinton as "the bitch" during a debate last week, Andi Zeisler's phone started ringing off the hook. As co-founder and editorial director of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, Zeisler's is the number to call when the b-word's use by some prominent figure manages to make a media splash. The question she is perennially asked - Is bitch still a bad word? Here is how Zeisler answers the question for the Washington Post:
...let's not be disingenuous. Is it a bad word? Of course it is. As a culture, we've done everything possible to make sure of that, starting with a constantly perpetuated mindset that deems powerful women to be scary, angry and, of course, unfeminine -- and sees uncompromising speech by women as anathema to a tidy, well-run world...
When these people call Clinton (or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or Sen. Dianne Feinstein or former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro) a bitch, or even the cutesier "rhymes-with-witch," it's an expression of pure sexism -- a hope that they can shut up not only one woman but every woman who dares to be assertive. Simply put: If you don't like Clinton's stance on, say, health care or Iraq, there are plenty of ways to say so without invoking her gender.
So, the word is bad because we make it so, because it is used to defame a female by implying that she is not sufficiently compliant. In order to "reclaim it for mouthy, smart women in much the way that "queer" had been repurposed by gay radicals," as Zeisler hopes to do, the word would have to be used to denote something positive as frequently as it is used with a malicious intent. And, considering how commonly the word bitch is used to defame and insult, it would take quite a group of dedicated advocates to give it a more positive spin.
Yet, with bitch, we are hoping to claim a word that has long been used in a derogatory manner; perhaps it would be easier to reclaim the more recently degraded f- and l-words: feminism and liberal. I am always disappointed when I see women reaping the advantages of feminism try to distance themselves from the f-word; or when I see open-minded, socially conscious citizens shy away from the l-word. When Sarah Michelle Gellar said she hates the word feminism, for example, she could not have had the Merriam-Webster definition in mind:
1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexesAnd when you consider that liberalism is defined as:
2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests.
... a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties,it is hard to imagine how the word evil got to be such a common modifier of liberal. So why are so many of us so willing to relinquish these terms? To distance ourselves from the words liberalism and feminism is to loosen our grip on the freedoms to which they refer.
And that is why we have to keep writing the word feminism when we mean it, instead of finding some circumlocutory way of expressing feminist ideals without using their proper name. Likewise, while I have no problem with the word progressive, I am not ready to relinquish the word liberal. Using the terms properly seems to be an easy enough way to support the ideals they express. With the first definition of bitch being "the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals" and the second being "a lewd or immoral woman" though, it might take a bit longer to rescue the Big B.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Mainstream media as a whole (there are certainly exceptions) no longer serves as public advocate. It is entertainment–candy everybody wants. On its own, it is not the ideal organ to discuss or solve our country’s racial problems, yet it is the place most people get their information on the topic.Tami's eloquent criticism of the media's frivolous treatment of racial problems was edifying; and I could not help but be disheartened by the realization that if the word "racial" were deleted from the second sentence, the statement would still be true. Mainstream media is failing to discuss our country's problems - racial, political, environmental, and feminist issues are treated with a focus on entertainment that boarders on insolence, insulting not only the subject so the stories used to create a show, but also the intelligence of the electorate.
I was struck again by the severity of the problem as I browsed the New York Times political section this morning. You might remember that there was some resentment expressed after last week's Democratic debate in which Hillary Clinton was asked if she preferred diamond or pearls. Ann at Feministing summed up the general response, "What a stupid, gendered question." Well put. Yet, while some were annoyed with the woman who would waste valuable debate time to ask such an asinine question, it turns out that we have the higher-ups at CNN to blame. As the New York Times explains:
So, when presented with three substantive questions, CNN insisted that Ms. Parra-Sandoval ask a fluffy question. The public was denied the opportunity to learn more about Clinton's views on education or Iraq, but the debate instead ended by portraying Clinton's femininity in stereotypical terms.
Last week, CNN had contacted Ms. Parra-Sandoval, a political science student at University of Las Vegas-Nevada, through a professor, and asked her to submit a question. She wrote one about health care for children. CNN rejected it, calling it too similar to another question that would be asked. (No such question was.) So she sent another, about Iraq. That was rejected too. On Wednesday, a CNN producer asked her for two final questions, one substantive and one light. Ms. Parra-Sandoval sent one about Yucca Mountain, the Nevada site under consideration as a storage facility for radioactive waste. With the deadline approaching, she stared at her computer screen. Noticing the pearl-pattern background on her MySpace page, she dashed off the jewelry one.
CNN asked her to come to the debate with both questions memorized. Two hours in, a producer whispered that she should ask the second one.
“Because I was on national TV, I felt hesitant, but then I felt like, ‘Oh my God, I’m on national TV, I’ll just ask it,’” Ms. Parra-Sandoval said.
I end my post with the same question that is presented at the end of Tami's: how can we encourage the news corporation to discuss the serious issues that face us in a serious manner? We are all affected by their negligence.
Friday, November 16, 2007
While I have no musical talent myself, I *love* music. It moves me. It makes me wish my mom had forced me to learn piano or guitar or even drums. Alas. However, I make up for this lack of talent with a relentless search for excellent musicians. I have a list of some of my favorite female artists. Today, I am giving a shout out to one of my favorite little known artists. If you are not familiar with Christine Kane, you must look her up.
Beyond her music, Christine Kane does her absolute best to lift up women. She hosts retreats designed to empower women and to encourage them to let out the inner creative beast in all of us. In addition, she has an excellent blog. Now, before you run right out and look her up, know that it is a touchy-feely blog, hence my blog title. Honestly, I don't care. I love what she is about. She goes beyond her celebrity. She goes to a humble place where she shares what she has learned. Maybe it is corny. I don't know. All I know is that when I read her blog I somehow feel as if I am failing. And that is not a bad feeling. It gives me some focus that I am sometimes lacking.
Do I have you all sufficiently intrigued? Perhaps I open myself up to ridicule here. I'm okay with that. I find my new blogging life as an experiment in progress. Regardless, I stand firm by this: Christine Kane is an amazing musician and she makes me take a step back and reassess.
P.S. If Christine Kane *ever* comes to your town, go see her show!
I'm completely speechless in the face of this new evidence of a campaign designed to ensure that little girls have no contact with anything not specifically designed to encourage early on-set vapidity. So I turn to Lilith Attack to explain:
We gals like to hit the malls and talk on cell phones while putting on lipstick in the car between our business deals! We'd rather buy a clothing shop than Park Place or Broadway; it's a better investment for us ladies.Indeed.
"This is Monopoly like you have never seen it - dressed up in pink and all about things girls love! Buy boutiques and malls, go on a shopping spree, pay your cell phone bill, and get text and instant messages. You and your friends will adore the funky tokens, cool buildings, and cute illustrations. Best of all, the game is stored in a beautiful keepsake box which doubles as a jewelry box. Cool game features include: 8 collectible tokens just for girls, keepsake storage box with removable tray and mirrored insert, pink gameboard with fun properties, pink and purple translucent boutiques and malls instead of houses and hotels, Instant Message and Text Message cards instead of Chance and Community Chest, pink Title Deed cards, redesigned Monopoly money, flocked banker's tray, 2 pink dice, and instructions. Paint the town pink with Toys R Us Exclusive!"
For $29.99 all this sexism can be yours! Or for $10.99 you can play the original "boys" version. Price disparity unfair? Suck it up, Princess.
Now, I know some people out there are saying, 'so what's the big deal?' I once had a friend make a case for 'I love shopping / math is hard' Barbie as an fine toy for youngsters. So, let me try to explain... kids are in the process of forming their ideas about what it means to be a girl vs. a boy, and they want to gender identify appropriately. So it is a bad idea to teach any kid that being a girl is essentially about being a shopaholic pink fluff-brain. By promoting the idea that women care about nothing but shopping and gossiping and all things cute, we are selling sexism - this time with "pink and purple translucent boutiques and malls instead of houses and hotels"- to our children.
Just to clarify... this toy is bad bad bad when given to actual children. But... oh-so-funny if given to... (you'll just have to wait until Christmas to find out!)