Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Quick Hit: NPR on Iraqi Women

This piece by Anne Garrels, which aired on this evening's edition of All Things Considered, is a must-hear. It discusses the cost of the the continued violence in Iraq for the women of the country. If you did not get the chance to listen when it aired this evening, go do so now. (Yes, that's a command.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Call for Random Acts of Feminism!

Inspired by the ubiquitous "Practice Random Acts of Kindness" slogan, Wendy Roby of The Guardian has been writing about everyday things that we could do to show female solidarity and chisel away at the patriarchy. She explains the impact of "random acts of resistance" like this:

A sign of female solidarity in an unlikely place might, in fact, be a useful weapon in the feminist's arsenal. Be it the blaring inanity of lads' mags, the stark reality of sexist language or the sheer tedium of excessive housework, Random Acts of Feminism represent a small but lively opportunity to fight back in our everyday lives.
Her recipes for quick-and-easy subversive acts include putting copies of Good Housekeeping in front of racks of "lad's mags," leaving copies of feminist publications like Bust or Bitch in dentists' waiting rooms, and amending lewd or derisive comments scrawled on the back of bathroom doors:
It only takes a second - and a handy marker pen - to transform something mean-spirited. Cross out the "c" and the "h", for example, and "Jilly is a bitch" can quickly be changed to "Jilly is a bit of a genius".
Apparently, a marker is a consistently useful tool in any feminist's portable arsenal. I am intrigued by Roby's idea, and feel like these little acts of protest might be a nice antidote to the tiny morale dampeners we face while out-and-about every day. Does anyone else have suggestions for "random acts" of feminist resistance?

(image via Deviant Blonde)

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Face That Launched 1000 Feed Bags

According to the NYT, "The Whole Foods Market chain said Tuesday that it would stop offering plastic grocery bags, giving customers instead a choice between recycled paper or reusable bags." The change will come on April 22, Earth Day, when customers will cease to hear "paper or plastic" at check-out counters. The reusable bags will be sold for 99 cents.

We here at SI applaud Whole Foods for finally ditching the plastic bags and main-streaming reusable bags. And, although we probably can't give sole credit to one woman (although, being a feminist blog, we'd really like to), we also applaud Lauren Bush (yup, he's her uncle) for using her famous name and model status to push for a NYC "bill that would require supermarkets and other large retail stores to collect, transport and recycle the plastic carryout bags they give to customers." She has also been promoting "...the FEED Bag, a reusable cloth bag that costs $60 and enables the food program to feed a child for one full school year." Ms. Bush has been campaigning against plastic bags in front of NYC Whole Foods stores since last year. Might environmental and social awareness be a sex-linked trait in her family?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pretty Please Focus on the Politics

How can you not appreciate an article that begins with the sentence, " The media are hopelessly sexist and relentlessly trivial"? Even better that The Weepy Witch and The Secret Muslim follows later with, "It just means that the public expression of racism is beyond the pale in a way that the public expression of misogyny is not."

I implore each person to vote for the candidate that best represents her/his views and needs rather than race or gender because I fear that Katha Pollitt is right in her closing remarks, "If the campaign becomes a competition between race and gender...the winner on election day will be whichever white man the Republican Party nominates."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Uncovered: Breasts, Feminism, and Photography

From the time we develop them, breasts seem to serve as constant reminders of our sexuality - and not just for men. We worry that our breasts are too small, and might make us unattractive, or that they are too big and constantly call attention to our sexuality at times when we'd rather be noticed for other things. Most conversations about women's fashion focus on how to best keep our breasts covered, or how to most suggestively reveal them. We feel awkward in the presence of another woman's bare chest, and sometimes even in the presence of our own. Perhaps no other body part demands so much of our daily consideration, and most of us have at some point or another been made to feel awkward about this one, seemingly so important, physical feature.

Yet, what if it doesn't have to be this way? What if we didn't feel ashamed or constantly eroticized, and could be as comfortable with our bosoms as we are with the rest of our bodies? What if 'boobies' weren't seen as a separate entities attached to women's chests, but rather as an organic part of our bodies?

It is this question that Uncovered seeks to explore. As photographer Jordan Matter explains:
[Uncovered] is a collection of photographs featuring bare-breasted women in public around New York City, often presented with interviews exploring the issues of body image and sexuality in America today. The informal and humorous nature of these images celebrates women without sexualizing or objectifying them, while creating the illusion of a tolerant world in which shirtless women go casually about their lives. Uncovered represents just one aspect of what America could look like if we were free of shame...
Call me a prude American (is that redundant?), but as I started viewing the photographs, I initially found them oddly jarring. I did find myself focusing on the women's chests, not because the photos are erotic or scandalous, but simply because the sight of other women's breasts was, well, surprising. Yet, after viewing the first few portraits, seeing bare-breasted women lost its shock effect and I began to see the portraits holistically, as portraits of women in different NYC settings rather than as portraits of 'breasts about town.' As Sweetmachine of Shapely Prose notes, "There are bodies of many different shapes and sizes, though fat bodies are in the minority; some of the photos are comic, some are painterly, some are matter of fact." One or two of the portraits are a bit sexualized (the very first photograph, featuring a woman tasting the snow, comes to mind), but the photographs that are most effective are the ones that appear most natural - photos of women playing chess in the park, or climbing metro stairs, or laughing together in open-air markets. All are beautifully shot. Yet, the most interesting part is perhaps reading the women's comments, which range from confessions of body-image issues to affirmations of personal liberation. Taken as a collection, I believe they fulfill the photographer's goal.

Yet, my husband did not share my positive view of the project. "Too many of these women fit the stereotypical beauty standard for the commentary to really be effective," he complains. I would love to know other people's reactions.

(I found Uncovered via Hoyden About Town)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

News Flash: Nobody Really Likes to Work

I'm always a bit bemused by articles which base rants against feminism on some unnamed woman's alleged comment about wishing she didn't have to work (see JSGSSD rule #2). Look, guy, I'll be honest here - everyone wishes they didn't have to work. 10 out of 10 people enjoy 'free time' more than 'work time.' (Yup - my data is as scientifically gathered as Mr. Misogynist's - like him, I rigorously imagined hundreds of people into existence, asked them a question, and then reported their responses with absolutely no bias whatsoever.)

Really, slacker girls like myself have no reason to resent feminism. Feminism gave me the chance to go to college, and then to grad school - effectively allowing me to avoid joining the workforce for six years. Feminism gave me the opportunity to choose a career that involves none of the manual labor of housework, to voice my opinions (often about how little I like working), to be respected for my ideas. Feminism gave me the chance to earn a fair wage for the work I do, the right to vote, and the freedom to chose my own companions (people who value coffee breaks as much as I do). Feminism also gave me better fashion options, as I can now wear comfortable sneakers to the grocery store and scandalous ankle-revealing heals to fancy parties. Feminism, as it turns out, has given me nothing but choices and opportunities.

As for what makes me work, when a force is found that can compel me to use my time in a productive manner, it will be duly reported here. All bets are currently on the persuasive powers of a rumbling tummy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Shedding Skin Cells- That's What Murderers Do!

The future is here! According to the Washington Post, five human embryos have been created from adult skin cells. These clone-bryos will never grow up to be quintuplet clone-abies, though, which is good news for nations that have not yet adequately prepared for clone attacks. "No law bans cloned-baby-making, but the Food and Drug Administration has said that such experiments would require its approval," reports the Post. Apparently researchers sorta wanted to make clone babies, but were just too lazy to file the FDA paperwork. Bureaucrats 1: Clone Babies: 0!

Some might think that this whole 'human cloning technology' muddies the abortion debate a bit. If the working premise is that we have a moral responsibility to turn every cell that has the potential to someday develop into a human baby into a baby, well, showering and hair brushing alike have now become reprehensible acts. Others say that worry over the rights of clone fetuses and skin cells is premature, maintaining that, after years of monkey vs. robot conflict, the new alliance of monkeys and robots presents a much more pressing threat.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

It's Martin Luther King Day, and since it is cold out and we we wanted food that was hot by any definition, Casmall and I took a long lunch at Julie's Cafe, our favorite Jamaican restaurant, to celebrate. Seriously, Julie makes the best jerk chicken outside of Kingston and everyone should eat there.

Some people, though, have been celebrating in more creative ways - Ill Doctrine has put together a video of 10 Martin Luther King, Jr. quotations that don't get enough attention:

(via Feministing)

One of my favorites that is not mentioned above is "Our lives begin to end on the day we become silent about things that matter." If you have any MLK quotations you love, or if you have something that matters that we need to be speaking about, let us know in the comments.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Some Cheaters *TOTALLY* Win!

Oh the hypocrisy. Let me give a heads up that I am on the verge of a rant here. Nay, I *am* on a rant here.

Marion Jones just received a six month prison sentence for lying to investigators about using performance-enhancing drugs and her role in a check-fraud scam. Honestly, I am not familiar with the check-fraud aspect of things so will not comment on it here. I will, however, rail against the hypocrisy of the sentence for lying to investigators.

Let me clarify an important point before I rant further; no part of me has a problem with this sentence. Marion Jones flat out lied to Federal investigators. I cannot fully describe my disappointment in her. Perhaps it is my utter naiveté, but I believed she was clean. Chalk that up to my insane belief in our athletes. I believe that an athlete should go at it clean. If you cannot win clean, you cannot win. I should know all about that. In my almost 15-year swimming career I was generally number two. It is not an easy thing to accept, but I think it makes a person stronger to accept that. I never felt the need to either (1) make myself out into an athlete beyond what I was or (2) cheat to make myself into something I was not. Therefore, I have no patience for those who choose that route.

All the above said, Marion Jones used performance enhancing drugs. Strike one against her. Marion Jones lied to Federal investigators. Strike two against her. Marion Jones was silly enough to finally admit to it. Strike three against her.

Who among us doesn't know where I am going next? Need I say Barry Bonds? Seriously. Is he not obviously now and for many, many months (years?) in the past using performance enhancing drugs? Seriously. Is he not each and every day that passes lying to Federal investigators about this drug use? Wait, wait...you don't like the use of Barry in this? How about Roger Clemens? How about Floyd Landis? Justin Gatlin? Need I continue? (Okay, it was just called to my attention that I failed to include Lance Armstrong on this list. Fine...here it is, although the little kid in me still tries to believe in him for some reason....refer to my above mentioned utter naiveté.)

Here is what amazes me. Marion Jones broke down. She felt the pressure that a high-profile athlete *should* feel. She felt the pressure of being a role model. I don't care what anyone raking in the professional dough says, a professional athlete is inherently, for better or worse in our society, a role model. Yes, Marion lied. Yes, she accepted the Olympic glory knowing full well it was tainted. Yes, it took a cascade of legal events before she would admit to the doping. However, no matter how long it took, at least she finally owned up to it. And now she is getting slammed with a jail sentence. Barry Bonds is still lying. Roger Clemens is still lying. Justin Gatlin apparently got a wide receiver try-out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers even after receiving an eight year (now reduced...why?) sentence for proven doping.

So, have we learned the lesson yet? Women shouldn't be in sports anyway, right? When one makes a mistake, lies about it, then finally owns up to it we need to give them a jail sentence. Why? Because we know full well the men will not own up to it themselves. On the off chance that they do, we also know they will be "suspended" from the sport for a minuscule period of time (seriously...look up NFL suspensions for pot use).

I conclude my rant by sharing an excellent point Agincourt just made: Never, ever in a million years should anyone in their right mind (from the baseball community) seriously propose that baseball become an Olympic sport. Why? Because then it would be exposed to some of the most intense doping screening there is and then (and only then) would any number of U.S. baseball players be exposed for what they are...a bunch of lying cheats. So long as they are never in the Olympics they at least will be winners in their own minds if nothing else.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

There's No Crying in Politics! Unless an Onion is Nearby?

For the love of all that is good, if I have to hear about Hillary's bawling fit of hysterics one more time I'm going to have my own sort of fit. Come on people, she found herself unexpectedly choked up. I was reading a book the other night and suddenly found my eyes misting when one of the main characters died. Perhaps the State should fire me for being such an emotional puddle?

In fact, if I have to hear one more time about how Hillary has no connection to people on a human level, well...I don't know what I will do on that one. The bottom line is, she can't win. I don't mean she can't win the election. I mean it doesn't matter what she does because *someone* is going to give her grief. Hillary is too harsh. Hillary has no charisma. Hillary shows no emotion. No, wait, Hillary shows too much emotion. No, wait, wait, Hillary only shows crocodile tears that have been carefully calculated far in advance in order to maximize the effect and surely she must have had a slice of onion in her pocket to achieve the feat.

There are a slew of articles out there about her massive meltdown. I like the article Hillary and the political crying game at Guardian Unlimited because it points out some obvious facts that seem to be glossed over in the mania. (1) Thankfully, Guardian finds it unlikely that the tears won her New Hampshire. (2) They point out the obvious double standard that is at work here. "A man can cry because you don't expect him to; a woman can't because it's just too predictable."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Child Rape = Death?

I wondered how long it would take for this issue to come before the Supreme Court. Now, come April 2008, the constitutionality of a death penalty sentence for the rape of a child will be heard.

The case revolves around one Patrick Kennedy who was sentenced to death for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter in Louisiana. The death penalty for the crime of rape was deemed unconstitutional by the 1977 Supreme Court finding that, "a sentence of death is grossly disproportionate and excessive punishment for the crime of rape and is therefore forbidden by the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment." However, Louisiana legislature passed a law in 1995 allowing the death penalty for the rape of a child under 12 years old. The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the Kennedy death sentence stating that, "Child rape is the most heinous of all non-homicide crimes...while the majority of other states may not provide capital punishment for child rape, many do provide capital punishment for other non-homicide crimes (that) are far less heinous."

Ah, the protests that will surround this ruling. What a can of worms this opens. As if this the death penalty is not a hot-button issue all on its own. Now toss in another healthy dose of emotion.

I tend to be undecided on the death penalty because its current form is wholly ineffective. Perhaps if death row inmates were not held for decades, one could consider it as a potentially effective means of general deterrence. Since that is not the case, I remain undecided.

However, that is neither here nor there. The issue here, beyond the simple notion of death penalty constitutionality, is the slippery slope of this particular case. What constitutes a child? 16? 12? How old does the perpetrator have to be? What if the rapist is 14? 17? Is it any rape of a child that age or does it have to be especially aggravated? Even so, is that worthy of death? Going back to
Coker v. Georgia 1977 Supreme Court ruling, “we have the abiding conviction that the death penalty, which is unique in its severity and irrevocability, is an excessive penalty for the rapist who, as such, does not take human life.”

Perhaps this post should have been placed at our less feminist blog, The Journal of Modern Armchair Philosophies, however, there is the undeniable feminist undertone to this case since the crime of rape in and of itself is often not taken as seriously as it should be.