Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cue the Elevator Music

Don't think of it as being ignored. We're not ignoring you. We not only hear you clamoring for new posts, we're listening.

That being said... we're on holiday! Posting will be light until we return from all of our Thanksgiving travels. If you find yourself missing the wit and feminist insight you usually find here, visit Free Rice and play some quiz games to pass the time as you pine for us.

Help end world hunger

Happy holiday, everyone!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Linkage

1. The military is pushing for a repeal of the 'don't ask don't tell' policy.

2. In England and Wales, laws regulating prostitution are about to be changed. "Anyone who knowingly pays illegally trafficked women for sex could face rape charges, while kerb crawlers could face prosecution for a first offence."

3. Brazil is 'cracking down' on women who've received illegal abortions, investigating and prosecuting women reported to have terminated any pregnancy that was not either the result of rape or a threat to the mother's life. Sure, anti-choicers sometimes brush-off the question of how much time a woman should get for having an abortion if we make it illegal, but the issue is real.

4. Seven (good) things Obama's win might mean for women's health!

5. Is there a shift in the abortion debate away from questions of 'to ban or not to ban' to 'how do we reduce the number of abortions'?

6. Civil unions for all - helpful or simply a bad idea?

7. Another last-minute Bush rule change will target family and medical leave.

8. There's more nonsense from that California professor making such a fuss about his school's insistence that he, like everyone else, attend the legally mandated sexual harassment seminar. Drama.

9. A lesser-known anti-choice law has gone into effect in South Dakota, where doctors must now tell women considering abortion that "she is terminating the life of 'a whole, separate, unique, living human being' with whom she has an 'existing relationship'..."

10. TransGriot writes about the importance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Alright, those are the links from me. I've been traveling, though, and am way behind on my reading - I'd love it if you'd fill me in on the other good stuff you've been writing and reading.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Funny Friday: Sarah vs Sarah vs Sarah (sorta)

Yeah, I know the election is over, but since it turns out we're all a bunch of huge Sarah Vowell fans here, I couldn't help but post her interview with David Letterman. Also, this will give you an idea of what I want for Christmas:

That's right, I want to hang out with Sarah Vowell. You all can set that up for me, right?

For the day's final Sarah, we bring you the latest in Sarah Haskin's Target Women, just in case you've been under a rock and haven't seen it yet. If you have already seen it... watch it again! Practice makes perfect, people, so maybe this time you'll watch it just right:

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today has been designated as a day to mourn those who we have lost, people taken from us through violence and acts of hate. Mourning is important, and so is fighting. And the fight to end the hatred cannot be regulated to only one day. We must remember those who've been abused or killed and let that memory embolden us to oppose bigotry whenever and wherever we see it. Lindsay gives us one way to fight, but opportunities big and small exist all around us on a daily basis.

If anyone has not yet heard the incredible story that aired on NPR of two transgender children and their parents' very different decisions, go listen. Then make your friends and family listen. Since it is easiest to dehumanize people when the myths about them are more prominent than their true stories, I believe the NPR piece has a shot at doing some good.

Also, Feminist Law Professors points to a national survey on transgender experiences in the U.S., so if you identify as gender non-conforming in any way, you can take the survey here.

Finally, what have you done in the past to fight trans hate? What can we all do in the future? Who are you remembering today, on this day of mourning?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An End to University Rape Case Gag Orders

As a local Charlottesville newspaper, The Hook, reports:

Four years after the college safety nonprofit Security on Campus filed a complaint against UVA for its mishandling of sexual assault cases, the Department of Education has ruled that the university has, in fact, violated federal law by threatening victims of sexual assault with punishment if they spoke about their cases.

The ruling has major implications for victims of sexual assault on college campuses across the country, according to the man who filed the complaint on behalf of then-UVA student Annie Hylton, now Annie Hylton McLaughlin.

“It means that victims can’t be silenced at UVA or anywhere else,” says S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy for Security on Campus.

As a student and then graduate student at the University of Virginia, I was bothered by the university's Sexual Assault Board and its rule that victims of sexual assault keep silent about their cases -even if their attacker was found guilty. Sometimes, as in the case that prompted the complaint against UVA, the defendant was found guilty but allowed to stay at the school, and the victim was still bound by silence. If she spoke about the case, she could face charges from the Judiciary Committee. I am glad that my alma mater will now be a better place for students.

You can read more about the case and the ruling at The Hook, and the article is very interesting - be warned, though - some of the comments are revolting. Also, thanks to Noticing the Gap for leading me to this story from the town I consider to be my home.

UPDATE: Policies like UVA's are not uncommon. You can check your school's sexual assault policies at SAFER (Students Acting for Ending Rape).

Worst Date Stories: 'Your Male Privilege Is Showing' Edition

So, I went on this date once - obviously, this was awhile ago - with a fellow grad student (he was in the English Department, I was in the Spanish Department). The conversation turned to our favorite books and authors, and I listed a few I was excited about at the time. I'd just discovered Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, so that made the top of the list. Sarah Vowell is one of my favorite humorists and my sole source of U.S. history, so she made the 'favorites' cut as well. I believe I was reading Gertrude Stein's Three Lives at the time and wanted to talk about it, and I was also halfway through Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies and loving it (truly a great collection of short stories, I can't believe I haven't read her novel, The Namesake, yet). Anyway, dude looks at me and says, "So, are you -like- one of those girls who only reads books by women?" Seriously, the guy had just given me a list of all of his favorite authors - all of whom were men - and I didn't ask if he only read books by white guys. But, you name too many books by women, and you're 'one of those girls'? Come to think of it, he probably meant feminist... so yeah, I'm one of those. We don't just read books by women though, we also have bra burning parties and hairy leg contests. Sheesh.

That wasn't the worst comment like that I got on a date, though. The worst was when I went out to coffee with a guy who, when I mentioned working with the Women's Center, asked if I was a feminist. I said yes. So he says, "Answer me this, then. If women are as smart as men, why are there no women geniuses?" (No, it wasn't Larry Summers - I'm not that old). I think we both knew it wasn't going to work out by then.

Anyway, those are my two 'bad date' stories from the Your Male Privilege Is Showing category. Anyone else want to share? Ideas for other categories? Feel free to list your favorite lady authors and lady geniuses as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Title X Money Could Go to Anti-Choice Clinics

As Ms. reports, the plan by the HHS to give medical workers the right to refuse services to patients on moral grounds might have yet another scary consequence for women:

The Bush administration is planning an 11th-hour rule change that could open a new spigot of government money to “crisis pregnancy centers”—fake, anti-choice clinics whose mission is to convince pregnant women not to have abortions (see Ms., fall 2008).

The proposed regulation, pending action by Bush’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Michael Leavitt, would give health care workers the “right to refuse” to provide women abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and even--depending on interpretation--birth control. Not only would this mean that U.S. women were no longer guaranteed full information from their health care providers, but, according to reproductive rights group SEICUS, it could also open up federal Title X funding—the bread-and-butter of comprehensive family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood—to CPCs. Currently, Title X funding is reserved for clinics that provide women full, unbiased counseling about their reproductive options.

These 'crisis pregnancy centers' are deceptive about their anti-choice agenda, often include false information about abortion, and are finding their way onto campus referral lists with surprising frequency. For more details and some sharp commentary, visit Viva La Feminista. Also, we've written a bit about the HHS's proposed rule at TheFU here and here.

UPDATE: Feminist Law Professors has a post up discussing the campaign to expose these fake clinics. Go read all about it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hillary Clinton to Accept Secretary of State Position

If The Guardian is to be believed, it's pretty much a done deal:

Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

Obama's advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton's foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats do not believe that the vetting is likely to be a problem.

Clinton would be well placed to become the country's dominant voice in foreign affairs, replacing Condoleezza Rice. Since being elected senator for New York, she has specialised in foreign affairs and defence. Although she supported the war in Iraq, she and Obama basically agree on a withdrawal of American troops.

Well, what do you think? Are you excited about this appointment? Nervous? Do you think The Guardian is jumping the gun by calling this before anyone else?

Quick Hit: Japanese Girl Drafted to Play Pro Baseball

A 16-year-old girl has been chosen to play on a Japanese men's baseball team, and is set to become the first woman to play professional baseball in Japan:

High school student Eri Yoshida was drafted by the Kobe 9 Cruise, a professional team in a new independent Japanese league that will start its first season in April.

"I always dreamed of becoming a professional," Yoshida, who is 5-feet (152-centimeters) tall and weighs 114 pounds (52 kilograms), told a news conference Monday. "I have only just been picked by the team and haven't achieved anything yet." [...]

Yoshida took part in a tryout held earlier this month and passed with flying colors. The right-hander held male batters hitless for one inning in the tryout and her successful outing helped her become one of the 33 players picked in the draft.

Congrats and good luck, Eri Yoshida! I know I've got a new favorite team...

Comic Strip Othering, You Know - For Funsies

Yes, it has been shown that women and men actually speak the same number of words each day, but that doesn't mean that we have to give up super-clever jokes like this one:

Get it? It's funny because girl-people are so different and incomprehensible and other. Sure, it might not be 'scientifically true' that women talk more than men, but it just feels so true - probably because we've been exposed to jokes like the above our whole lives. But, if we let our stereotypes give way when presented with evidence that should disprove them, then we might have to think up new jokes - and no one wants that.

(h/t Language Log)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lotta Links

These are a few of the stories that got us talking this week:

1. Antonin Scalia sounded like a complete ass on Monday as the Supreme Court heard arguments on a federal gun ban that bars those convicted of domestic violence from owning guns.

2. What should Obama do about sex ed?

3. A Texas pastor attempts to 'take back sex for married couples' by challenging the legally wed members of his congregation "...to have sex for seven straight days." I think this means he want them to have sex once a day, not keep it going 24/7 - still, its going to be an awkward week for a lot of the church's kids with parents who decide to give it a shot. "I heard zoo noises." Me, I'm all for it - if these people have their own business to manage, maybe they'll be less inclined to meddle in other people's affairs.

4. The American Humanist Association will be putting out bunches of pro-atheist ads this holiday season. What do you think- is this a good idea, or akin to throwing rocks at a hornet's nest?

5. Debate about fake dongs leads to a big question: Who decides whose sexuality should be treated as a medical issue?

6. This irked me: "The nation's Roman Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday to forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights, saying the church and religious freedom could be under attack in the new presidential administration." No outcry about the Bush administration's policies on torture and rendition or the wars, but the admission that keeping abortion a safe and legal choice might reduce the number of abortions and does save lives - that's a threat to religious freedom. I don't get it.

7. High school students are staying silent on sexual assaults.

8. The SFGate looks at Prop H8 and the pre-election polls that made many of us think it would fail.

9. Yahoo! has a new 'for the ladies' site - and it's mainly about fashion, attracting the men-folk, and the color pink. Sigh.

10. What's the Global Gender Gap Report really saying?

11. New Hampshire's state senate is the first to have a female majority.

12. An amazing woman has passed away.

13. What will Michelle Obama do for working women when she arrives at the White House?

14. A baby girl has been born to the recipient of the world's first ovary transplant.

15. Ever wonder how birds know what notes to sing? We have...

Thought? Stories we might have missed?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Job Segregation and the Wage Gap

Sociological Images has some sharp observations regarding the wage gap between men and women and how it relates to a phenomenon called 'job segregation.' As Lisa explains:
Men and women are sorted into different jobs and jobs associated with women are paid less.

Below is a list of occupations and their average wages for 2007 from The Bureau of Labor Statistics. I picked out occupations that were rather straightforward (not a random sample, just an illustrative one), put them in order from lowest to highest, and colored them according to whether they are feminine (pink) or masculine (blue) occupations...

Parking Lot Attendants: $8.82
Child care workers: $8.82
Coatroom attendants: $9.18
Bellhops: $9.25

Sewing machine operators: $9.31
Manicurists and pedicurists: $9.60
Home health care aid: $9.62

Stock clerks: $9.85
Janitors: $10.00

Hairdressers: $10.68
Security Guards: $10.85
File clerks: $11.06

Pre-school teachers: $11.12
Barbers: $11.31
Receptionist: $11.40
Bus Driver (school): $12.43
Construction workers: $13.13
Butchers: $13.87

Dental Assistants: $15.17
Bus Driver (city): $15.94
Roofers: $15.98
Car mechanics: $16.43
Truck drivers: $17.41
Electricians: $21.53

Lisa draws three conclusions from her observations:
1. Occupations that are disproportionately female "cluster towards the lower wage end of this hierarchy."
2. Neither the difficulty of the job nor its importance to the community is the determining factor in how wages are set for each occupation:

Car mechanics are paid more than dental assistants. They require a similar amount of training, yet we still pay those taking care of our cars more than those taking care of our teeth.

And pre-school teachers are paid less than butchers and bus drivers. Is preparing our children for school less important than getting them there? Do we value the man preparing our meat more than we value the woman tending to our child?

3. In professions that have two distinct titles for males and females, the female equivalent earns less: "For example, maids are paid less than janitors and hairdressers are paid less than barbers."

Enlightening, isn't it?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Most Offensive Thing You'll Read All Day

In response to a brief post discussing circumcision, several comments suggested that male circumcision was the moral equivalent of female circumcision, or female genital mutilation (FGM). This comment is pretty representative:
In countries where FGM occurs it is usually the women who perpetuated it onto their daughters, they often don't feel it was a violation. Heck in Indonesia it's done on neonates, just like males here. So how do they know what is missing? What reason would they have to stop it, they're fine. It's the same dance just a different tune.
Well, heck - it seems we have very different definitions of the word 'fine.'

Fortunately, Denialism Blog sets the record straight:

Independent of how you may feel about male circumcision, it does not normally, or even more than very rarely, lead to long-term medical consequences. FGM nearly always does. FGM is not usually as "simple" as a pinprick. And who performs it is irrelevant. If women are co-opted into torturing each other by the dominant male culture, that is most emphatically not a mitigating factor, but a sign of how deeply disturbed gender relations in the culture are.

Male circ is not a method of controlling males and their sexuality... FGM is always---always---a method of controlling women and their sexuality. It is almost always mutilitory (rather than symbolic) and leads to widespread female urogenital problems. Despite what the foreskin-worshipers may say, male circumcision and FGM are in no way equivalent.

I really appreciate having some male allies willing to point out the stupidity of the 'women are incapable of doing anything to hurt women, ergo if a woman does something then it must be good for womankind' argument that we see so frequently around these parts. I'm also going to have to agree with PalMD on his second point too, "Go ahead and argue the ethics of male circ on their merits. There is a reasonable discussion to be had. But leave FGM out of it."

Two Ex-Ex-Gays Share Their Experiences

'Love In Action' is a Christian program that aims to turn gay men into straight men. The sad part of this interview with Scott Tucker and David Christie, two former participants of the program who are now openly gay, is listening to them review what has happened to some of their friends from the program - suicide, failed marriages, and more pretending. You can listen to their stories and see some of their photos here.

(h/t Pam's House Blend)

Sex Trafficking, Internet Brothels, and Changing Laws

The BBC reports on the arrest of a group operating in the UK and Thailand that was responsible for the trafficking, abuse, and enslavement of dozens of women. The trafficked women were forced to work as prostitutes, their services advertised via 'online brothels':
Nine people from Thailand have been jailed for up to two-and-a-half-years for their part in exploiting women who were advertised in "online brothels". They are thought to have made millions of pounds from women trafficked from Asia to the UK for use in the sex trade...

One of the women - advertised on the website as "Helen" - had been "bought" from her traffickers by a syndicate of two women and a man for £11,000 and then told she would have to pay her "bondholders" £30,000 to win her own freedom.

Brian O'Neill, prosecuting, said she effectively had to sleep with 300 men, at £100 a time, to buy herself out of a modern-day form of slavery.

While prostitution is technically legal in the UK, laws against soliciting, streetwalking, and brothels effectively make it illegal to sell sexual services, but not to buy them. The increase in trafficking cases might change the laws to put some legal responsibility on the purchaser as well as the provider:

Earlier this year the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced plans to introduce legislation to outlaw paying for sex with someone "controlled for another person's gain"...

If it becomes law it would mean "punters" would have a legal obligation to ensure women they pay have not been trafficked.

An increase in trafficking cases has also prompted calls for massive reform of laws regarding the sex trade in the UK. One group calling for prostitution reform explains the challenge this way:

As explained above, the current laws tread an uneasy path between legality and illegality. Would it not be better in our enlightened society to decide once and for all "is there a place for prostitution in the 21st century"? This would lead to two outcomes:

  • We decide there is a place for prostitution in the 21st century and legalise all aspects of the "profession". In addition we help prostitution to become an acceptable part of society by incorporating it into education, health and politics.
  • We decide prostitution is largely an abuse of women (as was decided in Sweden). In order to protect women who have been forced into prostitution the law is changed to move the "blame" and illegality to the purchaser of sexual services.
Since I feel like I don't know what the best solution is, I'm curious to know other people's thoughts on how prostitution should be best regulated to prevent trafficking and abuse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Congratulations, Connecticut!

It's a happy day in the nutmeg state! As the New York Times reports:
Bunches of white balloons and giant sprays of long-stemmed red roses festooned City Hall here Wednesday morning, as one of the eight couples who successfully sued the state to allow same-sex marriage became the first to obtain a marriage license as the law took effect...

The official start of gay marriages came a month after Connecticut’s highest court legalized the unions, and the court announced only last week that Wednesday would be the official first day of nuptials...

“Today, Connecticut sends a message of hope and promise to lesbian and gay people throughout the country who want to be treated as equal citizens by their government,” said Ben Klein, a lawyer with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a Boston group that litigated the Connecticut case.
Cheers! Congratulations to all the couples that can now begin planning weddings. I hear Connecticut is beautiful in the early summer... May many states (ahem, CA) follow the example of our northern friends and keep fighting until equal rights for same-sex couples are guaranteed throughout the country.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans' Day and Anti-Choice Protesters

California NOW alerts us to the fact that Veterans' Day -that's right, November 11th - has increasingly become a day of anti-choice protests and violence over the last decade:

Over the years, four doctors who provide abortion service have been shot around this date, and one, Dr. Bernard Slepian, was killed.

If you do not already participate in a clinic escort program, you can contact your local NOW chapter to find out how you can volunteer to help women receive needed health services without harassment.

I like that California NOW doesn't merely report the rise in protests, but suggests a way to combat the harrassment. You can also check out their video explaining how the escort program works at their site.

Gender and Profession: Lady Doctors and Male Nurses?

My grandmother adores one of her doctors, who she insists on calling her lady-doctor. It doesn't matter how many times the doctor's name comes up in conversation, or that I've actually met her, when referring to this woman my grandmother always says something along the lines of "Doctor So-and-So, my lady-doctor, says..." Frankly, my grandmother is too cute for this to irk me, but I do find it interesting to think about which professions get gender-neutral names and which we feel the need to tag with female or male labels. Nobody refers to 'my favorite lady-musician' but - even on this site - we often talk about the female politicians we like. I've never heard anyone discuss their lady-teacher, but I have heard mention of lady-pilots, presumably because they're still rather rare (for reasons Maggie discusses here). Which brings us to today's cartoon:

So, for all you language-lovers out there: Does this gender-tagging of certain professions reinforce our stereotypes or is it sometimes necessary for clarity when we speak of professions where parity has not yet been reached?

(h/t Sociological Images)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Meyung Robson: FBI Agent and Chef

From NPR's Morning Edition, the story of Meyung Robson:
Robson's road from pageants to FBI special agent began on April 29, 1975, when her father retired as a three-star general and the Communists were closing in on Saigon.

"When we saw a helicopter falling off the rooftop of a condominium a block from our house, my mother said, 'That's it, we have to leave,'" Robson says. "So we just rushed out of the house with about $60 in my dad's pocket. [The] entire family just ran with clothes on our backs to the port of Saigon."

They scrambled onto a ship, and a few months later found themselves in New York as refugees picking strawberries in Stony Brook.

"It was just heaven, after spending so much time on sea, to be able to just lie down in field of strawberries and eat as much as we could, and sell the rest for 15 cents a basket. It was fun, it was really fun," Robson says.

The rest is an amazing story, so go read and listen. And if anyone hasn't started writing their novel yet, a trip to her restaurant in Bangkok could be a good place to start researching a novel based on Meyung Robson's adventures. Just remember who gave you the idea...

Stay-at-Home Mom Label: Applicable to Any Mother Who Works from Home?

When Kendra LaDuca and Amy Maurer Creel noticed that they never wore jewelry after having given birth to their daughters (because babies love nothing more than grabbing and slobbering on mom's baubles), they saw a business opportunity. Why not make fashionable jewelry out of chewable materials? That way, if Baby wants to use your pendant as a teething ring for awhile, no problem:
The two formed their company, Smart Mom, in 2002, and spent the next four years finding a suitable material for Teething Bling, lab-testing it and refining prototypes. Made from latex-free silicone, the same material used to coat baby spoons, the matched necklaces and bracelets come in an array of colors and patterns, including camouflage and a pale flecked green that resembles jade. They sell for $19 and $12, respectively, on the Smart Mom Web site...

Amy and Kendra started selling Teething Bling in 2006, grossing about $80,000 and netting $12,000 in the first 12 months, Amy says. Sales have climbed over the past 12 months to about $125,000, Amy says, with about $60,000 net.
Brilliant, right? You can find their jewelry here.

My question is this: How would you refer to LaDuca and Maurer Creel? As entrepreneurs? Business women? Inventors?

The Washington Post Magazine bypassed all of those terms, choosing "Stay-at-Home Moms" for the title of the article profiling LaDuca and Maurer Creel instead. "But wait, perhaps the WaPo means that they were stay-at-home moms before starting the business!" you might argue. No go--Maurer Creel was "a freelance media and marketing consultant" before teaming-up with LaDuca, although she did work from her home office.

Look, I'm all for parents being able to decide to stay home with their children, and it would be nice if more parents could afford to do so. Many of us feminist types would like parental leave laws in the States to be more like those in France, where in addition to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, families have access to two years of unpaid leave that can be divided between parents any way they like after the birth of a child. Choice is good. Yet, to call any mother who works from home a 'stay-at-home mom' seems odd to me - and referring to LaDuca and Maurer Creel as such completely hides their entrepreneur identities, which are the central point of the article, behind their motherhood. Why would the WaPo choose to focus the article's title on their 'stay-at-home mom-ness' while actually profiling of two business women? Is there some glamor to the term that I'm missing?

How do others feel about the stay-home mom label? If you work from home and have kids, how do you answer the question 'so, what do you do'?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Quick Hit: Obama to Swiftly Lift Global Gag Rule

As MSNBC reports:
Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team...

The new president is also expected to lift a so-called global gag rule barring international family planning groups that receive U.S. aid from counseling women about the availability of abortion, even in countries where the procedure is legal, said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he rescinded the Reagan-era regulation, known as the Mexico City policy, but Bush reimposed it.

"We have been communicating with his transition staff" almost daily, Richards said. "We expect to see a real change."

Yeah, progressives!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama Family Photos: Election Night

The whole album is up on flickr, but here are some of my favorites...

The first kids earn a puppy by sitting through super-boring returns:Michelle and Barack look calmer than I did at this point in the evening - and more sober:
Presidential paddycake:
That's right, keep him headed in the right direction, Michelle:"OMG, Dads are so embarrassing!":(h/t Guanabee)

Lesbians on ABC Family's Lincoln Heights?!?

Its no secret that we form our ideas about the way the world is 'supposed' to work in part by watching and parodying the attitudes and actions of those around us - especially when we're young. For just one little example (and I promise I'll get to the lesbian kiss soon), a recent report on NPR explained that many teens see smoking as relaxing and refreshing because they are "...primed to see smoking as a sort of relief... That's the image television — one of the strongest influences in their lives — portrays." Teens who watch shows like Sex in the City learn to expect a sense of relief when smoking a cigarette because that is what so many of the characters express when they light up. This 'priming' of young people's expectations also influences ideas about gender roles, body satisfaction, and heteronormativity as well.

Where was I? Oh, TV lesbians. TV's ability to prime our expectations about relationships and sexuality is one of the reasons I was so tickled to see this scene from ABC Family's Lincoln Heights. The story line is one that you've probably seen on made-for-teen and family shows before. As StuntDouble of After Ellen explains, the plot of this episode revolves around "...the old "I have this friend" trick. It works so well, until you actually do have this friend who needs you to intervene on her behalf... Cassie and her gay BFF, Stacy, have heard word that Kelly is a lesbian. Cassie thinks Stacy should just ask Kelly to prom, but Stacy doesn't even know if Kelly is actually gay! What to do? Send in your wingwoman, of course."

Oh no! We've got a Cyrano de Bergerac dilemma! For a good guess at what happens next, I'm sure we could refer to at least three Saved By the Bell plot lines. Yet, the predictability of the drama is part of what makes this scene so promising as a social message - it isn't that they're lesbians that complicates the plot, but the mix-up about who's doing the wooing. That its a same-sex love triangle, come on, that's no big deal. And that's a good thing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Think The View is a Crappy Show - You?

Feministing beat both me and Petpluto to the latest Sarah Haskins Target Women video (we're really competitive about these things), so no points this round. Still, despite not having gloating rights, I'm posting it anyway - for your viewing enjoyment:

Boobs for Burma: Can Sex Sell Human Rights?

You know, I get it--human beings like nothing more than looking at sexy ladies and thinking about sexy lady boobies. So, naturally, if we want to sell something to other human beings we must first get their attention with boobies and sexy ladies. Apparently we can sell anything this way - masonry drills, information numbers, animal rights, compassion...

Wait - can you really sell people on compassion with sexy ladies? The Human Rights Action Center says, "Yes! With the help of Tila Tequila, we'll save the good people of Myanmar!"

The creepy works on so many levels here. First, high school kids are... kids. That's right, they are too young to legally give consent, so this little 'strip tease for correct answers' is flirting with pedophilia. Then there is the bit where two girls smilingly speak of the murder of thousands of people, happy to report the deaths because they know the news of tragedy will be rewarded with some fresh new view of lady skin.

But it works, right? Viewers will help the Burmese people now that we've gotten their attention! Its cleavage for a cause! Yet, judging from the comments over at YouTube, this video has got people talking - but not about dictatorships or human rights violations. In five pages of comments, there was not a single mention of the cause this video ostensibly promotes.

So, what are we really selling here? Apparently the very real problems of the Burmese people make a nice narrative to go along with a lesson in Nice Guy (TM) syndrome. That's right - if I'm a Nice Guy who cares about the plight of (insert noun), I deserve to have a hot lady falling all over herself to fondle me. Women are the prize for being a decent person; thus, as a good person, you have a right to hot women.

That's what I see, but what do you all think - is this a savvy way to advocate for an end to human rights violations, or a commercial for sexism and male privilege? Or both?

(h/t Sociological Images)

UPDATE: Feminism and Adbusting points to some "Non-sexed up info on the situation," which can be found here.

Blogging Moms and the Boogeyman

I come from an extremely conservative background. I still have a lot of friends that I care about and keep in touch with from that time in my life. Nearly every single one of them has kids, and nearly every single one of them keeps a mommy blog. They post pictures of their kids, their houses, their pets, their cars. But every now and then a wave of these blogs will go private and lock access. Why? Because they're afraid.

I haven't quite figured out what they're afraid of, and I don't think they know either. In a newspaper article I read on the subject, many women said it's "not safe" but didn't say why or how. (And yet I found blogs linking the article and saying how it convinced them it wasn't safe.) The article said: you put something out there and it's out there. True, this is the internet after all. But there seems to be this growing sense among mommy blogs that the boogeyman is out there just waiting for pictures of their kids. I have yet to find a documented case to support this fear. It also ignores the reality of these safety concerns: posting a picture of your child isn't really that different than taking your child out in public for anyone to see, statistically children are far more likely to encounter danger from people they know than from strangers, and the power of the internet gives nearly anyone the possibility to find out plenty about you whether or not you have a blog.

However, this fear of the boogeyman is getting more attention than the more common problems a blog can create. One blog I read occasionally had a bit of a meltdown. She posted about the birth of her child, which was a crazy story. It would've been no big deal except that they were already in the middle of a medical malpractice lawsuit dealing with that very issue and the lawyers found it along with the blogs of all her friends, and you can bet they'll all be considered as potential evidence. It's not just lawsuits that can lead to blogging trouble. Criticizing a child's teacher could lead to trouble at school. Writing about your job can cause trouble at your current job or your search for a future one. Blogging about parenting may open you up to a mountain of criticism. Applying to adopt or for a job or to attend a school is more and more likely to involve a blog search.

Most mommy blogs are started for the benefit of friends and family. But it's rare that people think through just what it means to start a blog. A mommy blog is no different than any other website. What you post is there for anyone to see. Your pictures can be taken and manipulated, nasty comments can be left, your content can be copied, your name can be googled. Blogging about your work, your friends, or even the school your child attends is something that should be done cautiously. But none of this is any reason to freak. The misguided notion that predators will use your blog as a tool for evil is substituting a serious consideration about how to blog. Just stop and think about what kind of blog you want to have. You should consider whether you post pictures, whether you use names, how searchable your blog is, who you link to and who links to you, the content of your posts, etc. And the same consideration should be given to networking sites like myspace or facebook.

I have no plans to make my blog private, even when I do have kids. It's certainly not a necessity. My personal rule of thumb is not to say anything on my blog that I wouldn't be comfortable saying to a room full of people I don't know, treating it like the public forum it is. There's nothing wrong with going private or staying public, but any blogger should give these matters some serious thought. If you want to know where to start, I'd suggest this BlogHer forum on privacy

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Late Night Links

I know, its still not Sunday and I'm all linky again. What can I say - I've gone rogue like an ill-informed Alaskan former Veep candidate, there's no controlling what I'll say next...

1. First off, there was some excellent morning-after blogging that resulted in good round-up posts that cover last night's ballot initiatives and down ballot races. Feminist Law Professors, Feministe, Feministing, and Broadsheet will fill you in on anything you missed during your drunken revelry and subsequent hangover.

2. Don't get too complacent, Bush still has the keys to the White House and plans to trash as much possible on the way out.

3. Science Woman introduces us to Sharon Long, one of Obama's science advisers.

4. The F-Word discusses boob jobs and the economic crisis - not necessarily in that order.

5. Is TV to blame for teen pregnancy? Really, what have kids been doing with those remotes?

6. Broadsheet is secretly glad the election is over so we can all quit talking about politics and start talking about orgasms - are women having enough?

7. The Gender Analyzer thinks Yours Truly (and all the other authors of this blog) must be male... I hope it's not right!

8. Pam's House Blend discusses the challenges that face the LGBT community, and about the next steps for us all to take towards equality.

9. Has this election changed how we see masculinity in the U.S. of A.?

Are You Shitting Me?

I apologize to our young readers (or our older readers not fond of a potty mouth) for my language. While I am filled with nervous energy and excitement following the amazing historic vote we've witnessed, I am also filled with anger. That tends to seep out into my choice of words. However, in my defense, on a day where Prop8 passed in California I also come across the following petty discourse about Michelle Obama's choice of dress last night.

From the article:

All that said, I think her election-night dress was an odd choice. The cut didn't flatter her figure or work well on camera. The addition of a bolero-like sweater only added to the shapeless silhouette.

It's time to cast your vote. Was the dress a hit or a miss?
You know what? I don't bloody well care what she was wearing. Two of my best friends just had their marriage from last month mocked, thrown under the bus, and right out the window.


P.S. In case you are wondering how to continue to call attention to this, here are some ideas from my above mentioned friend, "Things to make a difference (if you aren't already doing these things :) Follow NoOnProp8 on Twitter, be a supporter/fan of NoOnProp8 on Facebook, Donate to NCLR (www.nclrights.org) and EQCA (www.eqca.org) since they're funding the lawsuit and continued efforts and they spent most of their money fighting Prop 8".

I Voted for the 1st Black U.S. President

Not much to say right now b/c I'm too busy crying and trying to take it all in. No "I Voted" sticker (DARN!), but here's my proof (at the request of Habladora hehe)

I'm in shock... but so incredibly happy to know that I can look back and say:


(Cross-posted at Jump off the Bridge)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Can I Vote?

Any voter unsure if she's registered can double-check and find her polling place at canivote.org, as Cara reminds us over at Feministe. Also, Cara writes that "...it never hurts to call up friends and family to double-check that they have voted or are planning on voting. As it turns out, without directly asking you never know."

So, how are you feeling today? How are you spending Election Day?

(image via Eat Our Brains)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama's Grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, Has Died

Sad news, via CNN:
Sen. Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died following a bout with cancer, Obama and his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, said Monday...

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Obama and his sister said that Dunham was "the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility."
As mentioned over at Art at the Auction, we wish she could have stayed with us for just two more days and seen her grandson elected President of the United States of America.

Toot will be missed.

Voting: What to Pack and What Not to Wear

Voter Suppression Wiki reminds voters about proper voting preparation:

Need more information? Visit Pam's House Blend. Also, don't forget to look up your area's particular ballot measures on Smart Voter.

Late with the Links

I know, I know - links are for Sunday. But we started watching Battlestar Galactica Season 3 on Sunday (yes, we have to get caught up - its very important), so I forgot the internets even existed for awhile. I'm back now, though, so without further ado...

1. New priests will undergo 'sex drive tests' that "aim to vet for those with 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies'"?

2. Light drinking during pregnancy might do some good.

3. The candidates differ a bit on relief for working families.

4. Women pay lots more than men for health insurance, even when childbirth isn't covered.

5. Sam Bee discusses penis babies.

6. Another "health" story in CNN about how women can seem sexier to men. Because that's pressing health issue for us ladies.

7. Univision is working to get out the Latino vote.

8. Vietnam might ban small-chested drivers.

9. A 17-year-old North Korean girl is changing the sport of boxing.

10. Dirty tricks aimed at keeping Virginia Democrats from voting made my mother-in-law, who lives in VA, really mad. UPDATE: The VA State Police have found the crooks responsible, although it is unsure whether or not they'll press charges. Thanks for keeping us in the loop, though, Noticed.

11. Is sex different in red states and blue states?

12. Anti-racist Parent takes on on race and Barbies.

13. November is National Novel Writing month, apparently. Make sure to write some interesting female characters.

14. Sally reminds us that there is more to an election than the national candidates - make sure you understand the issues that will be on your ballot before heading to the polls.

15. The Professor takes issue with the way we use the word tradition.