Friday, February 27, 2009

I Like Obama's Conscience

Alright folks, good news for this Friday:

Word on the street is that Obama will be repealing Bush’s last-minute anti-choice “conscience” rule. I wrote about the rule a few months ago, and my pro-choice wish for the new administration was for them to take repro rights seriously, so I'm thrilled to hear that he's taking action.

NARAL is asking everyone to send Obama thank you notes for taking a stand for women's reproductive rights.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Implications of Redefining Life

North Dakota, as you've probably heard, has passed a bill that states “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” is a person deserving of full civil rights. Can you name three disturbing implications of this new definition of ''human"? Kris-Stella of Coffee Shop Philosophy can, and if you haven't read her post you should do so here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Remembering Conchita Cintrón

I don't like bullfighting. Sure, I've read The Sun Also Rises and watched Hable con ella - but watching an actual bullfight made my tummy so queasy that I had to leave early (just because the guidebook tells you that bullfights in Arles are "no-kill" doesn't make it true). So I was surprised to find myself feeling... inspired while reading about the life of Conchita Cintrón, the bullfighter from Peru who killed over 750 bulls - bulls that would have probably been content to mind their own business if sequin-wearing cowhands hadn't started sticking flowery knives in their flanks for the amusement of an onlooking crowd.

Did I mention I don't really care for bullfighting?

Somehow, though, I still want to like Conchita Cintrón, who became an enormously popular bullfighter at a time when ladies just weren't supposed to do such things, or do anything other than darn their husbands' socks while looking pretty, really. Cintrón, born in 1922, began fighting bulls at the age of thirteen. According to the New York Times:

Cintrón was seriously injured in 1949 in Guadalajara, Mexico, when a bull gored her in the thigh. Carried to the ring’s infirmary, she pulled away from doctors, returned to the ring and killed the bull. She then fell unconscious and was rushed into emergency surgery.

That same year in Spain, where a law prohibited women from dismounting to fight a bull on foot, she simulated the kill by touching the bull on the shoulders — where the sword would go — as it passed her, drawing cheers from the crowd.
I'm impressed by the spirit Cintrón showed in the face of discrimination. Surely her career challenged many stereotypes about what women could and couldn't do. However, my admiration for her determination raises the question - should we celebrate any female first that occurs in the face of discrimination? Since a good half of our readers are vegetarians, I know some of you will have opinions.

Conchita Cintrón died last Tuesday, at the age of 86. She paved the way for the female bullfighters who came after her, and remains one of the most popular figures in bullfighting history.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Funnies: Beauty = Skin Deep

I realize that it seems like every week is a bad week for me, but damn I guess it's been a bad month. So because this is not a Beatles blog, I will spare you all countless Beatles videos (though ummm, you can watch one here) and instead share the latest from Sarah Haskins, Target Women: Skin Care.

(Click here if you can't see the video.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just Passing the Message

In case you haven't noticed, there's some conversation rumbling around the feminist blogosphere.

Earlier this week on my post about the feminist label, Mandy Van Deven linked to the guest post she co-wrote with Brittany Shoot over at Professor, What If...: What if the feminist blogosphere is a form of digital colonialism? In it, they make some great points, some not-so-great points, and some great points in not-so-great ways about the hierarchy in the feminist blogosphere, the (under)representation of bloggers representing marginalized groups, the issue of tokenism, money-making, and a whole lot more. The post itself is certainly worth a read, but you should really check out some of the responses thusfar at:

Astarte's Circus,
Having Read the Fine Print,
Being Amber Rhea,
Taking Steps,
Tiny Cat Pants,
Womanist Musings,
Radical Doula,

(What? Told y'all it was a rumbling...)

Monday, February 16, 2009

To Be or Not to Be... A Feminist

I think it's finally happened... my brain simply can't wrap its head around the conflicting ideals within the feminist "movements."*

I've been thinking a lot lately about the label "feminism." After the Fem2.0 Conference, there was a lot of talk in the blogosphere about what is considered a feminist blog (see here and here, for example). One of the first things that came to my mind when I saw Womanist Musings on there was, "wait... what's the criteria here?" Not that I don't think Womanist Musings is one of the best blogs out there, because I totally do. But... the name of her blog is Womanist Musings. And while womanism is historically considered part of feminism, it often isn't seen that way anymore. I also know Renee takes issue with a lot of aspects of the larger feminist "movements," as do many other WOC. BFP has publicly gone from a self-proclaimed feminist, to rejecting the label and considering taking "femi" out of her name. So finding her on a list of top feminist blogs... what exactly does that mean for feminism? And what does it mean for me?

Because, hey, guess what? I'M A WOC!! And I have the same problems that so many others have with the feminist "movements." I know there are countless people who call themselves feminists but still say/do racist, ableist, homophobic, etc. things. I simply cannot wrap my head around that. So I usually just say things like "that's not what I consider feminist..." and keep it moving. I am critical of the "movements" and those people, but I do not reject the label or the "movements."

But more and more I've started to ask myself... should I? I know that I don't need the label in order to keep believing what I do and acting the way I do. So what's the big deal?

I know what you're thinking... "But, Sally, I thought feminist was the only label you were proud of claiming?! What on earth is going on here?!" Honestly, I have no real answer to that.

I do not think I am ready to let go of the feminist label. To me, feminism is more than these "movements" or the individuals that claim to represent them. I've always said you do not need to identify as a feminist to be one.

I still believe that. But I also see merit in rejecting the labels. Is it fair for me to call Renee or BFP feminists simply because they meet my own definition of the term, even if they don't feel comfortable with that label? Is it fair for others to give them that label?

It seems to be the ultimate question of fighting the system from within vs. fighting the system from the outside. Is it time for me to really consider and internalize the reasons to reject the label?

Even now, this is so difficult for me to even write. I'm struggling to put down all the things I'm thinking and to summarize what's been running through my head for the past few weeks. I know that I have to start working through these things in order to have some sort of closure. I haven't had a real "feminist" post in weeks, not only because I haven't had time (though I really haven't, which sucks anyway), but also because I just don't know what to say.

I don't want to keep making excuses for these racist, homophobic, condescending people calling themselves feminists. But I also have great examples of people who still use the term, WOC or otherwise.

I know feminism is a process. I guess I never realized just how much of a personal process it would be.

*I intentionally put movement in quotes for several reasons. 1) There is no clear distinction between the Second, Third, even Fourth so-called waves of feminism. I'm not about to start splitting these up & trying to define them in this post. 2) I'm not entirely sure how a cause with so many factions can really be considered one, singular movement -- waves or no waves. 3) No matter how many waves, a lot of the problems I mention in this post are seen in some form throughout all of them, so distinctions don't really even matter.

(Originally posted at Jump off the Bridge)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How Feminist Organizations Should Talk To Feminist Bloggers

Coming out the Feminism 2.0 conference I had a bit of an epiphany. The bloggers/activists panel attended by Tedra Osell of Bitch Ph.d , Liza Sabater of Culture Kitchen, and Kim Gandy, former president of NOW, was probably one of the most useful conference panels I’ve attended since I’ve been attending conferences.

Feminist organizations, cannot treat the major feminist bloggers (or the major women bloggers) as if they are volunteers. You cannot send the major bloggers the same press release or action alert that you have just sent out to your 5,000 email subscribers and expect them to response with marching orders. “Sending press releases to bloggers” is not a real strategy of blogger outreach. And it’s probably not enough to just sit on panels with them at conference every few months either. While it’s useful to have the personal contact that builds the relationship with bloggers that is only the start of the relationship.

Feminist organizations should treat certain well-trafficked women bloggers the same way they would treat Amy Goodman or Rachel Maddow. As high-flying media personality you want to co-opt and a relationship that requires constant personal attention directly from the executive director or president.

I’m going to talk about NOW because Kim Gandy was on the Feminism 2.0 panel on bloggers and activist. Kim started to talk about the difficulty in discussing what was happening with the economic stimulus package and the process where the family planning provision was dropped. It’s a complicated political issue and it’s not as simple as saying “Obama screwed the women’s interests for political expediency.”

It was difficult enough for NOW to explain the issue to their members, let alone for the feminist public to digest. This is where bloggers can come in. It would have been useful for Gandy or someone from her senior staff to call (and I do mean call) some of the highest profile bloggers and explain the situation the same way Gandy did at that conference. Then the bloggers can write a post that starts with “I just got off the phone with Kim Gandy…the situation is this…” Or alternatively “A high-profile source at NOW is telling me the reason the family planning was dropped was XYZ…they have heard from Henry Waxman…”

Feminist organizations should treat major bloggers the same way Senators treat newspaper columnists. Let’s face it, a lot of the issues that non-profits want to explain are complicated. But if Jessica Valenti of Feministing or other highly-trafficked bloggers write a post their readers will trust their “vouching” on the issue. It is an effective strategy when the issue is complicated to target several “opinion leaders” and for a lot of feminist organizations that is the feminist bloggers.

This is not unlike the relationship between conservative newspaper columnists and republican politicians. George Will doesn’t work for the Senate Republicans. But his ideology and theirs are often similar. George Will can be co-opted, and wants to be co-opted, but he needs to be feted.

This was something Liza Sabater was getting at on the panel. The reason Daily Kos is the number one blogging site isn’t because of the writing, she says. It’s because the Howard Dean campaign feted Markos Moulitsas for almost two years. And the end of the Dean campaign, Markos was seen as a player and subsequentially has made a lot of money because of that reputation. That’s what Sabater wants and so do most of the biggest bloggers, to be seen as a player and insider. In exchange feminist organizations, like NOW, get access to the bloggers’ readership. For NOW, with its aging membership, being tight with feminist bloggers is a way to get a lot of potential new blood in their organization.

Sabater was essentially asking to be feted by those groups that want her to write about them. Feed her tips, give her access and in exchange you get her good will and access to her readers. And there is another aspect to treating influential bloggers with access. She, meaning bloggers, can also play “the bad cop” and say things that organizations can’t. There are going to be points in the Obama term that is going to put the major feminist organizations in the delicate balance of not wanting to push their friends in the Senate, House and White House too hard but being unhappy with the message they are getting. This is where feeding the feminist bloggers can put the message out even when you can’t get any louder on your end without pissing off your political friends.

The thing about treating blogger outreach as a high-profile as talking to any media personality is that it costs very little but it requires a realignment of thinking.

Cross-posted at NewsCat

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Funnies

I'm going to go ahead and be honest here -- I've had a long week at work and could not wait to get home. I could've used some yummy chocolate at that point, but it's more fun (and less calories) to laugh at Sarah Haskins talking about chocolate instead. So drop that brownie or chocolate bar you're eating, and tune in:

Want more funny? Check out the Target Women: Super Special over at Jump off the Bridge.

UPDATE: Some browsers can't see the embedded video, so I'm posting a link to the site here.