Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feminist Flashback #17

Yet another flashback PSA, Are You Popular? from 1949:

(H/T Sociological Images)

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

In the interest of not being such a cranky-pants all the time, Happy Holidays!


<a href="">A Colbert Christmas: Jon Stewart</a>

(H/T Girl w/Pen)

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas and the Patriarchy

God rest, ye merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay,
For we'll hear pastor Warren's words inauguration day,
To save us from those horrid gays,
Whom Satan's led astray,

Good tidings of comfort and joy...

That was me trying to be really clever. I'll stop now.

Given that most holidays are tools of the patriarchy (Valentine's Day, anyone?), it comes as no surprise that the system has it's fingerprints all over Christmas, too. Here are my thoughts on the subject, illustrated (musically?) by carols, for either your pleasure or disgust according to temperament.

(Disclaimer: I have a bit of a confession to make - I consider myself a christian, little 'c' intentional, although I most definitely hold substantially different beliefs from most so-called 'Christians'! My views on Christmas are thus informed by my religious beliefs.)

So - five reasons that Christmas is a tool of the patriarchy:

Reason 1 - Christmas is Christ - mas
("O come, O come Immanuel")

Most people aren't Christians. Why celebrate a holiday for a religion you don't believe in? And, if you do believe in it, I think you'll agree that our current celebrations have little to do with the event supposedly being celebrated. So, why the pressure to observe Christmas? It's simple uniformity. If we all do it, we all think a bit more the same, and we'll all be more inclined to not question the system, especially...

Reason 2 - The Virgin Obsession
("A Virgin Unspotted")

Yes, christians believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. Yes, it has a significant symbolic meaning. That should not, however, translate into a cultural obsession with virginity! Even the Bible doesn't dwell on the virgin birth at all. For that matter, the Bible only assigns the Christmas story a fraction of the importance that we assign it. (It's only mentioned in two of the four gospels!) In any case, once you have the virgin, and she is sacrificed to her husband, you have the traditional family, perfect for...

Reason 3 - Emotional Nostalgic Nonsense and 'Family Values'
("Children, Go Where I Send Thee")
As far as I can tell, we're all supposed to have these wonderful childhood memories of Christmas, of getting gifts from our family, etc., etc. Then, we spend half of our lives trying to recreate the same experiences for our children. Curiously enough (if you don't mind me dragging the conversation back to Jesus for a second), the 'Christmas family' was a bit of a mess. Mary was already pregnant when she married Joseph, they moved several times, the siblings didn't get along. Jesus told several people to leave their families and follow him! But the patriarchy wants us to maintain the belief that our biological family is the only one that really counts. Christmas traditions reinforce that. Also, what family would be complete without the patriarch himself...

Reason 4 - Masculinity
("The Boar's Head Carol")
Because even Christmas is about killing things! In modern times, of course, we hunt for boars at the mall...

Reason 5 - Commercialism
Enough said.

Interestingly enough, the gifts were originally supposed to be for the less fortunate:
("Good King Wenceslas", ignoring the annoying charity association...)

This Christmas, enjoy time with whomever you may call family, sing carols if they make you happy, make fun of them if you don't, and do something to help stop oppression. That's the true spirit - perhaps the spirit of Christmas, perhaps not - but certainly, the spirit of life.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Milk(ing) the Gays

My partner and I went to see Milk last night, and it was fantastic and Sean Penn was phenomenal. My partner cried the last twenty minutes of the film--in a good way, I think--and I was profoundly moved, though not to tears, since that's really not my style. I highly recommend that everyone go see Milk and then tell everyone you know to go see Milk and ask yourself if much has really changed. In all fairness, a lot has changed, for the better, but some things are still very much the same, particularly anti-gay rhetoric, the same arguments and illogical reasoning rehashed now for over thirty years. They use actual clips from some of Anita Bryant's 1970s anti-gay speeches in the film, and it was striking how much they resonate now at this very moment. In the same breath that she proclaims she "loves" gay people (like she probably "loves" all "sinners," in hopes they will find Jesus and repent), she decries homosexuality as a vile sin and states her hopes that one day homosexuality will be made illegal (and persecutable). This sounds incredibly familiar, even more so now that Melissa Etheridge--and this frustrates and baffles me more than anything--has come out and defended Pastor Warren. Melissa Etheridge. Yes. I am serious. She posted an open letter on The Huffington Post:
As I was winding down the promotion for my Christmas album I had one more stop last night. I'd agreed to play a song I'd written with my friend Salman Ahmed, a Sufi Muslim from Pakistan. The song is called "Ring The Bells," and it's a call for peace and unity in our world. We were going to perform our song for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a group of Muslim Americans that tries to raise awareness in this country, and the world, about the majority of good, loving, Muslims. [...] I received a call the day before to inform me of the keynote speaker that night... Pastor Rick Warren. I was stunned. My fight or flight instinct took over, should I cancel? Then a calm voice inside me said, "Are you really about peace or not?"

I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say "In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him." They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids.
Sounds to me like he liked your album and he charmed you a bit, Ms. Etheridge. Not only that, a lot of people are willing to be kind and friendly and tolerant to one person (not to mention one famous person), but still believe, quite fervently, that homosexuals as a group are vile and evil and sinful. Melissa Etheridge's partner, Tammy Lynn, has this brilliant bit to add (pardon my sarcasm, I'm a bit piqued), on her blog (H/T to the The Bilerco Project):
rick is not a televangelist. rick is not falwell. rick spoke of some "stupid" things he's said (his word, not mine), some missquotes that were given, and lots of ammunition from the media. all excellent points. (we're all war-minded right now, you know. it's easy for the media to distract us by throwing us into our own verbal wars here at home.) ) what to do, what to do.... the rest of the public is given an animation of rick warren... and then my wife meets the man behind the projections, the quotes, the "OTHER SIDE". and he is warm, caring, effusive, and LOVES gays. since he nearly swallowed honey when he hugged her, i tend to believe him. he wants our gay marriages to be just as respected and embraced as the straight marriages.
Ha! Pastor Warren's pro-gay marriage now? Really? That'll be the day. Hell hath indeed frozen over if you're willing to believe that he's changed his mind (not to mention his church's stance on homosexuality) just like that. Or is he publicly opposed but privately in favor of gay marriage? Somehow that seems extraordinarily doubtful...and highly problematic...and hogwash if I've ever heard it.

And one more thing: Ms. Etheridge, please don't presume to tell me what to think about someone who I personally find completely insidious, who has insulted me and those I love:

They don't hate us, they fear change. Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world.

Maybe if they get to know us, they wont fear us.

We should volunteer for his church's causes (when there are plenty of other non-bigoted HIV/AIDS causes out there dying for volunteers and donations)? Excuse me? What sort of public steps is Pastor Warren going to take to make amends to and build bridges with the LGBTQ community? Is he going to publicly apologize for what he's said about us (and no, saying he's sorry to you in private, Ms. Etheridge, is not the same thing)? Is he going to publicly state that he's gay-positive and believes queer folks deserve equal civil rights, gay marriage, and legal protections of all kinds? I highly doubt he's going to do any of those things. I think he's going to say to you, Ms. Etheridge, that's he sorry and that he "loves" gays (just like the lovely Anita Bryant many years ago) and then he's going to continue to preach to his congregation that homosexuality is a sin and he's going to continue to support anti-gay and anti-woman causes. Don't you realize, Ms. Etheridge, that now you're just his token gay woman whom he can hold up to the world to demonstrate his "tolerance"? I'm all for peace and acceptance and good will and gestures of good faith, but I wouldn't want to be the person who helps him pretend he's really all down with women and homosexuals (two for one, what a deal!) while behind-the-scenes he can continue to promote intolerance and hatred. Do you really want to be Pastor Warren's beard, Melissa Etheridge? Really?

Update: Holly over at Feministe also has a great take on this in an open letter to Melissa and Tammy Lynn.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Feminist Flashback #16

For this week's Feminist Flashback, please enjoy Hagar the Horrible (not exactly a flashback, since this is the comic from today's paper, but it is a comic about Vikings, so it's a flashback in a vague sense!):

(click image to enlarge)

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Now for the good news...

On the heels of this Warren debacle, the silver lining is, of course, that the Attorney General of California Jerry Brown has come out against Prop 8 and is taking the proposition to the Supreme Court. He had said he would uphold the proposition in court (even though he personally opposed it), but has unexpectedly changed his tune:
In a surprise move, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to invalidate Proposition 8. He said the November ballot measure that banned gay marriage "deprives people of the right to marry, an aspect of liberty that the Supreme Court has concluded is guaranteed by the California Constitution."


n his brief to the high court, Brown noted that the California Constitution says that "all people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights," which include a right to "privacy."

The courts have previously said the right of a person to marry is protected as one of those inalienable rights, Brown wrote. The question at the center of the gay marriage cases, he told the justices, "is whether rights secured under the state Constitution's safeguard of liberty as an 'inalienable' right may intentionally be withdrawn from a class of persons by an initiative amendment." That, he concluded, should not be allowed.

Although voters are allowed to amend other parts of the Constitution by majority vote, to use the ballot box to take away an "inalienable" right would establish a "tyranny of the majority," which the Constitution was designed, in part, to prevent, he wrote. "For we are talking, necessarily, about rights of individuals or groups against the larger community, and against the majority -- even an overwhelming majority -- of the society as a whole."
(For a more in-depth analysis of the Brown's brief, including its possible problems, check out Feminist Law Professors.)

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rick Warren petition

Sign the petition.

At this point I'm not sure how much good this will do -- I wonder if Obama is capable, unlike Bush, of admitting when he's made a mistake. This is setting such an awful tone for the inauguration and the start of what was shaping up to be an exciting new term. I worry what other surprises are in store.

Check out Rachel Maddow's take on the Warren situation:

Read Full Post/Permalink...

69th Carnival of Feminists

The 69th Carnival of Feminists is up over at This is What a Feminist Blogs Like. It's a great selection as always, so go check it out!

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Friday, December 19, 2008

So. Not. Good.

What. The. Fuck.:
It is difficult to comprehend how our president-elect, who has been so spot on in nearly every political move and gesture, could fail to grasp the symbolism of inviting an anti-gay theologian to deliver his inaugural invocation. And the Obama campaign's response to the anger about this decision? Hey, we're also bringing a gay marching band. You know how the gays love a parade.

Yes, the Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of the humongous, evangelical Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., has a sound message on poverty. And certainly, in the world of politics, there is a view that Barack Obama owes Warren for bringing him before fellow evangelicals, despite fierce opposition during the heat of the presidential campaign.

But here's the other thing about Warren, the author of the bestselling book "The Purpose Driven Life": He was a general in the campaign to pass California's Proposition 8, which dissolved the legal marriage rights of loving, committed same-sex couples.

For that reason, inviting Warren to set the tone at the dawn of this new presidency sends a chilling message to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. It makes us uncertain about this exciting, young president-elect who has said repeatedly that we are part of his America, too.

(I just got settled in at my parents' house for the holidays and this was a rude jolt out of my relaxed, happy holiday state. Argh. Thanks, Fred, for the links.)

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Music - A Feminist non-issue?

On Saturday, I sat down and tried to write a post about popular christmas music from a feminist perspective.

I failed.

You would think it would be easy. Almost anything can be related to a feminist perspective - after all, feminism is basically a way of life! Surely these songs would contain gender stereotypes, exploitation of women and children within the 'traditional' family, an obsession with now-you-owe-me-for-the-rest-of-the-year gift giving, endless heteronormativity, etc. Failing that, there's always rampant consumerism - that's all the holidays are about anyway, right?

I couldn't find any of these things - certainly not enough to write about. It wasn't for lack of trying. I read all of the lyrics for all of the popular songs (there really aren't that many). I listened more christmas music than I've ever listened to in my life. (Okay, some idiot was blasting it out of their dorm window...) I even found a few random essays on pop music and christmas. Still nothing. I was mostly left with a feeling a vagueness. The songs are vaguely happy. They are vaguely about 'goodwill to all men.' Vaguely heteronormative. Vaguely patriarchal. Nothing strong enough to write about.

Part of the problem is, most christmas songs aren't about real people! Snow, candy canes, lights, presents, Santa Claus - those are the staples of holiday music, not relationships and people.

Songs which are about people, ('I'll Be Home For Christmas', '(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays'), never mention gender; notably, they have all been covered by a fairly equal number of male and female artists. The 'Little Drummer Boy' could become the 'Little Drummer Girl' with the change of one word in the title. Even songs that are mildly sexual ('Baby, It's Cold Outside' comes to mind) are only made gendered by some minor references to typical male-female conversation patterns (and I'm pretty sure I've heard the voices reversed in that song, too.)

Excluding commercial jingles, there aren't many songs about consumerism, either. There's 'My Favorite Things' which is mostly about 'things' of the raindrop variety, and other intangibles. I'm also pretty sure that wanting a hippopotamus isn't too harmful, either. Everything is just so fuzzy and fluffy!

Perhaps that's the point. The whole idea of a christmas song is to forget all of your problems, ignore the real world, and pretend that everything is happy and fun. But, if you are happy about something, and you go around telling everybody what exactly you're happy about, it's likely that someone else won't be happy about that thing. You can't please everybody, but christmas songs try so hard to please everybody that they end up saying nothing at all.

Take 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'. "From now on/ our troubles will be out of sight", it says. Notice that the only reason given, is that 1: it's christmas, and 2: lots of family members will be there. I'm not at all sure what the 'shining star' on the 'highest bough' business is about. Finally, notice that the song is 'Have your self...' not 'Have ourselvles...' The singer is apparently not having a Merry Little Christmas. Perhaps she (for some reason, the singer is always female in my mind) knows that the person she is singing to can't handle reality, can't know true happiness for lack knowledge about the world.

Most people hide from reality most of the time. They live in their little localized fantasy, not caring beyond their immediate experience. That's why so many people support senseless wars and discrimination against anybody but themselves. That's why so few people do much of anything beyond what makes them happy. And christmas, despite its supposed message of 'goodwill to all ', only reinforces this feeling. It's christmas - we're supposed to be happy, even if we don't know why, even if there is no reason to.

Am I just a humorless, angry feminist? Probably... but I'm certainly not opposed to being happy! What I am opposed to, is mindless happiness for no reason. And yet, that is just the feeling I get from all of these songs.

What do you think? Have I missed some feminist issue that christmas music raised? Has my personal dislike for these songs blinded me to their value?

Next week, religious christmas music.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Feminist Flashback #15

I'm not feeling particularly well (evil, pre-holiday cold coupled with below zero temperatures = not fun), so I apologize for my lack of posting. Nevertheless, here's today's Feminist Flashback, from Valerie Solanas' fascinating (originally self-published) book, The SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto (full text available). For those who don't know, Solanas is infamous for shooting Andy Warhol in 1968. After she was released from the mental hospital where she was imprisoned, she fell off the map and died in the late 1980s in relative obscurity. While her manifesto is sometimes brushed off because she was "just that crazy radical lesbian feminist who shot Warhol," it's actually a pretty amazing piece (with the caveat that she falls way off the deep end at points throughout: for example, when she talks about killing all men). Below the cut, you'll find some excerpts from the manifesto and some clips from Mary Harron's 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol, starring Lili Taylor. If you haven't seen it, you really should.

Valerie Solanas, on "pussy envy":
Completely egocentric, unable to relate, empathize or identify, and filled with a vast, pervasive, diffuse sexuality, the male is pyschically passive. He hates his passivity, so he projects it onto women, defines the make as active, then sets out to prove that he is (`prove that he is a Man'). His main means of attempting to prove it is screwing (Big Man with a Big Dick tearing off a Big Piece). Since he's attempting to prove an error, he must `prove' it again and again. Screwing, then, is a desperate compulsive, attempt to prove he's not passive, not a woman; but he is passive and does want to be a woman.

Being an incomplete female, the male spends his life attempting to complete himself, to become female. He attempts to do this by constantly seeking out, fraternizing with and trying to live through an fuse with the female, and by claiming as his own all female characteristics -- emotional strength and independence, forcefulness, dynamism, decisiveness, coolness, objectivity, assertiveness, courage, integrity, vitality, intensity, depth of character, grooviness, etc -- and projecting onto women all male traits -- vanity, frivolity, triviality, weakness, etc. It should be said, though, that the male has one glaring area of superiority over the female -- public relations. (He has done a brilliant job of convincing millions of women that men are women and women are men). The male claim that females find fulfillment through motherhood and sexuality reflects what males think they'd find fulfilling if they were female.
On War:
The male's normal compensation for not being female, namely, getting his Big Gun off, is grossly inadequate, as he can get it off only a very limited number of times; so he gets it off on a really massive scale, and proves to the entire world that he's a `Man'. Since he has no compassion or ability to empathize or identify, proving his manhood is worth an endless amount of mutilation and suffering and an endless number of lives, including his own -- his own life being worthless, he would rather go out in a blaze of glory than to plod grimly on for fifty more years.
On the government:
Having no sense of right and wrong, no conscience, which can only stem from having an ability to empathize with others... having no faith in his non-existent self, being unnecessarily competitive, and by nature, unable to co-operate, the male feels a need for external guidance and control. So he created authorities -- priests, experts, bosses, leaders, etc -- and government. Wanting the female (Mama) to guide him, but unable to accept this fact (he is, after all, a MAN), wanting to play Woman, to usurp her function as Guider and Protector, he sees to it that all authorities are male.

There's no reason why a society consisting of rational beings capable of empathizing with each other, complete and having no natural reason to compete, should have a government, laws or leaders.
On Art:
The male “artistic” aim being not to communicate (having nothing inside him, he has nothing to say), but to disguise his animalism, he resorts to symbolism and obscurity [...] “Great Art” is great because male authorities have told us so, and we can’t claim otherwise, as only those with exquisite sensitivities far superior to ours can perceive and appreciate the greatness, the proof of their superior sensitivity being that they appreciate the slop that they appreciate.
Oh, and one of the parts about killing people:
But SCUM is too impatient to wait for the de-brainwashing of millions of assholes. Why should the swinging females continue to plod dismally along with the dull male ones? Why should the fates of the groovy and the creepy be intertwined? Why should the active and imaginative consult the passive and dull on social policy? Why should the independent be confined to the sewer along with the dependent who need Daddy to cling to? A small handful of SCUM can take over the country within a year by systematically fucking up the system, selectively destroying property, and murder.

And, last but not least, some clips from I Shot Andy Warhol:

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Huckabee, gay marriage and The Daily Show

I've been meaning to post this for a couple days now, but keep forgetting (because I have a brain like a sieve) even though, in the meantime, everyone else of note has already posted. I'm joining the party a little late.

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show "discusses" gay marriage with the oddly-charming-and-all-the-more-scary-because-of-it Mike Huckabee (who used to be everyone's favorite love-to-hate crazy conservative until Sarah Palin came along):

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A personal abortion narrative

I received an email yesterday from a fellow blogger (I'm not sure if she wants to be named or not, so I'll just call her B. for now) with a disturbing story forwarded from a close friend who had a harrowing abortion experience. Everyone reading this should know that I'm pro-choice and that this is in no way an anti-abortion narrative. However, just like any other medical procedure, abortions need to be handled in a respectful and caring manner, and the below experience seems very far from appropriate, thoughtful or attentive. While I personally have always had good feelings when it comes to Planned Parenthood--and I certainly support and appreciate their mission and goals for women's health--I think it's exceptionally important to showcase problems with the system when they arise. Just because I respect an organization doesn't mean they do everything perfectly or that there isn't room for significant improvement.

As an introduction to her friend's account, B. writes:
I am forwarding this story on behalf of my friend. I am trying to get the word out to as many people as possible, and encourage women that have had similar experiences to share them. She recently had an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic and the experience was so awful that she feels that it did more harm to her psyche than just the abortion itself would have. She said to me: "I'm seriously fucked up in the head now because of the experience. And I honestly believe it's not because I had an abortion but because I was apart of what went on that day. It was horrible. I was the ONLY woman there crying. There were women in the waiting room laughing, having a grand ol' time like it was nothing. I know people cope with situations differently, but this was crazy."

Here is the story she wrote. I don't know if you guys can post part or all of it, but I just want to share it, and she has given me permission to do so. I also want to encourage anyone that has had similar experiences to write to PP, to do anything they can to spread the word and hope to have this rectified. This is an organization that claims to care about woman, and no woman should have to experience what my friend went through.
Her friend's story, in full, is below the cut:

"I recently had an abortion at the Falls Church, VA Planned Parenthood. Having an abortion is delicate process, starting with the decision to terminate the pregnancy. Planned Parenthood has made that process the absolute WORST it could've been and I'd like to share my experience with you. Starting with the initial appointment I made at the D.C. Planned Parenthood for November 22nd. That appointment was scheduled for 11:30. When we showed up, there were a minimum of 20 protestors outside throwing rosary beads at me and trying to shove a bible in my face. After going through that, I was turned away (as was the couple in line before us) by the security guard behind the desk due to, "We ain't takin' no mo appointments today. You gotta reschedule." There was no apology offered and to be honest, she was very rude. When I called to reschedule the receptionist explained to me that they always over-book the appointments because a lot of people usually don't show up. Apparently that day everyone showed up and the building was at maximum capacity. No one called to inform me that I wouldn't be able to be seen. The time and gas money spent driving, the money spent on parking, and the harassment from protestors could've been avoided with a simple phone call.

"I decided that I'd rather have the procedure done at a different PP because I didn't want to have the same thing happen to me again. When I called the Falls Church, VA Planned Parenthood I explained to the receptionist what happened at the D.C. office and asked if that could happen there. She was appalled at what happened and asked if I would tell my story to one of the head people, to which I agreed. I went ahead and made the appointment at the Falls Church office. Later that day I received a phone call from a very nice lady who offered me a sincere apology and said that shouldn't have happened and she would get to the bottom of it.

"On Friday, December 5, 2008 my boyfriend and I arrived at the Falls Church office at approximately 8:30 a.m. I wasn't greeted with a smile, only a cold voice asking for my identification. I showed the receptionist my i.d. and she handed me paperwork. She then wrote a #4 next to my name on her list. After I filled out the papers, I was told to have a seat and I would be called back (for what, I didn't know) in a few minutes. A few minutes later the receptionist called my name and told me that it would be $425. We paid her then sat back down. After waiting just a little bit, I was called back and my boyfriend attempted to come back with me. The nurse quickly told him that he wasn't allowed back so he stayed in the waiting room. I was taken into a room and told to remove my clothes from the waist down, cover up with the provided paper blanket and have a seat on the table. I asked the lady what was going to happen and she informed me that I was going to have an ultrasound to see how far along I am. I'm not sure why my boyfriend wasn't able to be in the room for this because if I were keeping the baby, he would be able to be in the room for an ultrasound. The lady came back in the room, grabbed a long probe, covered it with lubricating gel, and said only, "Spread your legs." I was a little surprised because I was assuming that it was going to be an abdominal ultrasound, not a vaginal. Maybe I shouldn't have assumed, but it wasn't explained to me by any of the PP employees, so I didn't know. She then probed around and said, "Ten weeks and 2 days." That kind of surprised me because based on my calculations I wasn't that far along. I asked her to explain to me how she calculated that date. Her explanation was exactly how I calculated it, which didn't add up to 10 weeks. When I told her that, her only explanation was that "it's very confusing." She then told me to get dressed and go back in the waiting room, offering nothing to clean the gel from my vagina.

"Again I'm in the waiting room when I get called back again. This time my boyfriend was able to come back with me because it was for counseling. The counselor was very pleasant and informative and didn't mind answering any questions that either of us had. This part was the ONLY good experience I had at PP. After the session was over, she told us to go back into the waiting room.

"I was in the waiting room for less than a minute when I got called back again; this time to have my blood pressure taken and to have my blood drawn. Again, my boyfriend was not allowed to come back with me. The nurse asked me what my blood type was and I told her B positive. She said, "Well we still have to draw your blood to check if your Rh is negative." She did the bp check and drew my blood, never saying a word, then told me to go back into the waiting room.

"After waiting for a while again, a lady opened the door and called 4 names, including mine, to come back. It was now 10:00 a.m. and my boyfriend wasn't able to come back, again. She had us all sit in chairs while she called one of us at a time to talk about if we wanted Xanax, give us OTC pain meds, and ask us about our preference of birth control. I was able to hear the conversations she was having with the other 3 ladies (numbers 1-3), because as I said earlier, I was #4. One lady chose the nuva ring, one didn't want anything, and the other wanted pills. Is it a HIPAA violation that I know each of their names and what method of birth control they're on due to the fact that I could hear the conversations? The lady then informed me that the doctor doesn't arrive until noon so we could either wait on the 2nd floor or we could leave but we had to be back by 11:30 a.m. When I asked why I had to be there so early if the doctor didn't arrive until noon, she said, "Because we've got 35 women to process."

"After waiting for another two hours on the 2nd floor, the same 4 women were called to go upstairs. We all went upstairs, waited a few minutes, then we were all called to go back to finally have the procedure done. Again, my boyfriend was not able to come back with me. They put the first 2 women in exam rooms not far from where the other woman and I were sitting. The doctor walked into the first room, I could hear the woman yell in pain, and the faint sound of the machine. A few minutes later he walked out the first exam room, dropped the chart off with the nurse, and then walked into the second exam room. The first woman the doctor performed the procedure on came out of the room and sat down at one of the chairs that were lined up next to each other. They then called the woman who was waiting with me to go back. The doctor walked out of the second room, handed the chart to the nurse, and then went into the next room. The second woman came out after having her procedure and was sat next to the other woman in the row of chairs.

"The whole time this is happening, I am sitting there crying my eyes out. Of course there were many reasons for that. One being that it was a VERY difficult decision for me and my boyfriend and another being that I felt like this was a factory. The doctor was turnin' and burnin' 'em like we were products on an assembly line moving down a conveyor belt in batches of four. Several PP employees walked by me while I was crying and ignored me like I didn't even exist. Finally a nurse walked over with a box of tissues and told me that she's sorry I had to hear one of the women scream. She said that not everyone's experience is like that. Then it was my turn.

"I was called back into the room and told to remove my clothing from the waist down and cover up. Still crying, the nurse asked me if I wanted to change my mind, I told her no. She left the room and I removed my clothes. While I was sitting there waiting and crying profusely, I could hear people outside having a conversation and laughing. The doctor and nurse came in. The doctor saw me crying and said, "Oh ees Ok, ees OK." I asked them both why my boyfriend couldn't be in the room with me because he really wanted to be in the room and not let me go through it alone. I explained that if I were keeping the baby he could be in the room when I delivered it, and I didn't understand why he couldn't be there to support me. This was a decision that we BOTH made; yet I have to go through the procedure by myself. I wasn't given any explanation as to why he couldn't be there. The doctor did what he had to do and quickly left the room, as he did with all the other women. I was handed my clothes and told to go to the "recovery area".

"I felt so horrible, so insignificant that I didn't want to be there any longer. I refused to sit with the 3 other women who were sitting in the chairs because I didn't want to feel any more impersonal than I already had. The nurse tried to convince me to stay, but I declined. She made me sign a release form stating that I refused the medical advice to stay. I allowed her to take my blood pressure, she gave me my bag, and I left.

"The entire process took an unnecessary 5 hours, most of which was spent waiting. The people treat you like you're just another number on the list getting an abortion and not a PERSON with FEELINGS. I was not exaggerating when I said that it felt like an assembly line. Calling 4 women back in a row is completely inappropriate. That takes away from it being a PERSONAL decision and a PERSONAL experience. I should NEVER have been close enough to hear that woman yelling in pain during her procedure. Having the doctor arrive at noon to turn and burn 'em is the most unprofessional, impersonal experience I've EVER had in a doctor's office. And yes, any way you look at it, turn and burn is EXACTLY what he was doing. Had that doctor gotten there at 9:00 a.m. he could've spent the QUALITY time he should have with each woman, one at a time. Each woman should have her own recovery time, not in a room with a row of chairs, sitting next to another woman who has just gone through the same thing. And most importantly, if a woman is there with her significant other, mother, sister, best friend, or anyone who's there to support her, that person should most definitely be able to be in the room with her to support her every single step of the way. I understand that ultimately it's the woman's body and her choice, but a lot of times it's a joint decision made by both the man and woman in a loving relationship. As I mentioned before, if the couple chose to have the baby, the man could be there for every process. Yet to terminate the pregnancy, the only support he can offer is from the waiting room? Ridiculous. It's terrible that Planned Parenthood, being one of the biggest advocates for women, treat the men that love those women like they're insignificant in a situation like abortion.

"I have several friends who have had abortions at other independent clinics and their process was absolutely personal and professional. They paid the same, if not less than I did and their experience was much, much better than mine. They were treated like people with feelings, they had personal attention, and their doctor didn't just come in, do the job, then scurry out to go to the next room.

"Had I known that I was going to be treated the way I was at Planned Parenthood, I never would've gone. But the damage is done and I will forever have to remember the terribly devastating experience that I went through in addition to the natural feelings that women have after having an abortion. Hopefully whomever is reading this letter can see exactly how traumatic the process at Planned Parenthood is and will do something to change it so other women won't have to experience the same. If not, at least I've said my part and that's all that I can do."

Read Full Post/Permalink...

A mathematical solution to the door holding problem

It seems strange that such a simple custom as holding a door open for someone should cause as much trouble and confusion as it does. It started out as a highly gendered, benevolent sexist activity (men holding doors for women). Later, feminists began to reject the door holding custom along with many other benevolently sexist actions, leading many to refuse to allow a man to hold a door for them at all. More recently, door holding seems to be a relatively gender neutral activity, with women and men holding doors for each other, irrespective of gender. (Except in a dating context...)

So - common courtesy, or sexist holdover? To hold a door, or not to? I know almost nothing about etiquette, but the scientist part of me has come up with a rather different solution...


It seems to me, that the entire purpose of social courtesy is to work for the common good - to improve society a bit at your own expense, with the idea that the favor will be returned. So, correct door holding behavior must satisfy these criteria:

  1. It must contribute to the overall good of society - in this instance, it must decrease the collective walking time.

  2. It must not be biased or unfair toward any group.

Thus, that surprisingly large minority of men who still insist on holding doors for women immediately fail the second criteria - they can be dismissed offhand.

Some quick numbers: The distance in question is defined as the distance from the swing of the door, plus an equal area on the other side. It took me, walking at an average speed, around 2 seconds to traverse that difference on a typical door. It took twice as long (4 seconds) if I had to open the door toward me. It took almost no time longer if I had to open the door away from me - several trials averaged out to about .25 seconds.

Now, there are two different ways of holding a door:

  • Simply holding it after you, so that the other person does not have to open it, and

  • Holding the door while letting the other person pass through in front of you.

The latter option we can dismiss immediately. Even in the ideal case (the other person is exactly two seconds behind you), it takes 2 seconds to open the door, 2 seconds for the follower to pass through, and 2 seconds for you to pass through. 2+2+2=6. In the worst case, the other person might have to wait up to two seconds for you to get the door open and get out of their way, for a total of eight seconds. Of course, holding the door for someone farther away might take even more time. Thus, even those super-polite types who hold doors for everyone, are still not really helping society as a whole!

The former option, at best, only takes the same four seconds that one person would take. How long to hold the door open behind you? Maximum 2 seconds. Your total time comes to 4+2=6 seconds, and the other persons time is 2 seconds, bringing the total time to eight - the same time as two separate operations would take, with only half the effort.

Holding a door opening away from you is almost pointless - you could only hold it for 1/4 of a second!


The maximum benefit to walking time will come from holding a door open behind you for approximately two seconds. Just don't open a door, count "one, two", and let it shut in someone's face - people might not like that! Certainly, don't hold the door and let someone walk through unless they are disabled or carrying something - there is no overall benefit otherwise.

Following these guidelines, you can still be polite and help people without feeling like your actions are derived from sexist tradition.

(If you have actually managed to read this far, congratulations - you are almost as weird as I am! I do have an excuse - CS class was really, really boring, and I couldn't exactly leave, so I wrote this instead! Crossposted on Constant Thoughts)

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Simplify the Holidays

We can all use resources to help reduce stress around the Holidays—especially this year, when economic stresses are multiplying the stress factor.

Quoting from Dr. Suess’ Grinch ("And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!"), The Center for a New American Dream is offering a free download booklet called “Simplify the Holidays.”

It includes practical tips for having a holiday with more joy and less stuff. Specifically, the booklet contains guides to help you set a budget, relieve stress, come up with new gift ideas, and make your holiday season more meaningful.

I’ve always found that feminism’s greatest personal benefit was the way it adds new meaning to life and to life’s purpose. This time of year is when people think & talk a lot about life’s meaning... but the consumerist culture makes it hard to see the meaning in the meaning. That’s why I find tools like this one helpful.

Learn more about my pro-woman approach to fathering at

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Alison Balsom

The classical music world has never been inclusive of women. Classical music as we know it today begin as church music in a time when women weren't allowed to speak in church, let alone sing or play an instrument, and it took art music many, many years to even began to overcome this bias. (And it's hardly a thing of the distant past!) A slavish devotion to the 'great masters' of classical music has kept women composers from being widely played even today - fortunately, the situation is much better for performers!

So, for the sake of variety (and to annoy the inverse art snobs...), I'm going to occasionally feature some classical music here.

As a classically trained trumpet player myself, I've often felt that my instrument was a sort of 'last frontier' for female musicians. I can't count the times I've heard: "Girls can't be really good at trumpet! They don't have enough lung power!", or some other such silly reason. (There are technical reasons that this isn't true - and curiously enough, the one instrument that argument does hold water for... is the flute!).

Thus, when I recently discovered Alison Balsom, I was instantly taken with her:

Balsom specializes partly in transcriptions from Bach and other related composers, and in my opinion, takes them to a level never attained before by a trumpet player. She's one of only a few female classical trumpet soloists - but hopefully one of the first of many, many more.

At this point, I've pretty much run out of things to say, so...

Just listen.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Feminist Flashback #14

Your Sunday Feminist Flashback, brought to you by the letter F! From Sesame Street, circa 1974:

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Friday, December 5, 2008

All glamed up and nowhere to go?: Tina Fey in Vanity Fair

People who know me probably know that I have a bit of a crush on Tina Fey. ("Only a bit?" I can hear my partner ask incredulously upon reading this.) It's mostly an intellectual crush (that's what I'm telling myself), with a dash of wanting to be her and a sprinkling of finding her incredibly charming. Never mind. The point is, to say I'm biased would be an understatement, and I just want to admit that upfront, though I am going to try to be as objective as I can here.

There's been a little buzz recently because Fey is all sexed-up on the cover, and in the pages, of the January 2009 Vanity Fair. The article/interview, by Maureen Dowd, and its accompanying photos, taken by Annie Leibovitz, provide a more in-depth portrait of Fey than I feel we've heretofore seen, at least in a big-name publication. Fey is depicted as down-to-earth, a little proper, incredibly smart, snarky and self-possessed. However, she's also portrayed as someone who transformed in a matter of a few years from a slightly dowdy, chubby and "not fit for the spotlight" writer to a "sexy librarian," glamourpuss, superlative star. It's like Wonder Woman: one minute she's Diana Prince, supposedly awkward, unassuming secretary, and the next minute she's Wonder Woman, beautiful and superior in every way--a woman everyone wants to be (and have). Herein lies the problem, for some.

In the lengthy Vanity Fair interview, Dowd makes certain to signpost Fey's transformation. For example, she recalls a conversation with Fey's co-star Alec Baldwin:
Ah, I say, so you’re the one who encouraged Fey to wear so many low-cut tops, even though Lemon [Fey's character on her TV show 30 Rock] seems like the crewneck-sweater type. “There is Liz Lemon and there is Liz Lemon as portrayed by a leading actress in a TV show,” Baldwin responds with amused and amusing disdain. “It’s not a documentary. Tina’s a beautiful girl. We needed to get the pillows fluffed on the sofa and we needed to get the drapes steamed, and we needed to get everything all nice and get the presentation just right. Tina always played the cute, nerdy girl. Tina on the news, the glasses. There was not a big glamour quotient for her. Now there is.
On the one hand, Baldwin's unmitigated assertions that Fey needed to glam-up, no questions asked, are certainly problematic, though not surprising (remember folks, this is national television we're talking about). It's frustrating that television ratings depend in part on pretty actors--although, this does not just apply to women--and characters that are attractive on a surface level as well as being likable on a personality level (or, if not likable, at least someone with whom you can identify, love to hate, etc.). On the other hand, the idea that a smart, self-described nerd has become an (inter)national celebrity is kind of great. And, admit it, would you really say no to professional stylists and a Vanity Fair photo shoot? Probably not. If so, you're more principled than I am.

I kind of like the way Salon Broadsheet writer, Sarah Hepola, puts in it her short piece, The sexing up of Tina Fey:
Maybe you find this depressing (a brilliant comic mind inevitably reduced to shaking her cleavage). Maybe you find this empowering (a brilliant comic mind finally shaking her cleavage!). Either way, it only confirms what many of us have known for a long time: Tina Fey is one of the most fascinating celebrities out there right now.
Moreover, Fey's level of glamour on 30 Rock isn't anything to get too worked up about. In Vanity Fair, yes, she is definitely rendered sultry and hot (in an appealing, slightly geeky way that's Fey's trademark). But in 30 Rock? Sure, she's a beautiful woman, but her character isn't glamed up in any way that I can tell (despite Baldwin's insistence). At most she shows a little cleavage, but otherwise Liz Lemon wears casual clothes, appears to wear little or no makeup (thought obviously Fey has to be wearing makeup for the cameras), rarely wears heels or revealing clothing, and doesn't really style her hair (someone even went through the trouble of cataloging the style choices of Lemon as a character). The most dressed up I've seen Lemon is in the first few minutes of this season's premiere, an episode in which it was made clear over and over again that trying to be someone you're not is not going to end well.

Most importantly--and way more importantly than the fashion/glamour question, which I personally think is over-hyped in most considerations of whether people are suited for feminist role-model-dom--Fey's character Liz Lemon is feminist, and has clearly stated herself as such (and presumably so has Fey, though I've not seen any explicit mention--someone find one for me, please?). And while Lemon faces all those conventional/stereotypical third-wave feminist, career-woman problems (difficulty finding a decent boyfriend, desire to have children before she gets too old, fighting the old boy's network at every turn), she never contemplates giving up her career or settling for an asshole guy just so she won't be alone. Liz Lemon is definitely not portrayed as someone to pity, but someone with whom we can identify, even as we're laughing at and with her. And even in those moments when we're given license to laugh at her "feminism" (i.e. unwillingness to submit herself to patriarchal standards of beauty or society's expectations of female behavior), we're always provided with an equally amusing contrast (indicating that the way women are expected to act is pretty ridiculous, too):

All that said, it's one thing to talk about how Liz Lemon the character and 30 Rock the show embody egalitarian principles and espouse, under the guise of goofiness and through the veil of humor, a feminist ideology. It's another thing entirely to consider how Fey comes across in her Vanity Fair interview. On the one hand, Fey makes some astute observations about interpretations of her encounter with Governor Palin:
Around the same time, Fey saw an entertainment reporter on TV say that Palin had been gracious toward Fey, but Fey hadn’t been gracious toward Palin. “What made me super-mad about it,” Fey says later, “was that it seemed very sexist toward me and her. The implication was that she’s so fragile, which she is not. She’s a strong woman. And then, also, it was sexist because, like, who would ever go on the news and say, ‘Well, I thought it was sort of mean to Richard Nixon when Dan Aykroyd played him,’ and ‘That seemed awful mean to George Bush when Will Ferrell did it.’ And it’s like, No, that’s not the thing. This is a comedy sketch on a comedy show.” “Mean,” we agreed, was a word that tends to get used on women who do satirical humor and, as she says, “gay guys.”
She's totally right, and it's great that she has no qualms (not that she should) expressing her thoughts on the topic. Funny woman making fun of another woman = bitchy and mean. Funny man making fun of another man = hilarious. What's that all about?

On the other hand, in the interview, Fey talks about her horror at discovering her husband had gone to a strip club:
‘“I love to play strippers and to imitate them,’” says Fey. ‘I love using that idea for comedy, but the idea of actually going there? I feel like we all need to be better than that. That industry needs to die, by all of us being a little bit better than that.’”
I'm a little conflicted about this. Octogalore (in an excellent picking-apart of all the inconsistencies in the interview) interprets this to mean that Fey would never consider being a stripper, whereas I (and a few other commentors) read Fey's comment as not wanting to go to strip clubs (as she mentions in the previous paragraph her husband had done). Octogalore writes
Also, Tina prefers the idea of strippers “for comedy,” “to imitate them.” When someone’s a little more in need, maybe has fewer options for making the big bucks like Tina makes, and does things – maybe sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not – that make her appear to be a caricature of something other than the Republican VP nominee, that’s apparently good comic fun for Tina.

But Tina’s proof that the industry, for better or worse, isn’t going to die. Whether we are “better,” like Tina, or worse, like I used to be, or in Tina’s lexicon, much worse – there is still going to be a market for women using our sexuality. As long as that market offers better pay than other accessible markets for our skills, then economic equilibrium will dictate supply. Not Tina’s ideas about virtue.
While I agree with Octogalore for the most part, I think she might be a little harsh (not to mention that I'm still not convinced Fey didn't just mean that she's against going to strip clubs). I see a difference between believing, as Fey suggests she does, that stripping is degrading to women (which I, for the record, don't actually think is necessarily the case, though it can be) and being willing/wanting to play up your own sexuality a little bit for the camera (be it photographic or televisual). Not that these two things aren't at all related, but the parallel can't be seamlessly drawn.

In the end, this is probably something I have to give more thought. How accountable can we hold our celebrity idols/role models for the contradictions in their own beliefs? I'm eager to hear your thoughts. Do you think 30 Rock is a feminist show? Do you think Fey playing up her sexuality negates her standing as a feminist role-model? Do you think Fey is being judgmental and hypocritical about women using their sexuality and is, hence, a "bad" feminist? And how do we decide what makes a good or bad feminist?

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I knew I liked him for a reason...

At a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Paterson of New York (most well-known for taking over after former Governor Spitzer's call-girl scandal), criticized the state commission for its lack of female candidates for Chief Judge:
“It seems highly unusual,” Mr. Paterson said during a press conference at his Midtown Manhattan office. “I don’t accept that there wasn’t a woman in this state that wasn’t qualified to serve on the Court of Appeals.”

Mr. Cuomo, who appeared with the governor at the press conference, also registered his outrage. “To circumscribe, limit the governor to only men, and for the commission to say, ‘We searched the state, we couldn’t find a single, solitary qualified woman to serve on the bench’ — something is wrong,” he said. “We will be exploring the available legal options, discussing it with the governor and his team and deciding where to go from here.”

H/T Feminist Daily News

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gay marriages will save the economy!

Proposition 8, The Musical

This is hilarious. Starring Jack Black (as Jesus), John C. Reilly, Margaret Cho, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Sarah Chalke, Neil Patrick Harris, and many more.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

H/T pretty much everyone I know.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Military women

Echnide has a great post up about Specialist Monica Brown, who is only the second(!) woman since World War II to receive a Silver Star for valor. Brown was recently interviewed on CBS's 60 Minutes:

Echnide draws her readers' attention primarily to a part of the interview where one of the saved men makes clear how he feels about women in combat, despite the fact that he probably owes his life to Brown:
But both of those men, Smith and Spray, declined to give 60 Minutes an interview. When we asked why, Smith said flat out women have no business being on the front line. The men who did talk to us did not feel that way, and said Brown performed as well as any man on the battlefield.
Seriously? This is kind of thing where there's really not much more to say than "Fuck you." She saved your life. Do you really wish she hadn't been there?

Thankfully, most of Brown's fellow soldiers are more open-minded (at least those interviewed by 60 Minutes), although a few obviously had no qualms implying that Brown may have only gotten her medal because she's a woman:
But these men all questioned whether Brown acted any more heroically than the men that day, and they suggested she may have been awarded her Silver Star because she is a woman.

"People ask, you know, like, 'Was she a superhero? Did she do anything, you know, super woman, super heroic?' No, she did her job," Best says. "And she did a very, very good job doing it. Now, that fact that she was 18 and, you know, a female and all, you know, that adds something to it."
This excuse (the reverse sexism or reverse racism excuse) is used for everything nowadays and it is so tiresome. They get us coming and going. Women aren't [insert adjective here] enough to [insert traditionally male activity here], but if a woman does something extraordinary and gets recognition for it, she clearly only got that recognition because she's a woman. I mean, no one accuses men of falsely gleaned privilege(s) only bestowed because of their gender.

But isn't that a lot closer to the truth?

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Monday, December 1, 2008

World Aids Day

Facing AIDS - World AIDS day 2008
Today is World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness, encouraging testing, and fighting the global specter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

About an hour ago, President-Elect Obama's released online his taped address to the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health (transcript available at The Washington Post's website). I honestly thought the speech could have been a little more convincing, more dynamic, but then again it was just a short, taped video address so what could he really say?

While trying to find a more, er, passionate response to World Aids Day, I came across this video, sponsored by Johnson and Johnson, about the organization Mothers2Mothers, which offers "social, emotional and psychological support" to pregnant African women who are HIV-positive. I know very little about the organization so far, but you can check out the video below:

I don't think this falls into the category of consumer-driven AIDS awareness hype, even though M2M is prominently sponsored by a major company. And, on the surface at least, I like the idea of what amounts to a counseling/mentoring/consciousness raising organization dedicated to bringing women together for mutual support, advice and consolation.

(Updated to add: Bil at The Bilerco Project has a great selection of World Aids Day videos from around the world.)

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Accolade - The All-Girl Saudi Rock Band

If you read the New York Times or any of the major blogs, you've probably heard about the first all-girl Saudi rock band. It's a pretty interesting story - Saudi culture has relaxed to the point that the band is a possibility, and they are apparently becoming a bit of an underground hit in the country. This, of course, is wonderful news from a feminist and humanitarian point of view. It's a sign of the improving cultural conditions that reformers in the country have been working hard to achieve.

Here's an excellent commentary on the band and the reactions to it, and you can hear the band's single here.

Despite many of the reactions on the web, Accolade isn't exactly on the cutting edge of Saudi cultural change. (Several Saudis have commented that they aren't even the first all-girl rock band, only the first one to go public) And while their existence is certainly nothing to sniff at, I think that their most important impact may come from a rather different direction.

Accolade is musically quite good. I've only hear the one song, of course, but I think they might turn out to be really, really good. In five years they might be as good as, say, Girlschool. This means that they could have staying power far beyond the "Ooh, a Saudi Girl Band! Shiny!" that the media has latched on to. They could have an international following - and they wouldn't be the "First All-Girl Saudi Band" - they would be "Accolade! (Of Saudi Arabia)".

And that would be something incredible. They would be an inspiration to women in oppressed cultures everywhere. They would spawn imitators, and hasten the cultural changes in Muslim countries. And perhaps most interesting of all, they would change the world's perception of Muslim Arabs. Whereas now, when the average paranoid westerner hears 'Muslim' or 'Arab', the first thought that comes to mind is 'Terrorist!' Wouldn't it be amazing if, instead, people thought "Hey, that new album from Accolade is AWESOME!"

Perhaps it won't happen - but I think that there's a chance! Their song has already received 78,000 listens - in only twenty days. Google "Saudi Rock Band" - it's all them. All they need now is a youtube video!

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Feminist Flashback #13

A classic PSA film from 1951: Girls Beware. It provides surprisingly sound advice actually, especially considering it's over 50 years old, although some of it is pretty over-the-top...and what happened to girls having any agency of their own? Warning for possible triggering, although the references it makes to rape and unwanted pregnancy are incredibly oblique:

Enjoy the remaining hours of your holiday weekend.

Update: Ann over at Feminist Law Professors also included a link to the companion film Boys Beware, which warns boys against homosexual advances. You can imagine how that goes! So painful to watch.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shut your lips and talk with your hips

I live in Colorado and split my in-car radio time listening to NPR and 93.3, which is an alternative/pop station. Since I listen to the latter, I am frequently subjected to a popular local hit by the Boulder band 3OH!3. The song is called "Don't Trust Me" and the first few times I heard it my mouth fell open every time it reached the breakdown and these lovely lyrics flooded my car:
Shush girl, shut your lips
Do the Helen Keller
And talk with your hips
Oh. Yeah.

Most of the lyrics aren't that surprising, really. Calling a woman a ho in popular music isn't exactly rare, but this song pisses me off so much I don't even know what to say. WTF? "Girls" should not only shut up, but be deaf and blind as well, left only with their sexuality as a means of communication?

Maybe it's a joke, but it's not a very funny one, and I really could do without hearing it on the radio day in and day out.

Here are the full lyrics:
Black dress with the tights underneath
I've got the breath of a last cigarette on my teeth
And she's an actress but she ain't got no need
She's got money from her parents in a trust fund back east

T-t-t-tongues always pressed to your checks, while my tongue
is on the inside of some other girl's teeth
tell your boyfriend
If he says hes got beef that I'm a vegetarian
And I ain't fucking scared of him

She wants to touch me, whoa oh
She wants to love me, whoa oh
She'll never leave me, whoa oh whoa oh oh oh
Don't trust a ho
Never trust a ho
Won't trust a ho, cuz a ho won't trust me
She wants to touch me, whoa oh
She wants to love me, whoa oh
She'll never leave me, whoa oh, whoa oh oh oh
Don't trust a ho
Never trust a ho
Won't trust a ho, cuz a ho won't trust me

X's on the back on your hand
Wash them in the bathroom to drink like the bands
And the set list
You stole off the stage
Has red and purple lipstick all over the page

B-b-b-bruises cover your arms shaking in the
Fingers with the bottle in your palm
And the best is
No one knows who you are
Just another girl, alone at the bar


Shush girl, shut your lips
Do the hellen keller
And talk with your hips

I said shush girl, shut your lips
Do the hellen keller
And talk with your hips
I said shush girl, shut your lips
Do the hellen keller
And talk with your hips

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I'm stuffed full of food and lolling around on the couch with little energy for writing, so, in lieu of a real post, enjoy the charming Bridget McManus in her Thanksgiving episode of The Jam:

Now, that's my kind of cooking!

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Isn't that a girlie dog?

Just a short note to say that as much as I think President-Elect Obama is terrific for our country, I couldn't help but find some of his interactions with Michelle on ABC's Barbara Walter's special interview a wee bit grating. It's just my gut reaction, but I'd be willing to bet there was a bit of a ruckus off-set, since I dearly hope Michelle wouldn't let him get away with calling her "unreasonable" on national television (as in "we only get in arguments when she's unreasonable")! And what the heck's wrong with a "girlie" dog???

Along these lines, there's an interesting op-ed in today's Washington Post by Ruth Marcus about Michelle Obama and her role as "mom-in-chief":
"No matter how liberated I liked to see myself as . . . the fact was that when children showed up, it was Michelle and not I who was expected to make the necessary adjustments," Barack Obama writes. "Sure, I helped, but it was always on my terms, on my schedule. Meanwhile, she was the one who had to put her career on hold."

Expected to -- by whom? Had to -- says who? I remember reading this passage two years ago, when the book came out, and thinking: Hey, buddy, she has to scale back only because you're not willing to.

And yet, Barack Obama could have been describing so many women today when he explained that, for Michelle, "two visions of herself were at war with each other -- the desire to be the woman her mother had been, solid, dependable, making a home and always there for her kids; and the desire to excel in her profession, to make her mark on the world and realize all those plans she'd had on the very first day that we met."

This is where the identification comes in. The brutal reality is that, like our president-elect, most men do not wrestle quite so strenuously with these competing desires. So when the needs of our families collide with the demands of our jobs, it is usually the woman's career that yields.

(By the way, I'm a little sidetracked by the holidays and family-time, so blog-posting will be light this weekend. I will be posting my fourth wave "manifesto" in the next few days, but, in meantime, don't forget to check out Brianna's take on modern feminism.)

Update (12/01/08):Check out Billy Kimball's take on Obama's dog comments over at The Huffington Post, Barack Obama Insults Dog, Jumps Shark:
The semiotics of dog ownership, for presidents and paupers alike, are equally well established. By saying that he wanted a "big, rambunctious dog," Obama was trying to don the mantle of the "guy's guy." Big rambunctious dogs, through their genetic link to working and hunting breeds, establish one's bona fides with the masses. Those toy breeds who don't have to work for living probably belong to people who don't either - or so the conventional wisdom would have it.


To give Michelle Obama credit, she attempted to give her husband some cover by suggesting that a "girly dog" would be entirely appropriate for "a houseful of girls." It was a nice try, but clearly Mr. Obama meant "girly" in the pejorative sense, not as an adjective denoting "nice for girls," but rather to suggest a dog that lives in conflict with its own manly nature or the manly nature of dogs in general.
Uh, yeah, what he said.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holiday Ten Tips for Dads & Daughters®

Year-end Holidays can make wonderful experiences and memories for parents and kids—and all the rest of us. They can also be stressful, and whip by incredibly fast. For the past few years, I’ve posted 10 practical tips for Dads & Daughters to keep in mind for making the most of the Holidays, and you can read them by clicking the link above.

These tips are easily “translated” for mothers, sons, or any other sentient being trying to keep the next month or so in perspective. Share your thoughts—and additional ideas—in a comment.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The state of modern feminism: Brianna's view

(This started out as a comment on Aviva's post, but it got so long that I decided to make a whole new post!)

I've never really been completely satisfied with the current feminist movement. I suppose some of this might be the fault of my family (They think that feminism has done enough already), but whatever the cause, I've just never been quite happy. In fact, when I first started learning about and agreeing with feminist ideas, I was calling myself a 'post-feminist'. Real post-feminism, of course, is really anti-feminism, but what I meant by the term was, that I wanted to move past simple equality, to work for a basic cultural changes, and to include all sorts of ideas, not just the narrow set espoused by the second-wave feminists that I was reading and listening to at the time. And so, when given the opportunity to write for this blog, I was very excited - It's something that has always concerned me!

Third wave feminism has been mildly successful at rectifying the problems I mentioned, especially the problem of inclusiveness. Modern feminists spend as much time working on racial, GLBT, class, and environmental issues as they do women's and gender issues. While this is a good thing, there are many problems, too. Worst of all, I feel like third-wave feminism has stagnated, has stopped growing, even as it is still hampered by a lack of definition (most people still haven't heard of it!)

More specifically, I have three problems with modern, third-wave feminism:

1. Lack of coherence and a resulting lack of involvement.

The infighting needs to stop. The 'what does it mean to be a feminist' argument must stop. (See any thread on any major feminist website for examples!) Now, I don't mean that we can't disagree - I mean that we need to overcome our disagreements enough to become unified.

An example from the other side of the cultural spectrum: I come from a very conservative christian background. Now, conservatives fight all of the time. Baptists, who really make up the core of the christian right, fight constantly. But they don't fall apart - as an example, the minute Glorious Leader James Dobson pulls out all the stops on his radio show, they all drop the arguments and write a million letters, place a million calls, or go protest en masse. They donate money by the ton. And the people who do these things aren't activists - they're ordinary people who are only mildly involved in the conservative movement!

Can we get that kind of response from the average 'I'm not really a feminist - I don't hate men or anything - but I support the ideas.' sort of person? I doubt it. And while third-wave feminism has done a good job of attracting young people who formally thought that feminists were just angry women who couldn't have any fun, I think that in doing this, we have lost our ability to work together on anything. There's too much 'girl power' and not enough real work being done.

2. Lack of a real goal:

As I said earlier, when I was first discovering feminism, I called myself a post-feminist. I had been reading the major second-wave works, and it seemed to me that feminism had succeeded in the goals that they had set for themselves - women do have basic political equality, don't we?

I now know that even this is not true, of course. (and that the post-feminism concept was already taken.) But to hear many third-wave feminists talk, you would think the only thing wrong are with a few misogynists in the media, a few lingering cultural problems, and a bunch of international problems. They complain endlessly about sexist ads, about Rush Limbaugh, and about health care problems. You get the impression that if we could just stop the rape problem, stop the evil corporations, equalize pay, and find a solution to the sex industry, everything would be fine, and we could get down to turning everything into a communal utopia.

But those problems are a symptom, not a cause. The real problems are things like the cultural obsession with the gender binary, the glorification of 'masculine' qualities, the normalization of rape and violence (rather than individual acts), etc., etc. These problems are occasionally talked about - but often, feminists act as if the solution is simply to pass a few laws and insist that the media do a better job!

Now, that's not to say that nothing is being done - many wonderful things are being accomplished. Most feminists, though, casual feminists in particular, aren't doing very much. It often seems, too, that it is the remaining second-wave feminists who are getting things done, not the third-wave!

3. Lack of rigorous thinking:

Okay, I admit it - I'm a bit of a academic elitist. I've spent hours and hours reading dry academic works. And I think that academic feminism is absolutely vital for the health of the feminism as a whole.

Now, I do understand that many don't like all those books and theories - they seem disconnected from the real world - but I believe that we need a foundation of rigorous theory in order to function. The second-wave movement had this to an incredible degree - but the third-wave movement seems to be moving farther and farther away from the academic, which is still tied to the ideals of the second-wave movement.

Thus, the modern feminist movement depends on theories developed twenty or thirty years ago. It's not that new ideas aren't being published, but the big, well known ones seem to be of the Full-Frontal-Feminism variety - fairly popular works for a general audience, not academic works that can really develop new theories.


So what about the future? What should we try to make feminism into? Following the above points:

1. Stop the fighting. Just do it. And, we need to insist that it does matter for feminism to be a movement, not just a girl power club.
2. We need to work toward another fundamental cultural change. We did it once, and we can do it again.
3. More interaction between the theoretical and the practical, between the academics and the bloggers, the women's organizations, the activists. I think that this should help with the first problem, too - theory can help us find real answers, rather than engage in name-calling style faux-academic arguments. ("Classism!" "Ableism!" "Capitalist Pigism!" - sound familiar?)

In summary: We need the intelligence, strength, and coherence of the Second-Wave movement combined with the inclusiveness and individualism of the Third-Wave movement.

I really mean combined, too - not merely coexistent like the they are currently.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Feminist Flashback #12

From the 2006 documentary I Was a Teenage Feminist:

You know, I'm not even that surprised by these responses. And that's really sad.

Has anyone seen this film? If so, please let me know what you thought of it.

Read Full Post/Permalink...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Attractive Girls Union

Attractive Girls Union Refuses To Enter Into Talks With Mike Greenman

Funny? Not Funny? Mildly Offensive? Very Offensive? Or Who Cares?

Read Full Post/Permalink...


A Friday dosage of news about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Via Feminist Law Professors, a link to this NY Times magazine article, entitled "The 'Bitch' and the 'Ditz'." Interest isn't peaked enough? Then read this excerpt:
In the grand Passion play that was this election, both Clinton and Palin came to represent—and, at times, reinforce—two of the most pernicious stereotypes that are applied to women: the bitch and the ditz. Clinton took the first label, even though she tried valiantly, some would say misguidedly, to run a campaign that ignored gender until the very end. “Now, I’m not running because I’m a woman,” she would say. “I’m running because I think I’m the best-qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running.” She was highly competent, serious, diligent, prepared (sometimes overly so)—a woman who cloaked her femininity in hawkishness and pantsuits. But she had, to use an unfortunate term, likability issues, and she inspired in her detractors an upwelling of sexist animus: She was likened to Tracy Flick for her irritating entitlement, to Lady Macbeth for her boundless ambition. She was a grind, scold, harpy, shrew, priss, teacher’s pet, killjoy—you get the idea. She was repeatedly called a bitch (as in: “How do we beat the?…?”) and a buster of balls. Tucker Carlson deemed her “castrating, overbearing, and scary” and said, memorably, “Every time I hear Hillary Clinton speak, I involuntarily cross my legs.”

Career women, especially those of a certain age, recognized themselves in Clinton and the reactions she provoked. “Maybe what bothers me most is that people say Hillary is a bitch,” said Tina Fey in her now-famous “Bitch Is the New Black” skit. “Let me say something about that: Yeah, she is. So am I … You know what? Bitches get stuff done.” At least being called a bitch implies power. As bad as Clinton’s treatment was, the McCain campaign’s cynical decision to put a woman—any woman—on the ticket was worse for the havoc it would wreak on gender politics. It was far more destructive, we would learn, for a woman to be labeled a fool.

Via Feministing, some news about how Senator Clinton is fighting Bush's ludicrous HHS regulation, which could seriously impact women's access to reproductive health care.

And, finally, via Girl w/ Pen, my favorite Clinton is spoiled for choice: Should she take on the pretigious and powerful Secretary of State position in Obama's cabinet or stay close to home and head the Senate Heath Care Team?

Read Full Post/Permalink...