Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bill O'Reilly asks for a good reason against gay marriage - pigs now flying

First Chris Matthews, now Bill O'Reilly? Holy crap, is the media actually starting to come around to the fact that we want our news without a side of punditry?

O'Reilly hasn't changed his opinion on gay marriage, as discerned from the introduction, but he's actually demanding real answers from someone. Call Stephen Colbert - he might be out of a job soon if O'Reilly keeps it up.

When you shed away the conservative religious argument against gay marriage, it comes down to an issue of equality. Andrew Sullivan writes:
Once you accept that gay people are gay in the way that straight people are straight, and once you remove purely religious arguments from a secular debate, the case against marriage equality simply collapses. One reason I have been so eager to have this debate on rational grounds is that, if reason is your guide, the pro-gay side wins overwhelmingly. What's left is a base-line argument for caution.
I argued for this point earlier, that since marriage has been viewed as a fundamental right in both state and federal cases (Perez v. Sharp in CA and Loving v. Virgina federally), it comes down to equality. Since CA has ruled that sexual orientation falls under the equal protection clause, any law denying something based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional. Even that lawyer on O'Reilly can't argue against that.

H/T to my friend Sam at Brazen Maverick and Andrew Sullivan.

This Common Secret Book Review

I've recently finished reading This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Dr. Susan Wicklund. I can't remember which blog recommended it, but I've had it on my reading list for months and it finally made it to my library list last week. Ok, after a little searching, I found the Salon article that suggested the book in the first place, and a recent Feministing post by Miriam about raising funds for Dr. Wicklund's new Montana clinic.

This memoir covers Wicklund's adult life, from her own abortion in 1976, through her decision to go to college to become a doctor, working with several clinics in the Midwest and Montana, up through present day. She writes about her own life and the patients she's encountered over her 20 year career as an abortion provider. There are lots of women in lots of different situations she helps though counseling, and sometimes, through abortions.

I thought her emphasis on patient care over medical procedures was reassuring, especially in a world run by HMOs and the bottom line. Wicklund describes the process she goes through with each patient she sees, beginning with counseling sessions where she makes sure all options are presented and thoroughly discussed and only proceeds with abortion when it's absolutely the right decision. As a pro-choice reader, I'm glad knowing that abortion providers aren't just there to do abortions, but to help women discern if that's the right choice for her. Wicklund says that her biggest fear is having a patient regret her abortion, and after reading her book, I can see why.

Another aspect of the book talks about Wicklund's experiences with anti-choice protesters. They marched in front of her clinic and house, followed her at airports, and even blocked her driveway to prevent her from leaving. She describes at great length the fear anti-choice protesters created in her life, from the people outside her own clinic to the violence done against abortion providers in other states. Wicklund worked in Wisconsin and Minnesota, states I've lived in/currently live in, so it's a bit frightening to know that there are fanatic people in my midst.

She chose This Common Secret as the title of her book because often times, abortion is a secret topic, a "shameful" past people don't talk about. Wicklund tells stories of people in her own family affected by illegal abortions, about the women in her community who she's done abortions for, about anti-choice women who get an abortion one day and then picket the next. Women who have had abortions are not alone - many women have one and if we stopped stigmatizing it, it wouldn't be such a taboo secret.

Overall, I found Wicklund's memoir touching and interesting. I recommend it to everyone - especially to people who are anti-choice. I think it'd be interesting to read it from an opposite political stance, something I myself don't do nearly enough. So here's my challenge - if any anti-choice commenter on here wants to read This Common Secret and discuss it with me, I'll read an anti-choice book of your recommendation and we'll discuss that too. I think it's easy to read books you already agree with; it's harder to pick up something with a completely different worldview than your own.

Racism in the City

Well, I just got back from watching the Sex and the City movie, and while there are lots of things I could blog about (Samantha = totally feminist ending), I had a major problem with one aspect of the movie.

Jennifer Hudson's character was a "mammy."

Being one of only two characters of color in the film (the other being Charlotte's adopted Chinese child), Hudson was the movie's attempt to be politically correct. However, it was far, far off.

Hudson played Carrie's assistant, Louise. After Carrie has a major life crisis (no spoilers here, I promise), Louise helps her get organized, along with a variety of other tasks, essentially, as Carrie puts it, "saving her life."

Now, when its written out, it sounds okay, but seeing it all on the screen made me very uncomfortable.

In order for one to fit the mammy caricature, she must be:

"nurturing and protective of her white family,
but less caring towards her own children." She is..."self-sacrificing,
white-identified, fat, asexual, good-humored, a loyal cook, housekeeper and
quasi-family member."

Let's test that definition.

1. In the movie, Louise cares for Carrie for several months. When applying for the job, she claims she is qualified for it because she is the oldest of six. When Carrie asked what that was life, she responds, "crowded." Her family is never mentioned again.

2. She is self-sacrificing; the movie implies that she stays with Carrie at work far past normal hours.

3. She is the only person of color (over the age of five) in the movie. I'd say that is fairly white-identified (but, this could be argued against. She is shown at a party where the majority of guests were black, and her significant other is black.)

4. In normal, human terms Hudson is by no means fat. However, her weight has been debated in Hollywood, and she is the most shapely woman who appears in the movie.

5. Louise is not portrayed as asexual, so yay (I guess) there.

6. Humor is one of Louise's defining characteristics.

7. While she is not technically the housekeeper or cook, she is Carrie's assistant, which may be the modern day equivalent of the positions.

8. She is a "quasi-family member" in several ways. She exchanges gifts with Carrie for Christmas, invites Carrie to her wedding, and discusses her heartbreak with her.

So ultimately, Louise fulfills 7 (maybe 6) of the 8 "qualifications" of a mammy caricature. This is unacceptable in our "post-racial" world. What do you think? Is this too much analysis? Or does it have merit? How can Hollywood change these things. I know Sarah Jessica Parker co-produced the movie; would this have happened if a women of color had had more decision making power?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Not For Sale

From the European Women's Lobby, a documentary on prostitution, and why full legalization cannot grant women the agency they deserve in three parts:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Like I have said before in the comments section of an earlier post, I do not support the legalization of prostitution because I feel that legal systems would not be interested in women's rights over the market demand or the privacy of the pimp or john. From stories like the D.C. Madam to the normalization of violence against sex workers, it is very clear that the American justice system is not as interested in protecting the extremely vulnerable women in the sex industry as they are demonizing them. With statistics coming out of European countries like Britain's deplorably low rape conviction rate, it looks as if my skepticism for any legal institution is well founded. Like this documentary, I think that the only solution is to criminalize buying sex and decriminalize selling sex like Sweden did. There are hundreds of trafficked women and children in Sweden, compared to the thousands elsewhere. While Sweden's solution is hardly ideal, it seems to be doing a lot of good.

So while I believe that the best policy is always legalization, and I shy away from anything that looks like morality legislation, there are simply too many human rights violations in the market of prostitution that legal systems are not equipped, or willing, to handle. The interest of protecting women from the most grievous harms trumps any right to buy sex. I have never yet seen any argument that is capable of convincing me that the sex trade is so demonstrably important that it must be allowed to flourish even if the majority of women meeting the demand for sex are raped, trafficked, abused, or coerced. As long as we live in a patriarchy unwilling to hold our agency over our own bodies above any wrongly perceived right to abuse, neglect, harm, and fuck, it is shamefully irresponsible to legitimize the deplorable conditions in which the sex trade operates.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Online Forum by UNFPA

I've started summer language class and a new job in the past week, so I've been kinda busy, but I wanted to pass this along. It's from Americans for UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) about an online forum discussion about the 08 election and party/candidate positions:

Online forum: Are the world’s women part of our political agenda?

When: Tuesday, June 3rd, 1pm-4pm EST (first discussion period)
Where: RH Reality Check blog (
What: An online discussion of global women’s health and the Republican and Democratic Party platforms.

In this pivotal election year, we must make sure that the issues we care about are represented in the agendas of both candidates who seek to lead our nation.

To achieve that goal, we will be discussing global women’s health and women’s issues in general, and how they have been treated by the two major parties.

On Tuesday, June 3rd, our forum will begin with a video statement from Anika Rahman, President of Americans for UNFPA, and the insights of Democratic and Republican activists about their parties’ treatment of women’s issues. You are invited to join independent journalists in responding to Ms. Rahman’s statement and the activists’ insights, and to discuss the prospects for changing the treatment of women’s issues in 2008.

To help us have a count of the number of participants, please sign up in advance. RSVP through our Events Page.

And remember to log on to the forum between 1pm and 4pm EST on Tuesday, June 3rd.

Boston Hollas Back in a Big Way

via Feministing

Boston's Public Transit Authority has launched a massive campaign against harassment on their subway system, leading to twice as many reports of harassment.

This is awesome. Seriously, I so happy.

In light of this horrible story, on our radio show today Amelia and I talked about street harassment and its implications on women's lives. After the show, my roommate and I had a very intense, sappy, sad, frustrating conversation about our personal experiences with street harassment and how we have responded to it. We both realized how powerless we feel when we are being harassed, so we do nothing, allowing it to continue.

I believe that this is a common feeling among women. Its dangerous to respond to a harasser, as the linked story demonstrates to a sickening degree, however, doing nothing allows it to continue. So, obvisouly, I'm glad that the Boston public transport is implimenting a change. However, what about us non-Boston women? Hollaback websites are great, but what else can be done about a problem so many women deal with?

On Being a Bookworm: Part Four - what do women think of porn?

Paul is an excellent writer. Although, I am slightly disappointed that Pornified is not as theory-heavy as I think the topic of porn demands. That is probably just the Philosophy major in me talking though.

With much enthusiasm, I started the chapter titled "Porn Stars, Lovers, and Wives: How Women See Pornography". I was disappointed, however, that Paul chose to focus more on how women thought of the men in their lives that used pornography rather than the effects of pornography on women that use it. I thought the chapter was too heteronormative and played up the "jealous girlfriend" routine to the point where the cliche began to wear thin. Some highlights of the chapter were:

A human sexuality professor at Stony Brook observes shifting norms:

"Twenty years ago, my female students would say, 'Ugh, that's disgusting,' when I brought up porn in class. The men would guiltily say, 'Yeah, I've used it.' Today, men are much more open about saying they use porn all the time and don't feel any guilt. The women now resemble the old male attitude: they'll sheepishly admit to using it themselves." ... He has mixed feelings about this change. On the positive side, he says, women's embrace of porn seems to reflect increased sexual agency on their part... yet the new attitude strikes him as disturbing. Female fantasies have changed over the years as a result of porn and what Kimmel calls the "masculinization of sex". Compared with ten years ago, women's fantasies are more likely today to include violence, rough sex, strangers, and descriptions of male physical attributes. "Personally, I think that for a woman to construct her sex life like that of a man is a rather impoverished view of liberation".

I wish the chapter also expanded upon the liberalization of porn. Paul claims that the adoption of porn as "hip" has blocked any serious critiques of it. The new version of "sex positivism" seems to view pornography as instrumentally positive and a vehicle of equal opportunity sexuality, even though real porn may be violent and produced by decreasing the agency of its performers. Also, framing the argument in such a way that pornography is equated with erotica makes it easier to pigeon-hole opponents as "anti-sex", although many pornography critics are careful to define erotica as something positive, and fundamentally different.

For instance, the classic feminist Gloria Steinem points out that erotica, based on the word eros (passionate love or yearning for someone else) is about "a mutually pleasurable, sexual expression between people who have enough power to be there by positive choice." The root word of pornography, however, refers to prostitution and is "violence, dominance, and conquest. It is sex being used to reinforce some inequality, or to create one, or to tell us that pain and humiliation are really the same as pleasure."

An oft discussed point in feminism is the ability to be the agent of your own objectification. Paul spends considerable time on the story of Valerie, a woman in her thirties that has used porn since she was twelve. She claims that she can easily tell if her sexual partners watch porn because they are obsessed with "fucking... bright lights on, staring at my body parts, going through the motions". One of her partners wanted sex at least once a day, but never showed an a speck of sensuality and romance. She hypothesizes that he was keeping her at an emotional distance, and using porn as an instrument to facilitate this behavior. What she first found sexy about him, his similarity to the porn stars in her movies, destroyed their relationship.

Paul is careful to never say that women who liken pornography to liberation are wrong. However, she does point out that although sex-positives may view their attitudes as empowering, "the kind of pornography their men are into is all about the men--about their needs and about what they want, not about their women, their relationships, or their families."

Women do internalize porn, according to the poll done for her book; 6 out of 10 women believe porn affects how men expect them to look and behave. Only 15% of women will assuredly say that pornography does not raise men's expectations of women.

Pornography is a "guy's thing". Men still hold the same double standard that sex-positivism was supposed to erase. 6 in 10 men, according to an MSNBC poll, would not like their partners to view pornography unless it was with them. This attitude was shown in one of the "Cosmo Confessions" featured monthly in Cosmopolitan magazine:

Once a month, my boyfriend has a guy's night out with his buddies. Normally, they shoot poll or go to a ball game. But last month, I overheard him making plans to go to a strip club. It really upset me that he didn't bother asking how I felt about his sticking dollar bills in other women's G-strings. Instead of confronting him, I did some investigating and found out that the night he was planning to go to the club happened to be amateur night, which meant that any girl could get on stage and dance. So I called a few girlfriends, and we headed to the club. After a few drinks, I surprised my guy as one of the novice strippers. He was so shocked that he just froze--until I started undressing. Then he jumped on the stage and begged me to come down, promising me he'd never go to a nudie bar again."

Although she never comes right out and states it plainly, pornography is the instrument of a woman's own objectification. The nature of porn is to arouse men with the objectification of women--to reduce the act of sex to an animalistic game of dominance void of emotion. If a piece pornography is not objectifying, chances are that it is erotica. I personally think that it is demonstrably important that we separate erotica from porn so as to tote the positive role of erotica, facilitating the agency of women and emotion in the sex act, and contrast it with the negativity of pornography.

Previous parts of this series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Last installment of the Female Impersonators Radio Hour for the '07-'08 school year!

Female Impersonators Radio Hour - the show that inspired this blog!
With Kate and Amelia, and lots of awesome feminism and music.
Last show of the school year.
Listen here, 4pm (Central).

Request a song or something for us to talk about. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


In a Rape Culture, anyone can be a rape victim or a rapist.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Female Maazun in Egypt

The first female maazun , Amal Soliman, has been appointed in Egypt. A maazun is the public notary who performs wedding ceremonies and authorizes marriage and divorce certificates. Her appointment has been the cause of much controversy in the Islamic country, due to laws banning women from mosques when they have their period. However, Soliman said she will make house calls, if necessary, during the times she cannot legally enter a mosque.

Still, her acceptance has been met with resistance among the young, traditional Muslims. "She can't do the job. I mean, there are so many reasons that she can't, but when it comes down to it, women are not made to be in positions of power," Heba Mahmoud, a female student at Cairo University said. Her belief is being echoed throughout the country.

Soliman, however, is excited to begin and believes her gender as female will aid her in one aspect of her job, making sure young brides are not being coerced into the marriage. 1 in 3 brides under the age of 18 in Egypt are forced into marriage.

As happy as I was to hear this news, Soliman said something that bothered me. "I don't want people, especially the West, to take me as a victory for women in Egypt and the Middle East. I am Egyptian and a Muslim so what I am doing is for here and not for the West."

How are Western feminists perceived in countries in the Arab world. Does Soliman truly believe that Western feminists would claim her victory as our own? We stand in solidarity with her and women all around the world, and we are excited women's successes everywhere, but we don't claim them as our own successes.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Being a Bookworm: Part Three - what are the effects of porn on men?

Note: This post is incredibly long-winded. To keep it from being such an eye-sore, view the full text here. What follows below is only the summary of my post, the details of the individual studies are at the link. Please comment on Female Impersonator, not my personal blog, to get a healthy thread going.


I promised in the comments section of my last post that I would cover some of the factual supports to the preposition that porn is damaging to its viewers. The book I am reading, Pornified, devotes an entire forty page chapter to the subject. I wanted to cover a couple of things from the chapter, particularly the factual studies done on porn with interesting results.

1. Violence in Porn

According to a study done by Barron and Kimmel called Sexual Violence in Three Pornographic Media, one in four pornographic magazines and 27% of videos depict some kind of violence. Internet Usenet groups link to and distribute material that depicted violence 42% of the time.

2. Porn and Perceptions of Sexuality

Paul takes a lot of time to consider the very methodical and balanced research that Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann did 25 years ago to test how the viewing of pornography impacted the viewer's opinions of various social phenomenons. Modern studies this extensive are not available because most universities will not approve studies that cause any sort of psychological harm to the testing subjects that cannot be cured. Since the effects could not be proven reversible, their studies are probably the most reliable statistical scientific examinations of pornography to date:

The study featured 80 test subjects divided into four groups. One was the control, one group watched nothing but tame movies, the next watched a little softcore porn, and the final group watched 36 complete pornographic videos. Without exception, those that watched more pornography believed that more Americans were sexually active, had engaged in group sex, oral sex, anal sex, bestiality, and S&M than the other groups.

3. Porn and Objectification, Misogyny

The Zillmann-Bryant studies also found that porn viewers are less likely to want a daughter than non-viewers. A 1994 report summarizing 81 peer-reviewed studies found that 70% of the studies conclude that even exposure to nonaggressive pornography has clear negative effects.

In the study done for the book, Paul found that half of all Americans think porn is demeaning towards women. The group least likely to think so was Gen-X males and most likely was anyone over the age of 59.

In a study done in 2002 by a professor at Texas Christian University on heterosexual men who distributed porn via Internet newsgroups found that the more porn men use, the more likely they are to describe women in sexualized and stereotypically feminine terms. They were also more likely to approve of women in traditionally female occupations and to value men who are more submissive and subordinate to men.

4. Porn and Diminishing Returns

Paul also postulates that viewing porn, especially for prolonged periods of time, facilitates the need to view more explicit and demeaning porn to get the same thrill. This is supported in the study by James Howard, Myron Reifler, and Clifford Liptzin which is cited in the 1970 federal report on pornography that found that men that viewed pornographic material for 90 minutes a day 5 times a week experienced less sexual arousal over time to similar material.

5. Porn and Acceptance of Sexual Violence, Diminishing of Sympathy

Paul cannot provide any sort of evidence that those that view porn are more likely to be rapists or become a rapist (the problem of causation). However, the Zillmann-Bryant study does show that increased exposure to non-violent pornography demonstrably affects how men and women perceive men who rape. Male participants that viewed the most porn would assign the shortest sentence to a rapist. They were also less likely to support women's causes in general and were about three times less likely to favor the expansion of women's rights.

Pauls says that:

Pornography leaves men desensitized to both outrage and exicitment, leading to an overall diminishment of feeling and eventually to dissatisfaction with the emotional tugs of everyday life. Men find themselves upgraded to the most intense forms of porn, glutting themselves on extreme imagery and outrageous orgasms. Eventually they are left with a confusing mix of supersized expectations about sex and numbed emotions about women. (Paul 90)

So what?

For one, many have argued that they can separate fiction from fantasy when looking at porn, and that attitudes and expectations portrayed there are not carried over to real women. This supposition is in direct opposition to the entire premise of the multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns running constantly. If humanity was impervious to images and advertising, why would businesses spend so much on it?

The answer is that humanity is not impervious to images and sights, as seen above in various studies. Pornography is much more subtle than advertising. It does not prey upon an unnatural urge for a Mercedes, but the appreciation of human beauty and sexuality. It does not enforce itself with the rush of new purchases, but with the ecstasy of orgasm. Advertising must convince us that we want or need a new car. Pornography just asks that we submit to human sexuality. It taunts us with sexual release without vulnerability. It preys upon cultural stereotypes of women and men and then reinforces them.

And then it succeeds: horribly, subtly, orgasmically, addictively.

Previous parts of this series: Part One, Part Two

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

As far as movies go, the new Indiana Jones movie isn't terribly sexist. It has strong female characters in Cate Blanchett's Irina Spalko and Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood... but they're the only female characters at all. It's a 100% ratio of strong female characters, but there's not much else to go off.

Does it pass the Bechdel test? Well, there are two female characters - check; do they have a conversation - no; is it about something besides men - no. Unfortunately.

Marion Ravenwood is pretty badass, even from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy sometimes talks to her in a patronizing manner, acting as if she's overly emotional. It wasn't horrible but it was annoying enough that I noticed. However, considering a lot of the movies and female characters out there, Marion's leaps and bounds ahead of other characters. She doesn't need to be rescued and she can hold her own. If the only annoying sexist part of Indiana Jones was that he was a little patronizing, I can deal with that.

Here's Women & Hollywood's take on Marion Ravenwood. Also, Karen Allen was once considered for the role of Princess Leia. I love her even more. If anyone wants to buy me the Indiana Jones boxed set, I would gladly accept that gift.

There's no sexism in the media!

Seriously! No sexism.

Video and Petition from the Women's Media Center and Media Matters.

h/t to Shakesville.

Friday, May 23, 2008

On Being a Bookworm, Part Two - why do men look at porn?

Probably the most radical way that being a Feminist impacted my everyday life is that I found myself morally conflicted over my very large stash of porn. After discovering that many people are anti-porn without the usual religious justifications (see: One Angry Girl's website), I found it much easier to throw out my collection without feeling like I was anti-sex or pandering to moral conservatives.

Because pornography is something that used to be such a big part of my life, the first book I picked up at the library happened to be Pamela Paul's Pornified. I hoped the book would help clarify various opinions that I entertained about the adult industry.

Even though I am only fifty or so pages into the book, I can already tell that Paul is an excellent author. Her first chapter frames later arguments in such a way that the conclusion she wants you to make seems natural. She only introduces her radical or controversial premises where the reader should have already entertained them with the presented data. Her writing is manipulative, so to speak, albeit in an admirable fashion.

Through polls and first-hand narratives, Paul identifies various reasons why men view pornography habitually:

  1. As a learning tool - how to get women, interesting sexual practices, anatomy, what turns him on and what does not
  2. Instant gratification - cheap, a way to quickly get aroused and masturbate,
  3. Dissatisfaction - SO will not be adventurous in bed, he is lonely, he wants some variety, SO isn't around, SO is cranky or not attractive
  4. Boredom - it's entertaining, the really disgusting stuff is funny, something to do at work, out of curiosity, a voyeuristic look into someone else's sex life
  5. Insecurities - puts men in power and control always, lets a man look at women he feels he cannot attract in reality, a way to demean women after having to treat them as equals all day, a haven for men, looking at abusive painful situations for attractive women as punishment for not having sex with them, critiquing porn stars to make themselves feel better
  6. Safety - no emotional investment, no chance of rejection, no need to be attractive yourself, no hard to please women

And how they excuse the habit:

  1. Men are beastial, without porn there would be more rape and murder
  2. Men need variety, to sow their oats
  3. Everyone does it unless they are frigid or overly religious
  4. It's an appreciation of beauty

I thought her passage on the porn fantasy was especially poignant:

The women in pornography exist in order to please men, and are therefore willing to do anything. The will dominate or act submissive. They can play dumb or talk back, moan quietly or scream, cry in anger or pleasure. They will accommodate whatever a man wants them to do, be it anal sex, double penetration, or multiple orgasms. The porn star is always responsive; she would never complain about a man being late or taking too long to come... She's easily aroused, naturally and consistently orgasmic, and malleable. She is what he wants her to be. She's a cheerleader, a nurse, a virgin, a teenager, your best friend's mother. She is every woman who was ever out of your league. She's the girl next door, the prom queen, the hot teacher, the supermodel, the celebrity. She is every woman who ever did the rejecting. She used to be a lesbian, she used to be frigid, she used to be a virgin. She is every woman who cannot be had. Now she loves sex, she can't get enough of it; she can't get enough of sex with you. She is every woman who should appreciate you... each encounter begins anew, meeting as welcome strangers and parting with gratitude.

Of all the requirements for enjoyable pornography, men most commonly cite the appearance of a woman's pleasure as key. She has to seem as if she's having fun... she should make the viewer feel that she's doing what she does because she wants to.

"The women in porn tend to act as though the sex act is earth shattering every time, even though realistically speaking, it's not like that all the time," Ethan says. "But it's still fantastic--that enthusiasm really appeals to me." Asked if his wife is enthusiastic about sex he says in a lackluster voice, "yeah, I guess so." But he goes on to say, "the women in porn are just different, though, and that's the appeal. I like the whole innocence vibe of young girls. The tautness of youth, tighter and clearer skin, the bright faces." His wife, Candace is already twenty-nine years old, a good decade past his ideal.

What porn presents is the complete objectification of women. Not only do they exist only as you want them, when you want them, they are always happy to serve you.

If I spent my day looking at pictures of expensive sports cars, nobody would doubt that I would jump at the chance to own one. The same principle applies to men and pornography: what they look at is undoubtedly what they want. However, they don't want a Porn Star--a woman using her body for a paycheck, who is sexually available to anyone with money--they want a monogamous porn star: a woman that is sexually available only to them, who thinks first of their pleasure in bed, asks for nothing in return, and is infinitely grateful for their attention. I do not want the car payments that go along with the sports car. I want nothing of the expensive reality of owning a high-maintenance vehicle. Men who view porn are the same; I surmise that they do not want the sexually empowered porn star, they want someone whose sexuality is dependent on his whims, someone that only exists solely please him. He does not want the porn star, but the character she plays.

View previous parts of this series: Part One

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Female Impersonators Radio Hour 4pm Today!

Today at 4pm Central Time.
Listen to the radio show that inspired this blog.
Featuring Kate and Amelia.
Plus feminism and awesome music!

This will be one of our last shows of the school year, so make sure you tune and let us know what you think!

For online listening, visit here.


So, I haven't posted this past week, or since my last post received so many hateful comments that we had to close commenting for the first time. The comments were directed towards overweight people, women, feminists, and me. The comments hurt, and I've been upset all week.

But then I read this:

While trying to deal with all the challenges of being a teenager, gay/ lesbian/ bisexual/ transgender (GBLT) teens additionally have to deal with harassment, threats, and violence directed at them on a daily basis. They hear anti-gay slurs such as “homo”, “faggot” and “sissy” about 26 times a day or once every 14 minutes.

Blogging is an odd endeavor, you post personal anecdotes, opinions, and beliefs for the world to read. You may get criticized, attacked, or ignored, but, at the end of the day, you can close your laptop and go to sleep. That's not the case for these teenagers. They may be able to go to sleep, but they must wake up the next morning and go to school, try to learn with people who hate them surrounding them, and face their harassers everywhere. It isn't surprising that suicide is the leading cause of death for gay teenagers.

Hate is everywhere, and sometimes, it is so ingrained within us that we don't even realize its effects. But it does affect others. In small and huge ways. So, I guess, this is just a reminder to think, to care, and to support each other. Even if we don't agree. I know its corny, but its important.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Eww: A Rad Feminist Reads About Johns and Their "Pain", Provides Witty Commentary

Cross-posted at XXBlaze

In my long look into the sex business, I came across many primary sources on what exactly it is like to be a porn star, a prostitute, or a stripper. I felt connected to the experiences of the women I read. I felt that what they did was so normal and wrongly stigmatized. I could see myself doing what they did, hating doing what they did, and most of all, hating the people that asked them to do it. Part of letting go of my zealous relationship with the Madonna/Whore dichotomy was to stop looking at sex workers as whores, manipulative she-witches, and weak downtrodden sex objects.

What I discovered, however, from reading the first hand account of Johns was anything but empathy. I am a serial monogamist. When the inclination to stray is strong enough, I cash in my chips, break the poor guy's (and one woman's) heart, and engage in sowing my oats without being a lying sack-of-shit cheater. The thought that fucking random people would be fun is not something that I have never entertained. However, I have never understood the point of being self-destructive and letting my libido do the driving, so I do not understand the actual action of cheating.

Perhaps I am a rare and horrible imitation of humanity, but the objectification of a sexual partner does not turn my crank either. Paying someone to mimic an intimate action, which should be a gesture of mutual respect and affection, never occurred to me. I'm not a fucking kind of gal. My bullshit detector runs smoothly. I am not some pathetic slob that invents romance and respect where there is none. Chances are that if you shop for a sexual partner with all the emotion of shopping for a television set, you're not getting the best deal.

So I do not sympathize with the two primary motivations for buying sex: (1) I'm too good for monogamy and (2) sex is all about me, me, ME!

Morality in hand, I delved into Letters From Johns, a blog that features the sexploits of random johns, most of which are men. My knee jerk reaction was a feeling of intense sorrow for all of humanity. As I nit-picked through the various misogynistic woe-is-me confessions , I was struck with the thought, "okay, your intense angst is nice, but what about the other side of the equation -- isn't it quite ridiculous to do all of this introspection without once thinking about the humanity of the woman you just bought?"

Well, one sympathetic John was nice enough to make sure that the Chinese woman he purchased was not trafficked. After, of course, he climaxed. Orgasm before morals, you know:

I like Asian girls (have since I was a teen). I like their skin, their soft features, their hair. I ordered one over in the middle of the day a month ago. I was very horny, and only wanted a little talk before sex, but after fucking her, cumming on her face and helping her clean up, it's always a good time to get to know someone with the remaining part of the hour. She was straight off the boat. With Human Trafficking being the boogie man of the 21st century, I wanted to find out how she came to NYC and this line of work.

Retroactive concern does not work. I am guessing that a guy that will fuck a potential sex slave before he determines whether or not he is raping her is not very nice. The half-assed interest in her personhood does not fool me.

I also really liked the guy who was "Faithful in Every Other Sense of the Word" and very good at authoring horribly ironic titles. His reason for buying sex was not the simplification of an entire culture to attractive things to look at while fucking (see above), but because his wife had the audacity to ask for sexual satisfaction in bed:

I'm happily married, but my wife and I don't have sex nearly as often as we used to before our daughter was born, and unfortunately, it's starting to wear on me. Not only that, but when we do end up having sex, I have to do all the work, get her all worked up and then get to humpin' at her command. It's fine and everything, but sometimes it's nice to have someone focus on me, and my sexual needs and wants, for a change.

You mean like porn, right? Where the other half of the equation is nothing but a place to sheath your uncontrollable prick and tell you how much they love it when you ask them to do demeaning things with no regard for their pleasure. Oh yeah, exactly like that:

The last time I went, I got to have sex with an older (then me, she was about 38. I'm 31) Russian lady, who still occupies a warm place in my heart because she looked me in the eyes as I climaxed and genuinely seemed to be interested in my pleasure. That's what turns me on.

I am guessing that she was faking that interest. Probably because you paid her to, genius. I am also guessing that your wife would be more interested in your pleasure if you were more interested in hers. Reciprocity: it's hot. Random John B wants all the pleasure without the work. I also find it unspeakably pathetic that he is bored with his wife and has affected such a world-weary tone at the tender age of 31.

I also found the woe-is-me letters, from Johns that want our sympathy so badly:

The answer that I have [for seeking prostitutes], and that many others in this website have also provided, is rejection. Rejection, and its close associate, the loneliness that comes after it, leads many of us to believe that we are fundamentally unloveable. And for us, the prospect of trading some of our money for the affection and the satisfaction that an escort, or a masseuse, or a prostitute (you name it) can provide is not just about sex--it's more about safety, the feeling that all you have to do to keep this girl by your side is treat her right and pay her promptly.

My guess if that if you have to pay someone to fake liking you that you are generally unlikable. That is probably not anyone's fault but your own, probably because you really do not care if you are raping a trafficked woman:

My latest experience was with an escort called A. She came from the same South American country I did, a tall, dark-haired girl with a great body. She says she's in town to "learn English," which I doubted, but who cares? For an hour and fifteen minutes, I had someone listen to me wholeheartedly, rub my back, provide me with the ersatz-girlfriend that I crave for but feel that I am unable to attract, and then at the end of it all she even asked for my phone number.

"You will call me again, right?" she asks.

I would like to say that I won't. But my hour with A. felt like water washing my wounds, easing the pain of my brutal loneliness, helping me feel accepted and valued again, a feeling that I haven't felt in many, many months.

Some people say that love is priceless. Well, to those people I say, for two-hundred and seventy Canadian dollars, something quite like it is there for the taking. At least until the hour is done.

If you are such a sorry human being that you equate "something quite like love" to raping a sex slave, then you probably belong in jail or the ninth circle of hell. I am also guessing that people that find nothing more sublime that sticking their dick in a woman/object/rape victim because they are "lonely" should probably remain lonely far far away from me and the rest of civilization. The best word I can use to describe someone that only feel goods about himself because he just raped/fucked a potential trafficked sex worker is criminal. Perhaps that's why nobody wants you, even though you describe yourself as "obedient, fundamentally good man in his 20s".

Those gems came from just the first page. The blog is packed of pages and pages of people justifying the objectification of female, and a few male, prostitutes. The harder they try to make their reasons sound plausible, the sillier and more pathetic they sound. Nothing is more unspeakably disgusting than someone that avoids responsibility for their actions with appeals to their humanity while avoiding the topic of a sex worker's humanity.

If it really needed saying after that long post here it is: I am absolutely and fundamentally against prostitution. I commiserate and have nothing but empathy for those women that choose to make a living doing something so potentially dangerous. However this feeling does not extend to the other end of the equation: the Johns that profit off of the exploitation, objectification, and rape of sex workers.

The aforementioned blog does nothing to foster the sympathy for Johns. Our rage should know no limits for those who excuse death, rape, and misery with hollow excuses.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Being a Bookworm, Part One

Books are the greatest tool of self-discovery and learning. Although the internet is always the first and last place I go for the most up-to-date feminist theory and news, I have really neglected my bibliomania lately. With the semester over, I thought I would walk myself down to the public library and read some books I have put on my mental "to-do" list ages ago.

My local public library is fantastic. Over three stories filled with the most diverse and interesting books gave me a lot to work from. Here's my book list for those interested:

  1. Refusing to Be a Man - John Stoltenberg
  2. The Beauty Myth - Naomi Wolf
  3. Pornified - Pamela Paul
  4. The Dialectic of Sex - Shulamith Firestone
  5. The Macho Paradox - Jackson Katz
  6. Scapegoat - Andrea Dworkin
  7. The Gate to Women's Country - Sheri S. Tepper

All of the above are non-fiction, except for Tepper's novel. I have read about or part of all of these books in my theory classes, but never in whole. Summer is a great time to rectify my ignorance. As I go through the books in the following weeks, I will try to post particularly striking passages and my reactions to them for the blogosphere's perusal.

Look for part two in this series soon!

Cool Video Time

So this video has been on some of the feminist blogs that I read daily. It is Jay Smooth talking about homophobia in hip-hop, and manhood more generally. I really think you should watch it. It is short and awesome.
"When we find ourselves believing that killing a man makes us more of a man, but loving a man makes us less of a man, it’s probably time to reexamine our criteria for manhood."

Women refugees good for tourism, denied rights

This weekend my mother ripped out an article from an issue of Marie Claire and gave it to me. I do not read magazines, as my personal form of protest against the exclusive and unrealistic beauty standards they tend to promote, so I had no idea what to expect from this article.

The article was about the “long neck women of Thailand.”

Some of the members of the Kayan ethnic group's women wear coils made of brass rings around their necks that weigh up to 25 pounds to depress their collar bones so their necks appear longer. The problem is that these women are actually Burmese refugees, and the Thai authorities will not allow them to take asylum overseas because the novelty of these women’s neck coils is good for tourism. They are being forced, as the Marie Claire article states, “to live in a virtual human zoo.”

Zember, a 23-year-old woman Kayan woman, removed her coil to protest her captivity.

The 500 or so Kayans (also known as Padaung) who live in Thailand fled the brutal military regime in neighboring Burma (also known as Myanmar) two decades ago, and they have been confined in three guarded villages on the northern Thai border ever since. An estimated 40,000 tourists per year, many of them Americans, pay about $8 each to gawk at the women’s giraffe-like appearance. In return, the long-neck women earn a paltry salary of 1500 baht ($45) a month selling souvenirs and postcards. Few tourists are aware of the scandalous situation, Zember explains, because the women’s wages are docked if they discuss their plight. So they “smile and say nothing.”

Zember and her family were accepted for resettlement by New Zealand in 2006 as part of a wide-scale program organized by the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR. Five other long-neck families are also due to relocate to New Zealand and Finland but lack the exit permits.

Because the Thai authorities will not issue exit permits, these families are trapped.

“As official refugees, the Kayans have a right either to resettlement abroad or to full Thai citizenship. They are being given neither,” says Kitty McKinsey, the (United Nations High Commission for Refugees’s) regional spokeswoman in Bangkok. She points out that over the past two years, Thailand has issued exit permits for more than 20,000 other Burmese refugees who lack the Kayans’ commercial value. “The Kayans should be treated the same as other refugees,” McKinsey says. (bolded words, added)

The women are punished (with docked wages) for doing anything modern because it interferes with their image that is being sold to tourists. Zember and her friend Ma Lo, both of whom removed their neck coils, no longer receive pay and cannot find other work because of their refugee status. The local government refuses to move on this issue because the province these villages are located in are poor and depend heavily on tourism for their livelihood. The three villages of the long-neck women do not have basic sanitation and medical care.

Women as commodities, stripped of their human rights and their rights as refugees, because of their commercial value. Apparently the UNHCR has tried a tourist boycott, but it did not work out. So, please, beware when you become a tourist. Who could it be hurting?

Works consulted for the non-quoted portions: TimesOnline, Peoples of the World Foundation

Monday, May 19, 2008

Clarifying the CA Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage

After reading a bit about people's reactions to the California Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage, I want to clarify some misconceptions about the verdict.

First, the court wasn't debating whether gay marriage should be legal; they decided if calling same-sex unions "domestic partnerships" and hetero unions "marriage" was constitutional. The decision states,

"Accordingly, the legal issue we must resolve is not whether it would be constitutionally permissible under the California Constitution for the state to limit marriage only to opposite-sex couples while denying same-sex couples any opportunity to enter into an official relationship with all or virtually all of the same substantive attributes, but rather whether our state Constitution prohibits the state from establishing a statutory scheme in which both opposite-sex and same-sex couples are granted the right to enter into an officially recognized family relationship that affords all of the significant legal rights and obligations traditionally associated under state law with the institution of marriage, but under which the union of an opposite-sex couple is officially designated a "marriage" whereas the union of a same-sex couple is officially designated a "domestic partnership." (3-4)

Basically, if both domestic partnerships and marriages carry the same legal benefits, is it constitutional to limit marriage to just between a man and a woman?

It somewhat reminds me of Plessy v. Ferguson that ruled "separate but equal" based on race. If civil unions and marriages have the same legal benefits, they are separate but equal. However, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 ruled that separate but equal isn't equal, and this Californian court decision is saying the same thing.

The court points out that sexual orientation doesn't limit a person's ability to form a loving relationship and a family and that sexual orientation isn't a reason to deny rights to people, even the right of marriage.

Marriage carries a certain social weight and respect that domestic partnerships don't have. Allowing gay marriage gives same-sex couples the same dignity as opposite-sex couples, to embrace the full humanity of everyone and say "Your relationship is just as valid as mine; your love is just as life-giving as mine; and you, as a person, are worthy."

"But what about the will of the people?" some ask. "The people of CA don't want gay marriage and have voted against it!"

The court ruled on whether denying gay marriage was constitutional, not if the people of California agreed with it. Popular opinion doesn't hold any sway on the Constitution; it's a living document that guarantees inalienable rights. At times, popular opinion didn't want the emancipation of slaves, but that doesn't mean popular opinion was right. In some places in the United States, popular opinion probably says that guns should be outlawed, hunting or otherwise. You know what though? Tough shit. The right to bear arms is written in the Constitution so unless there's an amendment, all guns will never be banned. I'm generally under the idea that the Constitution shouldn't be used to limit rights, but instead guarantee freedoms, so I wouldn't necessarily be for an amendment in the first place. If we say we're for protecting rights, we've got to protect all of them - free speech, guns, assembly, a trial of peers, speedy trials, religion, and yes, even marriage.

If the three presidential candidates were running just in California, their positions on gay marriage would be unconstitutional, by the way.

Here's what I want to know: How does two people of the same gender getting married hurt anyone? Why is it so threatening to someone that two people want to join together and publicly declare their love as people have been doing for centuries?

Obviously I'm biased and think gay marriage is great, but I honestly see no harm in ensuring that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, have equal rights.

Thanks to Disagreeably Right for prompting the post. You can find the full text of the court decision here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Animal cruelty is not sexy

Cross-posted at XXBlaze

"Sex sells". When it is not selling me pants, sunglasses, bikini waxes, and a fat-complex it is now selling me morality. Take away the message and what is the difference between an ad like this and one like this? The answer is absolutely nothing. Naked women have nothing to do with Levi's pants or vegetarianism. The message, "this lifestyle promoted in this ad is sexy", does not vary between the two ads. The only difference is that one lifestyle is that of buying jeans, and the other is the lifestyle of not eating meat.

We humans must be incredibly stupid to fall for such shoddy marketing. I really have no words for a society that buys cheap body-spray en masse when the half-wit marketing experts at the firm have nothing more to say for their product other than it makes women take off their bras. How does it do that? Nobody knows, simply because there is a cognitive dissonance when I try to compute a reality in which people are convinced to buy a product on the promise of sex that it cannot possibly deliver.

Axe Body Spray is hardly the worst offender. Axe promotes no political agenda other than the dudely enjoyment of foul smelling cologne masking the fact that you have not showered in a week, or the simple-minded pursuit of titties. This ad campaign works, I might say, because the people who would use cheap cologne to excuse not taking a shower would be the kind of dupes to connect buying something with getting laid.

Liberals, however, claim to function on a higher level. Empathetic beings concerned with the plight of life everywhere do not need bared breasts and toned asses to buy, or not buy, a lifestyle.


Guess what bikini models have to do with the suffering of chickens? Absolutely nothing. If PETA really wished to highlight the suffering of animals, they would make their protests horrible, frightening, and sickening. With so shortage of horrifying images of animal suffering (five minutes of googling produced this, this, this, and this) why does PETA, among other organizations, feel the need to sell the idea that animals are suffering for our lifestyle with sex?

Melanie B, from the Spice Girls, would also like you to know that Sex Trafficking is hot. "Get your tits out for trafficking!" an activist asks us. We all know that strippers and prostitutes always get the best side of the law, because society as a whole values their opinions and personhood so much. Making our causes into our pimps and baring it all for a liberal cause, of course, wins the respect of many. It is also very relevant to the discussion at hand. Animal abuse and the unwilling trafficking of sexual slaves in our own country is titillating and sexy.

PETA reminds me of a circa-1970s Al Sharpton, who shot himself and his cause in the foot by involking the ire of New York Jews with some insensitive antisemitic remarks. To this day, Sharpton and his pose of goons continue to give activists a really bad name by various other classy shenanigans such as sexism and rape apology. Of course, the average American can tell you that he or she thinks Sharpton is full of shit. He or she will place Sharpton in the "bat-shit crazy" category alongside PETA. The most damaging person to their causes, obviously, is PETA activists and Sharpton themselves. The average American is not convinced. Thus Sharpton and PETA are unsuccessful.

In contrast, anti-abortion activists continue to get considerably more positive press than PETA. The reason why is not rocket science. Perhaps it is because their ad campaign is so blessedly simple and horrifying. I am firmly and absolutely pro-choice. However, I will say that if I had no opinion on eating meat or abortion, the anti-abortion ad would be significantly more morally compelling than a strip-tease for animal rights.

There are only two rules to good advertising: keep it simple and relevant. The anti-abortion ad is a picture of an abortion, thus it is relevant. It just states, "abortion is bad". The PETA ads, however, are convoluted and self-defeating. Alicia Silverstone with no clothes on does not really have anything to do with my greasy hamburger. The PETA ad asks the viewer to make a connection between nakedness, fur, and animal cruelty. The connection is tenuous, and thus, falls apart. The abortion ad achieves its purpose while the PETA ad does not.

Not only does PETA need to fire its marketing executives, the organization itself is probably the only thing on the planet more self-defeating than Al Sharpton. Commenters will poo-poo my critique all they want, but the fact remains that feminists can be agents of their own oppression especially when they sell their bodies for a cause that has nothing to do with sex. Yes, the woman who climbed into a cage while naked and pregnant in the cold to protest animal cruelty did so consensually. Would she, however, have posed nude if female nudity was not the biggest successful seller of unnecessary over-processed shit on the planet?

In conclusion, I hate PETA, and will continue to do so because:
(a) They utterly fail at marketing
(b) They protest the cruelty of animals with the objectification of the female body
(c) They diminish the horror of their cause with meaningless strip teases
(d) They diminish and poo-poo the objections of activists for other causes
(e) They are the most unintentionally self-parodying group on the face of this Earth

I will not continue to suffer any fools, especially sexist fools that sit on their high-horse naked and defeat feminism's basic tenements in order to diminish the real issue of the objectification of women, and to sexualize the suffering of animals.

Note: As the author of this post, I will delete comments that are trolling, offensive, and off-topic, and ask that all contributors to this tread ignore all those who will attempt to hijack the thread.

Note 2: After only having this thread open for three hours, I am closing the comments due to the thoughtless, rude, and asinine trolling of one Coyote Skinhead, self-proclaimed "critical thinker" and anti-feminist.

Note 3: Thank God for the ban-hammer. Comments on this post and some of my others will go back on, now with moderation. Thank you internet, for imposing moderation upon us by providing the world with anti-feminist trolls.

Remind me why I care? Oh wait, I DON'T.

Seriously? How is this news? Really? Is it a particularly slow news day that all CNN can come up with is that Hillary Clinton heard a sermon about adultery?

First off, I don't think the personal lives - much less the sex lives - of politicians and their families should be any of my business, as long as they're doing their jobs. They can do whatever they want in their free time, assuming it doesn't hurt their ability to perform their duties. If someone was having an affair and telling the person classified information, then that's different. Otherwise, not my business. I expect the government to stay out of my bedroom, so I sure as hell don't want to be in the government's bedroom.

Second, Bill Clinton cheated, not Hillary.

Third, she just sat in church. Didn't speak, wasn't mentioned at any point in the service, was just a person sitting in the pew.

Fourth, so what? American journalism is in horrible shape if that's what counts as main page news. Not to mention people were flabbergasted when Chris Matthews managed to actually do his job a few days ago. Can we get back to discussing things that actually matter to people?

I blame William Randolph Hearst and yellow journalism.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

When You're Fat, You're Not Just Fat

Five years old, my first diet. Seven years old, being declared officially "overweight" because I weigh ten pounds over what a "normal" seven-year-old should weigh. Ten years old, learning to starve myself and be happy being constantly dizzy. Thirteen years old, crossing the border from being bigger than my friends to actually being "fat." Fifteen years old, hearing the boys in the next room talk about how fat (and hence unattractive) I am. Whenever I perform, I remember the time when my dad said he didn't like the dance I choreographed because I looked fat while I was doing it. Every time I dye my hair I remember when my mom wouldn't let me dye my hair in seventh grade because seeing fat people with dyed hair made her think they were just trying to cover up the fact that they're fat, trying to look attractive despite it (when of course it's obvious what they should really do if they want to look attractive, right?) - Nomy Lamm, It's a Big, Fat Revolution
Fat hate is constant. Turn on your TV. Ride the subway. Open a magazine. Eavesdrop in a restaurant. Because when you're fat, you're no longer human. Your body is open to discussion and debate everywhere. Your health is analyzed by strangers, and you're constantly reminded that you are unattractive. You are sneered at. You are laughed at openly. You are pointed at.

But, at the same time you are invisible. Your existence is ignored in films. Clothes featured in magazines are not made in your size. Doors are slammed in your face, as they are held open for other people.

Because, in case you didn't know, fat people are not human, and they don't deserve respect. And they are also pretty stupid, which is why they constantly need to be reminded by strangers that their hearts are in danger, or they might have diabetes. Oh, and they are lazy. The only reason that they are fat is because they refuse to get off the couch and get to the gym.

Or not. Fat people know whether they are healthy or not. (Because fat can be healthy, btw.) They know the risks of a sedentary lifestyle because they watch the news and go to the doctor. They don't need to be told by you. Yeah, except they might not lead a sedentary lifestyle. They are active. They workout. They eat healthy. Because there is more than one way to become fat. Yes, they might be sedentary (but, the thin person next to you may also be). But, they also may have thyroid problems. Their bodies might be built differently than yours. They might be depressed and coping through food. But really, that's not you're problem. It's theirs.

And fat people do face a lot of problems. Fat discrimination is real. Fat employees make less a year than thin ones. Far less. Fat students are less likely to be accepted to prestigious universities than thin ones (but how do they know the students are fat? Most Ivy-leagues require interviews).

Well, maybe you would hire a fat person, but you would never sleep with one (that's the sentiment I've gotten from a lot of commentors here). You're just not attracted to them. Fat is gross. But why? Would you still think that fat was "gross" if you hadn't been bombarded with images and messages that thin in sexy? If you had been raised away from an image-filled media, would you think like that? A teacher once told me that in "the days of radio" women were attracted to deep voices and valued those deep voices in a potential mate more than their physical appearance. Just a thought.

Also, read this.

And, a few notes, I am not anti-thin. I realize that thin women face their own set of problems; however, there has been a lot of anti-fat hatred on this blog lately, which is why I chose to write about fat oppression. And this post is meant to be fairly gender neutral. Fat is a feminist issue. But, because this is sort-of a Fat Oppression 101 post, I wanted to encompass the problems that face both men and women. More gender-specific posts will probably follow. And, as the writer of this post, I expect commentors may say that I am just "bitter" or fat myself. Both are a little true. I am not a thin woman, and I feel bitterness when I see discrimination. But, I am also a beautiful woman who wants to change things a little bit.

Edit: I am closing comments on this thread. Comments have failed to be productive and only succeeded in insulting me, all feminists, and women in general.

Troll Patrol

Hey guys, I am home for the weekend (my sister is graduating from high school on Sunday), so that means that I won't be able to check here that often. I just wanted to leave some notes for all the readers/commenters/contributors.

First of all, I would like to remind all commenters that anonymous commenting is a privilege. I started this blog for the purpose of generating productive discussion. I understood that in order to do that, I would need to allow as many people as possible to participate in discussions here, and the best way to do that was to allow for anonymous commenting. But lately, there has been a lot of bullying by anonymous commenters which has provoked tangents in the comment threads that focus more on semantics than the actual issues.

We have been experiencing a lot of trolling on this blog lately. The use of the word "troll" for me means a person who leaves comments (usually, but not always, anonymously) that are meant to provoke a negative reaction among those who support the authors/ideas of this blog. General tactics used on this blog include: generalizing about all feminists ("feminists hate men!"), assumptions about particular authors ("you wrote about x so you must be like this"), name calling ("conceited," and"vain" were alluded to in a recent thread), and others.

Many of the people that I would consider to be trolls on this blog come here, make intentionally aggravating statements, and then try to use the human reactions of other commenters to make a bad name for feminism. It is interesting that they claim to just be presenting an opposing viewpoint. Problem is that there intent obviously does not fit with this. They want to make feminists look bad.

My policy for all commenters is to allow them to comment, and if they make a generalization about something, or say something mean, or just plain wrong, I correct them. If they continue that also makes them a troll in my eyes, I try to urge other commenters to not engage in debate with them, as it is often futile because the troll has not come here for debating purposes.

I have deleted comments in the past when they have been insulting to particular people, or so full of malice that they offered nothing to the discussion. I have been accused of doing this to silence those who do not agree. That is wrong. Very wrong. You can look through some of the more recent threads to see that I have allowed a diversity of comments to be displayed. But if a troll continuously makes generalizations and covers the authors of this blog with false blanket statements like "You think women are superior," and "You just want everyone to agree," and they continue to do so even after being told that they are incorrect, their comments become no longer appreciated.

I receive every comment that is submitted to this blog via e-mail. I read every comment that is submitted to this site. This is my responsibility as I started this blog and wanted to allow people to comment anonymously, and I have to say that I do not appreciate the disrespect that comes from many people who make it obvious that their point in coming here is to disagree. I could start a more strict deletion strategy, but that would only garner more cries of "She's silencing the opposition!"

So I will not, but I would like all the commenters on this site to realize that debating with a troll is futile. You may try for a while, but you need to know when to stop. You only give them more reason to post nonsense if you respond to them.

I do not want to silence discussion. If there are people productively participating in a comment thread, engage with them and ignore those who continue to be blind to their own argumentative weaknesses. Doing so will make this a better experience for all those involved.

Thanks, everyone.

And now I will wait for someone to comment, exclaiming, "I am not a troll!" and "You think you're psychic, don't you?"

EDIT 5/18/08: The purpose of this post was not necessarily to entertain any sort of debate. It was to point out why I allowed anonymous comments in the first place, and how I personally try to deal with those I find distasteful, along with a suggestion for how I felt that people on this blog should deal with them. But I am cutting off the comments now because it is distracting. Back to the other posts!

Friday, May 16, 2008

A feminist in exile! Kind of.

I am sure that many of you can commiserate. Being a feminist, especially an outspoken one, is akin to leprosy. With the dorms closed, I am forced to live with my mother and brother and face the fact that my mother thinks it is perfectly all right to call women bitches, whores, and cunts and lets my brother do so as he pleases.

How do you face the fact that your family hates a cause that is so dear to you? I punched my brother in the face today for calling me a bitch and a whore after I asked him not to. Par for the course for me, because asking him to not play the drums when I'm napping also gets a cunt accusation.

Being in my twenties and stupid, according to my mother, means that I do not get to question her parenting skills. Or lack thereof, when your younger son calls his sister a bitch and a cunt for daring to have a vagina and not doing what he wants you to. Her argument is that men hold the door open for her at work, so she gets to declare my brother a "nice sort of chap" with authorization to call his older sister a cunt whenever he finds it inconvenient to live in a house with people that do not to put up with his noise, bullshit, and foul odor.

I frown highly upon the Oppression Olympics, but I really doubt that a known civil rights activist is expected to keep his or her cool if his or her family members accuse him or her of being a nigger every time they get uppity. I really regret being open with the fact that I do Feminist Advocacy work with a family that feels it necessary to throw it back in my face every time they say something blatantly sexist. Ask me again, mother dear, what it feels like to know that your mother likes your "trustworthy" brother better because his genitals are outies.

Bitch is a slur. It is not the kind of slur "dick" is. Trying to convince my family of that, however, is like talking to a wall. A wall, of course, that you wish you did not love so they could not hurt you with their indifference. Bitch is a historical term that applies to women that act "unwomanly". She defies a man, is out spoken, and wears the pants in the family. She must be a bitch or a whore. "Dick" does not carry with it the same history of oppression. Equating bitch with dick is as absurd as equating nigger with yuppie.

It's called privelege. When you have it, you can't see it. You also cannot pretend that slurs leveled against you have the same sort of affect as someone who works tirelessly for the rights of a disenfranchised group. Someone who happens to be your sister that would never lift a finger against you otherwise.

And so this radical feminist in exile will nurse her bottle of cheap vodka on the couch of her friend's apartment, and try to figure out how to retrieve her toiletries from her mother's abode (yes, the same mother that called me a liar to my face when I tearfully confessed I was raped) without having to face her brother.

I really do not think I am strong enough to face anyone that shares my blood for a week or two without kicking some ass and taking some names. Alcohol and good friends dull the urge to bash faces in. Feminists take note!

Update: Mom called and we had the drunkest sappiest conversation known to human kind. It was sugary and deep and I just used all of my minutes. No word on reconciling with the brother yet. I guess I might have to wait a decade or two for him to get a clue. At least I know now that my mother has got my back, once I explaining myself sans anger and plus slightly slurred sugary declarations of mother-daughter love. I finally feel like she understands the feminism thing. This acceptance is an odd feeling. I need to buy cheap vodka more often.

Coffee drinking in style

I'm moving out of my apartment early next week for the summer so I've been packing and cleaning everything in sight. Before I packed my favorite coffee mugs away, I wanted to share them with you.

I've loved Princess Leia as long as I can remember and this mug is proof. My grandparents brought this back for me from a trip to Florida when I was little; I'm not sure exactly when, but the copyright date on the bottom says 1989. I've always wanted to be Princess Leia for Halloween, but last year I was Rosie the Riveter and the year before that Rosie O'Donnell from A League of Their Own. This year!

I'm not sure exactly where this one came from; it just appeared in my college apartment and no one claimed it when everyone moved out. I have some buttons in a similar style that say "Smart Women Vote 2004" (a little outdated), but one's a lady pirate and lady police officer.

Does anybody else have cool feminist gear? Post pictures!

First "plus-size" Top Model wears a size 8, cannot shop in plus-size stores

It should really go without saying that the fat-shaming America's Next Top Model reality show is as close to feminism as Hitler is to Gandhi. In a rare sign of normalcy yesterday, however, the show crowned Whitney Thompson as America's Next Top Model.

Ashamed that they succumbed to the demands of real feminine curves, the world then proceeded to label Thompson "plus size". The model, who confesses that she waivers between size 8 and 10, should be ashamed of her "otherness". No real modeling agency will work with a fatty!

Yet again the media marginalizes the average woman. The beauty ideal is so ridiculous that we label someone who cannot shop in plus-size stores a plus-size model. I must confess that I wear the same size Thompson does, although I am nowhere near as statuesque, blond, or toned. If I wished to swim in my clothes sans a pool and shorten my pants six or more inches, I might be able to shop in a plus-size store.

I have nothing against real plus-size women. Women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful and unique. However, it is beyond stupid that our culture labels women at a normal weight and average size as "chubby" or "plus-size" while women that are slightly larger than average are ostracized and viewed as barely human.

I am not at all surprised, however, that the original source then links to a story on "weight winners", as crowned by US Magazine. Let us all eat diets devoid of sugar, bread, and fat so we can be as miserable happy as starving beautiful Hayden!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to save money by looking like Barbie

There's a doozy of a post over at WiseBread, a personal finance/frugal living blog, titled "Sometimes I wish I had beautiful long blonde hair and ample cleavage." From that alone, you know already it's going to be a great post.

The author, Paul Michael, goes on to lament that attractive people, especially blond women (who are implicitly white), often get better deals than "ordinary" people - free drinks, no speeding tickets, etc. His main issue isn't with the women themselves (or so he claims), but the people who give them the deals. He does mention attractive men too, but one brief sentence. Although he claims his issue is with the bartenders, police officers and store personnel of the world, the language of the article objectifies women in ways I'm not sure Michael is even aware of. He refers to the "girls at work," talks about "beauty queens," "sassy blondes" and (my favorite) the "part time Playboy model" who got more attention than he did at the store. By including a picture of a Barbie, he compares women to plastic dolls - yeah, no objectification there.

One of the commenters says it better than I can:
Women, regardless of their physical appearance, are full people. They are responsible for their own actions and only their own. Women, no matter what they are wearing, no matter what they look like, are not responsible for other's feelings of attraction. Women are not responsible for men's sexuality.

I have two main issues with Michael's post. One, WiseBread is a personal finance/frugal living website, not a place to air personal grievances over the way you were treated at Circuit City over the weekend. Although he's claiming being white, blond and pretty gets one better treatment, I really don't see what that has to do with personal finance or frugality. I'd much rather read about money saving strategies than the fiscal advantages of having "beautiful long blonde hair and ample cleavage."

Second and more importantly, Michael objectifies the Barbie image as the standard of beauty and attractiveness for women. He claims all attractive people benefit from this, but consistently he refers to the "pretty blonde" or "sassy blonde" or "part time Playboy model." He seems to be fixated on one image as the standard for beauty as opposed to recognizing the wide variety of beauty in the world.

If Michael has such a problem with the imbalance in how society treats one beauty image, he should take issue with the society that privileges it. By devaluing one beauty standard in exchange for seeing beauty in all, everyone wins (and apparently saves).