Monday, June 30, 2008

Unwanted vs unplanned pregnanies

Today Rev. Debrah Haffner, from the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, addresses Jim Wallis (from Sojourners and God's Politics) and some statements he made in Newsweek online.

Wallis said that although he believes abortion to be a moral tragedy, he doesn't think the best way to prevent abortions is to criminalize them. He asks, "The question is how can we actually prevent unwanted pregnancies, protect unborn lives, support low-income women, offer compassionate alternatives to abortion, make adoption much more accessible and affordable, carefully fashion reasonable restrictions, and thus dramatically reduce the shamefully high abortion rate in America?"

Haffner responds by suggesting that it's not unwanted pregnanies Wallis should be concerned about preventing, but unplanned pregnanies. She writes,
What Rev. Wallis isn't telling you is that the abortion rate is at its lowest since 1974, a year after Roe v. Wade. Abortions are coming down in the U.S. The abortion rate is down 100,000 since 2000, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

What Rev. Wallis isn't telling you is that a majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and that 62% of mainline Christians and 84% of Jews believe that.

What Rev. Wallis isn't telling you is that according to the Guttmacher Institute, placing retrictions, whatever "reasonable restrictions" might be, doesn't make abortions rarer, it makes them less safe.

And despite my reading his paragraph over and over again lest I missed it, what Rev. Wallis isn't calling for is hope for young women for productive futures through quality education and job opportunities (as was missing in last week's stories on the so-called pregnancy pact), sexuality education, and high quality family planning services. Rev. Wallis, as a pro-choice feminist and minister, I will do everything I can to work with you on assuring adoption services and high quality prenatal care and parenting support -- when will we see you working to assure women AND men have access to the means to prevent pregnancies in the first place?

If anti-choicers really want to prevent abortions, they should support easy access to birth control and family planning services because that's what prevents unplanned pregnancies, not misleading information and abstinence only education. Just one more reason that the anti-choice promotion The Pill Kills is more about imposing conservative sexual mores on society than it is about preventing abortions.

Last week, James Dobson from Focus on the Family said that Obama was "deliberately distorting" the Bible to fit his own theology. Haffner critiqued Dobson, writing,
"I find it almost laughable that Mr. Dobson (he is not a minister, he just plays one on radio and tv) doesn't understand that he too uses the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own theology. After all, the Bible is silent on birth control, silent on abortion, and silent on consensual same sex adult sexual relationships as we understand them today, yet Mr. Dobson says he is talking about a Biblical morality when he opposes them. And as a Unitarian Universalist minister, I understand that of course, we bring our own worldview and our own theology to understanding our sacred texts."
Exactly what I was thinking. If Dobson doesn't realize that individual experience and beliefs shape the way we see the world (including individual understandings of theology), then he's sadly out of touch with human experience. And because we all have different experiences and viewpoints, we must be able to make our own decisions for our own lives. That's the beauty of choice - I'm not fighting for abortions; I'm fighting for women to have the ability to make their own choices regarding their bodies and their lives.

Bookmark Haffner's blog and keep reading - she's consistantly proving that religion, feminism and choice can, and do, go hand-in-hand.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

So much America-Hating goin' on

I like our sitemeter. It provides loads of information, like when the Female Impersonator blog is listed on some-blog-I've-never-heard-of as an "America-Hating Blog to Watch Closely."

Keep it up, Impersonators. I think we should be proud that we have such a diverse set of readers.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Quick Read on images of male sexuality

Came across this older post at don't ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me?. I'm glad I (eventually) found it because lindabeth is right on about so many things - how male sexuality becomes obscene in the eyes of other males. lindabeth writes,

Finally, what I’m also quite interested in regarding this video news story, is that the campaign included images of girls, depicted in much the same way as the guys are…yet he never mentioned being bothered by the “obscenity” of those! When we take this reaction, and think about the male anxiety around male nudity in general, and especially gay male sexuality (but of course, not lesbian sexuality), it it very clear that, in popular culture, sexuality becomes ‘obscene’ when it does not reinforce heteronormative masculinity. Images are only seen as improperly sexualized when it’s the male body on display for a (presumed) het female audience.
Check it out.

(By the way, I love the name of lindabeth's blog - I always tell my friends "daaaamn, you got a nice personality!")

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Really Cool Women

This is awesome and totally inspiring.

Obama let me down this week

I've said before that I'm an Obama supporter, however, I'm a little displeased with him and his campaign this week/last week (I'm a bit behind).

First up, at an Obama rally in Detroit, two women in head scarves weren't allowed to sit directly behind Obama - more importantly, directly in line of television cameras. Two different campaign workers said it wasn't good for the current political climate and and the other said no one was allowed with hats, even though photos of the event prove otherwise.

One of the woman, Hebba Aref, said, "I was coming to support him, and I felt like I was discriminated against by the very person who was supposed to be bringing this change, who I could really relate to."

Obama later apologized to both women, but not before MN Rep. Keith Ellison told Obama that refusing to allow the women to sit in view of TV cameras was disappointing and the action didn't reflect the openness and inclusion his campaign promotes. Ellison is the first Muslim to be elected to US Congress (woot woot MN 5th district!). As much as Obama says he's not Muslim, there's a risidual feeling from all the denials that implies being Muslim is bad, when it's clearly not.

When Ellison confronted Obama about it, Obama listened and then called the women to apologize. Jeff Fecke at Shakesville explains why it's so important that Ellison brought up the issue with Obama, and also why it's so important that Obama listened to the criticism and did something about it.

So for me, while the situation is disappointing, it is refreshing to see constructive criticism offered and taken.

Next, (and there's no reedeming silver lining on this one), Obama has stated he supports the Foreign Intelligence Security Act that provides retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies who broke the law by wiretapping US citizens.

Seriously? I'm super disappointed about this and I'm writing letters to make sure Obama knows I'm pissed. What happened to "I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty." Oh wait, that was the primaries.

Now, Obama said, "Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as president, I will carefully monitor the program." I'm sorry, but after the past 7 years of empty promises to protect our rights and liberty, I'm a little wary of you "monitoring" it to make sure it's not infringing on citizen rights.

Write to Obama here and tell him that America contains Muslims and that we're not going to stand for retroactive immunity in FISA.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My feminism, my life

Cross-posted at The Feminist Underground.

As far as my definition of feminism goes, it's been really hard to come up with. When I first began calling myself a feminist during my first term at college (Fall 2007), my boyfriend had a really hard time understanding. We had several difficult discussions in which he asked me to explain what feminism was so he could better understand where I was coming from. I finally got through to him by explaining that feminism, for me, was a general understanding that women suffer many inequalities that do not exist for men because of the society that we live in which has been structured in many ways to favor men. I then explained that the way in which I practice feminism is by recognizing those instances in which people, the government, the media, etc. treat women unjustly and I call them out for it because no change will come if people are so used to sexism that they don't even notice it. I feel as if true equality cannot come about if our society does not first recognize that their are inequalities and decide how to address them. That is all feminism is about - equality. And true equality certainly isn't going to come about if we merely put a band-aid on the problem of sexism and pretend its all better. As a feminist, I try to dig out the problems in our society and bring them to the surface so they can be properly addressed.

Some of the ways I practice feminism in my life:

This post is a little illustration of how I practice feminism in my daily life by recognizing misogyny in everyday media, like the music that I constantly listen to. I realized, while writing this post, that although some of the songs by this band (Nickelback) clearly were offensive and sexist, others were less so. I had a difficult time critiquing them because I like their music, which hurts me as a feminist because I know it's not always respectful.

I also try to fight misogyny in the media by refusing to purchase "women's" magazines which I feel are damaging to women's self-esteem and confidence. My action project for my first gender and women's studies class involved this idea.

I also call out other media, like television shows or websites, that are sexist (here and here). When I do that, I get a lot of negative responses, like people think I am acting superior to them because they like those shows. Even when I try to explain why I won't watch certain shows, people often choose to ignore me out of spite for my supposed superiority complex. That has led to a lot of conflict in myself - Can a feminist like some misogynist media and really call him/herself a feminist? I have decided that that is indeed possible, as long as one does not passively accept the misogyny and is able to identify and recognize it.

I also practice feminism on a slightly less-than-daily basis when I am in school by doing a feminist radio hour during which my co-host and I talk about feminism and try to get casual radio listeners involved in discussing the sexism that exists around us everyday. This has been a really empowering experience for me so far because I have had numerous fellow students tell me that they listened to our radio show and they were enlightened about many of the problems that still exist in our society when it comes to gender equality. The same can be said about blogging, which is a big way in which I practice feminism in my life.

Gay Marriage and Popular Sovereignty

At 5:01 on June 16th, gay marriage became legal in California. If you check out some pictures, they're adorable and the first couple to legal marry are Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, both in their 80's, who have been together for 50+ years (pictures of those two are just soooo cute in their old lady-ness).

Elsewhere I've discussed the legality of the case - because other cases have ruled the right to marry an inherent civil right and because sexual orientation is protected under the equal protection clause, it's unconsitutional to limit marriage between two people based on gender and sexual orientation.

However, citizens in California and elsewhere are trying to circumvent the court's ruling by gathering signatures to get a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the ballet in November. "It's the will of the people!" they cry, hoping to sway opinion and rule through that argument.

Marriage equality activists say that denying gay people the right to marry creates a group of second-class citizens who are discriminated against through laws and practice. It's an inherent right that two people, regardless of gender, should be able to marry (and this is an argument the CA Supreme Court agrees with in their May 15, 2008 decision on In re: Marriage Cases - the CA Supreme Court decided people should be able to marry regardless of race in 1948 in Perez v. Sharp and the SCOTUS made it federal in 1967 with Loving v. Viriginia).

We've heard these two arguments before - or at least the history of the United States has, not anyone alive today. These are almost exactly the same positions Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas took on slavery in the 1858 Illinois Senate race and then again in the 1860 Presidential race.

For several years, Douglas was the champion of popular sovereignty, or popular rule - the concept that people should be able to decide what's best for their state/territory. Lincoln agreed with popular sovereignty, or at least up to a certain degree, like when popular opinion tread on a cause that wasn't moral. For Lincoln, slavery was immoral and violated the natural rights of Black people.

In seven different debates held throughout Illinois (including one at the fine institution of Knox College, where Amelia and Kate currently attend), Douglas and Lincoln verbally sparred back and forth over popular sovereignty and the morality of slavery. Douglas and Lincoln were debating the merits of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise (the Compromise contained new slave territories to beneath the southern border of Missouri, with Missouri as the exception). Kansas-Nebraska stated that the rule of the people should decide if a new territory was to be slave or free, designed by Douglas and popular sovereignty. Other things complicated the debate as well, such as the Dred Scott SCOTUS ruling and Douglas' race-baiting of Lincoln (that's another story for another time). The debates were incredibly popular all over Illinois and they were published in various Chicago newspapers and newspapers all over the nation.

Douglas won the 1858 Illinois Senate race, however, Douglas and Lincoln faced each other again two years later on a much wider stage - this time for the President of the United States. They reiterated much of the positions and arguments throughout the 1860 race, and that time, Lincoln won.

This isn't the first time US politics has heard the popular will/natural rights debate, and it won't be the last time. However, we can make sure that the voices speaking for the expansion of rights are heard as opposed to the voices trying to limit rights. The Constitution and Bill of Rights wasn't created to close off freedoms - it was crafted so to explicitly say, "These are the specific rights that cannot be taken away from us and that goes for any other rights as deemed necessary in the future" - the right to vote based not on gender or race, for example. I believe the right to marry falls under this category as well, and the CA Supreme Court agrees with me.

So next time you hear someone say, "The people don't want gay marriage! We should follow the popular opinion of the people!" remember that this argument has been tried before and when it comes down to inherent rights, it's not going to work.

This post was influenced by Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America.

Video Time - Again

I have been super busy and am now getting sick, but I couldn't let this video (h/t Feministing) escape the Female Impersonator blog. It's great.

I promise I will write a non-video post soon.

Life and Blogging: Incompatible, accompanied by relevant comic and video

Planning my grandparent's 50th anniversary luncheon with my mother was such a time-suck that I've been completely absent from the internets for the past week or so. I didn't even read any of my blog subscriptions which was a blasphemy of the highest degree. My very small audience will be happy to note that I'm currently sitting on a rant on the pornification of bisexuality.

In other news, I totally caught that interview with Jessica Valenti, writer and founder of the popular, on Moblogic:

Nothing particularly hard-hitting there, but we feminists tend to be a bit stand-offish in wider forums with our views. Probably because of trolls on comments like this:

Jessica Valenti is a bigot, she just happens to back what is currently a politically correct and popular form of bigotry.

The way they talk on her website you'd think women were living in some kind of planet of the apes scenario and yet she seems to manage to live a rather privileged life of celebrity, book deals and socialising.

She's not even an intelligent bigot, or she's highly intellectually dishonest, but then again her career is based on this notion that women are horribly oppressed - it's in her interests to keep perpetuating this idea.

No, I will not link to the comment. Trolls don't get free audiences here.

First of all, since when is feminism popular? I think our dear troll is confusing feminism with Suicide Girls or the various teenie-bopper fads that confuse titillation with empowerment and equality.

It's really obvious that Jessica is "privileged". I mean, she has to put up with asinine trolls and their sophomoric logic day in and day out! I do that too, although on a much smaller scale, and I can tell you how much fun it is, and how much money I make. Jessica's "socializing" is called activism. Instead of getting drunk and shooting the breeze with buddies, which is fun in moderation, try something more productive like writing books.

Finally, our dear troll punctuates his sentiment with the tired-and-true, "shuttup opportunistic man-hating whore!" sentiment. Any feminist knows she's doing something right when she gets this gem thrown at her. From trolls in my very personal rape thread whining about teh poor menz to anonymous emails about how I alienate people from feminism with my awful, terrible book reviews and pop-culture sociology, there seems to be no shortage of men, and the occasional woman, who seem to think that the people pointing out discrimination are somehow more to blame for society's ills than the people that perpetuate those attitudes with the defense of their willful ignorance.

In more colloquial terms, via Penny Arcade:


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Power of Repitition - McCain, Cunt, Cunt, McCain

I found this video on Feministe, and I actually laughed out loud when I saw it.

Here it is: "At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." - John McCain, to his wife, Cindy, in 1992.

I also thought it was interesting because when I wrote a post about this topic back in April, people accused me of taking a "slow news day" to dig deep into the candidate's past in order to discredit him with irrelevant information (read the post for more).


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Want to look like a fool? Dress your ageism!

...or "Leave the Fashion to the Young Ladies."

Right off the bat, this article rubbed me the wrong way. The title: "Want to Look Younger? Dress Your Age." Dressing your age can be useful for many things, like working in a professional environment, for example. But the title suggests that the only reason any (woman) would want to dress her age is to look younger. Because being young is the only way to be beautiful, you know*. Then, once I finally got past the title, I found even more goodies. For example, a no-no according to this read was "Chunky platform shoes." Here's why:

The description of what you want to look for in a shoe sounds a lot like what you’d want your body to look like too—sleek, slim and sexy. So while you can still wear moderate platforms, reasonable wedges and slightly chunky shoes, you want to avoid any exaggerated versions. “After a certain age, a too-chunky shoe just starts to look orthopedic,” says Krupp. Not to mention that some of those sky-high platforms and wedges can be downright dangerous. Twist an ankle in a chunky shoe and you might find yourself in a decidedly unstylish cast or brace!

Yep, old ladies, watch out for those shoes! Not only will the really make you look your age with their "orthopedic" style (since you're probably over 30, you must be getting ready for the nursing home, right?), they'll probably even cause damage to your much-less-than-supple body!
Another example of this author really trying to keep those oldies in place can be found in the reasoning behind banning older women from wearing "Sheer over sheer":

Clothes always have a tendency to get lighter, airier and less substantialwhen summer weather hits. And this season, with a trend toward transparent tops, tunics and dresses, is no exception. Instead of wearing sexy underpinnings with a gauzy top, Krupp suggests trying the trend in a more minor way. “You don’t want to expose too much, so consider a top that reveals just your upper chest beneath a sheer chiffon, but wear an opaque camisole underneath it that completely covers your breasts,” she says. “You can still look sexy, but you can do it without revealing too much.” (emphasis mine)

The problem I have with this is not that it suggests covering up, but that it does not give a specific time/reason to cover up, like attending a child's sporting event, for example. The line “You don’t want to expose too much” is directed at the target reader of this article: Older women. It is basically saying, "If you're old, there's not reason for you NOT to be covered up!"

I don’t really agree with the idea of “fashion” in the first place, because it dictates too much, giving people (especially women) a very narrow sense of what is “beautiful.” But when you add into this mix the idea that beauty also has some sort of age limit, and if you’re over that limit you better not do x, y, or z if you want to show your face in public, it makes me even more cynical.

*According to subtle messages from the diet, plastic surgery, and fashion industries, it sure is.

Non-feminist moment: Amelia edition

Damn it.

It's midnight, and I just caught myself feeling pleased about working out and not eating much today, even though there were several times when I was pretty hungry.

What. The. Fuck.

How is that something to be pleased about?? Grr...

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Cutie-Smartie Kids

My posting has been kind of slow lately, mostly because I'm still getting used to my full time job. I'm a nanny for three kids: a ten year old boy, a nine year old girl, and a five year old girl. The job is both mentally and physically exhausting, but we have a good time together. And I've been taking little feminist mental notes.

One thing I've noticed during the last week was about nicknames. When I'm talking to the two girls, I sometimes address them as "cutie" or "beautiful." I don't call the boy by any name like that, and I've been wondering about the effect on them in the long term. I've decided to call them "smartie" instead of "cutie" or "beautiful."

What do you guys think about this? Do you think that nicknames make a difference in the long run? Do they teach girls to value looks as a defining characteristic? Or are they just sweet, simple names?

My non-feminist moment of the weekend

While on my way to my grandparent's house to visit my grandpa for Father's Day, my sister and I were talking in the car, wondering if my uncle was going to be there.

My sister: I wonder of [uncle] still eats all of his meals at Grandma and Grandpa's house.
Me: Hah, does [longtime live-in girlfriend] not know how to cook?
My sister: You mean does [uncle] not know how to cook?

There it is. I assumed that my uncle's girlfriend does all of the cooking and that my uncle does not, also, I implied that he isn't responsible for his own well-being when he is an adult and clearly should be able to cook a meal for himself.

As egregious as my assumption was, my sister did the right thing and called me out on it. She reminded me that although sexism invades our daily lives, casting shadows over even the most well-intentioned, informed, and even self-identifying feminists, we can acknowledge the sexism that escapes our own mouths and minds and work against it. To let it go unchecked would have allowed that bit of sexism to stay alive and grow, as opposed to calling it out and squashing it right away.

We have to hold ourselves accountable for our participation in the systematic and cultural patriarchy that exists in the world. If we can't even live up to our mistakes and cultural biases, how can we expect others to do the same?

So here's to my sister, who pointed out my own assumptions and didn't allow that sexism to exist in our midst.

Plastic Surgery and the Fake Beauty Ideal

What do Cindy Jackson, 48, and Steve Erhardt, 23, have in common?

They've both spend over $100,000 USD on plastic surgery.

The images above are of human beings that do not exist in nature. What I find intrinsically wrong and disturbing is my reaction to both pictures. Cindy, my mind tells me, is a pretty woman. Don't I wish that I will look like that when I'm almost 50? Steve, according to my inner sense of beauty, is a bizarre parody of a man. Cindy is beautiful, and Steve is abhorrent.

If my inner sense of beauty was as unwarped as I would like it to be, both pictures should disgust me. My mind should be incapable of finding completely unnatural and fake images of humanity as sexually appealing, or more so, than images of unaltered human beings.

I tested this with several of my friends. Unanimously, regardless of their gender or sexual preference, everyone I talked to found Cindy better looking than Steve. In fact, only one of my friends, a straight woman, thought that Steve wasn't disturbing.

What does this mean?

It means that our definition of female beauty is so warped that we find completely invented images of women prettier than actual women. This standard does not apply to men. When confronted with an image of the "perfect man" who has spent thousands of dollars augmenting himself to adhere to a beauty ideal, most react with disgust. When we see Cindy, on the other hand, we find her unanimously prettier than Steve, at the least, and extremely good-looking in general.

I submit this experiment as absolute undeniable proof that the image of female beauty is invented to a degree that male beauty has never been. Humanity finds the male that occurs naturally much better looking than one that appears plastic and fake. Whereas, unless we're plastic surgery experts, we are incapable of recognizing alteration to the female form because we are socialized to find such alternations beautiful and normal.

It is the true female body, with its stretch marks, pores, unlined eyes, uneven skin, knobby knees, and slight pouch that we find as disgusting as the altered male.

Repeat this experiment with your friends. Even though I spend hours weekly trying to deconstruct the false image of beauty that marketing has socialized into my subconscious, I still find Cindy infinitely more attractive than Steve. I highly doubt that anyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender, disagrees with me.

It is this evidence—socialization has ruined my natural sense of beauty—that is much more horrifying than the thousands of dollars and months of pain women undergo to transform themselves into some Living Doll. Although I cannot determine which came first—the demand for false beauty or the image of unnatural beauty—I can say that my subconscious is evidence that we continue to perpetuate this demand for the mutilated image of femininity despite any objection that so-and-so prefers natural beauty.

In fact, I postulate that anyone when confronted with a unadorned symmetrical female face through the media would not find it as attractive or "normal" as the completely unnatural image of Cindy Jackson.

This fact, coupled with the observation that we are capable of valuing real men over altered men (who would argue that a naturally handsome man is less appealing than Steve?), leads me to believe that feminist theory is undeniably true: that what is we think is "normal" female beauty has nothing to do with nature. This hijacking of female beauty and biology is nauseating in its totality.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

This post goes out to my step-dad, Jim. He's been an important part of my life for 5 years now, and I want to say thanks to him. He's a great supporter of everything I do, and best of all...


Yes. Thank you, Jim, for smashing the traditional gender roles of our society and still managing to make our family work out nicely. You rock.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Longshots

I saw this trailer while taking my nieces to Kung-Fu Panda this weekend.  The Longshots is about Jasmine Plummer, the first girl to play in a Pop Warner football tournament.  It looks interesting and I'm wondering how closely the movie sticks to real life.  The trailer makes it look like it doesn't conform to gender stereotypes too heavily and deals with just more than "girl plays sports and everyone gets pissed." The characterization of her and her family seems to be just as important to the plot as the football aspect.

My only (minor) complaint is about a comment the football coach makes after Jasmine threw the ball into an opposing team's player's crotch.  He say, "I guess she's not the only girl on the field," which reduces what it means to be male to simply genitalia.  It implies that damage to a man's penis makes him less than a man and equates masculinity to a penis, which as implies sexual ability.

Anyway, I'm interested to hear everyone's thoughts on the film/trailer.  And is anyone else surprised to see Fred Durst directed it?  WTF?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Dear Conservatives, I'm Pro-Abortion! And You Know What That Makes You?


I really tire of the abortion debate. Even so-called liberals that I have contact with through various political groups always claim to understand the motivations behind the Anti-American clusterfuck that is the conservative party and their holy quest to deprive women of fundamental freedoms.

I'm talking, specifically, about reproductive freedom.

You dudes: us women, well, we don't rape people in the same numbers you do. We can also chalk our violence up to mental deficiencies, rather than the self-perpetuating prophecy of masculinity. If you weren't content with the free pass the justice system has given men to rape women that I detailed exhaustively in my last post, your penis-buddies on Capitol Hill also would like us women to know that they value the "life" of a clump of cells, a fetus, or whatever you want to call it, more than freedom.

Because in case you haven't gotten the message: America's "freedoms" only apply to white men. Also, because I'm having a bad day, I tire of talking points and meaningless posturing.

So here it is, for everyone who cares to know: I'm Pro-Abortion. I don't dress my opinions up with fancy terms like "pro-choice" to distance my stance from the fact that I am supporting the systematic termination of a pregnancy that will result in the "death" of a fetus, embryo, fertilized egg, or a sack of cells that might be a human depending on your political agenda.

So, I admit that I am Pro-Abortion. Which means that if we wish to dispose of loaded phrases and cut to the heart of the issue, we're going to redefine "Pro-Life".

Note: graphic shamelessly lifted from Andy Singer's No Exit

First, you are not pro-life. Most conservatives support the death penalty, and holding enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay until presumably the Apocalypse or nuclear winter. Killing people and torturing them isn't pro-life. Conservatives also shoot down any efforts to expand affordable health care, even to children. That's not pro-life either.

To liberal dudes who sympathize with conservatives: you might be pro-life. Sure, you might oppose the death penalty. You probably think water-boarding sucks. Your trendy liberal sentiments might also require you to admit that reducing the cost of health care is instrumentally important to the thousands of children who go without. However, you do share something fundamental with anti-abortion conservatives:

You're Anti-American.

Nothing is more intrinsic to the idea of Americanism than freedom. Not the hijacked definition of freedom which is used to mount submachine guns on a suburban Hummer, but the kind of freedom to go where I want and do what I please, provided I am not impeding anyone's rights. Probably the best and most basic exercise of freedom is that over your own body. Someone that does not even have the right to control their own body would, obviously, be a slave.

Now we've arrived at a point where sound bites are irrelevant. If I wish to be honest, then I must say that I am firmly and completely Pro-Abortion. If you wish to be "pro-life", you must oppose the unnatural and purposeful death of all of humanity. Your policies, instead encourage or allow war, torture, grueling child poverty, or a complete dismissal of the rulings of the Supreme Court. Anti-abortion activists and sympathizers are firmly and completely Pro-Slavery (of the reproductive variety) and Anti-American.

So let's just cut the bullshit, okay? I admit that I love abortion. Now you admit that you love reproductive slavery, and that you hate freedom. Fair is fair, after all.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Racism and sexism are quite alive

I wrote a little while ago about Michelle Obama being blamed for the "Jeremiah Wright fiasco." Amelia commented about her worries about unnecessary attacks on Michelle Obama and illusorytenant replied, "Oh, I'm with you 100% on that. But that's going to happen anyway. Just wait until the general election!"

It's already begun, friends.

First up, from our ever-loving, ever-tolerant friends at Fox News, Michelle Obama is now a "baby momma."

Whoever writes titlecards for Fox should get fired immediately, as well as anyone who approved it and allowed it to air.

Jack and Jill Politics writes:
If this incident generates a lot of outrage, and it should, it will only be a matter of time before it becomes a referendum on Hip-hop and how black people use the word "bitch" a lot, so it's really our fault to begin with that Fox can't be bothered to treat black people like human beings. And of course people will say that the Obamas are "playing the race card" if they object to this kind of coverage.
There's a lot of other blogger reactions here.

Next up, an art installation in an attempt to critique the media:

That picture literally makes me sick to my stomach.

Even better? The art exhibit is titled "The Assassination of Barack Obama" and the artist wanted to "raise dialogue and conversation about substantive things."

When did we start attacking children?

Keep up to date on the latest in election racism and sexism at

h/t to What About Our Daughters who run the Michelle Obama watch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Legal Shenanigans: How to Blame That Lying Whore

As a pre-law student and a feminist, the antics of defense attorneys in rape trials is always of particular interest. I've been sitting on these stories for about a week now, formulating my response. Without further ado, a glimpse inside how the American legal system dispenses justice to those lying sluts and the poor slandered men:

1. Ask trick questions

From abyss2hope:

''Did you have sexual intercourse with Mr. Vanderbeek?'' [defense attorney Maureen] Coggins asked the alleged victim. She replied that she had not.

Coggins then asked that the charges be dismissed. Greth denied the motion. Coggins then asked that the alleged victim take the stand again for a clarification. The alleged victim then testified that she had engaged in sexual intercourse, but that it was not consensual.

First of all, rape is not sexual intercourse. I would hope that a defense attorney would be aware of this fact. Doubtless, Coggins was aiming for a dismissal regardless of the answer. If she had said yes, then the term "sexual intercourse" implies consent. When she said no, that implies—falsely and only to someone with no legal training or common sense—that no penetration took place (which is doubly absurd, because many forms of sexual abuse do not require vaginal penetration). The only dismissal that I think would be appropriate in this instance is the dismissal of Coggins from her job.

2. Ban the use of the word "rape"

If I thought that the above was horrible, I was sorely mistaken when I discovered via Jezebel and Shakesville that if you have a vagina, and someone sticks a penis in it without your permission, you are not allowed to call that "rape" in a courtroom lest you bias the poor stupid jurors:

It's the only way Tory Bowen knows to honestly describe what happened to her.

She was raped.

But a judge prohibited her from uttering the word "rape" in front of a jury. The term "sexual assault" also was taboo, and Bowen could not refer to herself as a victim or use the word "assailant" to describe the man who allegedly raped her.

The defendant's presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial trumps Bowen's right of free speech, said the Lincoln, Neb., judge who issued the order.

This boggles the mind. How else are you supposed to describe the crime committed against you on the stand? This kind of shit is akin to an assault case in which the witness is forced to say that he "accepted a fist offered to my face" instead of "the defendant punched me". Witnesses and victims are supposed to testify honestly and completely to the best of their abilities. Banning the use of the only word that describes what happened is absolutely ludicrous, and not only implies that the defendant had consensual sex, but also that the witness is lying. Which brings me to my next point:

3. Force victims to perjure themselves to protect rapists

Using "sexual intercourse" to describe rape is completely inaccurate because it misses an extremely relevant point: the lack of consent. Defense attorneys are not required to use the term "rape", so why are prosecuting attorneys finding that they must use a term that implies no crime took place?

Simple: because in the minds of rape apologist judges, no crime took place. The only crime is that some disgusting whore is out to ruin a poor upstanding boy's life for her shame over giving it up too soon. The best way to make sure that the jurors understand the horrible crime that is being perpetuated against the innocent victim of a liar is to require the "liar" to use a term that implies consent, which then implies that she filed a false report.

Of course, to anyone with half a brain, this method of victim blaming is called perjury and is extremely and blatantly illegal. Like I said above, if defense lawyers and judges are not willing to conduct trials without a working knowledge of the nuances of the English language and the crime they are discussing, they should be disbarred.

4. Load the jury pool

Via The Curvature's coverage of how a defense attorney selected his jurors:

“Would you take into consideration that none of these young women, when they were removed from the situation, called 911?” he asked a potential juror. Parrinello asked other potential jurors if they would consider that there were “no eyewitnesses” and “no DNA” and that none of the alleged victims had gone to the hospital to have what’s called a “rape kit” examination for signs of assault and evidence.

[District attorney] Tantillo, meanwhile, asked potential jurors if they would consider that the girls might have been too scared to immediately report what had happened to them or even confused.

Parrinello later asked the panel of potential jurors: “Does anybody know what’s so confusing about whether or not you’ve been raped?”

Hey, I might be new to this legal game, but I'm pretty certain you can be disbarred for loading the jury in a case against a Muslim with jurors that are blatantly and unashamedly racist. The same principle should, but doesn't, apply to rape trials: you don't load the jury pool with jurors that have ignorant assumptions about rape and rape victims.

5. Question the testimony with medieval assumptions about intercourse and scare the jury

Parrinello is expected to crack away at the alleged victims’ credibility, drawing attention to the fact that three of them had consensual sexual relations with Wido before the alleged attacks. “How do you know any of them said ‘no’?” he said.

The defense attorney pointed out that the women were slow in notifying authorities and said there is no DNA evidence or eyewitnesses, “no credible evidence.” He asked the jury: “Is this a rush to judgment? Is this a slanted prosecution? Is this a Duke lacrosse prosecution?”

A good defense attorney would attempt to prove that the sexual encounter in question was consensual. Parrinello, however, goes for the tried and true, "once consensual, always consensual" tactic. I remain completely unaware of any sort of legal statute that states once I have sex with someone, I am not allowed to withdraw or withhold consent for the rest of my natural life. The assumption Parrinello makes here harkens back to a not-so-distant past in which men owned their wives because they had consummated their marriage. Since marriage is not a precursor to sex today, apparently a man does not have to buy a shiny bobble before he claims ownership over her body forevermore. All he has to do is get her to consent to sex once!

If the jury was not taken in by the throwback reference to the fact that women are property, they must be scared into submission by reference to the Duke lacrosse prosecution. To this day, I am not entirely certain that the Duke lacrosse players were innocent or guilty. As Cara over at The Curvature says, the Duke case has become the new "women are lying whores!" rallying cry. What a reference like this does is circumvent the question of the accused's innocence or guilt. It plays upon the jury's hesitance to wrap their minds around the fact that such a popular, attractive, white athlete could commit such a crime. It also asks, "are you willing to ruin this guy's life just because he probably raped someone?" After all, sports before justice. A man's right to rape and play sports is always more important than a woman's right to say no and seek justice.

6. Just plain harass and verbally abuse the victims

If all of the above fails—which it probably will not—the defense attorney can just become a pedantic asshat to make sure that all rape victims know what awaits them lest they seek justice (via MPN Now):

While the prosecution witness — one of Wido’s three alleged rape victims — was still seated, the argument began, with Parrinello at one point highlighting previous testimony that she had willingly performed a sexual act on Wido in the weeks before the alleged rape — only Parrinello used crude, street language to describe the act, drawing out both Tantillo and the judge, William Kocher.

“What Mr. Parrinello just did was outrageous in the presence of this witness!” Tantillo shouted, calling it “abusive,” “harassing,” and “disgusting.”

Parrinello fired back, “You know that’s what happened — I’m not making it up… I have a right of free speech.”

Parrinello then briskly approached the judge, coming within a few feet of his bench and pointing his finger while defending his actions. A security guard rushed to Parrinello’s side.

“I want him away from me,” Parrinello told the judge of the guard. Then Parrinello pointed at the guard, face to face, and hollered, “You’re not to get near me.”

Parrinello then told the judge: “He’s not going to intimidate me. If he does it again, we’re going to have a big problem: I’ll have him arrested.”

Judge Kocher ordered the defense attorney not to “make such editorial comments” and asked him several times if he understood. Repeatedly, Parrinello told the judge that no, he did not.

Amid the fiery exchange of words, the alleged rape victim began to wipe tears from her eyes, eventually breaking into sobs. The young woman was led out of the courtroom by Sarah Utter, the victim and witness advocate from the D.A.’s office.

The best way to shut those uppity women up is to be a violent loud jerk and reduce her to tears. Threatening judges and guards is also highly effective. Nothing feels better to a woman reliving her rape through testimony than a defense attorney that describes you and the situation as vulgarly as possible, and then lambastes from his arrogant soapbox about his right to be an abusive moron. Which, of course, would be:

7. Defend your antics with the highly ironic appeal to the First Amendment

I hope you caught that bolded passage in the quote above. Parrinello thinks that he has more of a right to the First Amendment than the victim. Oh the appalling irony! Why is it that when I see someone invoke the First Amendment, they are nearly always white men defending their right to be pedantic abusive asshats? I have a shocking idea: how about we use the First Amendment to protect the victims from perjury instead of defending an egomanic defense attorney?

And so, there you have it, the reason why only 16% of rapes are reported to the police, 8% of reported rapes are deemed unfounded (not false, but not prosecutable), less than half of those arrested for rape see trial, 54% of rape trials end in dismissal or acquittal, 21% of convicted rapists never serve time, and 24% of the convicted receive less than 11 months behind bars (statistics from Rochester University).

Considering that only 2-3% of reports are fabricated—a statistic no different from the false reporting rate of other crimes—there is a very large chance, almost an inevitability, that if you rape a woman she won't report it. If she reports it, it probably won't see trial. If it goes to trial, you probably won't get convicted. If you get convicted, you probably won't serve any time at all, or less than 11 months. Which means that in the eyes of the law, a convicted rapist is less guilty than a robber, a burglar, a drug addict, a drug dealer, and anyone who misuses a weapon for whatever reason; all of which receive more time on average than a convicted rapist.

This is how the justice system treats a rape victim: it looks for any and all excuse to discredit her and drag her name through the mud. In the end, if she perseveres, defies the odds, and gets a conviction, she probably could be rubbing elbows with her rapist in less than a year's time.

In this patriarchy, raping a woman is more excusable than stealing a television. Which leads me to conclude that not only has the justice system, by its actions, defined women as property, that they also think of them as particularly useless property at that. Considering that women/property may be raped without much of a fuss from the legal system, I do not think it illogical of me to say: the legal system regards women as property and it also implies by the reality of the extremely low rape conviction that the purpose of a woman is to be abused at will.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

180 Days

That's how long you have to report pay discrimination. In six short months after a pay discrimination decision was made, you must report that discrimination. Any reports about past pay discrimination or long term discrepancies will be legally ignored.

Oh, you don't feel comfortable asking your co-workers what they make in comparision to you the day you begin your job? Or, wait, you're not even supposed to talk about pay? Too bad...for you.

Thanks to Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Compay, companies can continue paying women less than their co-workers. As long as the women don't find out about it.

The Misogyny of Wage Gaps

Today is the 45th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which was passed by the late President Kennedy on June 10, 1963. Since then, we've come a long way, but persistent and blatant wage gaps continue to be an issue. I think that my fellow Impersonators, Lindsay and Amelia, have covered the basics far more eloquently than I am capable of without sounding repetitive.

Regardless, wage gaps are a part of a much larger phenomenon than simple misogyny in the workplace. Female work, even if it is the same work that a male can and does do, is consistently undervalued. If a woman does a man's work, she more likely to be underpaid and less likely to be promoted. If a woman does a woman's job—housekeeping, mothering, teaching—she is more likely to see exponential wage gaps, or no monetary compensation at all.

Take any traditionally female-dominated field and it is easy to see how much more undervalued and underpaid the work is compared to traditionally masculine fields. Even underpaid and overworked masculine careers like police officers and firefighters garner more respect than a maid, a nanny, or an elementary school teacher.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the case of the stay-at-home mother. I have nothing for respect for women, such as my mother, who choose to devote all of their waking hours to their children. Regardless, women in America often have to choose between a career and a family. Women that choose to stay home and raise children, arguably the most important job a person can do, labor unpaid to the tune of $117,000 per year. My parents had an ugly divorce when I was fairly young, and one of my father's complaints was that my mother used him as a "free meal ticket". My mother, under appreciated and overworked, labored day and night to raise me and my brother in the manner in which she felt was appropriate. How many other mothers are demeaned for their work? How many others are under-appreciated? Mothers are the backbone of our society, and yet, much scorn is heaped upon the woman who dares to stay home, raise the children and maintain the household, and occasionally shop or do things for herself.

For those that choose to work and have children, or are forced to as single parents or because of financial difficulties, the stereotypical "women's work", such as housekeeping and childcare, still falls disproportionately on our shoulders. This phenomenon was dubbed the "second shift" by Arlie Russell Hochschild in The Second Shift and The Time Bind, where she used peer-reviewed research to show that in two-career couples, men and women usually work equal hours but women still do a disproportional amount of housework.

Imagine the amount of work woman do to uphold this society that goes unappreciated, unpaid, or underpaid. A single mother chasing after her ex-husband for child support is regarded as greedy and should stay out of his wallet (another gem parroted by my father, even today). A single father that works and raises his children by himself is a saint, a real trooper. The double-standard is pervasive, especially when it couples with racism to form the myth of the welfare-queen: poor southern black women who have children for their own selfish gain.

I know that no amount of legislation such as the Fair Pay Act will ever amount to true fair pay unless the persistent devaluing of "women's work" utterly ceases. Our struggle to get paid the same amount for the same work is part of a larger struggle for women everywhere to do what needs doing—whether that is behind a desk, at the stove or both—and be able to support ourselves and our families.

Remember that when we discuss Fair Pay, we are really addressing the systematic and pervasive devaluation of anything a woman chooses to do for the simple fact that she is not a man.


45 years, and the Equal Pay Act still isn't cutting it

This is my small contribution to commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. Now, the title might sound like I'm completely ripping on the Equal Pay Act. I'm not. My point is to draw attention to the fact that things still aren't as equal as a lot of people think it is.

See Lindsay's great post for the facts and information about what you can do to help.

And I would like to direct a little rant to all the anonymous commenter(s) who think that all women are good for is makin' babiez, and that is why they deserve lower wages:

First of all, maternity leave has nothing to do with women making less than men for the same job.

Second of all, and this was really bothering me, caring for children is a job. It's hard work that is not respected enough in this country. That much is obvious from so many anonymous comments on this blog lately. They have proclaimed that paying all women less, regardless if they've taken paternity leave or not, is fair because they will "most likely" need time off because they just can't help making those babies.

Raising children is important. What kind of world would we live in if parents were completely unattached to their children? I don't want to find out. So I support paid maternity leave, and those people out there who oppose it and use it as a justification in their own eyes for lower wages for women (even though it really has nothing to do with unequal pay)...all I have to say is WAKE UP.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Happy 45th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act!

Forty-five years ago, on June 10 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal to pay different people different amounts for the same work. Huzzah!

Fat lot of good it did, though, as white women are still payed 77 cents to every white man's dollar, African-American women are payed 66 cents to a white man's dollar and Latina women earn 53 cents to a white man's dollar. Across the board through all different kinds of fields and education levels, unequal pay according to gender persists in the American economy and workforce as institutionalized sexism.

Well, what about "women's choices"? You know, the stuff like makin' babies and dinner - those "women's choices" to put family first, because you know women with careers don't think about their families at all. The National Women's Law Center says, "Recent authoritative studies show that even when all relevant career and family attributes are taken into account, there is still a significant, unexplained gap in men's and women's earnings. Thus, even when women make the same career choices as men and work the same hours, they earn less."

Ok, so unequal pay isn't a result of career choices and persists regardless of socio-economic or racial categories, which means that it hurts everyone - men, women, children, families, single people, divorced, disabled, widowed, people with brown hair, people with black hair, people with five fingers, people who shave their legs and even those hippies and feminist-crazies who don't.

Here's what you can do:

Support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which says that people can sue for pay discrimination within 180 days of their last paycheck, not 180 since their first paycheck. That means that if you've been working at the same company for five years and you've recently discovered that you're the victim of pay discrimination since hiring, you can sue your company for the past five years of pay discrimination. This new law would replace the recent Supreme Court ruling stating that people can only sue for pay discrimination within 180 days of the first incident. So if you've been paid unfairly for the past five years, you would have needed to discover the discrimination and sue within the first three months. In a society that's cultured not to discuss wages, especially among women, it's pretty damn hard to discover pay discrimination within three months of starting a new job/new salary. Not to mention this means that any women currently experiencing pay discrimination in their jobs (perhaps of many years or decades) would be screwed.

Here's info on the Fair Pay campaign, a fact sheet produced by the National Women's Law Center, and most important, a letter to your senator supporting the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. If you live in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, or Virginia, one or both of your senators voted against the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first time around. You need to write them and tell him/her to get their ass in gear and support the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I'm looking at you, Alabamians, Alaskans, Indianians, Iowans, Floridians, Nebraskans, New Mexicans, North Carolinians, Ohioans, Texans, and Virginians (who we all know are for lovers). Get on the ball and make sure your senator(s) know you're not happy with the way they're representing you.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Feminist first, blogger second, Amelia third

I have identified myself as a feminist for less than a year. I didn’t take on that identifier until halfway through my first term in college (approximately October 2007). But somehow, it has become my defining characteristic to many people who know me.

A friend at college introduced me to his girlfriend as Amelia, saying that I was a feminist and that I blogged.

A friend from high school, who goes to a different college, used to debate me about politics on an almost daily basis. We had near-shouting matches about everything from universal health care to the War in Iraq. Now he has started his own blog and likes to focus on his confusion over the feminist movement and putting anti-feminist spins on as much news as he can find, and his interest in feminism didn’t begin until I told him I was a feminist.

And my mom. Yes, my mom. The strong, independent woman who raised me with everything I needed to become a feminist. She constantly makes remarks like, “I know you won’t like this, but I want my husband to fix the car.” “I know you won’t like this, but I want my husband to lift this for me.” It’s like the fact that I call myself a feminist makes her self-conscious of all these things she does, so she has to make excuses for doing things that are “un-feminist.”

Why is that?

The only real difference that has come about in myself since I began calling myself a feminist is that, well, I started calling myself a feminist. And I started a blog. Maybe writing for a blog means I am more vocal about my stands on certain issues since this blog has allowed me to be part of feminist dialogues that I would have otherwise missed out on. Does that mean necessarily mean that I want people to look at me and automatically think “she’s a feminist” first? Well…I don’t know.

There is a problem with the word “feminist,” and maybe that is why people latch onto it so easily. Feminist is still a dirty word to so many people, that perhaps when my friends and family found out that I was a feminist, it surprised them. Maybe that surprise is what makes that part of my life stick out so much.

But it is annoying when the feminist part of me seems to overshadow the other parts of me. I will be seeing my very first paid article published in a non-college newspaper shortly. It will be a dream come true for me. But those people who see me as a feminist first, a blogger second, and Amelia third, may miss out on the fact that becoming a paid journalist is a huge part of who Amelia is.

Yes, I am a feminist, and I am proud of it. Being a feminist does affect how I think about the world and how I live my life, but it is not the only reason I am the way I am. It’s too easy to just slap the “feminist” label on me and be done with it. But that is not my sole identity. I am a feminist daughter. A feminist sister. A feminist girlfriend. A feminist liberal. A feminist college student. A feminist journalist. A feminist blogger.

If people are only looking at the first two words of those descriptions, than they really aren’t getting the whole picture. And I think that’s sad, because I like the person I am. Amelia, the feminist blogger, journalist, etc. All of it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

E for Excellent

I was pretty excited when I went to visit Oh, You're a FEMINIST?! and saw that feministgal had given Female Impersonator an award! I was pleased by this, because I admire feministgal's work as a lone blogger.

Nice work, bloggers!

Keep up the great work.

Quick Read

From the NYT: the atmosphere that allowed Sex and the City to flourish caused Hilary to flounder.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


As the dust from Tuesday's final primaries settles, I've been reading people's reactions and I have to say this: Can we give Hillary a break and not breath fire down her neck, yanking her off stage with one of those hooked canes? As excited as I am about Obama (goosebump excited, people), the disrespect for Hillary pains me in ways I haven't felt in a long time. For once, we've had an election where people actually wanted to vote and had the ability to choose between not the lesser of two evils, but who they actually believed in. Can't we acknowledge that as historic too?

Melissa at Shakesville, as usual, says it in ways I'm unable to:
I'm sad because there are women at this blog, in my personal life, across this nation, and—if my inbox is any indication—across the globe, women of all races and sexualities and socio-economic classes, many of whom weren't even Hillary Clinton supporters, many of whom voted for Obama in the primary, who have watched with horror the seething hatred directed at Hillary Clinton just because she is a woman.

And now, at long last, even now, when Clinton cannot win, she is being pushed out, carelessly, rudely, with little regard for the implicit message in hustling a historic candidate off the stage and demanding her graciousness in defeat, despite offering her no graciousness in victory. Right to the end, there is a lack of respect that hurts to watch.

And I'm sad because I know there are women who are hurting. Not because their candidate lost. Clinton may not have even been their candidate. They're hurting because misogyny hurts all women, and because they have fewer allies than they once thought.
I'm feeling this last bit especially, because Tuesday wasn't a night about pushing Clinton out, but instead welcoming Obama in. I have read too many blogs that speak of unity, but then lambaste both Clintons for not doing exactly as the bloggers would want. Can we, for once, have a winner without directly spitting in the face of whoever is not the winner? It's obvious that the race is over, so give Clinton the week to announce she's conceding, and without the punditry and bullshit that would normally go along with it.

The hatred and disdain that fills people's words hurt me because she is an extraordinary woman and all the media can do is put devil horns on her head while making thinly veiled misogynist statements. Please, acknowledge the sexism present in this race (because you all know it's there - don't even try to deny it). Please, listen to us and hear us say that although honest critiques of Clinton's campaign are necessary, using sexism and misogyny is cheap and low and ever-present in horrifying ways.

You really want unity? At least notice that we're hurting and although it won't fix everything, it'll help.

"Our party and our country are better off because of [Hillary Clinton], and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete." - Barack Obama, June 3 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

An Ancedote

So, this is a little bit of a personal ancedote, but I think its worth mentioning.

Yesterday three of my friends were coming home from school for the summer. I was driving, and I felt the wheel jerking a little bit, so I pulled over on the highway. I had a flat tire. Now, I have no idea how to change a flat tire. I was never taught and never thought to learn. The two other girls in the car didn't know what to do either, but my male friend did. His stepfather had taught him. If he had not been there, we would have had to call the highway patrol or a tow truck.

I thought it was interesting that none of our family members had thought to teach us girls. We could just as easily (and did) get a flat tire. And we would have been kind of stranded.

I realize that this is a small sample group and a personal story, but it probably resonates among many women. Please, if you are a parent teach your children basic car maintence skills.

The Women

Apparently The Women is getting some marketing legs after Sex and the City's badass blowout this weekend. Are studio execs finally getting the hint that women likes movies too?

Only flaw I can see is that the plotline hinges on a man's infidelity. Otherwise, hilarious. I loved this trailer and I hope the film doesn't disappoint me. Plus, I f'ing love Candice Bergen. Whenever I see her on screen, a little part of me inside gets really, really excited and giddy.

It should be out in early September.

h/t to Women & Hollywood.

Makeup: A Rad Fem's Dilemma

Makeup was my right of passage to womanhood. My parents absolutely refused to let me wear it until I was thirteen, and then only in muted shades and small amounts. Looking at the over-sexualized images of pre-teen girls in the media and my younger brother's yearbook, I can honestly say that I am grateful to my parents. Makeup wouldn't have made me less self-conscious, and would have taken a sizable chunk out of my allowance--and when I was 16, wages.

Now, I do not wear anywhere near as much makeup as I used to at 16, and even 18. Although I am in my 20s, I am often mistaken for a teenager because of my short stature and lack of "smoky sex kitten" makeup; even while bar-hopping I prefer light makeup.

However, my guilt over buying and wearing eye liner, blush, powder, and mascara persists. Am I a bad feminist because I sometimes like how I look with makeup better than au natural? Given that I self-identify as a radical feminist, am I somehow falling sort of the label? Do I invite men to look upon me as an object or sexually available?

I know that people perceive me as stereotypically feminine the more makeup and gendered clothing, like mini-skirts, I wear. More doors are held open (literal, not metaphorical), I am addressed as "honey" instead of "ma'am", and men smile at me more. Although, I never get the respect I want from co-workers and professors no matter how little makeup I wear, or how much. Professors that are enthusiastic about taking my male peers under their wing hesitate to do the same for me and fellow female classmates because we are female. A male professor, and most of mine are male, sponsoring a female student is rare simply because the professors are afraid of the perception that they are sleeping with us, or they simply don't think of us in any sense other than a sexual one. Even in sweatpants and no makeup, my male professors will not invite me to lunch to discuss further the symbolization of Aristotle's classical dilemmas because being female means that I am always potentially a sex object, never a peer or a prodigal student. All of my sponsors in my field have been female. I am lucky that my university employs many female Philosophy professors, because otherwise, I sincerely doubt that I would have had the opportunity to do as much as I have.

This constant perception of being a sex object: am I only fueling it by wearing makeup and gendered clothing? If I'm not dressed up, am I still responsible for the actions of others because of my female mannerisms?

My answer is a resounding no. My choice of clothing and face-paint should not affect my opportunities in life. How much eye shadow I do or do not wear does not affect the poignancy of my thesis. In my ideal world, men and women would wear as little or as much makeup as they please, and it would not affect any situation outside the contexts where makeup and gendered clothing are relevant.

Besides, I am kept at a distance professionally by male superiors regardless of how little makeup I wear or how long my skirt is. Feminism, I think, is about choices. I choose my gender-identity. I like being pretty and female. What I do not like is being patronized, belittled, and sexually objectified in a context in which such attention is entirely inappropriate.

In the same way that "promiscuous" women are responsible for the bad behavior of their male peers, every woman is held responsible for the sexism of their colleagues because of how she dresses or acts. Too frumpy and she is a slacker or a frigid bitch. Too feminine and she is a sex object or a coy flirt. I am always defined in terms of "fuckable" or "not fuckable" every second of the day because women, regardless of how they dress, act, or look, are members of the sex class and thus may be belittled, shamed, over sexualized, and harassed with the justification that anyone with a vagina is simply "asking for it".

My choice to wear makeup is my business. A woman's choice to get breast implants is her business. It should be obvious that the choice to sexualize women out of context and act like sexist dog is precisely that: a choice.

How people attack women who choose to do something perfectly legal that makes her feel good about herself and defend those who choose to be assholes is completely illogical. The phenomenon of blaming the victim saturates every justification of harassment, violence, and injustice that women and even young girls suffer daily.

I say, enough already! If the choices I make are always wrong and the injustice I suffer is always right, then what choice do I have? I choose to please myself, and only myself. Fuck everyone else. I sharpen my eye pencil and apply it to my upper lid because I think I look good when I do. If my best male friend thought he did too, I would let him borrow mine without a sideways glance.

Treating women like objects is also a choice. The idea that it is the fault of the evil female temptress, her gender fallen from grace by the actions of her ancestor in the garden of Eden, is nothing but unadulterated bullshit and should be treated as such.

Absent, With Leave

Hey everyone!

Being home for the summer made me realize how lucky I was to have wireless internet at college. I don't have that luxury here (and there is no place nearby where I can get it), so I have to share am old, incredibly slow computer with my entire family. That means I might not be posting or commenting as often as I would like, but I will definitely be thinking of you all, and I will post anything interesting that I come across. My co-bloggers will take good care of all the readers.


A Dialogue on Choice

In case this got lost at the end of my post about This Common Secret, I'll restate it here because I'm sure some of our readers with differing opinions than my own will want to take me up on my offer:

I think it'd be interesting to read This Common Secret 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.

It's a simple deal - I'll read a conservative/anti-choice book if one/some of our conservative readers read This Common Secret. Write up your thoughts on the book(s) and I'll post them here, along with my own.* Leave book suggestions and I'll choose one based on topic and library availability.

* I do reserve the right to edit responses for length and hate speech, but I don't anticipate having to edit anything. Or at least I hope not to, anyway.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Barack Obama in MSP tomorrow, June 3!

Heads up for anyone in the Twin Cities area tomorrow - Barack Obama is holding his last primary rally tomorrow night at the site of the 2008 Republican National Convention.

Barack and Michelle Obama, Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.

Doors open at 7:00 pm, free admission (no tickets, but they suggest you RSVP at the website). No bags or banners.

It's my sister's birthday tomorrow so she's excited for such a great birthday event.

(Personal disclaimer - I'm a Obama supporter.)

Excommunication for Wanting to Serve God?

via Feministing

Apparently, last week the Vatican sent a little reminder to dioceses across the world, stating that women could not become priests and that those who tried to be ordained would in fact be excommunicated.

But, the women at the Women's Ordination Conference are not having it. They issued their own statement:
"The Vatican is trying to preserve what little power they have left by attempting to extinguish the widespread call for women's equality in the church. It will not work. In the face of one closed door after another, Catholic women will continue to make a way when there is none. We reject the notion of excommunication. In our efforts to ordain women into an inclusive and accountable Roman Catholic Church, we see it as contrary to the gospel itself to excommunicate people who are doing good works and responding to injustice and the needs of their communities."

As a survivor of Catholic school myself (although I am not Catholic), I have sat in many religion and morality classes and listened to priests fumble for an answer as to why women cannot be ordained. The standard Catholic belief is that since Jesus did not include a woman in his circle of apostles, the Church cannot allow women to become priests (today's apostles). They never mention the important role women played in the early church. Or that social standards might have dictated Jesus' decision to exclude women as public leaders of the movement.

But, I guess its just easier to pretend that women are less capable, smart, caring, and devout.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Nickelback vs. My inner feminist

Interestingly, this post was originally supposed to be about Clay Aiken's super-creepy, super-popular song, "Invisible".

But then I started thinking about other music that I actually listen to, and the band Nickelback came to mind. I started listening to Nickelback when I was in 7th grade. I got their album Silver Side Up and enjoyed it a lot. I used it sort of as a way to channel the anger I felt about my parents' separation and then divorce. So I didn't really listen critically to the lyrics at that time.

Now, it is important to note that as a music listener, I like rock music and I am fine with swearing as long as it does not constitute the majority of a song's lyrics. However, if a song promotes violence in a non-satirical way, uses racial slurs, or anything along those lines, I will not listen to it.

So, here are some Nickelback songs that I both like and dislike:

**Trigger Warning: the lyrics for "Never Again" describe domestic violence**

Song: "Never Again"
Album: Silver Side Up (2001)
Lyric Sample:

Father's a name you haven't earned yet
You're just a child with a temper
Haven't you heard "Don't hit a lady"?
Kickin' your ass would be a pleasure

He's drunk again, it's time to fight
Same old shit, just on a different night
She grabs the gun, she's had enough
Tonight she'll find out how fucking
Tough is this man
Pulls the trigger just as fast as she can
Never Again

The verbal depiction of domestic violence could have been offensive if the lyrics did not clearly acknowledge the abuser's fault. Instead, they stick to describing the violence and its gruesome effects. Although the subject matter is touchy, this song is not one I have a problem with because it addresses this very real problem in a manner that does not glorify the violence.

Song: "Figured You Out"
Album: The Long Road (2003)
Lyric Sample:
And I love the places that we go
And I love the people that you know
And I love the way you can't say "No"
Too many long lines in a row
I love the powder on your nose
And I love your lack of self respect
While you're passed out on the deck
I love my hands around your neck
And I hate the places that we go
And I hate the people that you know
And I hate the way you can't say "No"
Too many long lines in a row
I hate the powder on your nose
This song really bugs me. Especially because the very first line is: "I like your pants around your feet." Besides that, the song suggests that the woman being unable to say "no" after doing drugs was originally a turn on. Disgusting. Nothing like being with a woman who can't possibly deny you want you want, right? Of course, by the very end of the song, it is claimed that he hates that. Sounds to me like he got bored with it. The lack o respect, the abuse, it all means that in my book, this song fails.

**Trigger Warning: the lyrics for "Throw Yourself Away" describe infanticide**

Song: "Throw Yourself Away"
Album: The Long Road (2003)
Lyric Sample:
Baby's born on the bathroom floor
The mother prays that it'll never cry
And nothing's wrong you got your prom dress on
When they ask you say it isn't mine

You know they're gonna know you lied

Why the hell don't you throw yourself away
You know they're gonna burn it down
Wash my, hands of this
You notice how God ain't even helping you out.
Apparently this song was sparked by a specific incident and the idea behind it was the problem with high school girls giving birth and then committing infanticide. Okay, I can see why the band would be upset about this, especially because the baby has already been born. But they seem to recognize that this is a problem, and they fail to do anything really productive about it.

Asking "Why the hell don't you throw yourself away?" doesn't address the issue of why girls might do this. It demonizes girls who need help, whether that was the band's intention or not. Girl's int this situation obviously need help in the form of better education about birth control. It would also be more productive to try to do something about this society treats unmarried mothers like second-class citizens.

Nickelback has a lot of potential. They are a well-known band with a good following, and if they were more careful about how they wrote about issues, they might be able to make a great change. But when their meaningful works are piled in with the misogyny, animalistic sex, possessive violence, and other such characteristics in their most popular songs, it is hard for me to take them seriously.