Thursday, July 31, 2008

HollaBack CT!!!

If you live in the Connecticut area, take a look at HollaBack CT, from feministgal at Oh, You're a FEMINIST?!.

I seriously love HollaBacks - they empower people by giving them a means to react in a safe manner to their street harassment. In a harassment situation that's completely about power, someone may not be comfortable enough to say something, or it may not be safe to.

In May, Mildred Beaubrun ignored catcalls from a car of men at a gas station, and they shot her and her friends. She died. All because they wouldn't give out their phone numbers.

It's not safe anymore for women in public. HollaBack is a great, safe place for venting and alerting other people to the creepy people out there who think that women's bodies are public property.

So check HollaBack CT out, even if you don't live in Connecticut.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Boys and tomboys

My sister and I frequently watch the TBS show My Boys. It's about PJ Franklin (well-acted by Jordana Spiro) and her group of mostly male friends. PJ's a sports reporter in Chicago who is often contrasted with her "girly" friend, Stephanie. For her male friends, there's Brendan, an old roommate who DJs; Mike, the goof of the group; Kenny, the nice nerdy guy; Bobby, another sports reporter who PJ kinda likes but is getting married; and Andy, PJ's brother who lives in the suburbs.

I like PJ because she embodies a lot of the traits I have/would like to have (funny, smart, little bit neurotic), but mainly that she's in a non-traditional field (sports journalism) and has a lot of guy friends without relationship jumping from one to the other. Plus they have a neighborhood bar they go to all the time, and I've always wanted one of those.

Right now in the show, Bobby's getting married and one episode revolved around his bachelor party. Because she's a woman, PJ wasn't invited to the party but instead his fiancee's wedding shower; she doesn't want to go because she doesn't know Elsa very well and there's no beer at the shower. She laments bachelor parties inherently sexist nature - not inviting women along unless they're strippers - but PJ and Stephanie end up at the same bar anyway.

While watching, I thought, "Yeah, awesome! Way to call out bachelor parties as sexist and to show someone having a nice party without strippers and all of that stereotypical junk! PJ is so awesome for being 'one of the guys' and not conforming to standards of femininity!"

However, that particular episode just barely passes the Bechdel Test:

1: Two female characters - yes; PJ, Stephanie, Elsa, Andy's friend from work, shower guests
2: Talking to one another - yes; lots of talk between PJ and Steph
3: About something besides men - barely yes; most of their conversations are about men, however, they do talk about Stephanie's career as an author a bit. Seems solid, but Stephanie's book is about relationships and men - so technically it passes, but juuuust barely.

While this post was still in the planning stages in my mind, I came across this post from Bitch PhD about "playing the [race/gender/sexuality/etc] card":

I'm sexist. On this one, I'm much more sure why. Because I'm a woman, I see all the sexism directed at me even as I'm directing it at others. So it's easier to name. I prefer having male friends to having female friends. I enjoy being told that I'm like "one of the guys." When people tell me that I have masculine qualities, I feel a sense of pride. I feel somewhat less pride when people tell me I am caring, emotionally open or self-sacrificing because I associate those qualities with femininity and they are thus denigrated. I have disdain for the idea of being a 'stay-at-home-mom'. I have privately assumed that women who have lots of sexual partners must have emotional issues. I internally criticize women for dressing too provocatively or not provocatively enough. I have been disdainful of movies and books that are associated with women. Like above, I could go on. These are only some of the things I have thought about, and am self-critical of.

I've always wanted to be 'one of the guys,' and have valued tomboy qualities over others. At some point between kindergarten and third grade, I stopped being "girly" and it took until 9th grade confirmation, then high school graduation, for me to wear a dress again.

So while I like PJ because of the gendered traits she has and feel ambivalent towards Stephanie because of her more traditional female traits (not actively liking is almost the same as disliking), I'm reinforcing and buying into the idea that masculine/male is better. In a way, one could argue that My Boys, while trying to be different and subversive in their choice of a protagonist, just ends up reinforcing conceptions of male privilege and praises women for acting more like men.

For me, at least, that's kind of depressing and I'm not sure if I (completely) buy into that argument.

If anything, this makes me feel better about the feminist qualities of the show: it was created, executive produced, and written by Betsy Thomas (writer/production blog here), with Arlene Sanford directing five episodes, and 3+ female writers on staff. Considering how little representation women have behind the scenes in the television industry, I'm really glad to see the show, while depicting a strong female character, represents that in real life as well.

Anyway, as much as I may have inadvertently ripped on My Boys, I do love it and enjoy it. I'd suggest watching a few episodes, at least.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Art and text

This has been sitting in my email for awhile so in a fung-shui cleaning frenzy, I thought I'd pass it on so I can finally delete the email.

There's an artist, Lalla Essaydi, doing amazing work tying together gender, Islam and aesthetics in beautiful ways.

Converging Territories (2003-2004)

Arab-Esque (2006)

The first one is more indicative of her general style, but I'm really intrigued by the bottom picture. It's by far her most risque, but I like it anyway. Here's some more of her work from artnet.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quick Read: A Womyn's Ecdysis

Sudy at A Womyn's Ecdysis shares about a morning she had recently in the Philippines. She visited a garbage heap and the people who scavenge through the scraps to make money. She writes:

Many of them were displaced from the homes and placed here by the government. Now that foreign development companies want to develop the land, they are trying to move them out of their homes. Some of the families take the small amount of money they offer because they do not know what else to do and the government moves them again with promises of stable homes and better conditions. Instead, they are put in flooding areas with tents. No water, no electricity. Their promise of a better life is unfulfilled.

Not too long ago, one of the garbage mountains grew too high and collapsed from the weight. Three hundred people were buried alive in the garbage and left there to die. Many of them were husbands and fathers looking through the trash for survival. When the story broke, billions were raised and donated to the families for aid. The families have not yet seen one peso of that money. Strangely, any money that passes through the government never sees its intended destination.

After this, she experiences hypoglycemia, but at the end, she concludes:

I thought about how simple the problem was: not enough food, not enough sugar. And yet, truthfully, felt like I was possibly dying. Shit, when all your senses are disappearing and everything around you is reminding you of death and survival is on a thumbnail, it's an easy thought to conclude that death is the next step. Even with what happened, in which I had never been so frightened in all my life, I am glad that I saw what I did. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn, even if it took everything out of me.

It is a privilege to be able to visit, because to visit means I am free to leave.

No one there had that same choice.
Check it out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Action Alert on the Paycheck Fairness Act

My good friend Becca, who is currently working at Wider Opportunities for Women as a local intern in DC, reminded me that the Paycheck Fairness Act is at a critical point in the bill process:
The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1338), is scheduled for a markup in the House Education and Labor Committee THIS THURSDAY, July 24, and will face a floor vote soon thereafter. Call your representative as soon as you can to voice your support for this critical piece of legislation. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and below you can find a good synopsis of the legislation.

The House is expected to vote in the next two weeks on the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1338). We have a critical opportunity to urge Congress to make real progress on pay equity. Even if you have contacted your representative about this legislation in the past, we ask you to again urge your representative to support this legislation and oppose any attempts to weaken it.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963, closing loop holes and improving the law’s effectiveness. The Paycheck Fairness Act would, among other things, deter wage discrimination by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations, and by prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about employers' wage practices or disclose their own wages. The bill also requires employers to show that wage gaps are truly a result of factors other than sex, collect better data on wages, reinstate activities that promote equal pay at the Department of Labor, and develop training for women and girls on salary negotiations. The bill’s measured approach does not impose arbitrary caps on damages, which would only further penalize women who are victims of pay discrimination.

Women on average continue to earn only 77 cents on the dollar to their male counterparts. With a record 69 million women in the workforce, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families. In addition, wage discrimination lowers total lifetime earnings, reducing women’s benefits from Social Security and pension plans and inhibiting their ability to save not only for retirement but for other lifetime goals such as buying a home and paying for a college education.

A vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act is a critical step forward in our goal to close the persistent and sizable wage gaps between men and women. Urge your representative to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.

For the full text of the bill, visit

Possible Message to Representatives:

As your constituent, I urge you to support the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1338) when this critical legislation comes to the floor for a vote. I also urge you to vote against a motion to recommit and any other attempts to weaken this bill.

Optional Message Points (advocates can choose several, in whatever order they’d like):

• Women on average continue to earn only 77 cents on the dollar to their male counterparts. Now is the time to address wage discrimination by updating and strengthening the Equal Pay Act, closing loop holes and improving the law’s effectiveness.

• The Paycheck Fairness Act would deter wage discrimination by strengthening penalties for pay inequities, and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their own wages. I agree with the bill’s measured approach, and am glad it doesn’t impose random caps on damages that only serve to further penalize women who are victims of pay discrimination.

• Paying women equal pay for equal work can create a positive work environment, which can help increase productivity and reduce absenteeism. One survey found that business leaders consider the elimination of wage discrimination between different jobs to be “good business,” and say that equal pay is necessary to remain competitive.

• The wage gap has real consequences. With a record 69 million women in the workforce, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families, both in terms of their economic security today and their retirement security tomorrow.

• Equal pay for equal work is a simple matter of justice for women. I strongly support the Paycheck Fairness Act as it seeks to close the persistent and sizable wage gap that remains between men and women.

Again, I urge you to vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act when it comes to the floor later this month, and I also urge you to vote against a motion to recommit and any other attempts to weaken this bill. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.

I'm not sure where this text is from - if anyone knows, could they let me know so I can update and link?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Awesome shirt

The shirt is the brainchild of lindabeth of Smart Like Me, after her great post about women's bodies in public.

I want! Then again, just this morning I was also saying I wanted teeth in my vagina, so I think the shirt might be a little easier to have...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Kristen Schaal - still funny and still right

A little something funny before the weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I was watching the news before work this morning, and they were reporting on Andy Dick's arrest for sexual battery and marijuana possession. As they were wrapping up the story, one of the news anchors said,

"Oh, too bad, that sure dosen't sound like him."

Oh, really, random substitue news anchor. Do you know Andy Dick well? Because if not, maybe you should keep your personal comments to yourself. Save the pity for someone who wasn't just arrested for exposing a teenage girl.


BlogThings Doesn't Want to Get Some Coffee with Me After Class

You Are A Bad Date!
Sometimes it just seems like your heart isn't in it

At least, not unless the guy is a dead ringer for Brad Pitt (with more money)

You just don't spend enough time wondering if he's having fun...

And newsflash - he probably isn't!

Oh God, where to start? Of course my heart is not in a date if the man is not attractive. I see how BlogThings tried to assume that I was a bad girl for not being enthused about a man who undoubtedly spent far far less time on his appearance than I did.

For that matter, who walks around wondering if they are pleasing the person they are with? Women, that's who! Look, dude, if you don't like me, get up and leave. That's for you to decide. If you want me to bat my eyelashes and act like I think you're the hottest thing since the invention of the wheel, you are completely delusional. Honestly, I would be questioning someone's motives if they were so enthused about spending time with someone they hardly know that they are constantly second-guessing if the other person is having fun.

Also, thanks for the snarky newsflash (seriously, who the hell still uses such cliches outside of satire?), but if a guy can't have fun unless I am acting like he is some male Adonis and I am so insecure that I constantly cater his needs by wondering what I would possibly do to make him have fun, then I'm glad I'm raining on his egotistic parade.

So what did I do to BlogThings to make them assume I am such a craptastic date?

First, they asked me what would be a good spot for a first date. I would never want to see any sort of movie with Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon, so that option was out. Furthermore, I do not have the money to be spending it on a nice dinner and concert tickets for a guy I do not even know (shit, I can't even afford to do that with my best friends), so that option was crossed off. I figured that I liked lunches, and lunches at quiet spots, and lunches at quiet spots with views, so I picked that one. Sounded low-maintenance, friendly, and cheap.

Then we moved onto my pre-date beauty ritual. I was a bit stumped at this question. Honestly, it's not a "beauty ritual". I do not pray at any sort of altar for the gods of porn to bless me with a suitably fuckable face. I immediately knew that I did not spend an hour doing anything remotely like painting my nails and doing my hair, so that option was out. I do have minimum standards of hygiene, however, and I abhor being late, so I could not choose "you really don't have one - unless rushing to make the date on time counts," even as much as I wanted to out of spite for the stupidity of the idea of any sort of beauty "ritual". So I settled on a new shirt, some perfume, and refreshing my lipstick. Even though I don't wear lipstick.

Okay, now we finally get to things about men. Of course, it's things about how I react to men, rather then how men treat me. Because how a man would treat me on a date has no bearing on my behavior on that date. No sir 'ee. I am the picture of modesty and feminine grace no matter how much of a douchebag my potential paramour might happen to be. It's my duty as a woman to deal with the bullshit of men because "boys will be boys" and my lack of penis means I must suffer losers and misogynists by God's holy decree.

So, question three: "What do you try to find out about a guy on the first date?" First, I do not "catch" men, and I am not interested in his suitability to being "caught". I would not bring up the topic of money and income on a first date, probably because I have neither and the issue is fairly touchy for me right at the moment. Also, Donald Trump is probably one of the biggest sexist pricks on the planet, so it's fairly obvious that income does not have much of a bearing on personality. I was tempted to pick "what he's like as a boyfriend... to see if you want to be with him", but then I thought better. Hi, earth to Jen: it's a first date. You don't plan cakes and wedding and moving in together on the first date. I don't even know what the guy likes to do, what kind of person he is, and whether or not I can stand him for a full evening, so I'm not about to question if I want to "be with him". That statement could also be taken as whether or not I was willing to sleep with him on the first date, and then my answer would be a resounding "check please!" coupled with a quick brush-off. So obviously I needed to pick the option that stated that I needed to see what he did for fun and if we had enough common ground to even be friends. Honestly, I don't fuck people I don't like as people. It's not a good situation all around.

Next, the quiz wondered what my reaction would be to a guy who claimed that he loved rollerblading (people still do that?) and that he used to do it every weekend with his last ex. My typical reaction would ask why he does not anymore, simply because I cannot fathom a world in which the prerequisite to exercising with someone is sleeping with them, and that this exercising must immediately cease upon the ending of the sex. So you only have fun with the people you're sleeping with? Check please! But that wasn't an option. Pity. I had to skip over the answer that I would tell him that that was "awesome". Really, rollerblading is not so exciting that I am going to lie about my opinion, because I do not have one, of it. I would also not tell him that his hobby was stupid because my ex-boyfriend used to take me on elaborate trips on the weekends. My ex-boyfriend's idea of a weekend get-away was pestering me to have sex on his roommate's bed. I would probably say something about how I used to love rollerblading, because I actually did, and ask him where he liked to rollerblade. It's always nice to keep tabs on places that are friendly to transportation devices other than cars.

So now my date asks me why I am single. If he was a bad date, I would probably respond that, "because I have had a series of really bad relationships. Also, I hate reruns. Check please!" If he was a good date, I would shrug and say that most dates do not go as well as this one did, and I must have standards. Of course, BlogThings is neither as witty, nor as intelligent as me, so neither of these options were available. First, the idea of "Mr.Right" coming along to make me happy with his shlong of manly awesomeness is pathetic, so that's a no. Complaining about my last relationships ("oh, the last one cheated on me with my now ex-best friend, the one before that was not a man--by the way I'm bisexual, and the one before that raped me") probably is not a good idea either. Thus, I'd tell him that I am busy and that I haven't "clicked with anyone yet".

Now I have to assume that my date is boring. Hardly a stretch. Then, it is revealed that my waiter is attractive, and single. What do I do? Well, I'm certainly not going to corner him, while still on my date, and ask for his number. Advertising my willingness to boy scout in entirely inappropriate moments is not prudent. Likewise, I would not slip him a note on the way out. Having standards, I would probably finish the date, keep my hands to myself, and then come back to the restaurant later, alone, because I'm not stupid.

To mix it up, now I have to assume my date is not boring. I might have to use some brainpower for this exercise. My phone rings, so what do I do? The idea of answering it and saying something to whoever is on the line about how great my date is would be stupid beyond words. Really, why should I have to act so coy? I didn't even bother to look at any other answer other than the one that included "this does not happen because I know where the off button my cell is". If I am in a one-on-one situation with another person, I turn my fucking cellphone off. I also expect the other person to do the same. Common courtesy, where art thou? I'm on a date with John Doe, not with my best friend and my potentially "just checking up" mother. Also, I really hate it when I suddenly become the third wheel to someone who is not even there, so I would never do that to someone. Phone is off.

Now my hypothetical date is over. My first option inspires the gag reflex: asking him to kiss me. Oh lord. If I want to kiss, then I ask him if I can kiss him. Look buddy, these are my lips, I want a kiss, and if you would be a willing participant in this kissing adventure, nod yes and off we go! Also, the idea of asking someone to do something to me, like I am some sort of object, is gross. No thanks. Furthermore, I will not ask someone to call me like I wait by the phone for his approval. Neither do I ask if I should call him. If I want to spend time with you, I'll call. If you want to spend time with me, you call. Why must I make dating into this bizarre "please do X to me because I am too helpless to do it myself"? So, if the date was good, I'd be likely to say, "that was so much fun. Thanks for taking me out!" Because it's nice to thank people for spending enjoyable time with you, and to express how much you enjoyed spending time with them. Hey, I'm blunt and honest.

So, I submitted my test on a lark. And BlogThings told me I was a shitty date. I'm going to assume that this is because I date like a person trying to discover if I like someone rather then dating like a coy flirty "chick" trying to manipulate a egomanic into wanting to do dirty degrading things to me.

Oh how bad am I? I date under the assumption that (a) I like you as a person and (b) I am attracted to you. If either are false, then I'm not dating you. Thus, a first date is an experiment of how I feel. I could really give a shit about pleasing someone else by being something I am not.

Then my results tell me: Newsflash, Jen! Men don't want to date women with standards for themselves and others, and they certainly don't want to date someone more interested in how a woman feels about a guy as person then how much that woman would like to them to fuck her. Because if I have standards, and I want you as a person, that means that you have to behave and meet me somewhere in the middle.

In this crazy world, however, dating isn't about my happiness or your charm, it's about how much I can fake liking men for their enjoyment. Thanks for the update BlogThings!


Interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal on her role as Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight:

The A.V. Club: You've said you did everything you could to decline this part, and you've expressed disinterest in action films in the past. Why the change of heart?

... Also, I did say to Chris, "I really want her to be smart." And he'd say "Okay." "And I really want her to be a great woman, and actually have a point of view about things." "Great, yes, that's what I want too." Every turn, he was like, "Yes, help me. Let's make her better."

AVC: In every role you choose, you say you need something to think about and work through. What did you have to work through for this role?

MG: Well, you know, the process of working on this movie was very tied up with having a baby. My daughter was 7 months old when we started shooting, and 14 months old when we finished. I was really just beginning to step out and think about what it meant to be an actress and what it meant to be a woman, which is in some ways a question you always have to ask yourself if you're going to do a movie like this. What does it mean to be the woman in this movie, in this big Hollywood action movie? And is there a way to do it that's cool, that's awesome? Is there a way to do it that you actually believe that these incredible guys actually like her this much? Is there a way to do it where she actually also has a point of view about the state of the world, the moral state of the universe, like these guys do? I tried to make that true; it's not up to me to say whether it worked. But that definitely was what I tried and wanted to do. And those were all things that I was thinking about.

AVC: Aaron Eckhart joked that if the script called for you to be in peril, you had a problem with it. Are there any types of roles you wouldn't take outright?

MG: No, I mean, he was just kidding. The truth is, what I didn't want to be was just the sort of empty lady who gets thrown around by different guys and doesn't have anything to do but look scared. I just wanted her to be a real person. There are times when she's scared and she's in peril for sure, but it's true, I would always sort of try to figure out another way to play it. [Laughs.] But it's important that that happens to her—and that happens to us women. We do get scared sometimes and feel vulnerable and all sorts of things. I just wanted her to be a real person. I don't want to play the happy hooker, you know? [Laughs.] There are some things I don't want to do. Then again, if you're going to play a hooker in a movie, the movie has to have the perspective, of course, that it isn't such a great thing. Probably the only way to really play a hooker well is to believe you're doing something that's good. But at the same time, the movie can't have that point of view, so… [Laughs.] There are lots of things I wouldn't do.

AVC: Like what, besides the happy hooker?

MG: Well, I don't think there are that many I could say unequivocally "I would not play that," but there's lots of parts I read and I think, "I don't really want to do that. I don't really think that's how women act."

AVC: Is the lack of believability the common denominator?

MG: Well, sometimes I'll read things and think, "That's not how humans behave," or "I don't understand how to do that and make it seem like I'm not some kind of strange alien or on a sitcom." I don't get it, and when I feel that way, I have to listen to my instinct. There was one time recently, of course I can't say what the movie is, but I had a lot of problems with it. I thought it wasn't the way humans really behave. I had a meeting with the director, who then decided he didn't want me anymore. [Laughs.] And after that, I thought, "You know what? I think I didn't give that a fair chance. I think maybe I was too quick to judge that." But often my initial instinct does lead me in a direction that I can trust.

From the A.V. Club.

I'm super excited for The Dark Knight - tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rape Culture or the Perversion of Nature

There exists a portion of academia that I  continually denigrate and mock. Namely, the sociobiologist pseudo-intellectual who argues that all, or most, present gaps and differences between races, genders or religions are a product of evolution. More often than not, they are responsible for completely non-sensible conclusions, unsupported by their own research, to explain how things like the American male aversion to pink or the female dissatisfaction with casual sex are biological imperatives rather than learned social behaviors.

In case you did not already conclude this, I am very much a tabula rasa breed of philosopher. This examination of social forces has largely gone out of style. I imagine that this is because sociological fields require quite a bit more creativity and intuition than the hard sciences. While evolution is undoubtedly more rational than creationism, using it to justify every single minutia of human deviancy is intellectually dishonest. Evolutionary biologists adhere to their theories with all the fervor of religious dogma. Like evangelists, who think that all sins are forgiven, as long as one has faith, the sociobiologist justifies deviant behavior, including his own, with the claim that "we just can't help it".

While claims of the biological inferiority of the female sex never fail to inspire eye-rolls and immediate dismissal from my good favor, nothing quite inspires anger like the evolutionary rape apologist.

Rape, this pseudo-intellectual might claim, is a natural imperative. Men cannot control their penises by design. Even if they could, rape is responsible for the continuation of the species and the fulfillment of the biological imperative to procreate by any means necessary.

First of all, such thinking is not only incredibly dangerous, but also more a product of old Christian ideas on human nature than empirical science. If rape is natural, and we take it as a priori that rape is bad, then humanity is bad. The root of such conclusions does not lie in Darwinism, but in the doctrine of original sin and influential Western philosophers that parroted such notions; namely, Hobbes and Machiavelli.

Secondly, the idea that rape best serves the continuation of the species is completely nonsensical. The biological imperative to procreate is undoubtedly mutual to both sexes. However, sex is hardly an act that requires brutality. On the contrary, the female sex organs are designed for pleasurable stimulation, and new studies have shown that the female orgasm might play a role in strengthening the kelgel muscles for successful childbirth or that the orgasm itself may increase the chances of fertilization.

However, not all rape is brutal. The idea, however, that the manipulation or force of rape encourages sex is absurd. Women are biologically just as likely to want sex, intimacy, and reproduction as a man. Manipulation of her will or the enslavement of marital duties hardly makes the act enjoyable or a female more likely to partake of it. Even a child can tell you that chores are things which they pull out all stops to prevent their necessity or command. Women are quite capable of enjoying sex and motherhood on their own, thus the manipulation of natural inclinations would be more rooted in religion and delusion than science. The loss of control, the violation of selfhood, that rape creates would not increase the rate at which women have children or men have successful sexual encounters. Rape inspires sexual dysfunction, stress disorders, and various other psychological scars that would prohibit a woman from wanting to bear more children and discourage her from all future interpersonal relationships, vastly decreasing the chances that she would bear further offspring.

Pretending that all of the above is irrational, rape still is not a valid evolutionary response. If the purpose of rape is to increase the proliferation of the human species, than leaving a now prospective mother with feelings other than love for the resulting children is hardly rational. The imperative to hunt the most vulnerable female or to manufacture female vulnerability as a cultural norm, likewise, is in opposition to the idea that the biological imperative is to create healthy and strong offspring. Animals hunt the weakest, but they mate with the strongest. A man who claims that his urge to rape a young child or someone he thinks of inferior to himself is not the characteristics of natural sexuality. Reproduction between equals, not a monster and his created inferior, would result from the healthiest genetics.

This deviancy echoes in our society. The acquisition of sexual conquests is expressed with such metaphors related to hunting, such as "on the prowl". In this rape culture, the dominant definition of sex is not, by any rational justification, the makings of an evolutionary imperative. The default definition of intercourse, the having of the woman by the man, has much more to do with cruelty and manufactured sociopathy than healthy proliferation of the species. To say that rape is about power, not sex, is not as accurate as it was once thought to be. Rape, by definition, is the sexualization of power.

Rape and the manufacture of female inferiority, as I have clearly explained above, is also a massive deviation from the idea of evolutionary success. Any intellectual who purports any differently is not a intellectual at all, but a dogmatist seeking to rationalize his, or others, sexual deviancy with a hijacked perversion of science.


Father beaten for protecting daugther from sexual assault

Out of Minnesota:

The father of a 12-year-old girl who tried to keep a young man from groping his daughter at a popular Shakopee amusement park was seriously hurt late on July 4 after he was allegedly kicked and stomped by a group of men in an attack police called "brutal."

The attack on the unnamed man, which happened just outside Valleyfair Amusement Park, resulted in charges against at least six Twin Cities-area men. They were among several people the initial attacker called on his cell phone to summon them to join the assault.

The group beat up the father as his wife and daughter looked on, police said. The man was seriously injured and unconscious when police arrived.

"We see assaults, but that's brutal," Shakopee police Sgt. Jay Arras said.

Arras said the man and his family were leaving Valleyfair shortly before midnight on July 4 when a man "tried to grab the 12-year-old girl in a sexual manner" near the park exit, the father later told police.

They caught the attackers and six men and a 14 year old boy are being charged with third-degree felony assault charges. The father is recovering, but doctors aren't sure how extensive the damage is and are waiting until his swelling goes down.

I'm with Feministing - there are just too many horrific stories about sexual violence, harassment, racism and hatred today.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sexism in Buddhism... and what to do about it

My bus reading this week is Holy Cow, by Sarah MacDonald about her experiences living in India. She writes about meeting Tenzin Palmo, one of the first Western Buddhist nuns who started her own nunnery in India with help from the Dali Lama. Quoted by MacDonald, Palmo says,
"While there were some nunneries, there was no educational program for nuns, they effectively had no voice. Religious texts were written by monks and so naturally were one-sided. Nowadays this situation is being slowly redeemed as more and more nunneries are being founded and many include a study program, sometimes using the same curriculum as the monasteries. In the next few years we certainly hope to see women study to become teachers. In the meantime, our nuns still believe that monks are naturally more intelligent and pray to be reborn in a male body." (162)
It's interesting to see a religion confront its internal sexism; I'm familar with the issues within Christianity but I don't know much about sexism and religion outside of the Abrahamic traditions. Apparently when Palmo met with the Dali Lama, she told him about her own battles within Buddhism against sexism and the stories she told made him cry, which led to his support for her nunnery.

You can read about Tenzin Palmo in Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo's Quest for Enlightenment.

Wanted: Snuff porn and women-hatin' in a two hour package

Note: this post contains plot spoilers. Entirely predictable spoilers, but nonetheless be warned.

You know, I really regret not walking out of Wanted and asking for my money back. I also really regret not expressing how much I hated this movie to the male friends I saw it with.

Wanted was about as close as you can get to snuff porn without actually watching something illegal. The movie's only redeemable quality is that the script decided to throw in some existential fate plot themes at the end, just to break up the monotony of violent garbage.

The camera angles made me nauseous. Fight scenes, which were the entirety of the movie, were shot in such a shaky manner that I felt like I had eaten twenty pounds of nachos and then rode state fair rides for three hours straight. Then they were slowed down, randomly, so that the audience could get a good look at the blood and bruises. Know what is the only thing more exciting than two hours of violence? Two hours of slow-motion violence. Oh yeah!

Not only did the movie glorify violence, the protagonist's goal of using such violence is to "be the man". Several times in the story, the protagonist fervently wishes for someone to utter the exact words, "you are the man!" When someone does, it is only in recognition of his violent ways and hot love interest. In case you did not catch that, violence is exciting! Killing people on command, emotionlessly, is the definition of manhood! Where's the moral of the story? When I could find one, it was that the purpose of life is to be as much of a badass violent jerk as possible. Because that's exciting, whereas being a normal citizen is pathetic.

So besides the glorification of violence, what else did Wanted have to offer? The million dollar question, my dear readers, is the hatred of women.

Although there are a slew of men in the film (duh, it's an action film), there are only three women. Let's go over their roles.

1. Janice the fat boss - Janice was the bitchy boss that everyone in the audience should love to hate. Her shrill relentless tone and overly made-up face is supposed to be as comical as her girth. Women in power are fat and annoying, or so the writers of Wanted think. Our protagonist gets his comeuppance by telling her to stop being a bitch (seriously, that's the exact word he uses) and expresses some sort of vague pity for her grotesque fatness, which is apparently the reason why she could be such a horrible person to him.

2. Cathy the ex-girlfriend - Cathy is skinny, but she's also a whore. She sleeps with his best-friend, because that's what women do, you know. Them women always take advantage of teh menz. The only interaction she seems to have with the protagonist is to nag and complain. Then the movie switches to a completely unnecessary sex scene where the audience gets their fill. Because Cathy is skinny, she gets to be fucked. But she's still portrayed as a bitch, and a whore.

3. Fox the assassin - Jolie could have potentially played an empowered female role. Little to my surprise, nothing is further than the truth. I should have known as soon as her code name was revealed as "Fox". Jolie's only purpose in this film is to teach Wesley how to be bad ass, inspire him to magically curve a bullet with his awesome chauvinist powers to avoid hitting her, be the victim of a violent crime as a child to inspire her to kill people, show her bare ass for no apparent reason, make out with him in front of his ex to show that bitch how manly Wesley is, and then kill herself in the process of saving him.

What have I learned from Wanted? Well, I learned that if you're fat and a woman, you're a horrible bitch. I learned that if you are skinny and a woman, you're a horrible nag and a whore. I learned that if you are skinny, powerful, and a woman, you're a pornorific plot device who gets to play second fiddle to someone with less experience than you, have the honor of having sex (or at least appearing to) with the male protagonist, and then kill yourself for him.

I also learned that gratuitous violence is really really awesome if it is accompanied by horrible camera techniques, pointless slow-motion, and a complete void of morality.

Wanted looks and feels like a teenage porn addict and gun enthusiast's wet dream. If I did not know better, I would have thought that it was satire. Of course, the only thing more pathetic than someone thought that this could possibly be a good movie is that seemingly everyone thinks it was a good movie.


Monday, July 14, 2008

"Alright, sisterhood!"

I went to the mall today with my mom and sister, and we ended up in Barnes and Noble, as we often do. My mom was looking at magazines, and I tagged along, expecting to pick up a military mag (one of the few kinds of magazines I read), and I stumbled across something even better. Copies of Ms. and Bitch Magazines.

I was unduly excited, because, believe it or not, I have never actually read a single issue of either magazine. I have read about them, but having a copy in my hands was amazing. Reading Gloria Steinem's article "Sex, Lies, & Advertising" about the struggles that Ms. Magazine faced is actually what I consider to be my "click moment" as a feminist.

I had to put the magazines down, though, because I didn't even have enough money for one copy. So I contented myself with wandering about the rest of the bookstore with my sister. It was my lucky day, though, because my mom was nice and bought me a copy of Ms.

When I put the copy of the magazine on the counter, the cashier immediately said that that it was great to see a young woman reading Ms. Her reaction sparked a conversation about feminism, and my mom (thanks, mom!) dropped a line about the Female Impersonator blog. The cashier asked for the blog address, which I happily gave her. It was great running into someone who seemed very able to appreciate my passion and my activism.

Thanks, Karen V., from Barnes and Noble. You made my day.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

Failing at Irony and Alienating Your Allies: The Liberal Dude's Guide to Satire

So I open my blog reader and the Huffington Post. What do I have the pleasure to find?

Oh Christ, who's the genius behind this?

I know this might be rocket science to liberal dudez who think things like rape are funny, but this really tasteless and poor excuse for satire is not inducing anything but my gag reflex. You know you fail at irony when your art work is indecipherable from the message of those you intend to mock. While I was sleeping, someone decided that mocking the Republicans by depicting the Obamas with racist stereotypes was effective and funny. I can imagine a bunch of balding upper-class white dudes giving each other congratulatory back slaps around some editor's desk at The New Yorker, engaging in mutual masturbation inflation of their over large egos as their wit goes to press.

You know what's really funny? Mocking Nazis by walking around in public, in places where there may or may not be Jews, and acting and dressing in such a manner completely identical to Nazis. So what if you offend a few Jews along the way? Your completely nonsensical message must be conveyed in the manner you see fit, even if you offend a demographic that would otherwise be allies. I might be white, but even I know that the picturing of an afro-sporting woman in military fatigues is probably a dig at her deviant blackness and her radical opposition to white culture. Also, if you think drawing racist depictions of prominent political figures is funny, you might be racist.

The purpose of satire is to shock and inflame your opposition. If your illustration could be used as a poster for the far right and you are offending your political allies, then it's about time someone fired you.

Then again, I am not really surprised. Anyone remember this? :

That was a "liberal" blog, the DailyKos, really failing to understand the nuances of irony.

Heads up to white dudez: if you think the appropriate manner to object to bigots on the right is to be a leftist racist, on the name of "humor", kindly get the fuck out of my political party.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Women aren't Human

As much as I would like to deny it, some people really do think that women aren't human.


Consider the Humanist. He or she says that they are opposed to Feminism. They object to the "raising of one gender above another" and would rather spend time crusading for human rights. Among those that profess such lofty sentiments are MRAs, intellectuals, liberal dudez, anti-feminist women, and control-troll writers.

So how do I know that they think women aren't human?

Simple! If they profess those who are for women's rights are against or not for human rights, they are operating under the premise that the movement for women's full agency is somehow in opposition or contrary to the movement for full human rights. The only way that an ideology that speaks for the female gender, or 51% of the global population, is not for human rights is if women are not human.

So next time someone tells you that they think feminism is anti-human rights, or that it is too myopic, tell them that you don't associate with morons who think the prerequisite for humanity is a penis.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

On Staying Single

Notice that I am not just single currently, but that I am  staying single. This was not a conscious decision. I did not sit down one day, feminist ideology in hand, and decide to stay single for political reasons. It just happened. I haven't been in a relationship for two years. For a woman in her twenties, this is so odd as to be alien.

When I was in middle school, nothing could have been more important than being in or wanting to be in a relationship. Boys were just beginning to notice me, probably because I was one of the first girls to have her breasts grow beyond the mosquito bite phase. Luckily for me, I did not grow up in the Paris Hilton era. Britney Spears was still keeping most of her clothes on the late 90s when the pre-teen girl uniform of choice was polo shirts, short shorts, and high ponytails.

Regardless, my desire for a boyfriend and to look good had nothing to do with my sexual desire. Although I had curves and breasts to rival any grown woman, my sexual drive had not matured. I heard about masturbation, mostly from the eighth grade boys, but such things held no interest for me. Even the extremely progressive books on puberty that my parents bought me detailed male masturbation explicitly, although some of them spend a bit of time on female masturbation as well. Curious, I attempted this masturbation a couple of times. Nothing really much happened, presumably because my sexual drive had yet to develop (it would in high school), so I gave that up.

Why then, was the pinnacle of pre-teen social life the drive to attract boys? I obviously did not know what to do with them when I got them, and I had no sexual desire for them. I was putting on a performance, plain and simple. The dominant social message of the time, and I assume it has gotten worse lately, was that a girl should aim to look sexy and have sex, but her own enjoyment of the sexual act had nothing to do with it. This held true for my twelve year-old self: I was not attracted to boys in a sexual manner, and I had no personal desire for sex. I was simply responding to social norms. If I said a boy was cute, it was not the case that I was attracted to him. I simply recognized that he fit within the acceptable range of male appearances, and I wanted him to want me. My desires did not play into the equation at all.

As I moved on from middle school and entered high school, my sexual drive finally blossomed. I had a healthy desire for sex and masturbation by the time I was fifteen. Still, however, I cannot think of a time that I wanted a boy more than I wanted him to want me and the social power I would gain by being sexy and attached to a suitable male. I was also doing battle with my monstrous crush on my female friend at the time by denying to myself that I probably was not as straight as I would like to be. Nevertheless, the idea of a boy competing for me or spending time on his appearance for me was laughable. By the time elaborate hair and makeup routines were the norm for girls my age, boys had yet to grasp the concept of showering daily.

Simply put, being sexy was more important than being sexual. The conflicting messages of abstinence and MTV had done battle, and the result was "be sexy, be hot, be available and wanted. Your sexuality is shameful." It was not important that boys were attractive, and they largely were not, it was important that I was attractive to them. Due to my extremely extroverted personality and unwillingness, even then, to play weak or dumb, I never succeeded.

In college, the drive to be wanted and not to want became funny in its intensity. The antics of my peers inspired mental images out of a porno: buckets of male ejaculation everywhere, but no elusive female orgasm. Men were still boys, and still had not grasped the basics of hygiene that were common sense to the average eleven year-old girl. And why would they? All around them women were wearing next to nothing and viciously fighting for their attention with deeper tans, deeper v-necks, and higher shoes. All they had to do was sit back and enjoy.

After a disastrous series of boyfriends where the male orgasm was far more present in our relationships than the female orgasm, I had the luck to fall into Feminism by way of a Women's Studies course. Among the considerable changes in my life, I stopped wanting men to want me if I did not want them back.

Simply, if my sexual pleasure had no part in the equation, I wanted nothing to do with men. If they were not attractive, their attention was gross and creepy. It was surprisingly easy to find my dry spells becoming longer and longer, only broken up by my mostly pleasurable forays into lesbian relationships.

How was this so? Once I gave up performing the sexy routine, guys largely did not want me. Which was fine with me, because most guys my age hadn't touched a razor or bar of soap in half a week. My university was like a scene out of a pornography: most of the women were conventionally attractive, but the men were as lazy with their appearances as they were with their health.

Today, I find it pathetically funny how my pursuit of my own pleasure--wanting attractive men, wanting sexual fulfillment--removed me from the dating scene. By raising my standards to men that I wanted, instead of men that wanted me, I had to find men that spend a comparable amount of time on their appearance and would be invested in my pleasure as much as their own. Unsurprisingly, the men who spent as much time in front of a mirror as I did (which wasn't much, considering that I stopped tanning and wearing large amounts of makeup) were the ones that dated the most feminine women, who had the personality of swine, or who were more interesting in acting out their favorite pornography than pleasing their significant other.

What I realize today is that the dating scene revolves around male pleasure. Male orgasms, male lust, male appreciation of beauty. If I wanted female orgasms, my lust, and my appreciation of male beauty I was holding out for something that did not exist. Or, if it did, it was not available to me once I stopped tanning, obsessing about how flat my abs were, and wearing hundreds of dollars of makeup.

In conclusion, I stay single because it's pathetically easy, but not by my design. Perhaps one day I might stumble upon a man who is as invested in looking good for me as I would be invested in looking good for him. Instead of me wanting him to want me and him wanting me, I would want him and he would want me. Then we could meet in the middle, form a relationship based on mutual attraction, admiration, and lust.

How sad that society has made such things the exception, and not the norm.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rockford's Q98.5 plays sexism, country music

I walked into the house today, and my mom was listening to a country station (Rockford's Country - Q98.5). She never does this, so I asked her about it. She said she had been trying to win something off the radio. A little later, I hear the DJ, Mark Charvat, say that it is a fact that women live longer than men. He proceeded to give some "reasons" that this might be true, and he encouraged listeners to call in with "reasons" of their own.

Mark's list, that I'm sure he did not come up with (these are close to, but not verbatim):

- If a woman has a crappy job and low pay, it's exploitation. If a man has a crappy job and low pay, he needs to get off his butt and work harder.
- If a man is promoted before a woman, it's obviously favoritism.
- If a man cries, he's a wimp. If he doesn't cry, he's an insensitive S.O.B.
- If a man buys a woman flowers, he's after something. If he doesn't, he's not thoughtful.
- If a woman has a headache, she's tired. If a man has a headache, he doesn't love her anymore.

I was first struck by the heavy sexist overtones of this segment, during which many people called in. Many of his "reasons" had absolutely nothing to do with living longer. Looks like it was just a thinly veiled attempt to throw some sexism out into the airwaves.

Notice how all the "reasons" listed by Mark portray a stereotypical woman who wants more money for less work, who complains when men do better than her, who strongly desires to be showered in gifts, and who uses physical pain as an excuse. And somehow, the use of this stereotype is supposed to make me feel bad for men? Sorry, Mark. Denying that women face injustice in this society is not funny. Especially when you try to spin it to make those who actually have the majority of the power (men) out to be the real victims.

Even better, after listening for a while, I finally got fed up and decided to call the radio station to let Mark Charvat know how I felt about his lack of taste. That was one of the most infuriating phone calls I have ever taken part in. The phone rang for a while, and when Mark answered, he said something along the lines of "Women live longer than men, but you know that, right?" I said no, I didn't, and that I found his segment to be in very poor taste. Without missing a beat, he told me that it was just a joke and that women were calling in as well. In vain I tried to explain that sexism is a very real problem for women, and that making light of it by joking about it only helps to further the problem by stripping it of its validity. Especially when it is done on the radio where countless people can listen in. But Mark Charvat probably didn't hear me as I tried to explain that, because he refused to let me speak in peace. He continued to try to talk over me the entire time until I finally got fed up with him not taking my concerns seriously and hung up.

"Jokes" like this are not funny. They only function as a distraction so that we as a society don't have to look our problems in the eye, own up to them, and work toward fixing them. Maybe if people were more considerate and actually listened when people voiced their concerns, I wouldn't be writing this post right now.

If this bothers you as much as it bothers me, follow the links at the top and tell the station how you feel.

EDIT: I was thinking about this, and I realized that I didn't address one thing that I'd like to say. Gender roles and expectations affect men, too. When Mark said If a man cries, he's a wimp. If he doesn't cry, he's an insensitive S.O.B., he did touch on (however accidentally) a real problem that men face within the limits of what is expected from their gender. But joking about it? Please. That's not going to solve anything.

Hooker alert - they don't deserve common decency

From the winners over at the Minnesota Daily (the student newspaper at the University of Minnesota):

Prostitute Gone (Legally) Wild

Holla [the paper's editorial/talk back section] realizes that if "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis is one thing, it's a dirtball. That said, America (and certainly disgraced American Elliot Spitzer) can find themselves behind the smut king this week. Turns out Ashley Dupre, Governor Spitzer's glitzy call-gal, dropped a ten million dollar lawsuit against Francis, claiming that she was exploited and underage when she - uhh -went wild.

First things first, does someone who made a career out of sleeping with sleazy businessmen really have any moral high ground … anywhere? Holla thinks not. Under most circumstances, pulling up your shirt and screeching "WOOO!!!" really takes a backseat to banging the governor of one of the most important states in the union. On top of THAT, it was also revealed that Francis has a video of Dupre showing an ID confirming her age and verbally consenting. Score one for the Grimester …

In an "ONLY IN AMERICA!" moment, comments from Dupre were taken from her publicist. This particular piece of advice should serve as hope for thousands of illiterate and sexy American girls: if you sleep with a married man who's important enough, you'll be famous enough to hire a publicist.

God Bless America. Holla's moral of the story/life moral to carry with you always: hookers, never try to swindle a John. Especially John's with the power to buy every minute of T.V. programming after midnight.

Complete crap. Slut shaming, anyone? Where's the outrage over Spitzer's behavior? Just condemnation for that slut who got caught.

Here's the real moral of the story: Anyone that works in the sex industry is a dirty whore and doesn't deserve legal rights, much less kindness or respect.

Contact for the MN Daily:
Letters to the Editor
Complaints and Corrections
Editorial and Opinion: 612-627-4080
Front Desk: 612-627-4080

Thanks to K. Elizabeth for the heads up.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Body Positivism: Health in a post-BMI Mentality

One of the most valuable things I have taken away from Feminism is how to love myself and everyone, no matter what shape they are. I especially have to give a hat tip to the lovely ladies over at Shapely Prose for all of their hard work. I feel like the battle to accept myself, and others, is constantly uphill. The work of feminists and fat acceptance activists has helped me increase my self esteem and be healthier, mentally and physically.

Nevertheless, various health issues connected with food run in my family. For years, I struggled to control my intake and exercise religiously. This struggle was mostly fruitless, because I love to eat and cook. Running in place on a treadmill was nowhere near as fun as inhaling the heavenly aroma of home-made risotto as I stirred it on the stove, and then receiving glowing compliments on my culinary abilities from my family and friends.

The age-old "diet and exercise" shtick wasn't sticking. Fat Acceptance mentality in tow, I decided to go to a friend-recommended local nutrionist for a check-up that I refused to receive from my weight-obsessed general physician.

Before she began, I set a few rules. No talk of BMI. No discussion of weight and "weight classes". I stressed that I really did not care about what size I wore. I wanted to know if I was getting the right vitamins, if my cholesterols were in balance, and I could pass basic physical fitness tests. In short, I wanted to know everything worth knowing, and nothing that wasn't worth knowing. If I was healthy and moderately fit, I didn't need "weight loss tips".

She agreed, thankfully. I don't know how well such rules would have worked for regular nutrionists (she was more of the natural hippie variety), but she was perfectly agreeable, and understood why I asked her to leave such inconsequential things out of my check-up.

I passed the physical fitness tests, with moderately high endurance ratings, but low strength ratings. She said those could be increased with more fiber in my diet and simple things like carrying more grocery bags at once. I'm awaiting my blood and urine tests though.

I feel like looking after my health in this fashion is much more productive. Weight does not really determine a lot of health issues. I could have the body of a super model, but be malnourished. I could be as toned as an Olympic athlete, but have serious cholesterol issues. More than weight and BMI, excesses and deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals in your blood are responsible for various ailments. Besides, dieting has been found to be useless in the long run, and a constant drive to "improve" my body, on the assumption that it is "bad", is not healthy mentally or physically. My intestinal disorder and allergies can and have put me in the hospital. I have no wish to screw around with food unnecessarily.

Fat Acceptance and health are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I have found them to be very inclusive indeed. Here's to enjoying food, my body, and my life!


Feminists have Teeth - the movie

Now on DVD, Teeth is a movie about a high school girl who finds out she has vagina dentata - teeth in her vag. The synopsis on the website says:
High school student Dawn works hard at suppressing her budding sexuality by being the local chastity group's most active participant. Her task is made even more difficult by her bad boy stepbrother Brad's increasingly provocative behavior at home. A stranger to her own body, innocent Dawn discovers she has a toothed vagina when she becomes the object of violence. As she struggles to comprehend her anatomical uniqueness, Dawn experiences both the pitfalls and the power of being a living example of the vagina dentata myth.
This movie is so fascinating because it exposes a cultural, rarely spoken but widely known, fear of vaginas and subverts that to give power to vaginas and women, as possessors of vaginas. Toothed vaginas are sometimes "subtly" hidden in films (Pirates of the Caribbean 2, anybody? That Kraken is a huuuuge toothed vagina), but this might be the first time anyone's addressed vagina dentata directly in a film.

I'm going to talk about different aspects of the plot now, so if you plan on seeing it and don't want it to be ruined, stop reading.

The film makes it clear that Dawn has never explored her own sexuality, much less seen what her own vag looks like. As a vocal member of her local chastity group, she rails against sex before marriage and wears a promise ring for her future husband. When she fantasizes about the boy she likes, it's in wedding gear - don't worry, no masturbation for her, though.

The cultural fear of vaginas is so widespread and intrenched that none of the high school health textbooks show vaginas - they just have big stickers over those pages, while the male reproductive system is clearly displayed. Students question it and try tearing the stickers off (hoorah!), but this scene points to a larger issue of women not knowing fundamental facts about their bodies - a point Cara neatly touched on recently over at The Curvature.

When Dawn is sexually assaulted, it's by a fellow member of the chastity group who "fell" once before. His reasoning for raping her? "I haven't jerked off since Easter!" and "You're still pure!" However, his lame excuses for rape are no match for her vagina teeth, and we get a nice genital shot - post attack. Not for those who don't like gore, I must say.

The vagina dentata doesn't attack anything that enters her vagina, only non-consensual and harmful entry - it, at first, is a knee-jerk reflex, although she does seem to be able to attack at will later on in the movie. The mythology presented in the movie says that a hero must do battle with the woman to break her power. After the rape and gyno visit (both which end in bloodshed), Dawn goes to Ryan's house (a boy who likes her) because she has no idea where to go. She is obviously shaken and unnerved, and he takes her presences as an opportunity for sex. Dawn takes a bath and when she comes out, he has candles lit and music playing. At some point, he gives her some sort of pill and wine and she ends up passing out. When she comes to, Ryan's playing with her breast and they end up having sex. Here's a bit of their conversation:
Dawn: You can't.
Ryan: Do you want me to stop?
Dawn: No.
Good. (whatthefuck?)
But they'll get you.
The teeth.
Come on.
No, no, look. I'm conquering them. See? Yeah, I'm the hero. (bullshit, bullshit bullshit!)
Can we point out the issues here? First off, since he drugged her, it's sexual assault. Second, there was no positive affirmation of consent, however, she does say she doesn't want him to stop. However, since she's been drugged, she can't legally give her consent. Third, can we stroke his male ego just a little more? Conquering? Hero? I just threw up in my mouth a little.

The conquering hero does meet the teeth, however. The next morning, they're having sex again (completely consensual this time!) and Ryan answers his phone during sex. He brags about sleeping with Dawn while he's inside of her - bad move on his part. Ryan loses his "conquering hero" status and his junk when Dawn's teeth take offense to the mid-sex phone call and bragging.

Here, the film subverts the myth and the need for a hero to conquer the vagina, because even the hero falls victim to the teeth. It's not that the vagina needs a hero to conquer it, it's that all sex needs to be consensual. Get that? CONSENSUAL. It's the literal actualization of my dad's favorite phrase for high school boyfriends - abuse it and you lose it. I'm glad the film blows apart the concept of a vag-conquering hero, since frankly, I don't need one and I doubt anyone else does either.

I won't ruin the whole movie for everyone, but let's just say that Dawn is baaaaadass and by the end of the film, she comes to fully embrace her vagina dentata and its abilities.

By the way, does anyone else feel like this movie poster is too "teen-sex comedy" and less "get my consent or I'll chomp off whatever's inside me"?

Seriously, I wish I had teeth in my vagina. Soooo bad. Now I'm just waiting for a movie about menstruation saving the world.

I'm Annoyed: French textbooks

I'm learning French this summer and we started the chapter on food, restaurants and eating today. I have to say, it annoyed me to no end how along with names of different foods, we learned "diet," "to get thin," "to gain or lose weight" (two different verbs). Additionally, during an exercise where we went around the class asking people different things about meals (favorite food to eat while sick, etc), one of the questions was "do you only eat salads when you're dieting?"

The French language has annoyed me already simply through its use of masculine and feminine words, but today, my disappointment was directed more towards the textbook authors. They knew it was for a college audience - did they need to include words about losing weight in a chapter on food?

Two big thumbs down for Deux Mondes.

UPDATE: Even better! The online homework is aaallllllll about counting calories and losing weight. No big thumbs down anymore - Screw Deux Mondes and their online practice exercises.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Feminist Tour of Cosmopolitan: July Issue 2008

I recently received the July 2008 edition of Cosmopolitan as a joke for my birthday, and I thought that it would be interesting to examine it from a feminist perspective. This is what I found:
The Cover:
Carrie Underwood. Well, at least she’s dressed. Better than most covers, where the women look like they are "dressed" for men’s magazines. Also the cover says “man” “he” or “guy” seven times but “women” or “she” only once.

After the credits, we have the “Cosmo Beauty Coupons!” OMGZ!

Then we have a couple of pages of ads: make-up, soap, face cream, shoes.

Next the “Why Don’t You…” section. “Why don’t you get a killer bikini butt, make sangria, seduce a dude with soft skin, treat him to a chilly thrill, stay on your guy’s mind 24/7?” Well, I think it’s become obvious that this is a heteronormative magazine. And we haven’t even gotten to the articles yet.

Then comes the “Hot Sheet: 10 Things Being Buzzed About Right Now”. I think my favorites are number 3, 5, and 7.
3. “Decoding Dude Dates” informs the reader how to determine if two guys out together are dating or just friends. If they are gay, Cosmo writer Molly Fahner explains, they may: whisper, share an armrest, eat from the same popcorn, or sit with their feet on the floor. But, if they are just friends, they will talk loudly, keep their spaces separate, and eat from individual bags.
5. “56: The percentage of women who would rather be thinner than smarter.”
7. “Saving Men” Yep. Cosmo wrote about the book “Save the Males.” And gave it merit.

The Carrie Underwood interview comes next. It’s a pretty standard celebrity interview detailing her love life and asking if she considers herself a “good girl” or a “bad girl”.

“Why You May Be Avoiding Love” explains that women are putting off marriage longer and longer, which it encourages. Okay, that’s good. 1 Point for Cosmo.

Well, minus that point. I flipped the page to find the question and accompanying photos “Cheek Peek vs. Bare Butt”. And I got to ask myself the immortal question: Do I prefer Kate Hudson in a regular bikini or a thong bikini? Almost as thought provoking as “To be or not to be”?

Another make-up ad and then the regular feature, “Sexy vs. Skanky”; keeping it classy every month, Cosmo, with this column.

Then the “Confessions” and “Guy Confessions” feature with a several anecdotes about embarrassing moments and silly stories. Pretty standard magazine fare.

A few more ads, including an Axe ad.

“The Man Report” attempts to help women understand men (because men all think and act the same).

Next Cosmo helps its readers understand their man by the position he sleeps in. Nothing like avoiding actual communication with your partner.

Another section on understanding the men comes next. Nothing too shocking.

More ads.

Then the “Guy without his shirt”, this month featuring 24 year old, Brett Novek from Florida and his very chiseled chest.

Then there’s an interview with Usher and a few more ads.

Then a couple of “stories” on clothing, which are really ads.
Followed by a few “stories” on makeup, which are really ads.
Then a few “stories” on hair, perfume, skin, and hair, which are really ads.

An interview with Vanessa Hudgens, and more ads.

Then an article on having “Extra-Naughty Sex.” I am all for exploring your body and having any kind of sex you like, but this article encourages women to try new kinds of sex for their partner’s pleasure, not their own. (There is one line about how adventurous sex affects adrenaline and dopamine in the brain will affect the reader’s pleasure, but the vast majority of the article focuses on the benefits for the man) Of course, partner’s pleasure is important, but with only 30% of women having an orgasm every time and 74% of men having orgasms every time they have sex, being a little selfish in bed is acceptable.

Next Cosmos readers will discover “50 Tiny Gestures That Make Him Love You More”. Many of the tips are sweet, but some are just silly: “Buy him a big, manly flashlight (a “manly flashlight” seriously?!).”

An article about masturbation is featured next. Yay for masturbation! But, seriously, good for Cosmo for encouraging women to explore their bodies and discover what gives them pleasure.

“Advice Guy Pals Want to Give You” is basically another article written to help women understand men.

Then “The Hottest Words to Say During Sex” tells women what to say when they orgasm, so men will know they’ve done a good job. Okay…

“Ask Him Anything” is a sex advice column, followed by the fictional “Bedroom Blog”.

“The Cosmo Post” features stories about real women such as “Running On Hope” about a running club for the homeless and “My Dad Was a Sperm Donor.”

More ads.

Then “Summer Dangers You Don’t Think About” includes “Road Hazards”, “Hiking Trails”, “Biking and Jogging Paths” and “Anywhere After Dark.” That’s nice, Cosmo, make women afraid to go anywhere after dark.

Another ad posing as a “story”.

Then the “Bitch It Out” section, featuring women’s stories about what is pissing them off this month. Sigh. I really hate the word “bitch”.

A few more standard magazine articles.

Oh, wonderful. “10 Signs You’re Being Too Bitchy” it’s a satire article, but the use of the word “bitch” again makes me very uncomfortable.

Then, “Fascinating Facts About Rich Guys”. This blog has gotten comments calling all women golddiggers, and I’ve often wondered where they come from. None of my friends plan on marrying a guy for his money. But, I think we’ve found the source of these rumors.

“Caught Butt Naked” is a collection of anecdotes about being caught having sex.

A fashion spread featuring a white model.
Another fashion spread featuring a white model.

Some more standard magazine articles.

Then, Cosmo has an article on STDs. Okay, cool.

An astrology page is next. Pretty standard.

Next is Cosmo’s “Red-Hot Reads” which features an excerpt from an “erotic novel.”

A few pages of ads.

A quiz: “Do Guys See You As Girlfriend Material?”
Cosmo is a magazine. Its meant to be light and silly. But, the tone of the magazine is decidedly regressive. Between the pages and pages of ads, Cosmo re-inforces some pretty sorry ideas and sets the standard for other women's magazines.
I think my dream women's magazine would be radically different. It would feature an awesome female blogger on the cover (Jessica from Feministing, maybe) and have articles about travel, news, food and stories about friendship and lasting love (between people of all races, genders, religions, and economic classes). What would your ideal magazine look like?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Smash that patriarchy!

I would like to thank those of you who are being brought to this blog from CounterFem, Misandryreview, and Antimisandry because...

...a hit on this blog is a hit against the patriarchy!*

Have a lovely day!

*Quote by Kate.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Men's Rights Activists

So I'm sitting on my bed, reading the news. I have this nifty tool installed in Firefox called StumbleUpon. Basically, when I click a button I am randomly referred to a web page that the tool thinks I would like, based upon my votes on other sites. I give a lot of thumbs-up to activist pages, so I was not surprised to be referred to a rights group.

What I was surprised to find, however, was that the rights group was a men's rights group.

I was curious. What are Men's Rights Activists? Do they champion the causes of men in Africa who can't afford to feed their families? Do they push for a male birth control pill? Do they speak out about abusive parents?


They speak out about the "violence" that the feminist movement has done to men. They talk about the Femi-Nazism of the government that punishes men for being masculine. They rage against women who ask ex-husbands for child support and alimony.

Basically, they think that society is out to hurt men by making them act like humans.

Their basic tenement is that men should be free to act like men. By men, they mean homophobic, hyper-masculine, violent, abusive, irresponsible failures of humanity.

How do I know this? Why, they are opposed to feminism. Feminists hold that the default definition of masculinity alienates men from their emotions and empathy, and is ultimately damaging to the individual and society as a whole.

Men's Rights Activists, on the other hand, hold that the gun-toting, children-leavin', anti-sissy model of manhood is the only thing holding humanity back from anarchy.


They also claim that both women and men are equally oppressed, or that men are oppressed more than women. Which is evident, of course, when one considers that less than 1% of the world's wealth is owned by women.

Men are "success objects" they say, and burdened as providers. Because, you know, women that labor unpaid in the house or underpaid as a teacher or maid are lazy lie-abouts.

They say that violence against men is more pandemic and tolerated then violence against women. While more men are mugged or killed in war, MRAs fail to comprehend the obvious: the people killing men also happen to be men.

Men killing and hurting men. Men killing and hurting women. Men killing and hurting children. Men running nations and sending men to their deaths. See a trend? In general, the subject of such violent sentences is typically a man. The very notion that women, or feminists, are responsible for the actions of men is laughable.

Largely, however, MRA groups tend to concentrate on one particular area: divorce law. They maintain that men have lost the right to a fair trial in family law and custody settlements. This, of course, is the fault of women.

The majority of law-makers are men. The majority of judges are men. Hell, the majority of high-paid lawyers are men. Perhaps they are responsible?

No! Who's to blame? Well, their "bitch of an ex-wife" who wants child support and alimony.

Despite hundreds of peer-reviewed studies sporting statistics that women, more often then not, get the short end of the stick at every point of the marriage life-span, including divorce, MRAs hold that men are being systematically attacked and oppressed by a justice system that they, as a gender, have largely perpetuated and dominated since antiquity.

If, by accident, the website I was perusing stumbled upon a legitimate concern to "men's rights", they approached the discussion in such a misogynistic and hostile fashion that hilarity ensued and rational argument was absent.

Yes, but the feminist movement can be hostile and angry, right?

Of course. Notice, however, that mainstream feminists reserve their rage for social forces that oppress humanity, disgusting criminals, sexist leaders, and, in general, people and forces that are actually doing something wrong.

MRA activists direct their rage towards women, and in particular, their ex-wives. The privilege that these largely middle-class white men receive and exercise is rendered completely invisible. They deny or ignore men's domination of powerful institutions, traditional familial structures, and popular culture.

When they do discover an example of a man without power, they typically ignore the fact that these are examples of men's powerlessness in the hands of other men. The injustices that men suffer by the hands of the legal system are largely the fault of modern male lawmakers, and wholly the fault of historical male-dominated institutions.

That is not to say that their observations are unfounded. Plainly speaking, men have lost power in all areas of modern life compared to their historical counterparts. This is not because of some feminist conspiracy or culture of man-bashing, it is because as society moves to correct millennia of inequality, the privileged will perceive a loss of power as resources are distributed more equitably.

For the purpose of illustration, assume that society has one pie and a group of four people. Because of various social doctrines, Bob gets to take half of the pie as his share. Mary, Rebecca, and Peter each then take a sixth of the pie for themselves, but only after years of political struggle and pie-lessness. Mary looks at everyone's pieces and finds that Bob's piece is far bigger than hers. She can think of no real reason why he is entitled to a bigger piece. So, she gets Rebecca and Peter to join her in demanding their fair share. Bob is eventually forced to give up half of his piece, so that everyone has a fourth. Bob thinks to himself, "why, this sucks. I was always told that it was my birth-right to have half of a pie. Now, I have to content myself with a fourth of a pie. I have lost pie. This is all that bitch Mary's fault".

Bob is right: he has lost pie. However, Mary and the others were right to demand more pie. If Bob wanted to blame something or someone, he should blame the people that originally decided that pies must be divided unfairly, or the social forces that inflated his expectations of what his "share" ought to be.

Men are given a far bigger share of the "pie" of wealth, power, and prestige than they are rightfully entitled to. MRAs are not wrong to observe the loss of those privileges, but they are wrong to view women, who still have yet to achieve full equality by law and otherwise, as the enemy.

When men are born into a society that indoctrinates them into a culture of inequality, but simultaneously purports equality as a social value, men develop the notion that their unfair share of global wealth and power is rightly kept, and that such inequalities are somehow "equal". When these advantages are taken away, and made more equitable, a man feels as if he is being treated unfairly.

What MRAs advance is the notion that, as men, they are treated unfairly by increasingly equitable (but not wholly so) legal systems. In that, they are absolutely right. Given that the definition of "man" as "he who is rightly entitled to a larger share of worldly power and wealth by the chance of being born with a penis", men are being treated poorly by the justice system.

As humans, however, these men are treated more than fairly, if not outright favored, in everything from family law to criminal law.

They are favored, by men, because they are men. If they are killed, hurt, or treated unfairly, they are largely abused, also, by men.

Such self-reflection, however, is beyond the power of those who maintain that violent and robotic models of masculinity are something to be preserved instead of destroyed.