Tuesday, December 29, 2009

100,000 hits!

On behalf of all the writers here at Female Impersonator, I want to say thank you to our readers! On Sunday we reached 100,000 unique hits. Amelia founded the blog in February 2008 as the sole author and has built it to what it is today.

I want to thank Amelia for starting the blog and providing a space where we can share our thoughts on everything under the sun. She has been the driving force behind making Female Impersonator into what it is today. Without her, we wouldn't be here.

Here's to another 100,000 hits!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Models: 2 and 12

I think this is really fascinating:

Photo via The Frisky

V Magazine's upcoming Size Issue
has a photo spread of two models, one size 2 and one size 12, wearing the exact same clothes and posing similarly. There are more photos at the V Magazine site. Editor in chief Stephen Gan said, ""Big, little, pint-size, plus-size -- every body is beautiful. And this issue is out to prove it."


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lady Gaga, Racism and Feminism

There's been a fair amount of discussion about the Lady Gaga/Kanye West photo for the special edition of Lady Gaga's new album. You can find the picture through google if you'd like to see it but I don't feel the need to repost it here. I also don't want to restate what a lot of people have been saying already, but I do want to draw your attention to Thea Lim's coverage at Racialicious. The picture is posted at Racialicious also.

Recently I posted a quote from Lady Gaga's interview with the LA Times in which she discusses the difference between men and women in the music business. Thea is right to point out that this article, and notions of Lady Gaga's feminism, got a lot of attention, perhaps unjustly so. She responds saying:

While in my September article I gave a digital eyeroll to Gaga’s assertion that she is “redefining beauty,” I’m willing to reconsider that stance. I can see how Gaga often subverts viewer expectation, enticing us with views of perfect white beauty, but then ensconcing that beauty in the disturbing. She presents her “perfect body,” but covers it in fake blood. She dresses up in sparkly dresses and matching heels, but her shoes are creepily curved into scary bird feet. Juxtaposing images that are comfortable or normative with images that are unsettling or bizarre, Gaga turns the tables on us. Instead of simply refusing to allow voyeurism, she harnesses it, tricking and punishing the heteronormative in us, while rewarding our inner pervert.

And yet, like sooooo many artists who do interesting and progressive work in one area, Gaga totally fails in another. The very visible problems with the King Kong Gaga image suggests that along with some great parts of feminism – being sex-positive, being critical of how the entertainment industry uses women’s bodies – Gaga is also practicising the worst part of feminism: racism.

I think Thea is right on the money and a lot of us have overlooked this aspect of Gaga in exchange for desparately holding onto a subversive female artist. Feminists gets a lot of criticism for our treatment of women of color, where we throw race out the window in exchange for gender unity (or a gender unity that's silently/assumedly centered around white women's experiences).

While I know that we can't get it right all the time, we should at least try to get it right where it counts. The history of women of color being shunted by white feminists is too prominant and too on-going to ignore.

In this case, I held up Lady Gaga as a feminist role model by highlighting her quote. Although I still agree with her statement, I do want to take this opportunity to offer up Thea's sharp critique as a counter point to her image as a feminist. A feminist, yes, but also a feminist who plays into and reinforces racist imagery.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fat acceptance for 4 year olds

Today while reading a story with one of the PreK students I work with, she stopped me in the middle of the book to ask me a question.

"Am I fat?" she asked.

"No." I said.

"Am I skinny?" she asked.

"You know what?" I said, "Everyone looks different. And that's ok. Do you look the same as me?"


"Do I look the same as (another student)?"


"Does (another student) look the same as (another student)?"


"We all look different. And that's not bad. It's good. It's ok that we all look different."

And then we started talking about the different ways we get to school in the morning and how she wanted a bike for Christmas.

Now that I've had the chance to think about our talk, I wonder if I wasn't clear enough. If I didn't state explicitly enough that she is wonderful just the way she is. If I could have made her understand that her body is her own, to be judged by no one. If I should have used words like acceptance and love instead of different and ok. If when the other teacher called her "our big girl" and told her not to eat quite so much, I should have done ... something. Anything.

My student is 4 years old.

She is facing a lifetime of societal messages telling her to be thin, white, blonde, tall, physically able and more from every angle, explicitly and subconsciously. Already my students dress up as Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and other princesses that don't look like them.

Since the outside forces of society are so strong, should I have been explicitly clear that her body shape does not define her? That there are more people who don't look like Cinderella than do? That the standard of beauty is constructed to be impossible? How can I use my limited role in her life to help her accept herself?

My student is 4 years old and asking me if she's fat. How can I ever do enough to help her?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Woman up, Anon.

To the anonymous commenter who left this comment:

"I like that you moderated my comment that disproved your theory by not posting it. That's really open minded of you. I appreciate your ability to listen to other views. You are such a self centered person, Lindsay."

I just want to give the same speech I have for my voice mail - leave your name and I'll get back to you shortly. Hell, even a psuedonym.

How do I know which anonymous commenter I've offended when there are so many of them? Since it was on the Baby, It's Cold Outside post, I'm guessing you have a problem with identifying the aspects of rape culture present in a holiday song. Do you count this in the War on Christmas?

Also, anonymous comments don't change my mind. Serious rebuttals from actual people do have the potential to change my mind, but as long as it exists in a sphere where you realize that I have the potential to change your mind as well. I listen to and consider thought-out and well-argued points of view. I'm not so stubborn that I refuse to be open to new ideas on a topic. It just takes a little debate.

However, I'm woman enough to write and leave my name. I don't engage in debates with people who can't handle the same standards.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Labels: Which to wear to Christmas?

I came out as queer in 2009. The reason this subject has been on my mind lately has everything to do with the use of labels, my family, and the holidays.

For several years I’ve applied several labels to myself without problem. In 2005 I took on the label of liberal. In 2007 I took on the label of feminist. These labels I wore with pride, and they seemed to fit me comfortably. When I came out as queer, however, the taking of that label felt different to me. It was an appropriate label, but it just didn’t feel the same.

It was when I started coming out to people that I decided against the term bisexual and went with queer instead. However, when getting to know new people, I didn’t always use the term queer. It wasn’t that I felt ashamed of my sexuality, but openly applying the label with new people was a challenge for me, one that I didn’t seem to face when discussing the topic with people I had known before and had then come out to. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it has something to do with the fact that the nature of the labels is different.

When I say that I’m a feminist, people may make assumptions about my attitude and my sexuality, but they also make assumptions about my ideas and my politics. When I say that I’m queer, people only have my sexuality to make assumptions about, and that hits a lot closer to home and is a lot more personal than when people have other things to assume. I’ve made a lot of progress in being comfortable with the label queer, and I’m wearing it a lot more freely than I did at first. But being at home with my family for winter break makes me feel like hiding again.

My sister is the only person in my family that I’ve deliberately come out to. I never did come out to my parents directly. They know because they found out who I’m dating. Since my sister and I have been home from college, I’ve talked to her about a plan I had come up with, one that I wouldn’t actually undertake. I wanted to come out to the rest of my mother’s family on Christmas Eve, before dinner, after the prayer, and after someone, as always, asks, “Any announcements?” I would tell my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins something catchy like, “I’m here, and I’m queer!”

When I mentioned that idea, my sister cautioned me. She said that maybe queer wasn’t the best word choice. She said that some of my relatives may not understand what queer meant and that they might think that I only liked women. Although I disagreed with the tone of the statement which suggested that having people assume I was strictly attracted to women was somehow worse than liking men, women, and everyone in between, my sister did have a valid point.

There was an incident a few years ago in which some family members started talking about one of my second cousins. He is the only of three brothers who hasn’t gotten married and had children. He still doesn’t even have a girlfriend. My family discussed how, perhaps, he was gay. Several family members seemed unwilling to even consider the idea, appearing rather put off by the thought. At the time, the incident made me uncomfortable. Remembering it now makes me hesitant, especially considering that my mother’s family is rather religious, although not overbearing about their beliefs.

As the holidays approach, all I can think about is how my mother’s family is aware of some of the labels I wear, but not all of them. It doesn’t seem fair. The only reason I choose to wear labels is so that people who know me can have a better understanding of who I am. Labels are identifiers and are not static. Labels should evolve. New ones should pop up and old, inaccurate ones should fade out when a person changes. Can my family truly know who I am if they aren’t aware of a label that is important to me? Is it fair of me to not tell them something that might make them uncomfortable, even if I want to be open? Thinking about this, I need to decide which ones I’ll be wearing to celebrate the holidays this year with my family.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quick Read: Military Abortion Ban at Religious Dispatches

A couple standout quotes from Military Abortion Ban: Female Soldiers Not Protected By The Constitution They Defend at Religious Dispatches, a post about the ban on military doctors performing abortions for soldiers:

“They convinced themselves that anyone who would do a self-abortion is crazy,” Amy says. “It’s not a crazy thing. It’s something that rational, thinking women do when they have no options.”


Vicki Saporta, President of the National Abortion Federation, says that military women seeking abortions face a no-win situation. “If you’re a woman in the military, you’re going to have to obtain a leave to get the care you need. If you’re honest about why you need that care, you put your military career in jeopardy. If you’re not honest, then you put your military career in jeopardy.”

A really fascinating must-read and draws very strong connections to Stupak.

I'm increasingly impressed by the level and quality of articles at Religious Dispatches. I think it's quite often a reliable, progressive website that discusses religious topics with a very strong pro-woman, pro-choice tilt. Keep up the good work, Religious Dispatches.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rape Culture and Christmas Songs

Note: This post was originally posted in November 2008.

If you participate in Christmas, you should be glad to know that our rape culture even extends to Christmas songs:

I really can't stay - Baby it's cold outside
I've got to go away - Baby it's cold outside
This evening has been - Been hoping that you'd drop in
So very nice - I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice
My mother will start to worry - Beautiful, what's your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor - Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I'd better scurry - Beautiful, please don't hurry
well Maybe just a half a drink more - Put some music on while I pour

The neighbors might think - Baby, it's bad out there
Say, what's in this drink - No cabs to be had out there
I wish I knew how - Your eyes are like starlight now
To break this spell - I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no, sir - Mind if I move a little closer
At least I'm gonna say that I tried - What's the sense in hurting my pride
I really can't stay - Baby don't hold out
Ahh, but it's cold outside

C'mon baby

I simply must go - Baby, it's cold outside
The answer is no - Ooh baby, it's cold outside
This welcome has been - I'm lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm -- Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious - Man, your lips look so delicious
My brother will be there at the door - Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious - Gosh your lips look delicious
Well maybe just a half a drink more - Never such a blizzard before

I've got to go home - Oh, baby, you'll freeze out there
Say, lend me your comb - It's up to your knees out there
You've really been grand - Your eyes are like starlight now
But don't you see - How can you do this thing to me
There's bound to be talk tomorrow - Making my life long sorrow
At least there will be plenty implied - If you caught pneumonia and died
I really can't stay - Get over that old out
Ahh, but it's cold outside

Baby it's cold outside

Brr its cold….
It's cold out there
Cant you stay awhile longer baby
Well…..I really shouldn't...alright

Make it worth your while baby
Ahh, do that again….
Ah, nothing gets me in the Christmas mood like coercion, intentionally getting someone drunk for the purpose of sex, the idea that not wanting to have sex hurts a man's pride, female purity that needs to be protect by family members, slut-shaming by the community and date rape all immortalized in holiday song and cheer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quote of the Day: Lady Gaga

"I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little . . . In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, 'I'm great.' "

-Lady Gaga in the LA Times

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A little something on basketball and goddesses for you

Just wanted to pass along a few things...

First, this article on women in the NBA from Sports Illustrated. Interesting article (with, not suprisingly, all male voices) even though they've decided that any woman who plays pro basketball with men will be "freakish." Avoid cringing when they use the phrase "man-sized ball." Although I do like this answer to the question of different sized basketballs in play:

If this ever does happen, it will happen via one amazing woman
player who has spent her young life aiming for this far-fetched dream. She'll
have played thousands of hours of pickup games against men. The ball will be
irrelevant to her.
Thank you.

Also, The Undomestic Goddess has the 9th Carnival of Feminists up today! We've got a post in there so check it out along with many other fabulous links.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Butts, penises and cookies

I submit, for your consideration, exhibit A in the case of needing accurate age-appropriate education about our bodies, a scene from the PreK classroom where I work:

We are reading a book about how dinosaurs say good night. One of the dinosaurs turns off the light with his tail.

Lead teacher: Do you turn off the light with your tail?
All kids: No!
Boy: We don't have tails! We have butts and penises!
Girl: Girls don't have a penis! We have cookies!

There's a split second where everyone looks at the boy, then the girl, thinking we're going to tell them not to say "penis." My lead teacher says, "Girls have vaginas," and keeps reading.

At least the girl didn't call it a vah-jay-jay.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Debra Haffner and Jim Wallis on Stupak

One more reason why I'm not a Jim Wallis fan - his piece at Huffpo titled "Health Care: Keep Your Eyes On The Prize."

You can read it all for yourself, but he writes,
"Whether every American woman has a health plan that pays for abortion or not, tens of millions of currently uninsured women in this country will be much better off with health insurance than without. Therefore a focus on "women's health" cannot just be restricted to access to abortion."
Yeah, but you can't talk about women's health without realizing that access to reproductive health care is part of that.

I just can't believe that he put quotes around "women's health." As if it's not real. Fake. Pretend. A figment of my imagination. If he has his way, my access to affordable, comprehensive health care will be a figment of my imagination. I'd like to think my health is more than just a series of air quotes in a lengthy and puffed up Huffpo article.

If I went on, I'd just be restating what Daniel Schultz says in "Jim Wallis' Egregious 'Memo To Nation's Leaders' on Stupak" over at Religious Dispatches. From Schultz, "In his passion for health-care reform, he seems not only willing to toss aside basic questions about human rights without a second thought, but unable to understand that some people might have a problem with that. Even worse, he's quick to blame the people who got screwed for not making a compromise more quickly."

Also over at Huffpo is Rev. Debra Haffner's take on Stupak in light of King Solomon, compassion and justice. She rightly juxtaposes the role and authority of religious institutions to the Constitution, quoting from the Religious Insitute's Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Abortion as a Moral Decision. The document states, "No government committed to human rights and democracy can privilege the teachings of one religion over another. No single religious voice can speak for all faith traditions on abortion, nor should government take sides on religious differences."

Let's hope our congresspeople remember that we are a nation not bound to one religion or doctrine and thus cannot legislate on one interepretation of morality.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Democrats really hate women or I use the skills I got in law school to analyze stuff that takes away my rights

Have you heard that the newly-passed health care bill treats women like second-class citizens?

Behold the absolute draw-dropping shittiness of The Stupak Amendment. Here it is, proof positive, that Democrats really hate women. What's also awesome is that the first female Speaker of the House presided over a Democratic majority that passed the most expansive restriction on women's rights in recent history. Not only was the amendment passed by 62 democrats (and all voting Republicans), the bill carrying the amendment was passed through Congress 220-215, with the majority of Democrats blithely signing the biggest roll-back of reproductive rights. Super.

Some Democrats (mostly women) did not take this sitting down. They tried to speak in Congress, only to have male Republicans heckling them and shouting "I object, I object, I object, I object" over them. Think Progress has the video. Thrown under the bus by their own party, some of the women we voted into office were forced to speak out against their own party signing away their rights while they were viciously silenced by the very men that orchestrated this new oppression. I'm sure that while the men in Congress, some of them in their own party, thought this was just business as usual, our minority of female lawmakers got a heady sense of deja vu. Men talking over them in a meeting? Nah, that never happens. Especially when you're talking about your own freedoms and liberty. I mean, just shut up, woman. Know your place.

Out of this process of ugliness came the unholy spawn of the Stupack Amendment. However, unlike some other places, I believe that the proof is in the pudding. I'm not doing to quote from some dude that quoted from some other dude that quoted from yet another dude. I'm including the full text of this steaming file of fail. Here's your hope and change, right here:


No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the women in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.

Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting any nonfederal entity (including an individual or State or local government) from purchasing separate supplemental coverage for abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section, or a plan that includes such abortions, so long as—
(1) such coverage or plan is paid for entirely using only funds not authorized or appropriated by this Act; and
(2) such coverage or plan is not purchased using—
(a) individual premium payments requires for an Exchange-participating health benefits plan towards which an affordability credit is applied; or
(b) other nonfederal funds require to receive a federal payment, including a State's or locality's contribution of Medicaid matching funds.

Notwithstanding section 303(b), nothing in this section shall restrict any nonfederal QHBP offering entity from offering separate supplemental coverage for abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section, or a plan that includes such abortions, so long as—
(1) premiums for such separate supplemental coverage or plan are paid for entirely with funds not authorized or appropriated by this Act;
(2) administrative costs and all services offered through such supplemental coverage or plan are paid for using only premiums collected for such coverage or plan; and
(3) any nonfederal QHBP offering entity that offers an Exchange-participating health benefits plan that includes coverage for abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section also offers an Exchange participating health benefits plan that is identical in every respect except that it does not cover abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section

The emphases are mine.

For those without a background in legalese, this is about as unequivocal and binding as law can get. There's no wiggle room. No exceptions. What this creates is a health care system in which women are second class citizens, forced to choose between even private coverage of a perfectly legal procedure and all federal funding of health care. This, simply, is an outrage. As far as I'm concerned, this violates both Roe and the substantive due process of the 14th amendment, but for those without a background in law, rest assured that this crap is really, really, really, legally dubious.

So let's digest this, line by disgusting line.

Section A explicitly prohibits any federal funding governed by HR 3962 (the larger Affordable Health Care for America Act) going towards the provision of abortions. But if you thought that they really needed to put this in, that anyone was really ever in danger of seeing their tax dollars going to "kill babies", allow me to enlighten you. Behold the related 30-year-old ickiness of the Hyde Amendment. Passed in 1976, in the immediate backlash of Roe decision three years earlier, the amendment explicitly bars all appropriations for The Department of Heath and Human Service budget from going to the purpose of funding abortions. It does not prohibit all federal funding of abortion, just anything out of HHS. Since H.R. 3962 would be administrated by HHS, there was absolutely no way, shape, or form that its provisions would go to funding abortion. Got it straight?

Moving on, the second clause is the kicker: "or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion". You catch that? If you have a health plan that covers abortion, you cannot receive any federal assistance. Can't make the last $300 for a root canal? Too bad. Choose between your teeth rotting out of your face or abortion coverage. Want part of your "exchange" to go towards a consultation with an allergist for your seasonal allergies that you couldn't otherwise afford? Too bad, you got an abortion last year on that plan.

This amendment goes beyond limiting federal funds. This explicitly bars even private insurance companies from covering abortions.

Well, so can insurance companies just offer plans with abortion coverage and ones without? Sure, if you're cool on getting totally substandard care and no government assistance whatsoever. Given that the majority of those who see themselves in low-paying part-time positions that don't offer health coverage are women, there's going to be a lot of women who need federal assistance. But they won't get it unless they accept prohibitions on their rights, and start saving for out-of-pocket abortions if they need it, instead of putting away money for retirement. That's other thing: men won't have to save for expensive procedures that they need. They won't have to choose between affordable health care and their reproductive rights.

But all this begs the question: will insurance companies continue to offer abortion coverage? The answer: probably not to the extent they do now. Providing abortion coverage will undoubtedly require additional administrative costs to make sure that the company remains in compliance with the amendment. Additionally, by section C Paragraph 3, those additional administrative costs will have to be covered entirely without federal assistance that insurance companies could get if they didn't offer abortion.

The result is obvious: some companies will just not offer abortion coverage. It's too troublesome and expensive. If they offer it, they're required by Section C Paragraph 3 to provide identical coverage that doesn't cover abortions. Notice that the amendment, however, does not require that companies offer plans that do offer abortion coverage. A company would be in compliance if they did not offer coverage for abortion at all. In fact, it's transparently obvious that this is the goal of the entire amendment: to make it so that insurance companies will have lots of incentives to never cover abortions.

If a company decided to offer coverage including abortion, the coverage would be prohibitively expensive. Not only could the insured not use federal monies for any medical procedure so long as they are covered for abortion, they also would be forced to pay higher premiums. After all, the additional administrative costs of the plan could not be paid for with federal assistance, which would transfer the additional fees directly unto women. To really sweeten the deal, you'd also be ineligible for Medicaid matching even from your state while your insurance covers abortion. Awesome.

At the end of the day, you're left with a tiered health care system. At the very top are men. They can purchase private insurance. They can use public funds. They can do what you want with them, within reason, and not have to worry about losing coverage.

Quite a way below them are women paying for identical insurance except for abortion coverage, but paying much higher premiums. They cannot use public funds for anything.

Below them even further are women who can't pay for the prohibitively expensive private insurance of their female peers. Among them are women that need any assistance whatsoever for anything, even something as simple as a teeth cleaning. They must pay for abortion out-of-pocket or choose between any federal or state assistance. It's arguable that most women will find themselves here, as the prohibitive cost of the above will make it unfeasible unless you plan on getting abortions often.

And at the very bottom are the women who can neither pay for prohibitively expensive private insurance or out-of-pocket abortions. They get pregnant, and they're forced to procure risky abortions by untrained providers or have a baby against their will. At best, they succeed. At worst, they bleed to death or lose their fertility to a massive infection.

Oh, and they will suffer from those cheaper abortions. I'd bet all the money I have that someone will make it so the prohibition against paying for abortions will extend to paying for the complications from botched abortions. Or they'll extend it to birth control, IUDs, and all those things that wackos say "kill babies". Before long, everything that has to do with your right to exercise your entirely legal reproductive rights will damn you to fork over big bucks. No assistance. No coverage. Additionally, because paying massive premiums for abortion coverage is totally unfeasible and uneconomical for basically everyone, it will come to pass that all women in America must pay out-of-pocket for abortions.

Lo and behold, our Democratic majority has opened its collective butthole and gifted us a mammoth steaming pile that only allows us to avoid bankruptcy by medical bills only if we promise to be good girls and never ever kill babies.

There's your Hope™ and Change™. You thought that Democrats were cool with just throwing gays under the bus? We're not stopping at anything. Screw the poor. Screw women. Screw the environment. Screw the Middle East. Screw accountability. Screw ending tax cuts. Screw our progressive base. Screw federal law and Roe v. Wade and the things we could do with a Democratic majority.

If you have a Senator that would otherwise vote to pass this bill (mine are all Republicans), please, for your rights, send them a letter. Give them a call. Do something! Otherwise, I'm afraid that this is the death-knell for reproductive rights.

How I came to yell at a woman on the street about feminism

My sister and I were walking back from the bus and a woman came riding up on her bike beside us, talking about how crappy men are and how unlucky in love she is. We mumbled in agreement, etc, and thought we left her behind us. Then she rode up again and started talking about how men are wusses and pansies and girls when they don't do their "job" (whatever that is). I told her I didn't appreciate her comparing weak men to women, saying that it put women in a hierarchy under men. Well, I said it less academically. Eventually we ended up shouting and she called us lesbians, and then somehow I ended up yelling across the gas station area, "'Man up' is not an acceptable term!" At that point, I became the yelling lady and the circle was complete. The student became the teacher.

Honestly, I started talking back to her because I've had enough with people not living their beliefs. I believe in gender equality, even - especially - in language. How we speak and the words and idioms we use reveals our inner biases and beliefs. Inclusive language in church is another fine example of this exact thing. If we're for something, well then, let's be for it.

All in all, I just didn't want to think later, "Why didn't I say anything?" Casual sexism is sexism is sexism.

Would I have been nearly as vocal if it was a man, or a person of color of any gender? No. Her whiteness and gender made me bold in ways I wouldn't have if it was another person. Well, maybe it didn't make me bold, but it made HER non-threatening. I may have said something, but definitely not yelling the way I was.

Would I have even said anything if it was in a group of my friends or family?

Casual sexism is sexism is sexism.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Coffee and consent

From Until Someone Wakes Up, a play written by Hamline University professor Carolyn Levy and a group of Macalester College students:

Waiter: Would you like some coffee?
Woman: Yes, please.
Waiter: Just say when. (Starts to pour.)
Woman: There. (He keeps pouring.) That's fine. (He pours.) Stop! (She grabs the pot; there is coffee everywhere.)
Waiter: Yes, ma'am.
Woman: Well, why didn't you stop pouring?
Waiter: Oh, I wasn't sure you meant it.
Woman: Look, of course I meant it! I have coffee all over my lap! You nearly burned me!
Waiter: Forgive me, ma'am, but you certainly looked thirsty. I thought you wanted more.
Woman: But -
Waiter: And you must admit, you did let me start to pour.

via Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery by Patricia Weaver Francisco

Friday, October 30, 2009

Crying in the face of opposition

This post about emotions during arguments really struck a chord with me because I very rarely let my emotions show to people - something I've decided comes from a misogynistic culture that equates emotions with women and weakness.

However, I burst into tears over a discussion with my dad where he didn't believe rape could be used as a tool of war, especially in places like the Congo, and he thought it was stupid to talk about how materials use in cell phones and digital cameras contributes to the ongoing civil war there.

It could have been the fact that he was in town for my grad school graduation, I was moving away from all my friends and facing unemployment and the unknown, but honestly, he just came off as an asshole. He lacked in caring about my emotional investment in the issue to the point where I had to go into the bathroom and burst into tears. Twice. I infrequently display unhappy emotions to other people, much less cry more than two or three tears.

Anyway. That's just my story about facing an argument and coming off as emotional. Anybody else want to share?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Question of the Day: Dismantling gentrificiation as a white person

Here's a question that's been bugging me for awhile:

How do I, as a middle class, highly educated white person committed to dismantling white privilege, find, move and live into* a multicultural neighborhood without contributing to gentrification?

Any thoughts?

*I choose into deliberately because I want to live into the life of my neighborhood. I want to contribute to the well-being of my neighborhood and actively take part in events and my neighbor's lives.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not all abortions are unwanted pregnancies

Renee's commentary on the ridiculous Judy the talking embryo from ChoiceKills.com got me thinking about another type of choice often overlooked in the abortion debate. She writes, "Choice does not always end in abortion but it does mean that every child that is born is a wanted child."

In addition, not all abortions are unwanted pregnancies.

Sometimes women and families have to make the painful decision to terminate a pregnancy on medical grounds (both mother and child) when the child is very much wanted. Often, these women go to late term abortion clinics and in some states, force fed "Women's Right to Know" bullshit on how much pain a fetus can feel and shown pictures of a developing fetus.

What to know what I think women have a right to know? That they can make their own personal and medical decisions free from another person's judgment, especially during a terrible time such as terminating a pregnancy due to health reasons.

Just one more reason we need to keep reproductive rights safe, legal, and in my opinion, free from pro-life harassment.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ronald McSexy

Hey, let's use women's bodies to sexualize EVERYTHING, mmmkay?

Today: Ronald McDonald.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

It's a bit delayed, but here's a Sunday song in honor of Coming Out Day:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Question(s) of the Day

After comments on my National Coming Out Day post, I thought the topic of coming out could use another place for discussion.

So, Impersonators, are you out? Want to be out? As an ally, has someone come out to you? Want to share a story or discuss the pros and cons of being out? Let's try it.

A reminder that comments are moderated, so I'll make this as safe a space as I can for anyone interested in talking about this.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Female Impersonators Radio Hour - Today, 5pm!

Kate and I will be hosting the newest edition of the Female Impersonators Radio Hour today at 5pm Central time.

We'll be talking about Roman Polanski, "chick lit," and playing female-friendly music like Alanis Morissette, Ani DiFranco, and more!

Tune in, and call us 309-341-7441.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Today is National Coming Out Day. Let's start some conversations about LGBT issues and rights, because talking is the beginning of understanding.
Hope you all have a great day!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Guest Post: Inked - Ink, religion, and politics

This guest post was written by Galina of Oh, You're a Feminist?! . Galina is working towards her phd in clinical and community psychology, focusing on empowerment as prevention and discrimination's effects on mental health. For fun she likes to trail run with her dog, create jewelry, and travel.

I began wanting a tattoo and nose piercing when I was 12. My parents, conservative immigrant Jews, were very much opposed to both ideas. The tattoo they talked me out of by convincing me I wouldn't be able to be buried in a Jewish cemetery when I died. The nose ring was tougher. My mom used good old fashion guilt and scare tactics, "you'd be breaking my heart," "no one will take you seriously," "what will my friends think?" I decided then that I would obey my parents' wishes for a few years and if I still wanted the body art as an "adult" I would make the choice based on my person politics, not theirs.

Fast forward to college where I studied psychology and women's studies: I still wanted the tattoo AND the nose ring. I headed my mom’s advice on the nose ring, since I’d be applying to clinical psychology programs and they are traditionally conservative. My plan was to get in and effect massive change from the inside, studying social justice and progressive issues rarely examined in the field. The admission process includes an interview, and I didn’t want to give them any reason to exclude me. Little did I know I would end up at a very progressive program where social justice is a core value and I don’t have to pretend to be anyone else to scan my way in.

I wanted my first tattoo to be symbolic and meaningful not just to me but to my goals and values. I settled on an adaptation of Picasso’s dove, holding an olive branch in her mouth. She has a green eye to match my eyes. In Judaism, doves symbolize peace and love. According to the story of the Great Flood , Noah released a dove in order to see if it would find land. The dove came back carrying an olive branch in its mouth, indicating that there was dry land (and hope for a peaceful future) once again.

I spoke with my rabbi at the time about the antiquated notion of not being buried in a Jewish cemetery if I got a tattoo. She assured me that this would not be a problem in the congregations I was a part of (non-orthodox sects of Judaism) and that body art will not determine my relationship with G-d.

My second tattoo is a bit more political. It is an Audre Lorde quote that reads, “your silence won’t protect you.” This tattoo has provided me with many opportunities to educate others on who Audre Lorde is and her impact on the women’s movement and the world. I love when people ask me about what my tattoo says because that means I can start a conversation about women’s rights, privilege, and discrimination. I chose to put such a feminist imprint on my body for several reasons. Most obviously because of the vast impact feminism has had in my life. Also because of the common feminist phrase the “personal is political.” I find it much harder to “hide” my politics now that I have this tattoo, which keeps me honest and gives me ample chances to speak my mind.

In a purely aesthetic sense, I love the way tattoos look. I find them incredibly sexy and telling of people’s lives and stories. If I were (physically and psychologically) brave enough, I would get a much bigger piece in a much more visible place. Because just like what you wear and how you look does not define you, neither should your ink. But it should tell a story, because we’re all unique and deserve our voices heard (or seen as the case here).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Impossibly beautiful but in your face

How can I respond to this Facebook request from a high school friend in a thoughtful, constructive and feminist way?

Photoshop the Ugly out of your pictures

Hello all, I'm working on a project right now where I want to
show my skills retouching photos in Photoshop. I need some before photos so I
can make some lovely afters. So it would be awesome if you could send me photos
that you have that could use some free retouching. I'm looking for photos that

Acne, wrinkles, arm fat, tan lines, etc. that you would like

old photos that have dust spots, scratches, smudges, etc.
bad lighting
a sign or some small object removed

I could even do fun things like maybe add some bling to you,
add a new hair do, give you more muscle definition, put your face on a hot
ladies body, whatever you wish, just let me know.

I know this woman from high school and she was calling herself a feminist before I was. I know she works in graphic design, but how can I explain (in a context on Facebook) what exactly my issues are with her work? Any ideas, Impersonators?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Today, 5pm - Female Impersonators Radio Hour

Female Impersonators Radio Hour, today at 5pm Central Time.

Kate and I will be discussing current events from a feminist perspective and playing some good tunes.

Tune in and call us at 309-341-7441.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Attention Trolls: A quick definition

From the lovely comment moderation box on "Apologize." for your consideration:

Feminism: Advocates of censorship and thought control.

Rape means more than "Sex with a woman that didn't want it".

Shame that feminists refuse to acknowledge this, and instead try to make every single thing on earth solely about them.

Why... one might as well call it "What about teh wimmenz???"

Not. Everything. Is. About. You.

Rape has multiple meanings, look it up, please. Celebrating this moron makes you look foolish and ignorant.

Also, there's no such thing as rape culture. Pushing idiotic buzzwords just makes you look idiotic.

Thank you, Anonymous for your lovely, though-provoking comment.

I'll have to admit, you're right about one thing. Rape does mean more than "sex with a woman that didn't want" - I'll broaden the definition to "sex with a person that didn't want it". Because that's EXACTLY what rape is.

Unless, of course, you're refering to the less commonly used definition of rape as "an Old World herb (Brassica napus) of the mustard family grown as a forage crop and for its seeds which yield rapeseed oil and are a bird food" (M-W). I'm going to use my deductive reasoning skills here and guess that's not what you mean, or what the person who used rape originally intended. "I'm going to herb of the mustard family you in this video game"? Nope.

So when we refer to rape, it's talking about "sex with a person that didn't want it", FYI.

Impersonators, any other important things I'm forgetting about in our definition of rape?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carnival of Feminists!

Check out Chally at Zero at the Bone and the 5th Carnival of Feminists!

I really liked the post on toddlers as triggers... Certainly raised points to consider in the way I interact with the PreK kids I work with. That's a whole other post to look out for soon.


A story I heard last night from a friend about one of the frats on my undergrad campus:

They had an open house, inviting interested students to come by and find out more about the frat. They all sat around the living room, talking about things and generally getting to know one another. The current members were excited to see how many guys had turned out for just an information session.

One of the current members said something along the lines of "I'm going to rape you so hard in [video game]."

A freshman, his first time meeting these people, said to the current member, "Apologize."

At first, the current member wouldn't. But the freshman wouldn't let it go. And then the entire room of guys wouldn't let it go. They wouldn't let him blow off his comment. The member eventually apologized to the room full of frat members and potential members.

This freshman, one person, held others accountable for their language and atmosphere in a setting that most people wouldn't feel comfortable doing so. My friend was very impressed, since he had prejudged the guy based on his appearance. This one incident probably changed the tone of the house for awhile... I doubt people are going to make rape jokes and comments quite as casually as they did before.

I just wanted to share this story about one person making a small, but maybe one day large, dent in our rape culture.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Return of the Female Impersonators Radio Hour!

Today at 5pm Central Time.
Female Impersonators Radio Hour
Featuring Kate and Amelia.
Call in (309) 341-7441.
We'll discuss news/current events from a feminist perspective
and play female/female-friendly musicians.
Hope you're excited!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Don't confuse the ladies during sex by talking!

A little misogyny-soaked advice from Esquire for you today on the question of penis-vagina insertion during hetero sex:
However, Robert J. Rubel, author of the indispensable Master/Slave Relations: Handbook of Theory and Practice, as well as 2007's Squirms, Screams and Squirts: Going from Great Sex to Extraordinary Sex (because the title A Dance to the Music of Time was already taken), disagrees. He confirms your fear about implied incompetence and calls you a "submissive man," a charge you'll have to just sit there and take, I'm afraid. "I've never had a woman guide me in initially," he scoffs, before defining the core problem. "Here's the core problem: Anything that you do to pull the woman back into her head will destroy the moment. Don't ask her anything, don't do anything that she has to think about, don't confuse her." He's absolutely right. I was about to say something about the futility of rules with regard to the passionate acts of willing adults, but I've already forgotten the question.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Family Planning in Central Wisconsin

I just wanted to pass along this video about a family planning clinic in Wausau, Wisconsin. Wausau is a 20-30 minute drive from both my parent's hometowns and I'm pretty familiar with the town and area. For my parents growing up, Wausau was a big city. It's not totally surprising to see this type of atmosphere around a family planning clinic in this area - a clinic which doesn't provide abortions, by the way.

h/t Miriam at Feministing.

Friday Fun: Andrea Gibson

I'm really into spoken word poetry. I especially admire Alix Olson. She originally inspired me to try my own hand at spoken word poetry, and I was able to meet her last year at my college's Take Back The Night event at which she performed.

Last Thursday I mentioned Alix Olson at a meeting of Students Against Sexism in Society (the feminist organization at Knox College), and after the meeting a new member of the group told me that if I liked Alix Olson, I should check out Andrea Gibson's poetry. I did. And I'm in awe.

Here's a video of her performing "Dive."

What do you think? Know of any other awesome poets you'd like to share?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sweet Valley High movie by Diablo Cody(!)

I loved Sweet Valley High almost as much as The Babysitters Club, so I'm pretty psyched to see that Diablo Cody is going to pen a movie adaptation of the series. Elizabeth was always my favorite... so brainy.

Any thoughts on the series or Cody's new project?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Question of the Day

A friend of mine has a friend from Ireland visiting for a few weeks, and we were out at the bar a few nights ago. The Irish friend starts going in on women's sports, wondering why anyone would want to play or watch it. I defend women athletes and sports, and then my friend leans over and says, "I told him you were a feminist... he's just trying to rile you up." The Irish friend laughs, and we change subject.

But I'm wondering why? Why does my feminist identity cause some people to challenge it? Most of the time it's jokingly, but then sometimes people really do want to argue against feminism. It's not like I bother vegetarians about factory farm conditions or anything.

In the spirit of Shakesville's Question of the Day, here's mine:

Upon finding out a person is a feminist, why do people intentionally (in good humor or not) say non-feminist things?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Carnival of Feminists 4!

Check out Frau Sally at Jump Off The Bridge and the Carnival of Feminists - Numero Cuatro! Lots of fantastic links, like always.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Inked: Another story, more ink (part 5)

Like Amelia, I have a couple tattoos. Some I would get again, some I wouldn't. Also like Amelia, these pieces have become a part of me both physically and personally.

Hebrew for God/Adonai/YHWH. This stems from my studies of religion and personal beliefs and it was my second tattoo. I've encountered some people who don't like it, in particular, a Jewish man who felt I was appropriating his religious beliefs for my own aesthetic purposes. I understand his viewpoint and I've been careful about the places where this tattoo is visible. However, I still really love it in relation to my next tattoo:

This tattoo mirrors my Adonai tattoo, one on the right wrist and one on the left. It reads "sophia" in Greek, or wisdom. I got this tattoo after completing my honors project in college, which was an 18 month process and resulted in a 70 page paper. The project led me to Divinity School and a really formative period in my life, so this encapsulates all of that. Also, sophia/wisdom represents a feminine aspect of God, based on passages in Proverbs 8. I feel it really balances with the Adonai tattoo, recognizing the destructive, patriarchial aspects of religion. It's probably the most explicitly feminist of my tattoos.

On my foot, this is a simple drawing of a peace dove by Salvador Dali. Right now, it's the only tattoo my mother will admit to liking. For me, this represents a lot of my politics and my worldview. Also, if I wiggle my toes, one of the wings looks like it's flapping.

I'm planning on altering a few of my tattoos, but am waiting and really thinking about my ideas. In the past, I didn't think it through as much as I should have, but I don't regret getting them. I have some script on my leg that says "family" in Latin; this I'm planning on modifying to become a tree with the current tattoo as the root system of the tree (get it, family tree?). My first tattoo is a small, simple Jesus fish on my back. I originally wanted the rebel symbol from Star Wars, but my mom really didn't like that and I felt guilty. So I switched to my other idea, the Jesus fish. Hindsight is 20/20 and I should have done the Star Wars symbol. Oh, well. I'm planning on altering the fish into a Celtic knot, which should be fairly easy to do.

Moral of the story: Really think about your design and love it. Wait 6 months. Rethink it. Wait another 6 months. THEN get your tattoo. Sit on a design for at least 6 months before getting it done.

Inked: one, two, three, four.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Murder is murder, regardless of politics

Authorities have a suspect in custody in the killing of Jim Pouillon, an anti-abortion protester in Michigan. It's been confirmed that Pouillon was definitely targeted because of his protest tactics.

Let me be clear - This man should not have been murdered for his activities related to abortion.

Likewise, Dr. George Tiller should not have been murdered for his activities related to abortion.

Murdering someone is always wrong, regardless of the person and their views. Why is that so hard to understand?

Link Love

Some linkage for you this weekend:

Here's a piece in the Guardian about rampant rape and sexual assault in a Mennonite community.

Deborah Solomon's interview with Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame about the show, which includes this back and forth:

Personally, I find the show’s rape jokes especially unfunny. In one episode, Peter learns that three co-eds were raped and murdered. He says to himself, “Everyone’s getting laid but me.” Why is that funny?
Because he’s so oblivious. You’re not laughing at rape; you’re laughing at him being an idiot.

In another episode, Peter asks, “Would you rather be black or crippled?” Why is that funny?
Once again, it all comes back to Peter’s obliviousness. If Peter meant that maliciously, then it wouldn’t be as funny. We try to keep it so that there’s an innocence to the way that he conducts himself.

Not buying it, MacFarlane. I really enjoy her simple questions of "Why is that funny?" It's a comedy show and she's questioning not the moral standing or public opinion of the show, but at it's heart, why these things are supposed to be funny. In my opinion, MacFarlane fails to answer these with any conviction.

Also, the next Carnival of Feminists is on Wednesday at Jump Off the Bridge. Submit!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why TV sucks: Part ten

Direct TV brings us this commercial, featuring a man (people on YouTube say it's Peyton Manning - I honestly couldn't tell you because I don't follow American football) standing in front of a large flat screen television, telling the viewer why they need to watch football games in high definition. His reasons? The "one-handed grabs," the "naked bootlegs," and "all the punishing hits." As he says these things, different shots of cheerleaders on the TV behind him seem to match up with his words, showing scantily clad female cheerleaders making grabbing motions, doing high kicks, and throwing their arms out as he says "punishing hits." Then this guy turns around, sees that the TV isn't showing football games, but cheerleaders, and he says "Real funny, guys. Real funny," as if he isn't totally into using women's bodies to sell a product. Good use of showing how exposed women's bodies are so frequently used to sell all manner of products, including products that have no connection to the female form, or products that are even claiming to be used for something completely different (in this case, for viewing football games, of which only a small aspect involves women).

Parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Inked: My stories, my ink (Part four)

So there's going to be two "Inked" posts in a row. Sorry. I'm finally back at school and am a bit busy, so I'm posting this, which I started writing a few days ago.

A few commenters on my past "Inked" posts asked if I would share pictures of my tattoos, so that's what I'll do here. Much like what Saranga said about her piercings, my tattoos were not about rebellion. The tattoos I have represent things that are very important to me, and I consider them very much a part of myself, for reasons beyond the obvious - that they are permanently marked on my skin.

Below is my first tattoo, which is Chinese for "peace" (I had it verified by several friends who spoke and wrote Chinese). I got this tattoo when I was eighteen years old and it's in the middle of my back, right between my shoulder blades. This tattoo was inspired by the famous picture of the man standing in front of the line of tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests in China in 1989. The idea of peaceful protest and making a statement, even in the face of what may appear to be overwhelming odds, has been important to me as I've grown into my political and feminist consciousness, and this tattoo was my way of summing that up.

I got my second tattoo on my left wrist when I was nineteen years old. It's the word "Tempo" in my own handwriting. The Tempo was the name of a local newspaper I was paid to write for during the summer after my first year at college, and was, in effect, the beginning of my journalism career. This was a very big deal to me, as it got me experience that is very important for any career. And this all happened when I was relatively young. It was an opportunity that meant so much to me that I felt compelled to have it memorialized in my skin.

I got my third tattoo, on my lower back, when I was twenty years old. I wanted a tattoo to represent my feminism, and decided to go with one that tied into the blogging I have done on Female Impersonator. The tattoo features a silhouette of a woman with the word "impersonate!" underneath it. I felt that this particular design (which I came up with on my own) most fit my own personal feminism and how I practice it - largely (but not exclusively) through writing.

So, there is my (current) tattoos and the stories that go along with them. If you would like to share the story of your own ink as a guest blogger, feel free to e-mail me.

Inked: One, two, three.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Guest Post: Inked - On Piercings

Editor's Note: Although this guest post is about piercings, it came about after discussions in comment threads in my "Inked" series (part one, part two). I still consider this to be a part of that series, as it explores the reasons and meanings behind another form of body art and modification.

This guest post was written by Saranga, a 29 yr old bisexual feminist living in a rural county in the UK. She can generally be found behind a comic book. Her writings can be found at Pai and generally cover comics, women in comics, women in general, Buffy, politics, the odd bit about sign language and anything associated with the above list, especially if it's to do with comics.

I think I first fell in love with body piercings as a small child. I have a recollection of seeing a (possibly blue haired) mohawked manpunk with a lip hoop when I was just a young ‘un – as for my specific age I have no idea, but I’m guessing about 5 or 7. It left a major impression on me and at that moment I became determined that one day I would have that very same thing. As far as I was concerned that lip hoop was the height of beauty.

Fast forward until I’m 22 and by this stage I have had several piercings – 12 in my ear lobes and cartilage, both tragus, the top and bottom of my navel pierced, both nipples done, one nostril piercing, a vertical labret, my septum, and lastly my pride and joy – 2 surface piercings on my wrist.

Fast forward to the present and a lot of these have been retired, either due to difficulty healing or because I elected to work in an office. Let me tell you something about my piercings –>

They’re not about rebellion – I hate standing out, I hate having strangers comment on me and I hate my loved ones proclaiming them disgusting.
They’re not about attention seeking – Apart from my ears you’d never know what else I’ve got.
They’re not mutilation – an ugly sensational word. I have self harmed in the past and let me tell you my piercings have NOTHING in common with self harm or mutilation.

So why have I got them done? There’s my personal aesthetic. Quite simply, I think correctly done, well healed and well placed piercings are beautiful. I am very specific about exactly where the jewellery gets placed, and what jewellery I wear. They need to complement the curve of my face, my belly, sometimes be symmetrical, and otherwise fit in with my limbs and my body.

The other aspect about it is, I get to model and change my body. These little holes I plant, along key lines of my body make my body *mine*. I can sculpt and build my body into the shape that I want. I can position jewellery and holes to emphasise what I see as important. The two in my navel – it means my belly is no longer a big wobbly thing that I have no control over. I have made it mine. I have no interest in controlling my body through food – ignoring the fact that I like eating, it’s not precise enough and it’s not healthy. The piercings are (so long as you keep them clean). My lobes are each stretched to approx 5 mm. I love the fact that if I take the jewellery out I can see them through my ear lobes. I know that *I’ve* done this, *I* can effect change on myself.

This may come across as rather control freakish, but there’s also another aspect to it. When I have those little pieces of jewellery in, those holes in me, I feel complete. I feel like I have finally moved into myself. I removed my vertical labret about 6 years ago, after having had it for about 2 years, and I still catch myself feeling like I’m missing a vital part of myself, like I’m naked. My surface piercings on my wrist may have only lasted 3 to 6 months, but they brought me a great feeling of peace.

Have I experienced sexism in the industry? One time when I went into my piercers with a bag slung over my shoulder and the strap between my boobs the chief piercer/tattooist commented on the size of my boobs in a gruff and rather unfriendly way. That is the only instant of sexism I can recall, and funnily enough it didn’t stop me going back. Now it would. Now I would say something back. But my underconfident self thought nothing of it, the shame. This is a guy who pierces nipples, labia and clitoris’ (clitori?). Comments like that are just not on.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced negative comments from strangers about my jewellery – not like when I’ve gone out without shaving my armpits, or had my belly hanging over my jeans, or dared to wear big pants under tight trousers, or tried to cover my chest with a coat because of lewd comments regarding the size of my chest. I have had a lot of negative comments from people who have got to know me, who then pronounce them disgusting and look sickened when I answer a question they themselves have asked me. Don’t think you’ll like the answer? Don’t ask the question. I have been wondering if this is somehow related to the phenomenon of women’s bodies generally being up for public ownership and discussion – I’ve come to the conclusion not, because the feelings I get from piercing related comments and generic abusive comments is very different. Maybe other readers can give their experiences on this?

Are my piercings feminist? Well, they make me happy. They were always done for me, not for anyone else. I worked hard to be able to afford and pay for each and every one, all by myself. If I didn’t have to work in an office I’d be getting my earl done and my labret replaced. So, while they don’t have an explicit feminist meaning, I think it’s enough that these little holes with their seemingly insignificant pieces of jewellery have had such an effect on me and my perception of and relationship with my body. If I had to remove the remaining jewellery I think I’d feel like a shadow of myself. And if you don’t think feminism has anything to do with women and their relationship with their bodies I reckon you’ve got a whole lot more learning to do.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Carnival of Feminist #3!

Welcome to the third Carnival of Feminists! If you're a student, a teacher, a parent of school-age children, an education buff in America and perhaps elsewhere in the world, then you know that this is back-to-school time (EDIT: thank you to commenter Deborah for reminding us that "not all the world is America")! For all those heading back to classrooms or sending ones off to classrooms, we dedicate this edition to you.

Martha Jackson brings us the 25 Most Infamous Crimes In Modern History from the Best forensic science schools.

Anji discusses her observations on Fat Phobia and Thin Privilege thanks to ♀ Shut Up, Sit Down ♀.

In the same vein, Laura talks about her own thin privilege in Owning My Thin Privilege from Adventures of a Young Feminist.

From Alas, a blog, Maia covers how Dollhouse's November disrupts a standard of beauty, tying together advertising, Sarah Haskins and Joss Whedon at November and Sarah Haskins.

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Ode To The White House Fashion Police posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

Stef describes What to expect.... when you weren't expecting as "A brief walk down the highs and lows of an unplanned pregnancy," from The Hand Mirror.

Harpymarx brings us an Interview with Sarah Learmouth - CRASAC (Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre).

Public Address has an interesting post titled Public Address Up Front, which says, "There is no amount of flesh I can expose on a night out which makes me fair game – sorry, the author of my own difficulties. It is, by definition, impossible to deliberately attract unwanted attention: it's unwanted."

Amelia at Female Impersonator shares her thoughts on tattoos, what it means to be a woman with tattoos, and shares about her own feminist tattoo.

Holly tells us about Mormonism that's not Mormonism in How to Be Seriously Frivolous (or, Feminism is For Grownups) posted at Self-Portrait as.

Faith Dow discusses the lack of balance in journalism regarding Black women, telling us that The White Media Sure Loves To Promote Black Woman Angst Don't They? from Acts of Faith In Love and Life.

Frau Sally Benz started an online feminist book club titled Radical Readers & Feminism for Dummies. Check it out and share your thoughts on Persepolis, the first book.

Editor's Pick: Hilary Lister's kicking ass and sailing solo around Britain.

Editor's Pick: Some tips, tricks and resources for people cooking for themselves or one other person. No 3 pound meatloaf here, thank you very much. (Full disclosure: I - Lindsay - wrote this piece for Gal's Guide and I think it's pretty awesome.)

Editor's Pick: If you're not a fan of Speaking of Faith, then you missed out on an awesome podcast titled Revealing Ramadan. SoF also has the space for listeners to write in with their own stories and photos of Ramadan, essentially opening up the program to anyone.

Editor's Pick: Lisa at Sociological Images on the problem of metaphors and penis fencing flatworms. (The video in this post may possibly be NSFW.)


Thanks to all participants for another great Carnival of Feminists! The next carnival is September 16 hosted at Jump Off the Bridge, so be sure to submit your posts!

If you'd like to host, contact Lindsay or Amelia at (firstname).impersonator [at] gmail.com.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Burned Out

School hasn’t started for me yet. I’m at home until Sunday, then classes start on September 10. Even though all of my friends from my hometown are back at school already, in a way, starting school so late is good for me. To be honest, I just need a break.

This summer I had a research fellowship that allowed me to conduct research of my choosing for ten weeks. I was studying the impact that images in advertisements aimed at women had on their purchasing behavior, and it was a lot of work, and at times it was incredibly stressful. Because of this, I decided to cut out reading blogs and news websites to limit the amount of stress that necessarily comes from being aware of world events. I also took a break from blogging. Despite these precautions, several difficult situations arose in my personal life that pushed me over an edge. I struggled to finish my research – it often felt like I was clawing my way to the finish line, but I made it there.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time I finished my research. I was somewhat alarmed by how much of a toll the events of this summer had taken on me, and I decided to go home for a few weeks before school started up to try to recover. Since I’ve been at home, I have continued to avoid news media, but I did start blogging again about some personal topics.

Last week I found out about Senator Ted Kennedy’s passing, and apparently I was one of the last people to know. I updated my Twitter saying, “Wow, I really have done a good job keeping myself outta the loop while I take some personal time.”

My mom got my update on her phone and called me a few minutes later, asking how I didn’t know. It was rather late at night, and I tried briefly to explain to her how I had been avoiding news media, and she in turn tried to convince me that it couldn’t be possible because the news was everywhere. I didn’t feel like arguing, so I ended the conversation.

I know that my mom meant no harm. I hadn’t told her about my break from “the real world,” and if it had been at any other time, I would have known right away. But this reminded me of a rather upsetting reality of my life: People expect me to constantly be tuned in to current events and taking a break from such things is no longer comprehendible to certain people.*

This trend started in high school and continues to this day. The majority of the students at my high school were either apathetic when it came to politics or held conservative views. When I “came out” as a liberal during my sophomore year, I was constantly being prodded by the more politically-inclined conservative students at my school to do ideological battle with them on any number of hot button issues, whether we were in the lunch room or the classroom. That’s when my news habit began to form. I would watch the news on TV every night, and I started to read some news online so that I was informed about all manner of current events.

By the time I reached college, I had switched to getting my news almost exclusively online, and once I began identifying as a feminist, I added blogs to my daily routine of news and commentary. Identifying as a feminist only seemed to add fuel to the fire for those high school friends that I still kept in touch with. My feminism quickly became the lens through which to criticize my liberal political views, often through the deployment of tired stereotypes and misconceptions. At first I tried to talk to these people about how it was absurd how they were using a misunderstanding of feminism to discredit liberalism, but those discussions rarely got anywhere and after a while I gave up on them.

Still, even today, there are people (mostly my peers) who seem to think that politics and feminism are the only things that occupy my brain and that if I do not want to take part in an argument they try to provoke, or (especially) if I am not aware of the latest breaking news, that I must not be able to defend my position (as a liberal feminist) or that I’m just not dedicated to my cause.

I find it incredibly interesting that when these people found out I was a feminist and that I knew about politics, that I was, at the same time, elevated to the position of a knowledgeable ideological adversary and demoted to the position of some sort of lesser human whose only function is to serve as fodder for the flapping lips of people who disagree with me and know that I will never convince them that I am right. And these same people get frustrated and just don’t get it when I need a break from world events and need to recover for a few weeks. Well, I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m a human, and sometimes, a break is just plain necessary.

* This is not true of my mom. The exchange with her merely reminded me of this.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Guest Post: "American Values" in the movie Basic Instinct

This guest post was written by Ashley who is currently studying abroad in Argentina. Her main interests include feminism, history and women's spirituality.

Trigger warning for a brief description of a rape scene in the movie Basic Instinct.

I'm currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and for better or worse, there are many channels that air American movies and television shows. Well, lo and behold, just after I learned about the Bechdel test, I saw Michael Douglas give a speech about how he's proud of American movies, and how they're more than entertainment, they're ambassadors that convey our values. Well, not more than five minutes later, I turn the channel to find this actor in the movie Basic Instinct. So, I thought I'd watch it and see how well our "American values" were portrayed.

The main female character, Catherine Tremill, is a successful writer and an assertive woman who has no hesitation to admit that she has sex for pleasure. (What a revolutionary concept, right? Women having sex just for pleasure?) However, in a typical patriarchal troupe, she is portrayed as the "Black Widow," or the powerfully seductive woman who no man, or woman, can resist, even if it means death. (Clearly, a powerful woman must inherently be too aggressive because she's not being the "normal" passive girl.) Too smart for her own good, the detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), decides that she must be guilty of murder after her lover turns up dead. She is "bad enough" to go to jail, but she's "good enough" to later get his sexual fill out of her. They eventually become lovers, in one of the oldest themes of American movies: the young, attractive woman falls in love with the old, unattractive man. (You may say that looks shouldn't matter, but in reality, they do, especially in Hollywood, and I think this disproportion should be pointed out more often. One question is: where are the older women? Why can't they be suitable lovers?) Catherine later admits that she is interested in women as well, but her sexuality seems to fall flat as the only scenes she is seen being affectionate with other women is in front of men, seemingly seeking to attract their attention and entertain them. At one point, Nick calls her lover "a man," because obviously you can't have a relationship without one.

The detective's first "lover," Beth Garner, is someone who Nick treats callously and cruelly the entire movie. When she tries to understand his growing frustration with the murder case, offering her sympathies, he shouts at her to go away. However, when he needs her body, he doesn't hesitate to anally rape her. In the scene, she actually screams "No!" and struggles against him, but he continues to forcibly rip off her clothes (or at least the ones that are necessary for the act), and thrusts himself into her against her will, and then she seems to go limp. This, my friends, is defined as rape. (For those of you who would say that she could perhaps merely be playing, please watch the scene.) Of course, she then seemingly accepts the ordeal, a detail I'm sure the male screenwriter had no hesitation to put in, and who had no idea what constitutes rape. When Nick later confronts her with a different issue, it seems that she is being raped again, psychologically or not. He shouts at her and backs her into a door, where she proceeds to cower. Even after all of this, Beth still cares for Nick, saying, "I'm a big girl. I can handle myself." (At what age can you handle rape?) Her behavior almost seems motherly (I can hear the subconscious talking: "Well, he's a boy and he's just having a temper tantrum, he'll learn." Or, "He's my son, of course I love him no matter what.") Nick eventually ends up killing her, somewhat because he thinks she's a killer, and somewhat because he's not fucking her anymore. At one point, he actually calls both of the women in his life "manipulative."

The police, after her lover's murder, interrogate Catherine, emphasizing the fact that she is not "officially" with her lover, even calling her a "broad." With six or so male officers in the room with her, they rather look like a shooting squad, and their only target is the woman who crossed the line by being too powerful. In fact, there is only one police woman throughout the entire movie, making the ratio of female:male about 1:10. This setup was probably subconscious; in our patriarchal society we learn that it's completely acceptable for males to dominate females in all situations. After all, as we have seen through literature, history, and even religion, there is nothing more sinister than a sexually-liberated woman.

The movie "Basic Instinct" is an older one (1996), but it's clearly still modern enough to show on Argentine television. This is definitely not the most sexist movie ever made; in fact, when I started watching the movie, it could have turned out that there were few sexist troupes. However, as I thought, our "cultural ambassadors" convey sexism more often than not, and they're streamed throughout the entire world, where our neighbors see that in the great, glorious US, our morals inherently include sexism. In many peoples' minds, if you want to get ahead in the world, you have to be like the most powerful, which, fortunately or unfortunately, means that you have to be like the white, male, straight, Christian men. In conclusion, our "values," if we take Michael Douglas's words to heart, seem to emphasize male dominance, rape, coersion through force instead of diplomacy, and complete disregard of women's opinions and feelings. So much for conveying any feminist, or even decent values.

***After some research, it appears that even at the time of its release, the movie was criticized as both sexist and homophobic.