Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"We Need Fashion to Catch Up To Women of Size"

I love this piece over at Jezebel. In it, Dodai Stewart comments on an interview with Velvet d'Amour, a plus-sized actress, model and photographer. Some of my favorite quotes by d'Amour that are mentioned in the Jezebel piece are:

Fleshy, curvy women have been relegated to men's magazines, whilst edgy
editorial fashion in particular, has been inundating us with imagery glorifying adolescence (sometimes using models even as young as 13); the standard sample size forces the use of more skeletal models; and the opening of the Eastern bloc countries (where women are naturally quite delicately slender) caused an influx of lanky lovelies to grace the pages of our magazines and thus it's really quite normal that the curves here are deemed as more risqué. We have been fed a steady diet of rail thin, white, tall, Youth for the most part. Thus instead of delving further into what Beauty means to us as individuals, the tendency is not to question authority.


Should one go out on a limb and include a genuinely voluptuous model, 9 times out of 10 they will do so by harkening back to the Renaissance. Rubens and the like, are seemingly our only reference point for a larger body […] If we continually marry the fat body with nude classics, then we are hardly creating a revolution.

You can read the entire piece here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Self Esteem and Street Harassment

Mandy van Deven over at the Bitch Magazine blog brought up a problem about the way some self-proclaimed feminists judge people (usually women) who are flattered by street harassment that I have always felt but never articulated. Namely, that sitting in judgement of the victim of street harassment's reaction to their harassment is just as counter-productive as victim-blaming when trying to reduce any other crime.

...The message they [commentators] hold is clear: if you're a girl or woman who likes receiving overt sexual attention from men and boys (in public), it's because you lack the self-respect necessary to throw off the confines of external validation regarding female sexuality and beauty. We hear this self-esteem argument in various places, including conversations about female promiscuity, girls and women who wear revealing clothing, and the reasons women become sex workers. The underlying assumption in this logic is that desiring or expressly seeking out male sexual attention is the result of having low self-esteem.

For starters, comments of this kind set up a false dichotomy of women who have self-confidence and those who lack it (as though we don't all struggle with confidence in various circumstances), which allows the speaker to denigrate and "other" women who engage with men unfamiliar to them in a sexual manner on the street, blame these women (at least in part) for the problem of street harassment, and bolster one's own sense of personal integrity and moral superiority.

I thought Mandy's points in the rest of the article (which I highly suggest you read) were really spot-on and insightful. I especially appreciated that she mentioned how fine but distinct the line between flattery and street harassment is. I thought she put it well when she said, "Who determines the difference between a compliment and street harassment? The simple answer is: you do. The not-so-simple-answer is that we all do... and it depends heavily on context."

I do have one criticism with Mandy's article, however. While she quite rightly states that the distinction between flattery and street harassment is partially defined by what the target of the comment or gesture thinks it is, I think she should have clarified that street harassers aren't people who meant to pay a compliment and were just misunderstood. Street harassment, like sexual assault, is not the result of the perpetrator finding their target so irresistible that they cannot control themselves. It is about the perpetrator trying to exert power over and intimidate the person they are directing their comment or gesture at and it is not okay.

While I don't think Mandy was in any way disagreeing with what I said, I do wish she clarified what she meant. Street harassment is unfortunately so normalized and accepted that many targets of it feel they don't have a right to be upset about it or take action against it. In our current environment, myself and my fellow feminist bloggers out there need to be careful that we do not accidentally reinforce an upsetting misconception by not clarifying our meaning.

All in all though, I thought Mandy made some really great points and I applaud her for taking on this issue and pointing out a common problem in the way people talk about victims of street harassment.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Long time, no blog.

Hey everyone. It's Amelia. It's been a long time since I've been on Blogger. I never really explained my absence, so here goes.

I started my prolonged break from feminist blogging (and reading news, in general) when I was going through my first major depressive episode. I was having a difficult time dealing with my personal issues and was unable to handle the stress of being aware of the large world which is, as we all know, filled with terrible problems alongside some amazing triumphs.

At that same time, I was focusing on finishing my undergraduate studies at Knox College. I graduated cum laude from that school on Saturday.

Basically, my life right now is up in the air. I know I want to get training as a volunteer advocate for sexual assault victims. I know I want to write and perform poetry. But I currently have no job.

We will see where I end up, but for the time being, I can't promise I'll do more blogging. 

I would like to offer a round of applause to Victoria. Without her work, this blog would not exist. Please leave her some love.

Take care, all of you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Trans People Want

With all the ignorance and bigotry about trans people out there, the project of achieving equality for all people regardless of their gender can seem overwhelming. Recently, a DC trans coalition delivered a list of the trans community's priorties to the Director of GLBT Affairs. Hopefully this list will give advocates ideas of what issues to start with to work towards a fairer, more welcoming world for trans people.

So what do trans people want? Turns out they would like to safely use bathrooms, not be kicked out of their homes, avoid being sexually assaulted, receive fair treatment in the criminal justice system, and not be completely ignored in the city's educational and social services systems.

You can view the list in its entirety here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NY Times Series: Race Remixed

The New York Times has been running the series "Race Remixed," which examines the "growing number of mixed-race Americans." I have found this series really interesting, particularly the below video. I would be really interested in hearing your thoughts on the series in general, the topic, and the video specifically.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Italian Women Protest Sexism, Berlusconi

Italian women are getting fed up with their poor treatment and are starting to take a stand, showing disapproval of their prime minister Berlusconi.

Berlusconi’s approval rating among women has dropped from 48 percent a year ago to 27 percent—an all-time low. True to form, Berlusconi has his own statistics. “Did you hear about the latest poll?” he recently joked. “They asked women between 20 and 30 years old if they want to make love to Berlusconi. Thirty-three percent said yes, and 67 percent said, ‘Again?’”

Arcidonna, a woman’s group, filed a lawsuit against Berlusconi last month for 25 years of abuse against Italian women. “The conduct of the prime minister—now charged with child prostitution—is the final straw,” says Valeria Ajovalasit, the group’s president.

Berlusconi is only part of the problem. According to recent data, Italy is even more sexist than comparable nations.

According to the 2010 Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum, Italy ranks 74th in terms of women’s rights, behind Colombia, Peru, and Romania. Indicators include wage parity, labor-force participation, and domestic violence. Other statistics reveal 95 percent of Italian men have never used a washing machine, and that Italian women spend 21 hours a week on housework while Italian men spend only four.

Luckily, women have started wide-reaching protests across Italy against Berlusconi's sexist speech. Let's hope that this is the start of a larger movement towards equality.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SaVE Act: A Step in the Right Direction

As we have said before, rape on college campuses is a huge issue that needs to be better addressed. It looks like the proposed SaVE Act may be a step in the right direction.

The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or SaVE Act, would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and expand the 1990 Jeanne Clery Act to "improve education and prevention related to campus sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking."

Co-sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the SaVE Act (S. 835) would expand the framework of sexual assault education and victims' rights to include domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, and addresses the issue of how to define consent in sexual relationships. Schools would be required under the act to include sexual violence statistics in their annual crime reports. Colleges and universities would also be required to explain how to obtain protective orders and other victims' rights whenever a student reports being a victim of sexual violence.

Frankly, the fact that colleges are not already required to do such things as inform survivors of sexual violence about how to obtain a protective order should be disturbing and should move senators to vote for this act. However, the senate often does not do what they should. Here's hoping that the senate does the right thing this time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kate Middleton & the Trouble with Fairytales

I just finished reading this article, the upshot of which was that

...there are certain undeniable truths about the sacrifices this young woman [Kate Middleton] has already made for her upcoming nuptials in addition to her career in fashion (Kate shortly worked for the British clothing brand, Jigsaw), and her photography (Kate had planned an exhibition she ended up not showing). As Cochrane states, "What's deeply dangerous about Kate for the monarchy, is that she looks as purposeless as the rest of them."

In many ways, Middleton has already failed to use her entry into this family as an opportunity to make them more modern. Instead she has convinced the Queen that she will not been reaping havoc and causing scandals galore like Diana, making herself much easier to "manage" (read: control). Kate is more willing to adjust to the royal family's ways than have them adjust to her, and in the process allowing the monarchy to remain unchanged when what it so desperately needs is to change.

All this being said, Kate clearly loves William and maybe at the end of the day, she is doing all this for love. But something about that doesn't sit too well with me. Perhaps it's the whole fairtytale factor thing.

Or maybe, just maybe, Kate Middleton has bigger plans than any one of us could imagine. I mean, Queen Elizabeth is not getting any younger, and guess who happens to be waiting in the wings to be Queen? Perhaps that was the ambition of "Waity Katey", as the British press famously dubbed Middleton, all along.

Maybe Ms. Middleton will get to have her fairytale, the last laugh, and show us all how it's done- as Queen of England.

Thoughts? Does Kate Middleton represent a new, more feminist version of women in the English royal family? Is it even fair to use her as a starting point from which to discuss the role of fairytale and marriage in modern society given her exceptional circumstances?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Update: Planned Parenthood's Budget

Luckily the Senate voted down the ridiculous bill passed by the House of Representatives that would have cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. But women's health advocates can't celebrate just yet.

"As the negotiations for the spending bill continue, it's clear that social conservatives want to ban funding for Planned Parenthood in future spending (negotiations)," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America spokesperson Tait Sye.

The organization also faces a longer-term funding threat in H.R.3, the "Stupak on Steroids" bill, for which congressional subcommittee hearings are set for March 16.

That bill blocks private insurance plans from covering abortion care in the new health care system and imposes tax penalties on small business owners and many other individuals who purchase private insurance plans that cover abortion care. The legislation now has 219 co-sponsors, enough votes to pass the House.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Daniel Craig in Drag for International Women's Day

Yesterday was International Women's Day. In honor of that fact, Daniel Craig stood up both in drag and in his James Bond attire while statistics were read by Judi Dench about how the life of men and women in the UK are different. I know that these statistics are UK based, but unfortunately they apply very well to the U.S. as well.

Anyway, I am not a big James Bond fan so I was not on the Daniel Craig bandwagon until my friend showed me this video. Now I totally get it. Those legs! That feminist advocacy! *drool*

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ESPN Discusses Title IX

This makes me really happy:

To celebrate Women’s History Month, ESPN is discussing Title IX in a three-part video series. The series features female sports writers and coaches talking about the impact of Title IX, the pros and cons that have developed from it, its influence on their own careers, and its impact on gender notions.

For more information and a link to the site where you can watch the videos, click here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Make Love Not Porn

My best friend just directed me to the site "Make Love, Not Porn" which is an initiative I am really excited about. The site primarily consists of information about porn norms and how they don't match up to real life. Here is what the author, Cindy Gallop, says her site is all about:

MakeLoveNotPorn is not about judgement, or what is good vs what is bad. Sex is the area of human experience that embraces the widest possible range of tastes. Everyone should be free to make up their own mind about what they do and don't like.
MakeLoveNotPorn is not anti-porn. I like porn and watch it regularly myself.
MakeLoveNotPorn is simply intended to help inspire and stimulate open, healthy conversations about sex and pornography, in order to help inspire and stimulate more open, healthy and thoroughly enjoyable sexual relationships.

Cindy does a good job of not demonizing what we see in pornography, but of emphasizing that it is not necessarily how sex is for everyone. Some of my favorite tidbits of information readers can find while scrolling through the homepage compares the norms regarding pubic hair and gagging while performing oral sex in pornography and real world.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stand with Planned Parenthood

The House of Representatives has voted to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

By law, federal funds haven’t paid for abortions since the 1970s, so the House hasn’t voted to cut abortion funding. They’re cutting funding for the entire Title X program — funding for contraception, cancer screening, STI tests, sex education, mammograms, HIV testing and diagnosis, and pregnancy screening and counseling. Title X is the only federal program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and preventive health services, particularly low-income families. Last year, 5 million people benefited from the services funded by Title X.

Planned Parenthood is the target of this legislation, and American women the primary victims. This isn’t about abortion — it’s about cutting access to health care for women.

Take action against what could have hugely detrimental effects for women's health care. Sign Planned Parenthood's "open letter to every single representative in the House who voted for this cruel, unconscionable, unthinkable law, and to every senator who still has a chance to stop it."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Update: Women in Publishing

I have written before about the fact that significantly less female than male authors have their work reviewed in major publications.Well, some number crunching has been done since I last posted about this topic and it seems like the disparity does not originate with the reviewers, but with the publishers.

...These numbers we found show that the magazines are reviewing female authors in something close to the proportion of books by women published each year. The question now becomes why more books by women are not getting published.

It is unclear why less women are getting published but it seems to have something to do with a possible bias in literary journals.

Of the new writing published in Tin House, Granta,and The Paris Review, around one-third of it was by women. For many fiction writers and poets, publishing in these journals is a first step to getting a book contract. Do women submit work to these magazines at a lower rate than men, or are men’s submissions more likely to get accepted? We can’t be sure. But, as Robin Romm writes in Double X, “The gatekeepers of literary culture—at least at magazines—are still primarily male.” If these gatekeepers are showing a gender bias, there’s not much room to make it up later.

While it is unfortunate to hear that female authors are not properly represented, I am happy to hear that people are trying to get to the bottom of the disparity.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Men's Health Feminist Blog

This made my day.

Yeah, you read that right: Men’s Health magazine, full of “how
to have better sex” and “how to lose the belly fat!” advice for men, has a blog
for men about feminism. This unequivocally rocks for three reasons.

First, it’s a sign that the feminist blogosphere has moved into the
mainstream. When feminist verticals like Broadsheet and Double X are either
disappearing or folding back into their original publications, it’s a good
indicator for the future that a mainstream popular men’s magazine has taken up
the feminist cause.

Second, hopefully a blog like this can help de-stigmatize the label “feminist” for readers.

Finally, the blog could help bring men to the movement. For men, feminism and what it entails is rarely discussed outside of a historical context...

You can read the Men's Health Feminist Blog here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Miss Representation: Taking on Objectification of Women in Media

The film Miss Representation (currently being screened at Sundance) addresses the sexualization and objectification of women in media and how this relates to the oppression of women in general.

I am personally really excited about seeing the film but Jezebel commentator Irin
is wary of the trailer as it

paints a rather broad brush (and yes, trailers are wont to do this — we'll reserve final judgment til we see the actual movie), seemingly uncritically describing all public displays of sexuality as inherently demeaning. It's not that Britney Spears has nothing to do with how female politicians are treated on cable news, but conflating voluntary displays of sexiness in entertainment with demeaning sexualization of public figures, played over ominous music no less, is unnuanced. So are the vague references to the "media" and "Hollywood" as faceless, catchall entities.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Santorum: Obama's Race Should Shape Abortion View

This is fucking infuriating.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum says it is surprising that the nation's first black president is willing to deny civil rights to fetuses.

Santorum, who is a potential Republican presidential challenger to President Barack Obama in 2012, linked civil rights with abortion during an interview posted Thursday with the Christian Broadcasting Network. Santorum, who lost his 2006 Senate re-election bid in Pennsylvania, is an outspoken critic of abortion rights.

Santorum notes that for decades, slavery allowed African-Americans to be treated like property. And he says fetuses are denied the right to life because they are considered property.

Santorum says he is disappointed that Obama, a former law professor, refuses to treat fetuses as humans under the Constitution.

The White House declined to comment on Santorum's criticism.

The comparison between the Civil Rights movement (which was about gaining rights) and the anti-choice movement (which is about stripping away the right women have to their own bodies) is ridiculous and upsetting.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gay Parenting Most Common in South

This article is very interesting and enlightening on a number of levels.

In addition, the data show, child rearing among same-sex couples is more common in the South than in any other region of the country, according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gay couples in Southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts on the West Coast, in New York and in New England.

The pattern, identified by Mr. Gates, is also notable because the families in this region defy the stereotype of a mainstream gay America that is white, affluent, urban and living in the Northeast or on the West Coast.

“We’re starting to see that the gay community is very diverse,” said Bob Witeck, chief executive of Witeck-Combs Communications, which helped market the census to gay people. “We’re not all rich white guys.”

My first reaction is to hope that the fact that the South is home to the most gay parents will serve as a wake up call to residents of other states that consider themselves progressive but aren't forcing their state legislatures to make a real push for gay rights (I am looking at you, New York). What are your reactions? What stood out to you about these findings?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

U.S. Racial Disparities in Health

File this under unsurprising, but nonetheless upsetting, news: a recent federal report found that the poor and racial and ethnic minorities are less healthy than their more affluent, white counterparts.

The agency did not delve into why suffering is so disproportionate, other than to note the obvious: that the poor, the uninsured and the less educated tend to live shorter, sicker lives...

“Some of the figures, like the suicide rate for young American Indians, are just heartbreaking,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the C.D.C. director, who ordered the report compiled.

He ordered it, he said, after promising at his agency’s African American History Month celebration last February that he would do so.

“We wanted to shine a spotlight on the problem and some potential solutions,” he said.

Many of the differences are large and striking

To find out more detailed information on the report's findings, click here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bad News from Somalia

A Somali town has banned women from working.

On Tuesday, the Al shabaab administration in southern Somalia's Kismayo town banned women from working — despite the imperative of providing for their families. Al shabab, the islamist insurgent group, has imposed a strict form of Sharia law over much of southern Somalia.

This is bad news not just for the women who are being oppressed by this, but for the Somalia economy in general. Giving women economic power is proven smart economics yet sexism has overridden both good ethics and good business strategy here. Here's hoping the town reverses this ridiculous ban soon.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Guy Talk

I will be up front. I’m upset. If you disagree with me or feel I jumped to conclusions, feel free to comment. Maybe we can make something constructive of this.

I suppose most people in America are familiar with the term “girl talk”. This term is generally associated with women who get together to talk, most often to complain about men.

Well, a week ago I got a peek at what one young man called “guy talk.” Here is a rough transcription of the entire exchange between two men who are in committed, monogamous relationships:
Man 1: So how’s your woman? You haven’t told me much about her.
Man 2: She’s great. She’s thin, blond, and loves sex.
Man 1: Sounds like you should keep her around.
Man 2: Yeah, I will. She takes care of me, too. How’s your woman?
Man 1: We’ve been fighting a lot but I don’t want to get rid of her.
Man 2: Man, don’t you hate that?
Man 1: Yeah, and the sex is great. Makes it even harder to get rid of her.
People will ask me what’s so bad about this. Why am I making such a big deal about this? This is normal, it’s…guy talk. And that is the problem. I called Man 2 out about this behavior and he said just that, “What? It’s guy talk.” I know that people like to talk about sex. Besides the fact that I live in a society where productive, meaningful discussions about sex are practically nonexistent, the above conversation bothers me because it reminds me that certain men only know how to talk about women with other men in terms that verbally turn women into objects. Why stay with her? Well, the sex is great. Never mind anything else. Her sex is what she’s good for, otherwise she's disposable.

If men are taught that it is acceptable to speak about women as if they are nothing but their bodies, their looks, the sex they can give to men, if they are taught that this kind of dialog is normal and should be expected among men, then we are living in a world where many forms of oppression of women are possible.

This small exchange, this seemingly insignificant act puts a mask of normacly over the idea, whether consciously agreed with or not, that women are objects, not humans, good only for things like sex and pleasing men, and they can be gotten rid of if the getting isn't good enough.

It doesn’t matter if you’re like Man 2 and you “bought roses for her because she had a bad day” and you “hold doors open for her”. If you think talking about women in this way is acceptable you are helping to uphold a society where women are still, in many ways, treated like they are inferior. Talk opens doors. What doors are we holding open if we think it’s acceptable for our male friends to talk about their girlfriends like this?