Friday, April 30, 2010

Friendly Debate

As a recent reader (aka my mother) pointed out, a lot of the stuff we post about on this blog is pretty liberal. Well, liberal as far as more conservative readers see it, at least. I tend to be pretty moderate, which means I'm constantly ticking off (note that I just used the phrase "ticking off" - how many very liberal people do you know who do that?) people on all parts of the political spectrum, not just those on the conservative end. But sometimes it feels like if your viewpoint isn't expressed on a blog, then the blog is against your viewpoint. It doesn't help that we're writing on the internet, where, in addition to not hearing verbal tones, readers tend to interpret writing in a more negative light than if that writing were published in print (I'm referencing a study here, but I can't document the study, so don't be too shocked if I've misrepresented it).

The problem with conservative readers avoiding blogs like Not Another Wave, though, is that if we don't have multiple voices on here, we aren't accomplishing the original goal Erica and I set for this blog: our goal is to create a safe place where individuals from all sorts of political, social, and economic backgrounds could talk about gender. In fact, Erica was inspired to start this blog when a Mormon feminist was torn to shreds by the online community for being Mormon in the time of Prop 8. People told her "you can't be Mormon and a feminist - choose one or the other." As a Mormon feminist, I've encountered that viewpoint a lot, both from other members of the church and other feminists. It's not fair, and it creates an unhealthy sense of us vs. them. Erica experiences this all the time too, as a Catholic feminist.

My purpose in writing this post is twofold: I want to encourage more conservative readers to speak up and contribute posts - or at least comment on the posts we do. All we ask is that the statements you make in posts are backed by logic (or acknowledge that they're driven by something other than logic, since all forms of knowledge are welcome here), and that your comments on posts are respectful. To date, no fight has ever broken out over a Not Another Wave post. We understand if you're afraid of online fights, since many blogs attract them... but that simply hasn't happened here. Ever.

I'm thinking it might also help, though, if Erica and I show you some of the areas where we disagree with each other, because... we have some radically different beliefs. Especially about gender and sex. But we respect one another as individuals, and we listen to one another's viewpoints. If you look over comments we write on each other's posts, you'll find we politely disagree with each other. A lot. I'm going to go a step further, though, and write a post with my thoughts on the issues Erica raised in her most recent post . Erica and I particularly disagree when it comes to the European sex ed campaign, but our disagreement is all the more reason why issues like this are worth talking about. Because how will we ever get anywhere if individuals who disagree are too afraid to discuss their differing beliefs?

So stay tuned for some healthy, friendly debate.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Questions in the news (from Erica)

Now that the master's degrees are out of the way, I can finally come back to the bloggosphere and bring you some interesting editorial items that have been catching my attention for the last few weeks! In no particular order, but probably oldest first...

Here's an article about a sex ed campaign in the UK that emphasizes- wait for it- masturbation. The campaign's point is that sexual pleasure is a natural drive of most adolescents, and that instead of expecting teens to be fully abstinent, we should be teaching them to find ways of indulging that don't put themselves (or others) at risk. My two cents? Brilliant idea. While I have no delusions that masturbation promotion will eliminate risky sexual behaviour amongst teens, it'll probably reduce it- or at least give teens to learn about their bodies in ways that don't involve others trying (and failing) to do so for them.

Then, of course, the retirement of Justice Stevens from the U.S. Supreme Court has garnered attention for political pundits everywhere. A lot of this attention, of course, dichotomizes attention to the law and attention to "morality" (however you define that term)- which is a really bad idea. The law COMES from a moral structure, and professes to uphold it. This is a decent editorial that provides an interesting layout of how, exactly, morality and the law often go hand-in-hand for the benefit of people and their civil rights.

Vanity Fair ran an interesting piece on the cost of the Republican Party these days, examining how much money we spend on them to stand around and say "no" when they could be doing something useful for the world. My only complaint about the article? I'd love to see it in a side-by-side comparison with the cost of the Democrats, since while I'm pretty far left in my political leanings, I'm not naive enough to believe that the Republicans are the only ones with bloated staff and benefits.

Here's an interesting post from Ephphatha Poetry, asking us to consider how the media and the public would handle Tea Party (and Conservative in general) behaviour if the racial demographics of its participants were different. I won't waste space by describing it- he's very eloquent- but instead I strongly encourage you to go read it for yourself!

And finally, I'm embedding the YouTube copy of a Lane Bryant ad that's got people all riled up:

What's got them upset, you might ask? Well, since major networks (including Fox, CNN, and ABC News) decided to pull it, many people have been bringing this question to as much attention as possible. The answer, of course, is that the model is plus-sized. It has nothing to do with the relative amount of nudity pictured- not with ads for Victoria's Secret, Viagra, and hell, even just cars on display through the same networks. It's simply the fact that there's a buxom, beautiful woman being displayed. And that makes people angry, apparently.

Happy boobquake everyone!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Women Who Want to Be Men (from Emily)

Recently I was talking with a friend who said that before he encountered my definition of "feminism," he thought of feminists as women who wanted to be men. Well, as I usually do, I exclaimed that that's not what feminism is at all and began listing off the very reasonable (conservative even) beliefs that drive my feminism. I explained how my biggest concerns as a feminist regard  violence and sexual abuse - and who's going to argue that fighting against domestic abuse is bad?

But I keep thinking back to that conversation, and so many like it that I've had over time. Something bothers me about the way I represent my feminism when I'm speaking to people I know to be conservative. Because aside from the fact that most feminists don't want to be men, and aside from the fact that most women I've met who say they want to be men hate other women and avoid becoming friends with them (I'm not talking about transgender folk - I'm talking about female misogynists). Aside from all that... I'm troubled by the antagonism with which a man would say "feminists are women who want to be men."

Why does the idea of women wanting to be men bother these men so much? If imitation is the best compliment, then shouldn't they feel flattered that people who were born with two X chromosomes want to act like those who were born with one Y and one X? And if men and women are equal (as these men always assure me they believe), then a woman entering their midst isn't about to degrade men, now is it? And, perhaps most importantly, if men don't have any privileges and in fact have it way harder than women (as these men also tend to assure me), then shouldn't they be happy to share their burden with these women-who-act-like-men?

And yet, some men (some people - women included) are not happy about it.  I can only conclude that those people who feel angry or threatened by women who act like men or who want to be men don't really believe those things I mentioned above. In fact, I would even hypothesize that they see womanhood as degrading and women who try to "become men" as stealing something that is above womanhood. Something that needs to be guarded and protected in order for men to maintain some sort of privilege.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Violence and the News (from Emily)

I know, I know. This is a very old debate, and you are sick of hearing about it. Some say news organizations should be able to show anything, while others say there are some lines that shouldn't be crossed, and chances are you've already made up your mind on this issue. Nothing I say will change it. That's good, because I don't intend to persuade you about anything. What I do intend to do is bring your attention to a recent violent news leak scandal.

Wikileaks, a website dedicated to leaking news the government wants suppressed, has released video footage of US soldiers in combat/ killing/ murdering/ apprehending/ whatever term fits your interpretation of the scene. I hope you'll watch the below clip of Colbert's interview with the man who edited and authorized the video, (which shows no part of the violent video, in case you're as sensitive to violence as Erica and I are), because the issues they get into impact gender issues too. I know the Colbert Report isn't exactly the most reliable news source, but I think this clip is one of the very rare instances where Colbert drops his fictional persona on the show for more than a few seconds.

What does footage of war violence have to do with gender? As bell hooks said when she visited Utah recently, what we see impacts our behavior. If this weren't true, why would style vary so much between regions and over time? Why would companies spend so much money on visual advertisements? Multiple studies have found correlations between individuals viewing behavior and then modeling that behavior, and studies have also found that men who view videos that depict violence against women (such as rape porn) become desensitized to violence against women. Presumably because that violence doesn't seem quite so bad in comparison. So, does it do any good when we represent violence?

This issue has been on my mind ever since I saw torture simulated on stage in a production of As You Like It at Brigham Young University. In addition to portraying gun violence, fist fights, and characters kicking each other in the face and stomach, the performance portrayed a man being water boarded and another couple men being electrocuted. I later heard a rumor that the university president intervened when he heard that the play was racy and required a few characters to wear more clothing. I only heard this through the grapevine, but it's not hard for me to believe that a BYU administrator would squash any hint of sexuality in a play but ignore the torture. The logic seems to be that we should see violence in order to avoid becoming violent. But does seeing violence prevent people from becoming violent? Does it cause people to intervene on behalf of the victims of violence? Does it cause citizens and politicians alike to hesitate before declaring war?

And if it does do all those things, does it do those things more than it desensitizes us to future viewings of violence? I don't know the answer to that question, but I wish I did.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Recent things of note (from Erica)

As always, apologies for my frequent and extended absences from this blog. Due to personal reasons, I've been too busy and mucked down in my own feelings to be able to focus on anything else, but that's got to stop! So here, to get me back in the game, is a highlight of Things of Note from the past couple of weeks.

First, the Supreme Court of the United States has granted certiorari in the case of the family of Lace Cpl. Snyder, a Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2006, vs. the Westboro Baptist Church. The background of the story is that the WBC- that band of pseudo-Christians led by Fred Phelps- picketed Snyder's funeral and his family decided to sue the WBC for infliction of mental anguish. The case has gone back and forth, with the current ruling holding the Snyder family responsible for paying the WBC's legal fees, but with SCOTUS hearing it...who knows what'll happen? It's going to be an interesting clash between establishing (or extending) a standard of responsibility with freedom of speech and the current laissez-faire interpretation of the First Amendment.

Next up, Melissa at Shakesville has a story about a film that's currently slated to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film, entitled "Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives," takes the names and stories of real victims of transphobia- trans folks who have been murdered because of their gender identities- and makes up a story about other trans folks seeking vigilante justice. I can understand, to a certain extent, the appeal of such a film. Everyone who's ever been victimized by oppression has, somewhere deep inside them, a streak that would love to exact this form of justice (my streak cheers whenever the rapist gets shot in "Thelma and Louise," even though I'm not at all a fan of guns or gun-related violence). However, with the current status of trans folks in our society and the world in general, featuring a film that exploits the murders of real individuals for the sake of entertainment- and perpetuates the stereotype of trans folks as being crazy and out of control- is a really bad idea, to say the least. Add to that the fact that the production team didn't include any self-identified trans folks, and you've got a major problem of misrepresentation and co-optation. For more information, and to get hints on how to get the Tribecca Film Festival to reconsider screening this film, check out the Facebook group.

Looking for more angering but unsurprising news? Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), better known as welfare or cash assistance for people raising children, is not providing the assistance it's supposed to for families who are victims of domestic abuse. The way the law is written, adults have a five-year lifetime limit on receiving assistance; victims of domestic abuse are given a grace period in which to receive assistance without it counting towards their limit. Unfortunately, many victims aren't being given their grace period, and many others aren't being given their benefits at all. Why is this a problem, you say? TANF can offer a family financial support when a victim finds herself suddenly single-parenting, unable to work due to safety concerns, or overwhelmed by bills incurred while dealing with the abuse, such as legal or medical fees. Waiving the time limits, moreover, theoretically offers the victim enough time to make herself safe and find a new level of stability without pressuring her to make unsafe choices for the sake of expediency. Want to know what to do about it? Get in touch with the National Resource Centre on Domestic Violence and let them know you want to help make change.

Lastly, nine teens have been charged with bullying, harassment, and statutory rape after a girl committed suicide in Massachusetts. The girl, an immigrant from Ireland, was apparently harassed in school, via phone, and over the internet for three solid months before she killed herself. Shockingly enough, the school isn't facing any charges for negligence or failure to act, even though it admits that four students, two teachers, and the victim's parents all alerted the school to the problem. This is an unfortunate way of highlighting the fact that bullying isn't taken seriously, and is instead treated as some sort of sick rite of passage that adolescents must endure in order to become adults. Bullying is a serious, pervasive problem. I'm glad the community has opted to charge the perpetrators for their crimes and hold them accountable for the ways in which their behaviour had a negative impact on another person's life, but I'm also sickened that the school won't be charged. In a just world, institutions such as schools- environments that are intended to aid the social and academic development of people- would be held accountable when they fail to teach this lesson to their students by permitting such behaviour to continue.

That's it for now, folks. Stay tuned as Emily and I keep this going in spite of it being the end of our semesters!