Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best Feminist Post of 2012...So Far.

Happy New Year’s from South Korea!

Last night, (two night ago for you because of the time difference) I rang in the new year with the help of a big bell and about 50 hugs from random Koreans and a few men from Nepal. It was a blast.

So, to start off my first New Years post I thought I would share some of my wishes for feminism/social activism in the New Year, and excluding that one goal to date Alexander Skarsgard (if only I’d been born as Kate Bosworth!), I’ll share some of my own New Year’s resolutions in this area.

Goal number one: See the positive.

Feminists and other social activists tend to get a bad rap sometimes; people tend to see us as whiny or bored, wealthy over-indulgent suburbanites who need something to do.

It’s not a very nice stereotype and I don’t think it’s true, nor do I think it’s appropriate to belittle people who are sincerely trying to help others and make the world a better place.

That said, there are times when we overlook good things that are happening in order to point out the bad. So feminist New Years resolution number one is to not get so caught up in the negatives of this world (of which there are many) that I fail to see progress.

I think this is especially important in terms of longevity for the feminist movement—if we do not see progress happening, some people may give up trying to change things (just as the converse is true—if people see only the good, they become complacent and stop participating).

So, to share something positive, I’m going to share this article in National Geographic about child brides (which I’ve shared here before), however this time, read from paragraph 14 on the second page (the link should take you straight to the second page) wherein reside the incredible stories of a few girls who were able to fight back, escape, and are now educating others on the great evil that is child brides. These girls are a mighty example of the incredible power of a few brave souls and they demonstrate the fact that change is happening, slowly to be sure, but it’s happening. And it is good.

Goal number two: Become active in charities, volunteer organizations and communities that actively support women and the ideals of equality for both sexes.

I think I’m a good person, for the most part: I don’t litter, I give up my seat on buses and subways for the elderly and infirm, I donate to charities when I can and I graciously shower the world with my wisdom through the penultimate power of blogging (yippee-ki-yay!).

But is that enough? Do the stacks of cereal boxes and milk cartoons piled up near my door and my “Save the Whales” status updates blaze trails through the dark forests of oppression and hate that grow all over our world? Despite my clever wordplay and brilliant imagery (cough), I’m no Lewis and Clark.

Therefore, goal number two for this year is to become even more active in reaching out and helping others. Personally, I’d like to start volunteering and as a traveler, I know I have lots of opportunities to help out in the countries I visit.

But more than that, I want to be a little more outgoing in righting the wrongs of this world; I’d like to act like the last woman in this video who was strong enough to stand up for and protect someone who was in danger.

Goal number three: Eschew those things that do not support women and the ideals of equality for humanity.

There are a lot of companies and organizations in this world that make their money off of the oppression and ill fortune of others. Sweatshops, child labor are just a few of these methods and unfortunately, some of the companies and stores that I frequent utilize those kinds of factories and employees.

Goal number three then, be more aware of these companies and do my best to avoid financially supporting them.

Goal number four: Do not sell myself short in my own goals and ideals and don't be afraid to share my opinions.

While no one I know has ever asked me to share my opinion just a little more, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. That’s right dear friends and enemies, all of you that think I don’t shut up enough as it, be prepared for 2012 because this year, I’m going to be on fire!

You may not believe it, but there’s been lots of times that I held my tongue to avoid a fight or stepping on someone’s toes, and while I don’t want to get crazy (or become crazy) I think it’s also time that I worried less about offending someone, and more about doing what’s right.

On a more personal, touchy-feely emotional level, I also want to stop selling myself short. I’m constantly surrounded by and made aware of incredible and inspiring people. I see writers, artists, journalists, activists and friends that are doing so much for the world and interacting with others in such a positive way, that I sometimes think I could never be as worthwhile as they are.

But that’s not the case. Realizing our potential to assist in changing the world is something that we should not deny ourselves.

Goal number five: Be funny

A lot of people don’t think that feminists have a sense of humor; I mean, we don’t laugh at sexual harassment jokes, we yell at politicians online for the sexist cracks they make, and we even hate hilarious commercials and advertisements that may feature a bit of gender mocking. I mean, how dare we be so uppity and lame, right?

But I’m here today to share the hilarity of funny women. Just because we don’t laugh at your stupid, demeaning jokes, doesn’t mean we don’t have a sense of humor, it just means we’re better than you (JK!).

Seriously though (I’m so ironic), there are loads of people out there who are legitimately funny and who I love laughing with.

To whit: Caitlyn Moran (I wrote a review of her latest book, here), Sarah Haskins, Sloane Crosley, Ellen DeGeneres, and this column written by women over at the rumpus (being published in this column is an on-going New Years resolution for me).

Incidentally, this is pretty much the shortest, most not all-inclusive list that has ever existed.

So there you have it world (or at least the ten people who read this), my goals for feminists and myself. Please, share your goals and resolutions (and funny people and websites) in the comments below.

Happy 2012!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Feminist Question of the Season: Feminism and Holiday Cheer

Like so many Christmas classics, A Charlie Brown Christmas is wonderful but all about 
a male  protagonist.     Image source: sentrawoods

Given how the holidays (and in my case, Phd application deadlines) have thrown off our recent post schedule, this week might just act as our question for the next couple weeks. But it's a question I've had in my mind for some time.

Awhile ago, I was thinking over how much I enjoy Christmas movies. From It's A Wonderful Life, to Elf, to Nightmare Before Christmas, to all the claymation classics, I just love Christmas movies. Well, aside from A Christmas Story - I watched that one during one very sad childhood Christmas which involved the whole family catching the stomach flu, and I haven't been able to bear it since. But as I was thinking over all those Christmas movies I love, I realized something:

None of the Christmas classics I could think of featured women as protagonists.

Sure, there were prominent female characters in most, but by and large, the stories were about men and boys. The few Christmas-themed I could think of with female protagonists usually featured them as co-protagonists or as children (Little Women; Meet Me in St. Louis; Yes, Virginia; Frosty- not to mention, I was stretching by calling some of those movies Christmas Movies, since the holiday wasn't necessarily the main focus.

I recognize that a few readers might feel like rolling their eyes at me and telling me that I'm focusing on the wrong things by noticing the lack of women in the most popular Christmas movies, but it got me thinking about the role of women in Christmas celebrations and in holidays in general.

When I look at the Christian celebration of Christmas for what it's intended to center on - the birth of Jesus Christ as the savior of humanity - it seems obvious that women should be recognized too in the celebrations. After all, Mary is treated with reverence in the biblical story of the savior's birth and is at the center of the nativity story. She is the main protagonist - she's the one who gets pregnant and is visited by angels and nearly has her life destroyed by a fiance who wants to end the engagement, and she is the one who ponders on what the angel tells her and who visits her pregnant cousin to share stories about their miraculous conceptions. And during Jesus Christ's life, he treated women with great respect and took the time to listen to them and interact with them and teach them.

I realize that not all our readers are Christian, and some of our readers may not celebrate any religious holidays in December. But for those who get involved in the holiday season at all - be it through Hanukkah or Christmas or New Years , my question is open-ended. Essentially, I want to know how you experience gender and feminism in the holiday season.

Do you have a holiday movie you love, which you feel tells the story of a woman's experience of the season?

Do you have family traditions that relate to gender?

How do you experience gender during holiday food preparation and family gatherings?

What irks you, and what inspires you?

And what spiritual insights do you have on how women and gender factor into the holidays you celebrate?

Monday, December 19, 2011

News of note: late December edition

Hello readers, and apologies for not posting this last Friday as is the normal schedule. As the holiday season gets intense in our house, and I start realizing that there won't be presents under the tree without at least minimal effort on my part, I find myself prioritizing gift-shopping over most other things. That doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention, however, and here are my recent "I spewed tea all over my keyboard!" Internet findings.

First up, a frat at UVM has finally gone too far and distributed a "rapey" survey (Jezebel's terms, not mine) to its inductees. What exactly is a rapey survey, you inquire? It's a survey that asks you who you could rape if you could. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, I just about had a heart attack. There's enough to talk about if the frat had asked who you could "do" if you could, but rape? Why the lack of consent? Check out the full article, because it sounds like UVM has a recent history of problems with a female-unfriendly campus culture.

Along similar lines, a recent study has indicated that 25% of women in the U.S. face severe violence from their intimate partners. As an advocate I'm not overly shocked, but the implication that those are just the women facing severe violence- as opposed to facing the less severe forms such as emotional abuse- means that the problem of intimate partner violence is even bigger than most Americans are likely to realize. Also note: I've linked an article from one of my local newspapers which, while not known for its outstanding journalism, surprised me with its eight-line article. EIGHT SHORT LINES?! No wonder most people know nothing about intimate partner violence.

Also along research lines, let's take a look at another recent study that looked at the demographics of the people having second-trimester abortions. This is new information for a lot of people, mostly because second-trimester abortions are so difficult to have, and I think it tells us a lot about access to contraception, financial support, and the racial economy of women's rights. I don't want to hear about whether you support abortion or not in the comments- more important than that, I think, would be a discussion on how to change our support services for people earlier in their pregnancies so that support isn't so one-sided.

Another one-sided issue right now in Canada is citizenship. A new law bans women from wearing face-covering veils during citizenship ceremonies, with the justification that "we need to know who we're swearing in." The article didn't cite any particular reason for this new law- no reported incidents of falsified identities or anything like that- so I'm hard-pressed to understand what this law is intended to do besides discriminate against someone who chooses to practice that particular form of hijab. Naturalizing in Canada is a three-year process that does provide IDs for prospective citizens. If confirming identity is a problem, why not work with leaders in Canadian Muslim communities to find appropriate ways of checking face and ID prior to swearing in? It's not that bloody hard, people.

I'm exhausting my rage supply now, so I'll turn to two good pieces before signing off. First up is a note that the mayor of Troy, Michigan has been fired from her job with 21st Century Real Estate for a Facebook post that was hateful towards LGBTIQ individuals. I won't post the comment here- it's quoted in the article- but suffice to say that it makes me happy that she's facing at least some repercussions for her atrocious behaviour.

Second up is a great comic that illustrates an important distinction in currently-raging debates over same-sex marriage: namely, that permitting two consenting adults to marry under state or federal law is not the same thing as the state controlling religion and is not the same thing as permitting an adult to marry animals or children. End of discussion.

That's it- I'm signing off to go find myself a cuppa. In the interim, I recommend checking out a couple of other studies that are being analyzed on Jezebel.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Facebook's "Occupy a Vagina" Event Is Not Okay: A Guest Post by Stephanie

Emily's note: This guest post was originally published last month at Bitch Flicks, a website dedicated to reviewing films through a feminist lens. I realize we're a bit late in cross-posting, as the offensive facebook page appears to have since been removed. However, the issues Stephanie addresses are relevant and well-worth considering. Reader beware: Stephanie is very comfortable with colorful language, especially when she's talking about something as upsetting as rape culture.

Last week, a petition urged Facebook to remove pages that promote sexual violence. Some of the offending pages included, "Kicking Sluts in the Vagina," and "Riding your Girlfriend softly Cause you dont want to wake her up." The following passage from the petition explains the overall goal:
First, Facebook needs to clarify that pages that encourage or condone rape--like the ones mentioned above--are in violation of their existing standards. Secondly, they need to make a statement that all pages that describe sexual violence in a threatening way will be immediately taken down upon being reported. Finally, Facebook must include specific language in their Terms of Service that make it clear that pages promoting any form of sexual violence will be banned.
Jessica Bennett wrote about the petition and the #notfunnyfacebook Twitter campaign for The Daily Beast in an article called, "Should Facebook Ban Sexist Pages?" She writes:
In some ways, misogyny on Facebook is just a newer version of the same old problem. Indeed, there are enough stories like Sierra's for Danielle Citron, a cyber law professor at the University of Maryland, to compile a whole book of them—she's hard at work on a text about online harassment that will be published by Harvard University Press in 2013. She notes more recent cases that have made headlines: the women smeared by AutoAdmit, the law school discussion board; the case ofHarvard sex blogger Lena Chen; and the dramatic story of 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter. "I talk to women every day who've been silenced, scared, and just want to disappear," Citron says. "It's easy to dismiss these things as frat-boy antics, but this isn't a joke."
Then, on November 5th, ZDNet published an article called, "Facebook Finally Removes Pro-Rape Pages," and the writer goes into detail about Facebook's "massive problem with sex":
With zero tolerance for porn and a refusal to define it, Facebook has deleted breast cancer survivor communities (labeling one breast cancer survivor page as “pornography”), retail business pages, individual profiles of human sexuality teachers, pages for authors and actors, photos of LGBT couples kissing (for which Facebook just apologized), and even the occasional hapless user’s profile who has the misfortune of having someone else post porn on their Wall.
With no comprehensible or clear methodology around sexual speech, we see pages deleted that discuss female sexuality, while pages that joke about and encourage raping women and girls rack up the likes.
So, yes, Facebook complied (finally) and removed some of its pro-rape pages, but as Shelby Knox noted on Twitter, "... #notfunnyfacebook isn't a victory until they clarify the pages violate their terms of service." We're still waiting, Facebook ...

In the meantime, I'd like to talk about the Occupy a Vagina Facebook event. When it first appeared a little over a week ago, the page was bombarded with offensive and violent rhetoric targeted at women (all in the name of "comedy" and "fun" of course), but when many women and men got angry about the event--and pushed back by leaving comments on the event wall asking the creator to remove the page (because it promoted rape and violence against women)--the creator deleted the comments. Now, the Occupy a Vagina event page says this:

(Edit for all the trolls)
To all of you people who want to assume this event has anything to do with rape, you are completely wrong... This event was created by a WOMAN as a JOKE!!! If you don't think it is funny, then click not attending and move on... I will be deleted any trolling ass messages about "promoting anything" other than comedy so don't waste your time......
I mean, where in the fuck do I even begin? (Seriously, I keep starting and re-starting paragraphs because I don't know where the fuck to begin.) With outrage? Okay, look: I don't give a shit if a woman created the event, or if a man created it, or if I created it when I was passed out drunk in my bathtub--if it promotes rape, then it promotes rape. The author basically makes the ridiculous assertion that women can't possibly participate in the perpetuation of rape culture (e.g. "this event can't even contribute to rape culture because a woman created it to be funny.") No. See, the thing is--and people still can't seem to successfully grasp this in Sexual Harassment 101--intent is irrelevant. Do I believe the creator intended to invite a bunch of people to an Occupy event sponsored by rape culture? Or that the "attendees" honestly believe they're engaging in anything that might directly or indirectly cause women harm? Not really. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that the event is out there, and it's seriously problematic, and it isn't just "harmless fun"; it's another permanent fixture in (omg, is she gonna say it again?!) rape cultureHere's a primer:
According to the rape culture theory, acts of sexism are commonly employed to validate and rationalize normative misogynistic practices. For instance, sexist jokes may be told to foster disrespect for women and an accompanyingdisregard for their well-being. An example would be a female rape victim being blamed for her being raped because of how she dressed or acted. In rape culture, sexualized violence towards women is regarded as a continuum in a society that regards women's bodies as sexually available by default.
It's important to note that even the language--occupy a vagina--divorces women from their own bodies. It's a form of dismemberment, and I'll say it again: we live in a rape culture, a culture that reduces women to body parts, whether it's to sell a product, to promote a film, or for nothing more than reinforcing (and getting off on) patriarchal power. When we use language that prevents us from seeing a person as a whole human being, language that encourages us to view women in particular as a collection of body parts designed for male pleasure (e.g. occupy a vagina), then she exists as nothing more than an object, a fuck-toy, sexually available by default. It might not have been the intent of the event creator to participate in women's subjugation, but it's certainly the fucking reality.

It’s also important to talk about the Occupy a Vagina event within the context of the recently reported rapes and sexual assaults at several Occupy camps. The founders of the valuable Web site Occupy Patriarchy wrote a piece that highlights many of the incidents. In response to the assaults, several women’s groups have moved forward in creating safe spaces (like women-only tents) so that women can fully participate in the Occupy movement without fear, although safer sleeping areas don’t necessarily mean women will experience less groping and invasion of personal space in general. Obviously, we need to address the underlying (and pervasive) privilege in the movement that allows violence against women to occur in the first place, but these are all positive first steps to ensuring women can, you know, Occupy.

Now, let’s talk about what it means, in the context of the movement, to “occupy.” The original organizers of Occupy Wall Street proposed the following: We show up at Wall Street on September 17th, with tents, and we fucking move in. Why? Because it’s ours. You can hear it in the chants and slogans at every rally: “Whose Street? Our Street!” Even the Occupy Times Square protest was often described as, “taking the square.” This, my friends, is a campaign that involves moving into public spaces; it involves taking back, or reclaiming, our cities and reminding the very small yet powerful group in charge that it’s really the people who own this shit. And, perhaps most importantly, it involves resisting when we’re told to leave. [Note: the problematic “occupy” language, as it pertains to Native territory, has been written about far more elegantly and intelligently than I can do here, so please read those pieces as well.]

If we read the Occupy a Vagina event in the context of the other Occupy events (and why wouldn’t we), it’s easy to immediately see the problems: vaginas are not public spaces; they don’t belong to a collective group; they can’t be owned or reclaimed; and resisting when a woman tells you to get the fuck off her vagina--well, that’s rape. It isn’t funny. It isn’t harmless. This isn’t a cute little “event” that’s upsetting a small minority of angry feminazis who can’t take a joke. It contributes to rape. To narcissistically quote myself froma previous piece about rape culture
...This constant, unchecked barrage of endless and obvious woman-hating undoubtedly contributes to the rape of women and girls.
The sudden idealization of Charlie Sheen as some bad boy to be envied, even though he has a violent history of beating up women, contributes to the rape of women and girls. Bills like H. R. 3 that seek to redefine rape and further the attack onwomen's reproductive rights contributes to the rape of women and girls. Supposed liberal media personalities like Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann showing their support for Julian Assange by denigrating Assange’s alleged rape victimscontributes to the rape of women and girls. The sexist commercials that advertisers pay millions of dollars to air on Super Bowl Sunday contribute to the rape of women and girls. And blaming Lara Logan for her gang rape by suggesting her attractiveness caused it, or the job was too dangerous for her, or she shouldn't have been there in the first place, contributes to the rape of women and girls.
It contributes to rape because it normalizes violence against women. Men rape to control, to overpower, to humiliate, to reinforce the patriarchal structure. And the media, which is vastly controlled by men, participates in reproducing already existing prejudices and inequalities, rather than seeking to transform them.
It’s unfortunate that I need to add to this:
Facebook’s refusal to ban all pages that condone sexual assault and violence against women, and their refusal to acknowledge that these pages violate their already existing standards, contributes to the rape of women and girls.
See, at Bitch Flicks, we believe more than anything that the blind and uncritical consumption of media portrayals of women contributes to furthering women’s inequality in all areas of life. And as we all learned from The Social Network, one of the most misogynistic fucking movies I’ve ever seen, Facebook is a form of media that’s defining a generation. (Thanks so much for your contribution, Fuckers.)

Stephanie Rogers is the Co-Founder and Editor, along with Amber Leab, of the feminist film review Web site Bitch Flicks, which advances "the radical notion that women like good movies." She also developed the Tumblr site Women Occupy to highlight women in the Occupy Movement.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holy Rape Culture, Batman!

Apparently some fraternity in Vermont thought it would be super funny to circulate a survey which included a question about whom the members would like to rape. Because, I mean, every man has a fantasy about raping attractive women, right? It's not like they're normalizing sexual violence or anything.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Links of Note

Dear Reader, if this page contains nothing but links, I am probably traveling and far too frantic to get onto blogger. Hope you enjoy the links.

From Spark in Darkness, we have an article about new anti-gay legislation in England, which is eerily similar to old legislation, right down to the name.

From feministe, we have an article about teenagers and the crazy myths about that that turn out to be false.

From Feminist Mormon Housewives, here's an article about Girl Power and Interfaith Friendship (and Prayer).

From Racialicious, we have an article about comics, and how the author had to choose between comics that represent either race or gender.

From Feminist Mormon Housewives, we've also got an article with various links to Mormons in the news. Don't worry, they're not all about Romney and Hunstman.

Then from Jezebel, a really disturbing read: turns out a lot of "sexy magazines" are as mysogynistic as rapists (if not more so). I'd like to know more about how this study was conducted before I try to generalize anything, but either way, the article carries some pretty disturbing implications about the way we view sexuality and violence against women.

Then, we've got some research which compares before and after photoshops and reveals just how fake almost all images of people truly are. Feministe has an interesting discussion about this research.

And, if you're still with me, our good friend Carl the Open-minded Chauvinist (aka Carl the OMC) recently put up a post about modesty, a discussion spurred in large part by some silly, power-hungry ass student employee who found a curvy but properly attired (according to her university's policy) girl attractive and decided to project his guilt onto her by denying her entrance to the testing facility. Ok, so I'm reading between the lines here, but I'm pretty sure the writing between the lines is in flashing, fluorescent lights.

Also, if you go to Carl the OMC's article and scroll down to the post below, you can find me engaged in a debate with him about whether or not the disjunction between his beliefs about women and modesty and his endorsement of the book covers in the post is evidence of The Patriarchy rearing its oh-so-ugly head (remember, LDS readers, I'm talking about a fallen patriarchy in this context).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Feminist Question of the Week: Nudity?

I recently ran across this article about modesty and the objectification of women. The article is pretty short so it shouldn't take too long to read it, but just to summarize, the author feels that the push to cover women often leads to further objectification of women. She basically argues for less clothing as a way to free women from patriarchy.

I find the idea provocative and I have to say that in my experience, setting up a dichotomy where the female body is so sexualized that it must be covered and those that don't cover it are sluts, creates a huge problem for women. In the first instance, it seems that when women are told to cover their bodies because those bodies are too sexual, we therefore perpetuate that idea. Similarly, when women choose to dress "immodestly" they are often branded as too sexual. Basically we've created an intense catch 22 in which women are always hyper-sexual.

So I'm curious fellow feminists and blog readers, what do you think about the issue? Is nudity the answer? Is more clothing going to help? Is it changing our thinking? If it is, how do we do that? Or, am I over-stepping the mark here? Is there really no problem with modesty/women's bodies issues?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A feminist Review: Three TV Shows

Apparently my immune system is not quite up to the challenge of Korean germs; I’ve been in South Korea for three and a half months and I’ve been sick three times. Unfortunate and time consuming? I think so. Ergo, I have spent a fair amount of time lying in bed, coughing and sniffling, looking for something to do and I of course found that the Internet is just a candy land of free TV. So, despite being in rather exotic locale, I’ve watched a decent amount of TV, hence today’s lovely and informed blog post.

Be excited.

Northern Exposure

This is perhaps an odd choice for a review in 2011 (almost 2012) however, even though this show ran from 1990-1995, it’s still a great TV show in my opinion and it seemed like maybe it was time to rediscover it and share it with you all.

The show is sort of an academic, fairytale for adults; sounds like an odd mix I know, but it’s one that works well thanks to clever writing, great characters and gorgeous scenery.

The show takes place in the small town of Cicely, Alaska (the name Cicely being a tribute to the lovely woman who journeyed there in the early twentieth century with her lesbian lover, Roslyn, where they sought to remake the frontier town into a cultural mecca fashioned after a Paris salon—Franz Kafka even makes a brief appearance). Perhaps because of it’s unique roots, the town features a cast of unconventional characters and themes which we discover through the eyes of Joel Fleishmann, a brilliant young Jewish doctor from New York who must repay the scholarship that Alaska gave him by serving as Cicely’s town doctor for four years.

Granted, Joel hates the town, seeing the petty injuries and colds that he treats as beneath the metropolitan education New York and Columbia medical school offered him. However, the beautiful female pilot, Maggie O’Connell becomes his character foil, as she is his opposite in taste, temperament and belief. Joel is a neurotic doctor from New York who isn’t exactly outdoorsy (almost Woody Allen-esque), while Maggie is the independent offspring of a wealthy couple, yet she strikes out on her in the Alaskan wilderness, becoming Joel’s landlord and often taking care of him.

As a feminist, while I didn’t always love her character, I did often enjoy it and I think she’s an interesting portrayal of a woman, certainly not perfect as a character, but neither is she wholly stereotyped.

Northern Exposure’s surreal episodes are often couched within the framework of an unexpected philosophy, which is usually delivered by Chris, the young radio DJ who shares poetry from Edgar Allen Poe, theory from Nietzsche and the wisdom of Buddha (all of this information was of course obtained during Chris’s years at a juvenile detention center).

The few characters mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg as more emerge from Cicely’s history, and in the case of the misanthropic, no shoes-wearing, five –star chef Adam and his hypochondriac wife Eve, the surrounding forests (literally).

In the scene I've provided you can see Chris (who is also an artist) waxing customarily eloquent as he shares some of his artwork with the town.

Pan Am

Now this show is one that is actually billed as a feminist show, or at least a show with feminist-based content. I have to say though, that while I think the show does have many redeemable qualities, most of the feminism here feels a little fluffy, a little mainstream.

Obviously the show follows the exploits of a specific Pan Am team, the four stewardesses and main cockpit crew (who are of course, all young and beautiful). It’s also set in the 1960’s, a tribute to the madness that has stemmed from the ever brilliant, Mad Men.

The show focuses mainly on their various romantic adventures, although it does manage to hit on some of the major political concerns of the day: the Berlin wall, JFK, racism and communism.

There is one aspect of the show that I do enjoy though, that it depicts the beginnings of a new lifestyle, of a new type of woman that began to emerge (or re-emerge according to The Feminine Mystique) during this period. All of the women are well educated, speak several languages (which was a requirement to be a Pan Am stewardess originally) and had a burning desire for independence, to move outside of what would have been expected for them.

The opportunity to travel, have your own apartment and live as an adult prior to marriage is a great facet of the show as we see them coming of age.

The show does have its moments though, in one episode, a leering passenger gets handsy with Christina Ricci’s character, actually becoming forceful, and so, in response to his unwanted and violent advances, she pokes him with a large fork. Obviously he threatens to report her and have her fired however, the co-pilot, who discovers what has happened when the passenger complains to him, apologizes to the passenger and promises to ensure that she will be punished. Excited that he seems to have saved her job, he rushes to her and tells her to bring the man a drink as an apology. He’s astounded by her disgust, believing that she should be grateful to him for having saved her job. She refuses to bring the man a drink and tells the co-pilot that all he has done is enabled that man to try the same thing again with a different girl.

I love the point his makes about sexual harassment; just because we can laugh it off doesn’t always mean we should, especially if it allows someone to act that same way towards someone else.

True Blood

I know what you’re thinking, isn’t that the show about vampires on HBO? I’m ashamed, ok. Really ashamed. I don’t watch the Twilight movies and I’m not obsessed with vampires, alright? I was sick for the third time, bored, and a friend had recommended the show and so I watched it….and got hooked.

Stop judging me, alright? You have a guilty pleasure TV show too. Just finish reading the review, ok?

Incidentally, I’m going to stop this review right now and say that this show is definitely for mature audiences only. Pan Am and Northern Exposure can probably only be enjoyed by adults, given their themes and content, but besides some kissing scenes, both shows are pretty appropriate for teens and kids. However, True Blood is intense; the show has violence, nudity, drugs, and a lot of swearing. Don’t watch this show if you’re uncomfortable watching an R rated film, (basically, if you didn’t feel comfortable watching The Departed, you won’t like this show either).

Within the show we find a unique microcosm of small-town Louisiana life where Sookie Stackhouse is a telepathic waitress, living with her grandmother in a world where vampires have “come out of the coffin” so to speak and are now a fact of life (they’re also actively campaigning for civil rights). Personally, I find the storyline involving Sookie and her romantic vampire Bill to be a little cliché, (ok really cliche) but I think that the host of other characters that swim through this town to be a redemptive nature. For instance, Sookie’s best friend Tara has a (for me, relatable) personality of intelligence, anger, and intensity as she sarcastically bullies her way through life; for example, she introduces herself to someone in the first episode saying, “Yeah, isn’t that funny, naming a black girl after a plantation” and then when the man smiles amusingly back at her she snaps, “No, it isn’t cause it means my mother was either stupid or mean.” End of discussion.

The tender and victimized side of Tara emerges though as we see her also taking care of her alcoholic and devoutly religious mother, a role played by Adina Porter, quite possibly the best actress in the show: in many scenes she juxtaposes these two facets of her self with incredible ability. One scene in particular stands out as Tara reaches to grab the alcohol from her mother, causing her to spill it; the woman, heartbreakingly begins to cry and reaches down to suck the last drops that fell on her sweater.

Similarly, Tara’s cousin Lafayette, a drag-queen, cook, road-crew worker, and occasional bad boy who’s masculine (and muscular) portrayal of homosexuality I find provocative. I appreciated the fact that he became a true character, not just a sexual orientation to provide interest for the show. Even Todd Lowe, Zach from Gilmore Girls, plays a surprising role as a gentle soldier suffering from PTSD.

Place all this against a deep southern accent and the hanging moss of Louisiana and you get a show that is easily evocative of an Anne Rice novel. The show also spouts some entertaining writing as the last few episodes of season two had me laughing at loud at the straight-faced sarcasm and blithe mocking commentary of American politics.

If that sort of humor isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps the ridiculous, but completely serious image of the queen vampire forcing Bill (a rather serious and brooding vampire) to play Yahtzee with her and her consorts might be more enticing (and for me thought-provoking, if you could live forever in wealth, even if you were a blood-sucking supernatural being, how would you spend your time)?

The opening sequence as well is one of the best I’ve ever seen as it mirrors the themes of the show: life, death, and the dichotomy between sex and religion (I think the opening sequence has actually won awards, that’s how good it is). I would recommend you google it if you're interested in seeing it, however just as the show is certainly not for kids, neither is the opening sequence as it does parallel the show with some disturbing images and brief flashes of nudity.

While this show might not exactly be a feminist show and does have a tendency to get a little campy and over dramatic, I think it is an interesting show for those concerned with social issues as it does deal with sexism, racism, homophobia, religion, and uh….well, the supernatural.

Friday, December 9, 2011

(super)human rights

Recently, the following video has been running rampant all over the Internet:

I'm going to start by acknowledging how important what Mr. Wahls did is. Speaking up for your family in an articulate manner, especially to a legislative body that is considering whether or not to recognize your family at all, is a challenging thing to do. It takes courage and the belief that what you're doing is more important than how nervous or afraid you might be. Being an ally for any given cause takes a particular kind of courage- the strength to Do The Right Thing- because you've always got the privilege of pretending that an issue doesn't pertain to you. I'll also acknowledge that when a movement is trying to achieve a controversial goal- in this case, the recognition of same-sex marriages- trying to find common, nonthreatening ground is a completely reasonable strategy. The less your opposition can criticize you, the easier it is to get what you want. So using an all-American, high-achieving, White, educated young cis man as a spokesperson for same-sex marriage in a socially conservative state seems very wise and effective.

That being said...

What does that say about our (in this case, Americans') social expectations and categorizations of worthy or unworthy? If it takes someone who's close to perfect to convince people that same-sex marriage isn't the end of existence, then what does that mean for all the parents out there- same-sex or otherwise- whose children aren't close to perfect? Are they failures as parents? Are they the reason the Iowa legislature wasn't willing to recognize same-sex relationships? Are they not permitted to marry? I get the feeling that heterosexual couples raising children will never have to hold their model children up as proof that their relationship is legitimate. In fact, I get the feeling that a heterosexual couple asked to do so would get pretty snarky, particularly since it's a commonly-accepted fact in American heterosexual families that- even when parents are good parents- children can be really screwed up. The underlying message of Mr. Wahls' appearance in the state legislature- not one intended to be communicated by him, I'm sure, but one that Americans tend to generate and receive whenever social controversy comes up- is that same-sex parents have to produce perfect children in order to legitimize their relationship. They can't afford to have messed-up children- in other words, they can't be human parents.

This is a common theme throughout American social movements. The early first-wave feminists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries used the "model spokesperson" tactic by asking that their demonstrators wear perfect clothes and use perfect comportment (besides chaining themselves to buildings, of course) to appeal to the sympathies of the men wielding electoral power. Civil rights activists in the 1950s and 60s were instructed to use passive resistance so as to minimize opponents' opportunities to paint the protestors as violent, dangerous people. Spokespeople for social assistance programs such as Temporary Aid to Needy Families are usually the ones who have managed to make superhuman efforts (living on less-than-minimum wage while raising five academically talented children in the ghetto, for example) to survive. As I said earlier, for the opponents to any of these movements or programs, such representatives are much harder to hate than the ones that can be labeled as "unworthy" in any way (in these examples, in order, unfeminine, violent, or lazy).

The problem is that human rights are rights for a reason. You shouldn't have to be superhuman, uberfeminine, or a living punching bag to feed your family, cast a vote, or be treated like a person. You shouldn't have to be a "model" anything to be assessed as a person or as a parent. Permitting same-sex marriage and parenting, to go back to Mr. Wahls' address, shouldn't be based on whether your children could run a Fortune 500 company immediately after high school. Permitting same-sex marriage and parenting shouldn't be based on anything that's related to the sexes and genders of the people involved. We don't generally assess parenting by whether or not the children are the product of a heterosexual marriage; when we do, we're more concerned with the (gender-neutral) aspects of the marriage such as violence or a high-conflict divorce than whether or not both parties had specific sets of genitalia. And when we assess heterosexual marriage, period, we care about genetics (i.e. "are you first cousins?") more than any other category. It's only with the subgroups that spokespeople must be as nonthreatening as possible.

Part of the point of social movements is that they do threaten the social order because the current social order (minimal enfranchisement, subhuman treatment, a starving family) is unjust. Social movements, by nature, seek to change that. The subterfuge of "this spokesperson is clearly not a threat to us!" is at best simply concealing the reality that a new social order will change the way the "us" category is compelled to treat a given group of people; at worst, it sends the message that the "us" group can use this model spokesperson as the ruler by which all other members of that group will be measured. When our standards are that high, a vast number of people is set up to fail simply because they're not superheroes. By definition, superheroes are extraordinary. How is it in any way fair to judge an entire group of people by their exceptional members?

I genuinely appreciate Mr. Wahls' contributions to getting Iowa to recognize same-sex relationships, and I applaud his parents for raising a successful child (no mean feat!). But I do question why it is we require our downtrodden, our unrecognized, our oppressed to meet extremely high criteria in order to be awarded basic rights and recognition.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oh, How I Wish You Had Asked a Feminist

Today's installment of Ask a Feminist is rather a wistful, melancholy affair. Why? Because recently people have been asking the wrong questions to the wrong people, who give them answers that only reinforce sexist and misogynistic attitudes (and yes, women are quite capable of misogyny). First up, some middle-aged man who apparently thought himself quite clever decided to write into Dear Margo and pretend to ask for advice on understanding the term "Friends with Benefits." Too bad the letter was nothing but a poorly-disguised jibe at loose women. Because the man wasn't really asking what friends with benefits meant. No, he asked Dear Margo when "sluts" had come to be known as "friends with benefits" and where he could find one of these renamed sluts. And Margo, instead of calling him on his self-righteous, sexist, double-standard crap, patted his head and agreed that women who do friends with benefits really are sluts and that it's just a generational gap.

Oh, how I wish the sexist ass  individual had asked a feminist. If he had asked me, for instance, I would have asked how he'd made it to middle age without learning the difference between singulars and plurals. I mean, he seems to think that friends with benefits refers to individual female sluts who lavish their attention on lucky, but oh-so-moral male recipients. Then I'd ask if he knew what the word "friends" meant, or if he really thought gorgeous female strangers would randomly decide to have their wicked way with him, all in the name of "friends with benefits." I mean, he must be super hot to think that's gonna happen. And then, I'd have to end by asking, If these women are sluts by your definition, what does that make the men who seek them? Johns?

But all playing aside, this is just a cut-and-dry case of sexism and double standards, with a bit of arrogant hypocrisy spicing things up.

And second - oh dear, I seem to have lost the link. How about I distract you with a little humor?

And hey, how about watching a Lily Allen music video that critiques defining women by their age and/or relationship statuses?

And if that doesn't work, here's a super fun song from Mika:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In Memory

Memorial to the Montreal Massacre, from
 On this day in 1989, a 25-year-old man named Marc Lépine was angry. He had been rejected yet again from the École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal, and blamed feminist affirmative action for filling "his" slot with less-qualified female students. In the space of about twenty minutes, he went through the school with a semi-automatic rifle and a knife, systematically separating students by sex and shooting or stabbing them. At the end of his rampage, when he turned the gun on himself, Lépine had killed fourteen women. During the shooting, when asked why he was doing this, he answered in French "I am fighting feminists...You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists."

Canada's response to the Montreal Massacre, as it is now known, has been varied. Reluctant to admit that Lépine was specifically targeting women, the Montreal police only acknowledged the sex-based nature of his crimes when his suicide note was released a year later. The federal government designated December 6th as the "National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women" in 1991, and the same year a group of men in Ontario started the White Ribbon Campaign. However, some groups have accused feminists in Canada of using the Montreal Massacre as an excuse to promote anti-male agendas, and some radical men's rights groups have glorified the Massacre as "heroic." Sick.
What matters, however, and the reason I'm hijacking our usual posting schedule to spotlight this tragedy, is that the Montreal Massacre highlights the ways in which feminism is still necessary. Nathalie Provost, one of the survivors of the shootings, told Lépine that she and her fellow female classmates weren't necessarily feminists, "just students intent on leading a normal life." Lépine's retort was that women intending to be engineers were feminists. As sick as this will sound, I have to agree with him. Provost and her classmates may not have wanted to march in the streets or agreed with pro-feminist legislation, but sometimes feminism- or any fight for equality- doesn't happen in the realm of public policy. Sometimes the most political of acts is simply asserting your right to attend the program of your choice. Time and time again, we have seen in North American political history how access to education sparks some of the most violent and vile responses from privileged opponents; when a person's right to that education is in question, their decision to attend becomes a form of protest against the hatred that would keep them from it. It doesn't have to come from an intention to change the world, but sometimes it does. Lépine's massacre of fourteen students highlights that in an incredibly grotesque and sad way.
This post is written to recognize the tragedy of December 6, 1989, and to ask that all Go Girls everywhere remember that feminism can be small things like going to school or big things like amending the Constitution. Anti-feminism can be equally small, such as a sexist slur on a street corner, or large, such as denying women the right to vote. You can choose to see Lépine's behaviour as that of a crazy person or that of a person hell-bent on sending women back to the Stone Age; it's really up to you. But until people stop targeting each other for belonging to one social category or another, the things we do- small and large- to advance human rights will continue to matter.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Feminist Question of the Week: Where Do Men Fit in Feminism?

Image source:

This question has been on my mind for awhile, but I've felt unsure about how to address it. On the one hand, I feel like it's an unnecessary question that harks to the fallacious belief that feminists are women and that men can't be part of the movement. But on the other hand, there are some legitimate questions about how feminist men can be full participants in the movement, without reinforcing patriarchy (for my LDS readers, remember - we 're talking about the form of Patriarchy that Hugh Nibley refers to as a fallen patriarchy - one that is about control and power over women, not about partnership and service). So, what are some of the inherent obstacles we need to consider? Well, for one, most research finds that if more than 25% of the people in a discussion are men, the majority of conversation comes from men, and the same phenomenon takes place in a lot of feminist discussions.

Now, some bloggers - like Twisty from iblamethepatriarchy - have gone so far as to discourage men from participating on their websites, but that's obviously something we'd never do here at NAW. A solid portion of our readership is male, and each of our male readers contributes a unique and interesting personal perspective. Plus, how could we ever sacrifice the great discussions between Jeremy and Jon? But the blogs that discourage male voices (as much as I disagree with their policies) do so for a reason: they get sick of a phenomenon known as "mansplaining." What is "mansplaining"? Well, it's a term feminist bloggers use to refer to men who show up and attempt to set all the feminists right, usually prefacing their comments with something along the lines of, "As a man, let me tell you what men think about ______."

Why isn't such a helpful comment appreciated on a feminist blog? Well, generally such comments miss the point. For instance, a couple years ago I wrote a post in defense of feminine styles of communication. A few men showed up and took it upon themselves to explain male communication and encourage women to adapt to male communication patterns. But the whole point of my post was that feminine communication was just as valid as male communication. If I'd written a post about how confusing I found male communication, those responses would have made sense. As things stood, I personally already communicated in a more masculine style, as I had stated in the original post. So, as great as their intentions may have been, those particular male readers were only exacerbating the situation by  making the discussion all about how women should adapt to male needs, and by refusing to listen.

So, with all these issues in mind, let me repeat the question:

Where do men fit in feminism? How can female feminists help male feminists feel welcome, while avoiding some of those obstacles I just listed? And what should a man do if he's new to feminism and wants to join the discussion?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why I'm a Feminist and Why You Should Be One Too

One of the things that freaks me out is that, in this day and age, some people are still shocked and disapproving when I say that I’m a feminist: “Seriously, do you hate men that much that you feel the need to be a feminist?” they ask. No, actually I don’t hate men at all. In fact, I know some very nice men and we’re good friends, lovers, and colleagues, thank you very much. The idea that to be a feminist you must therefore hate men is not the only stereotype about feminists that exists; unfortunately, we are often seen as bored housewives with nothing better to do, or angry, lazy women who couldn’t “hack it” in the world, and of course, the bitter, frigid CEO and ice queen.

I’m not a housewife (and I’m certainly not bored with my life—I moved to South Korea for kicks and giggles, people), I know I can hack it in the world because I have two degrees and a good job, oh and while I may not be a CEO, I’m most assuredly NOT frigid (and there are several people who can confirm that story).

But just as worrisome as the people who want to know why I’m a feminist, are the people who proclaim, “I’m not a feminist!” I know this sounds crazy hypocritical and judgmental, because here I am crying out, “I’m a feminist” and shouldn’t people be allowed to not be feminists? Well, yes they should because that’s called freedom, but how could anyone not be a feminist?

Stay with me, because we’ll come back to the question in a minute.

I recently read this blog post by famed lifestyle blogger, C.Jane. While I personally don’t really care for the blog, I also don’t think about it that much because it doesn’t really seem worth it and I’ve only read a few posts, however this particular post stood out when a friend showed it to me. So go on, read it. I’ll wait.

You back? Ok, for those of you that didn’t feel like skipping over to her blog, here is a one-sentence summary. C. Jane is not a feminist because she feels that true equality won’t really do anything for her, and she feels like she already has everything she needs.

Ok, while I personally think people should ALWAYS desire equality, I’m not going to lay into her for that viewpoint (as ridiculous as I think it is) she’s entitled to it. No, my bigger issue with that post is how incredibly selfish it is. That’s nice that she feels her life is so great that equality isn’t going to do much for HER, but what about all the other people in the world (and I do mean people—feminism believes in securing emancipation and equality for all) for whom equality would benefit?

So again, it’s nice that C. Jane’s happy little life is so great that she doesn’t need equality, but it’s not nice for all the people that her statement ignores who don’t have equality.

To whit, one in four women (specifically college-aged) are sexually assaulted in the United States. Similarly, and probably under-reported, is the statistic that one in seven men are sexually assaulted in the United States.

I’d like to live in a world where sexual assault wasn’t so prevalent, and I’d like for it to be ok for victims to report that they were attacked without being branded by a stigma (“slut” for girls, “wimp” for boys). Yeah, I think I’d like for my kids too.

But let us cast our net even further, let us consider the dire (and I do mean dire) circumstances of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There, over 12% of women have been raped; statistics have reported that in the DR Congo, 48 women are raped every hour. Thousands suffer from HIV/AIDS, thousands have lost children and family, and few will ever be able to exercise their right to education.

Bet the people the DR Congo would like some equality.

Let’s head north now to Saudi Arabia, where, if you are a woman you may not drive; a man MUST have guardianship over you for your entire life. Now, whether that man is your father, husband, uncle, or even your son is unimportant.

Also, in Saudi Arabia as a woman, should you disagree with any of the policies relating to your life, you will then be publicly flawed or imprisoned. If you are raped, you, the victim, could be imprisoned, or again flogged. Hell, you might even be forced to marry your attacker.

If you live in Saudi Arabia (and are a woman) you might even have to walk around with your “tempting eyes” covered so as not to sexually arouse some poor, innocent man in the street, and thereby force him to rape you (an argument, which shamefully, mirrors our own western logic of, “she was dressed inappropriately, so therefore she was asking for it” and which can even be seen in this ridiculous video about Christian women in bikinis).

I bet some of those women in Saudi Arabia would like equality, and personally, I think it would be pretty cool if those women could be raised in an environment where they would learn that rape isn’t their fault (The Handmaid’s Tale, anyone?).

Let’s continue on though, maybe there are other countries where women would like some equality?

How about India where, although illegal, child brides are still forced to marry men ten times their age (no, my math is not wrong: five times 10 equals 50, which is an actual age difference between spouses that does happen in India).

Should we continue? I mean, we could all over the world and find sex trafficking, child prostitution, torture, and pretty much every other evil thing that you can do to another person.

This is why I’m a feminist, because I don’t just want equality for me, I want other women and men to be able to live according to the dictates of their conscious and without fear of violence and repression. I want women to be able to enjoy and own their own sexuality. I want women to be able to own their bodies. I want children to be able to enjoy their childhood without being forced into marriage. I want women to enjoy the rights of education, property and independence.

This is why you should be a feminist too, not just for yourself, but also for your children, for your sisters across the world who are disregarded, abused, maimed, killed, and reduced to second-class citizens because of a difference in their anatomy.

This is why I’m a feminist and this is why you should be one too.