Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Faith Over Family: A Dating Dilemma for Mormon Singles

My latest article on Patheos went up yesterday, and as I promised I would, I'm providing a link to the article, which discusses the strange dilemma a lot of single Mormon women face, a dilemma that my move away from Mormonville is making me very aware of. To whet your appetite, here's a snippet:

As a 26-year-old woman, I still consider myself young, but the prospect of facing such limited dating opportunities for four to five years has me approaching the question of my romantic future in an entirely different way.
As I discussed this issue with a friend, she said something surprising. She said, “This may sound blasphemous, but I wonder if you would have better luck finding someone if you dated outside the Church.” She’s not the first person who’s suggested as much, but she is the first fellow Mormon. And that’s not the only surprising part of the idea – the very way my friend framed this suggestion reflects a hesitancy in how we, as a group, view interfaith marriages. Her suggestion was so bold and potentially  offensive that she framed it with the disclaimer of “this may sound blasphemous.”
On a doctrinal level, marrying outside the faith is not a sin, but members sometimes discuss interfaith marriage as if it were.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Feminist Question of the Week: Gender Jokes

When is a joke funny and when is it offensive? I think it's important that we have the ability to laugh at ourselves and I do think that being politically correct can be taken too far, however so can a joke.

So when should we get offended by a sexist joke? What crosses the line for you?

Recently I was thinking about the passing comments I make about men, "Men are jerks" kind of comments, and I mean them in a lighthearted way, usually as a cheering up mechanism for a friend. If a guy were to say something similar about women, especially if it was meant as a joke I wouldn't say something, but perhaps it's constant small, quippy comments like these just continue to separate the sexes and highlight gender division?

What do you think?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

You Shouldn't Have Sex If You're a Woman

Women in Korea, as is the case of women in many parts of the world, are subjected to all manner of indignities, courtesy of their friendly, Confucius based, patriarchal society. To illustrate this point, MBC, a major Korean broadcasting network recently released a video entitled, “The Shocking Truth about Relationships with Foreigners” which stated that Korean women are manipulated and taken advantage of by foreign men (specifically Western men).  Amongst their many complaints they stated that Korean women are impregnated then abandoned, given HIV/AIDS, and of course have their purity taken by the lack of morals and the rampant promiscuity of foreigners.

            Obviously, the video is racist, was badly done by any journalistic standard and unfortunately shows Korea in a highly xenophobic light; however while few Korean women are victims of Western HIV/AIDS and hit and run impregnations, they are the victims of some pretty intense sexism in this video. While never directly stated, framing this whole narrative is the idea that Korean women are inferior; they’re not smart enough to know they’re being manipulated and they are no longer the pure and innocent women that conservative Korean society thinks they should be.

            This is in direct opposition to my own experience with Korean women; many of the women are intelligent, educated, hard working, and deeply invested in their future. It’s disrespectful to say that Korean women are too naïve to realize when they’re being manipulated, or that they can’t take care of their own relationships without being publicly disgraced on national television. 

As with quite a few societies, it is expected that women should be sexually pure and submissive, a women taking control of her own sexuality negates that earlier submissiveness. For some reason, many cultures have stories where lesser, minority men have degraded their pure women. I know the United States used this narrative often when talking about the Native Americans and white frontierswomen, as well as other minorities. Here in Korea, as it was in the United States, what is really at stake is control. Another man partaking in the sexuality of women in his culture, is undermining his superior place in the culture, and of course, displacing him from a place of control and power.

            Because of course, never once in the video did it mention Korean men with foreign women. Men should obviously be free to sleep whomever they wish, whenever they want, women on the other hand, should only engage in sexual activities when it is deemed appropriate by a man. This is actually incredibly ironic, because Korean men do not only have a massively high prostitution rate, 70% of men have used the services of a prostitute and 50% currently are, (that last article is in Korean, try a good online translator) but because of how they treat women in general.

            Recently I was at a girls night party with about ten other Western women, every women in the room had been sexually harassed or assaulted while in Korea, myself included, with dozens of stories of friends and colleagues having had similar experiences. Unfortunately in Korea, date rape and sexual assault aren’t as big of deal, and still happen quite frequently.

            I confess that I was pretty furious when I saw the video, and when a few weeks ago, after seeing this video, I was forced to take an HIV/AIDS test in order to renew my contract to teach in Korea, I ranted about it for quite a while and felt a definite bit of discrimination. However, my intention in writing this article was not to demonize Korea, but rather to point out that double standards, sexual repression, and a general disdain for women’s choices and intellect, still exist. Even in countries that we would normally consider fairly advanced.

            Similarly, while the United States has more stringent sexual assault laws, America still has a long way to go in it’s treatment of women. Women in America still aren't free to make a lot of choices about their bodies, they're sluts if they sleep around but you're a stud if you're a guy, and many still believe that purity only comes with an intact hymen.

**I have another article, published in the Gwangju News, about the racial and cultural consequences of the video.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Links and Stories of Note

I've been incredibly confused about my posting schedule on various blogs lately, readers, so please pardon my apparent inability to adhere to anything resembling a timetable. Today I bring you a collection of links and stories I've been gathering for the past several weeks. Some of them are rather out-of-date at this point, having been "resolved" or otherwise become old hat, but I'm leaving them in here because they're a good illustration of the kind of tone American culture has been taking lately. In case the following doesn't make it clear: the tone is decidedly anti-feminist.

First, I bring you an article about a Catholic nun's book on spirituality and sexuality. It's pretty standard fare, since religious scholars and philosophers are always pondering what "the rules" were, are, and should be, but I'm amused by this one in particular because the Vatican condemned it and thus guaranteed its bestseller status (of course). Take that, sex-phobic oppressors!

Next is a victory here in Colorado Springs, that bastion of head-in-the-sand religious conservatism, where one of our school districts has managed to pass an anti-discrimination policy to protect students on the basis of gender identity and expression. This is a HUGE deal, notably because trans students have it rough everywhere but especially in a cis paradise like this one, and the general tenor of debate across the country has been that protecting gender identity and expression is somehow a way of caving to special interest groups. It's nice to have a formal entity stand up to that perspective and grant those protections anyway.

A less victorious link is the proposal to build an anti-abortion monument/glorification centre in Wichita, Kansas. It's designed to incorporate a "wailing wall"- yes, designed after the world-famous wailing wall in Jerusalem- and will cost somewhere in the vicinity of millions of dollars. And you know what? That's a pile of horse shit. Kansas, as a state, has a terrible record with abortion providers (namely, killing them) and providing supportive services for babies born to low-income families. Maybe instead of wasting so much time and money on a glorified hate structure, the church that's behind all this could redirect that energy towards- oh, I don't know- actually doing something to support families with young babies? Increasing access to health care, food, clothing, child care, and information? You know, actually doing Christ's work? The hypocrisy in this is mind-blowing.

Another one in the "ugh" category also comes to us from Kansas. This one is a measure that made its way through the state legislature and permits religious organizations to ignore- yes, IGNORE- anti-discrimination ordinances that violate their beliefs. What does this mean? It means that someone could be fired for being gay. It means that a professor at a university could refuse to acknowledge or educate a trans student. Think I'm exaggerating? Here's the text of the bill. Luckily it managed to avoid passage, but here's something important to remember: religious freedom does NOT mean that a religious organization can stomp all over the civil rights of others. DONE.

Finally, a quick note on the power of the internet: a store undergoing construction in a New Jersey mall put up this sign for patrons, apparently thinking that sexism and sexual harassment are funny. Fortunately, someone complained about it on Facebook and the outrage went viral. The store has since taken down the sign (yay!) but apparently is still managed by people (or being renovated by people) who don't have enough humanity to stop themselves from making such bad decisions in the first place.

That's enough for this week! Tune in for more up-to-date rants and raves next time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Problem with Football: How the Pursuit of Rugged Masculinity Kills American Men

How could this sport not be insanely dangerous? (image source)

This guest post from Carl The Open-minded Chauvinist was originally published on I Feel Like Schrodinger's Cat, under the title "Why Marcus Will Not Play Football." Though Carl does not openly discuss the feminist implications of football, his post is a great discussion of one area of American entertainment where the pursuit of rugged masculinity literally kills, injures, and handicaps men. 

Words really cannot express how much I dislike sports. Really. If you didn't get the memo already.

But I have to say, when I read this article, I couldn't help but giggle.

See, apparently it's take this long for the NFL to realize that getting hit in the head, repeatedly, is not good for you. The most recent suicide, Junior Seau, is having his brain donated to science to see if he's got this new CTE diagnosis.

There was one study released last year, that showed that the average football player has encountered 4000 hits in high school, 4000 more hits in college.

Is it no wonder that NFL players have a life expectancy of 54 years, or that they are more likely to suffer from depression, mood swings, and other indications of brain damage. Apparently helmets are designed to prevent skulls from cracking open, which I'm all in favor of, but too many people assume that because there's all this protective gear on that the players will be fine.

I'm sorry. Are you an idiot?

You're still smashing your brain against the side of your skull. Repeatedly. After all, "Getting hit--hard--is not a small part of the game. It is the game."

And that ain't good for you.

Especially if you're in high school.

Sports should be fun, not fatal. I will not ethically support anymore "a sport that--if executed to its fullest--wipes out the wits of its players."

And any future son of mine isn't going to play football. I've linked a lot of articles, but if you're going to read just one, READ THIS ONE. Chilling. But it may be what finally kills American Football, drying up the source of football players, since it may be worth the risk of brain damage to play in the NFL, but not to play high school football. I can only pray that football goes the way of the dodo. But any future sons I have won't ever play football, even if the sport doesn't vanish. I'm not willing to let them destroy their brains just for some glory in high school.

Edit: After I posted this to Facebook, a friend of mine showed me this article from The New Yorker. It's clear to me that football causes hundreds of these mini-car crashes to the skull, and that getting out of football intact is more a matter of luck than anything else. Not for my kids.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sci Fi Abortion, Mixed-Orientation Marriage, Corsets and More: In the Blogosphere

First up, if you haven't already checked out emBody, I highly recommend you do. We recently had a guest post from one of their contributors, but for those who haven't checked it out, here's what it's about: emBody is a blog devoted to understanding and discussing the way that our bodies impact our experience of the world. Awhile ago they had a series of posts from "Skinny Bitches," sharing their personal stories. Recently they've been sharing eating disorder stories. Monday's post, by Jesse P. shares a tragic story of what set off her eating disorder and how it destroyed her emotional and physical health, even while from the outside she seemed to fit into the thin blonde ideal. Part of what draws me to her post is that she's honest in sharing some of the dark details of having an eating disorder - like the fact that she lost two teeth.

Next, Megan at Bitch Flicks has a really interesting article about Prometheus as a metaphor for abortion. So, if you enjoyed Rachel's discussion of Prometheus you may want to look here for more. Megan's analysis takes the time to analyze all the intricacies of this issue, including the fact that many would see any non-human life form as a parasite rather than a fetus. As a friend of mine pointed out when she read Rachel's review of Prometheus, the abortion issue in the film hold's parallels to Octavia Butler's "Blood Child" - a story about a boy who has to decide whether to allow an older female alien to lay her eggs in him.

Racialicious has an article about an intriguing movie-in-the-works, Dear White People, a very tongue-in-cheek film whose story revolves around a student at a fictional university, who starts a campus radio show called "Dear White People." The article is asking for donations to help get it off the ground, but whether you're the online-pledge-to-movie-causes type or no, it's worth checking out the article in order to also check out the trailer. Funny and enlightening stuff.

And of course, if anyone out there has not yet read "Club Unicorn: In Which I Come Out of the Closet on Our Ten Year Anniversary," you really should. The post is by a humor blogger, Josh Weed, but it's not a humorous piece - it's the story of how he and his wife (a childhood friend) decided to marry each other even though he is gay, and how their marriage is working quite well for them, including a strong sex life. No matter what, it's a thought-provoking post, but the strength of the post is that he's not trying to persuade anyone that his way is the only way - just that it's the right thing for him. 

And this last link is not strictly in the blogosphere, but apparently corset sales are on the rise. This BBC article discusses some of the implications this trend might carry for feminism.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Stud: Compliment or Insult? (From the Archives)

This guest post from Jon was first published on NAW in 2010.
Photo Source: Wikipedia entry on Stallions

A guest post from Jon


1 an establishment where horses or other domesticated animals are kept for breeding : [as adj. ] a stud farm | the horse was retired to stud.
• a collection of horses or other domesticated animals belonging to one person.
• (also stud horse) a stallion.
• informal a young man thought to be very active sexually or regarded as a good sexual partner.

2 (also stud poker) a form of poker in which the first card of a player's hand is dealt face down and the others face up, with betting after each round of the deal

Is there anything negative here? It sounds all pretty complimentary to me. I have always loved being called a stud! It meant I was a man. Like Clint Eastwood, Buzz Aldrin, or Buzz Lightyear–"to infinity, and beyond! Only last week did it really don on me what stud meant. This is how I connected it. Kjerstin called me a stud. I thought of a song called "Tennessee Stud" by acclaimed blue grass artist, Doc Watson. I thought about my sister Jenn and how she had talked about the breeding of horses and the part the studs play. And that was when I realized that I had been really called a highly sexually active breeding machine!!

Now,  Kjerstin didn't mean to call me me a highly sexual, active breeding machine. I am sure that like all other girls that have used this compliment to describe me, she was just trying to be nice and help me feel like a worthy part of the community. I was a stud. Strong, dependable, worth-while, and I guess unbreakable. But what is the female equivalent of a stud?

 Here comes WIKI!! The word mare, meaning "female horse," took several forms prior to A.D. 900. In Old English the form was mere or mȳre, the feminine forms for mearh (horse). The Old Germanform of the word was Mähre. Similarly, in Irish and Gaelic, the word was marc; in Welshmarch; and in Breton mar'h.  The word is "said to be of Gaulish origin." The word has no known cognates beyond Germanic and Celtic. Some derived terms are a mare's nest, an expression for "excitement over something which does not exist"; and nightmare, which began as a term meaning "an evil female spirit afflicting sleepers with a feeling of suffocation." 

However, "nightmare" may not be directly etymologically connected  with the word for female horse, but rather connected to homophones that meant "incubus" or "goblin."

So not exactly complimentary, but not really understandable anyway. Think about some of the names given to males and females. Ask yourself, which ones are positive and which on es are negative? Would it be ok if someone referred to me using this term? I am sure there are some that come straight to mind. I can't think of any woman appreciating the terms heifer, cow, sow, or a.... I guess if you called someone a Jenny they might not mind as long as that was their name. 

Why is it that it is so hard to find an equivalent to the word stud that is not degrading? And why is it right for men to be applauded in there sexuality while woman are only degraded? But on the other hand, why is it that men allow themselved to be defined by their sexuality? Is that a win or a loss for men? Does it mean we are better than women just because words of equivalent degradation have opposite connotations?

Here is an interesting list of the names used for male and female animals of the same species. 


Jon is a recent but enthusiastic member of the feminist world. For more of his work, go to Depthful Thoughts. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Violence Against Women Act from the trenches: why we need to do something

Ribbon courtesy of www.fem2pt0.com
Intimate partner violence is a topic that's near and dear to my heart for a lot of reasons, one of the biggest being that I've been working on the ground (so to speak) in violence prevention for the entirety of my career and post-secondary education. On a daily basis, I see and work with the trauma that is inflicted on someone by the person (or sometimes people) who are supposed to love them the most. I sit with people who are crying because they were denied a protection order that they desperately needed, or because they changed their phone number again and their offender found them again anyway. I assist people in developing complex escape plans so they can leave their own homes without being stalked or injured.I provide therapy for the people whose brains have been severely altered by the patterns of fear they lived with day in and day out. It's exhausting work, made even more draining by the knowledge that I get to come home to safety and comfort every night while my clients never ever catch a break. For them, this is life.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA; link goes to the bill as it was passed in 1994) in America is one of the most fundamentally important pieces of legislation to the job I do, whether I'm being an advocate or being a therapist. VAWA is what funds every state's coalition against domestic abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking, which in turn means that VAWA partially funds most of the safe houses and shelters across the country. VAWA is what allows me to tell a trafficked client who was brought here by her husband of three weeks, only to be brutally assaulted and tortured for three years, that she doesn't have to choose between her safety and remaining in the U.S. VAWA is the reason that, during my lifetime (and I'm only 25!), the federal government finally codified marital rape as a crime in all fifty states. VAWA is the reason it's a felony to cross state lines to violate a restraining order.

The significance of this legislation is overwhelming, and while it's imperfect (as are all laws), it is up for renewal on a regular basis and is often revised to expand the protections available to victims of intimate partner violence and human trafficking. In this legislative cycle,the proposed revisions provide greater opportunities for Native American leaders to prosecute perpetrators; facilitate the safety of undocumented immigrants who are caught between deportation and domestic abuse; and prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

These are huge. Most safe houses in the United States will gladly accept cisgendered women and their children, but don't provide similar safe housing for trans women, genderqueer folk, or men of any stripe. Many state coalitions, including Colorado, will cut funding to safe houses that open their doors to anyone in these categories. Some safe houses even prohibit residents from bringing teenaged sons with them because they're "practically men." Even more safe houses who purportedly offer room for queer ("but cis") women permit such a hostile and queer-phobic environment for these residents that they often feel too unsafe to stay. When you consider that all of these populations experience abuse at approximately the same rate that cis women experience abuse from cis male partners (25-33%, and I kid you not), that means that our current funding structure absolutely discriminates against a significant percentage of the victimized population. We need to expand protection for these individuals so they too can benefit from the law that has made such a difference for straight cis women victims.

The problem is that, somehow, this is under debate in Congress. I still fail to understand how someone can look at information about thediversity of domestic abuse victims/survivors and continue to believe that these proposed expansions to the law are unnecessary. Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happening and even certain cutbacks (particularly to the special visas VAWA grants immigrant victims of domestic abuse and trafficking) are being promoted as a "good idea." Let me explain before I start getting hateful comments about liars abusing the visa system: those visas are a pain in the butt to obtain for the most cut-and-dried cases. If you've never accompanied someone through the torturous process of trying to get one, then keep your silence until you have. It takes years and the kind of documentation of injuries and police reports that most victims never have, regardless of their immigration status. We need more protection, not less, for victims and survivors.

Please take a moment to take a look at the website for the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women and find a way to support this important piece of legislation. For those of you in the U.S., write to your Congresspeople. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper(s). Pass the word along to your friends. Attend the National Day of Action.

Please, whatever you do, don't let this slip by without doing something. The safety of millions of people, literally, are counting on you.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Not Another Wave on the Radio!

I was recently interviewed about my experiences as a writer by Angie Hartley on GFN (Gwangju Foreigner Network) as part of their weekly radio program, City of Light. In the interview I got the opportunity to talk about my monthly posts and our intended audience at Not Another Wave.

So here it is, my radio interview, in which I discuss creative writing, Not Another Wave, and sound like a raspy Jessica Rabbit (I had a bit of a sore throat that day).