April 10, 2012
Just wanted to use my tiny platform to point toward a few things I thought worth reading. Enjoy!
As feminist and fat acceptance movements evolved from second-wave protests to contemporary digital activism, Fat Is a Feminist Issue connected the dots between two parallel causes for human rights while championing the individual’s right to be healthy and happy at every size. Orbach’s pioneer insistence that feminists needed to talk about body image and compulsive eating, while fat activists had to acknowledge issues of gender and difference, united two notorious social-activist movements that made progress possible across a dual spectrum of civil rights.
Why “I prefer small boobs” isn’t helping (Alternate title, from comments: Female Body Image and Male Perception in the Context of Feminist Discussion: When Women Talk About Body Image on a Feminist Blog, We’re Not Actually Worried That Men Don’t Think We’re Pretty):
“Don’t worry, insecure girl, there are people out there who think you’re hot” isn’t a revolutionary perspective, and thinking it’s a necessary contribution to a thread about female objectification and body image demonstrates a lack of understanding of the subject.
We all secretly went back in time, right?
That’s the only way I can get my head around Wisconsin’s repeal of their Equal Pay Act on the argument that “Money is more important to men”, piled on top of the birth control “debate” and Georgia passing legislation based on the idea that women are anatomically and ethically identical to pigs and cows. We fell through a time vortex and it’s 1959 and half of the twentieth century didn’t happen.
March 8, 2011
Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.
May 11, 2010
The panel opened with a discussion of what slut-shaming is, and Sady, who was the first to offer a definition, was careful to note that being labeled a slut can happen to anyone, even to people who have never had any sexual contact of any kind.
Ha! That brought back a memory I haven’t revisited in a very long time indeed. Just before or just after my 13th birthday (I have a vague feeling like it might have been on my 13th birthday itself), a sort-of friend of mine called me a two-timing slut, and I was absolutely devastated. Here’s more or less how it went down, with names changed to protect the young and foolish: Read the rest of this entry »
April 30, 2010
(Alternate title: Code Red has me seeing red — [rimshot] I’m here all week, folks!)
Okay. So, apparently there exist iPhone apps specifically geared at men to track the menstrual cycles of the women in their lives. I’ve little doubt that they’re meant to be at least partly tongue-in-cheek (though part of me wonders if I’m not underestimating the ingrained misogyny/gynophobia in our culture with that thought).
An app like this—or at least in this general vein, without, for example, the oh-so-charming devil horns—could certainly be used for good, like participating in tracking fertility in a couple trying to get pregnant, or, as someone in the comments at RH Reality Check mentioned, scheduling hiking and camping trips. Even in those cases, though, I can’t really imagine why an iPhone app would work any better than, I dunno, TALKING to one’s partner.
But the app could also be used for asshaberdashery, too: I can well imagine a scenario, just as one example, in which a fellow does something jerky, and his lady-friend gets upset with him over it. He checks his iPhone, confirms that it’s devil-horns time, and pats her on the head. “There, there,” he says; “I know it’s just your hormones talking.” Perhaps in and of itself that might not seem so bad, especially when compared to the atrocities women endure in other parts of the world*, but as part of an over-arching system in which women’s feelings, thoughts, and experiences are dismissed and diminished, it’s a problem.
Overall, the RH Reality Check post covered the issue really well, so I recommend reading that. I even recommend reading most of the comments, which address some of the “why is this a big deal?” knee-jerk reactions. I just figured I’d pipe up to say that this squicks me out, too.
*Can you see, here, how I’ve internalized certain silencing criticisms? “This isn’t that big a deal—there are starving children in Ethiopia, you know!” Or, later, “Someone else already covered this—what could you possibly add to the discussion?” Indeed, I imagine one could do a rhetorical analysis of my blog and find it chock full of passages where I’ve moderated my tone to make it appear I was far less angry about something than I was, places where I demur or equivocate when I actually feel quite strongly about a subject, etc. Hmm.
April 23, 2010
I’ve been on a Liz Phair kick lately, focused especially on Exile in Guyville. A couple of weeks ago now I found myself in a dilemma, as I had “Fuck and Run” stuck in my head all day, and normally when I have a song in my head, I’ll sing it, I’ll listen to it multiple times, etc.–but I was at work, and that’s not exactly a song that can be called “safe for work,” in the parlance of our times.
So, with that background, you can perhaps imagine my delight at the recent Tiger Beatdown post that discussed “Fuck and Run” (plus another song by some dude)! That got me thinking about a couple of related things that would have been sort of tangential and derailing to put in the comments at TB, but that’s part of why I have my own blog, no? Here we are, then: Read the rest of this entry »
March 30, 2010
It’s often the case that when people talk about reproductive freedom or reproductive justice, the conversation centers around abortion access. And don’t get me wrong, that’s an important conversation to have, particularly in this age of anti-choice concessions. To that end, then, I wanted to highlight this story I came across today (via Two Women Blogging), written by Bridget Potter, titled Lucky Girl. She details her experience with an unwanted pregnancy and illegal abortion in 1962. A brief excerpt:
Michael was Roman Catholic and at twenty-two was willing to get married but unenthusiastic. We could, he supposed, live with his parents in the Bronx. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My upper-class English parents would have been appalled and, I was sure, unsupportive. Confused, ashamed, scared, and sad, I decided to try to get an abortion.
Try was the operative word. I asked the gynecologist for advice. He told me that the law prohibited him from helping me in any way but he offered to check me later for infection. The idea of infection alarmed me but I thought his gesture was nice.
Potter’s story, alongside the statistics she cites, is an excellent illustration of the importance of keeping abortion legal. It is not just for women who do not wish to bear children to be forced to do so. Also important in the struggle for reproductive justice, though, is the idea that women who do wish to bear children, or who might wish to bear children someday, should not be forced not to. The tragedy and injustice of involuntary sterilization is something we need to be talking about, too, and so I wanted to highlight an excellent article (heartbreaking, but excellent) published on Indyweek.com last week that tells the stories of several survivors of North Carolina’s mid-20th-century eugenics program. (Hat tip to Feministing.) Here is a brief part of Elaine Riddick’s story:
Elaine was 14 when she gave birth to what was to be her only child, a son, in 1968 at Chowan Hospital in Edenton. She doesn’t remember much about her hospital visit, but she was told that she almost died and had to stay in the hospital a week longer than her son.
For the next few years, Elaine says she remembers having frequent stomach pain and hemorrhaging so severe that at 16 she was admitted to a hospital. The doctor gave her little information, but she remembers he remarked that she’d been “butchered.”
These stories are important. Some folks are horrifyingly quick to decide that certain people, people society deems less valuable for any number of reasons, shouldn’t have children. (Here’s an example from less than two years ago.) But those people deserve the freedom to procreate (or not, should they so choose) as much as anyone else does. They deserve justice.
March 11, 2010
I’ve been way behind on reading blogs and, especially, blogging (as my regular readers have surely noticed!), but Evil Bender sent me a link to this Salon article by Mary Ann Sorrentino in which she bemoans Angie Jackson’s decision to live-tweet her medical abortion, and I felt moved to respond to it. (Read: it pissed me right the fuck off.)
It started with the title, “The right to hate Angie Jackson’s choice.” I appreciate that the title was most likely chosen by an editor rather than the author, but the idea of hating another woman’s choice strikes me as extraordinarily problematic, sort of in the same vein as the “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit. The things we do, the decisions we make, the actions we take, they’re all part of who we are. That’s not to say it’s impossible to love a person and hate what they do, nor is it to say that Sorrentino isn’t free to hate whoever or whatever she pleases, but it begins the discussion on an antagonistic note.
And then Sorrentino comes to this charming thought:
If . . . [Jackson's] decision about ending her child-bearing is solid and responsible, one has to wonder why she didn’t just have a tubal ligation.
I can think of a few possibilities: Because said procedure is expensive, and I’m not sure whether Jackson has health insurance? (I read enough of the tweets to know that Jackson and her partner paid for the abortion out-of-pocket.) Because it’s difficult to find a doctor who will perform said procedure on a woman in her twenties? Because Jackson believed (understandably) that an IUD (which she had) would suffice?
Furthermore, does the fact that Jackson went public with this particular choice mean that all her other choices are fair game for scrutiny? How far, truly, is “if you didn’t want a baby you should’ve had your tubes tied” from “if you didn’t want a baby you shouldn’t've had sex”? On the one hand, sure, it’s pretty far, but on the other, it’s merely a difference in degree, not in kind.
Sorrentino goes on to reassure readers of her pro-choice cred, and asserts that
Those of us who drove in the dark of night to deliver or pick up a friend in a back-alley clinic, terrified that that friend hemorrhaging in the back seat of our car might die on our watch, know things that Ms. Jackson clearly cannot fathom.
I’ve poked around enough on Jackson’s blog to suspect that Sorrentino is actually pretty far off the mark here. That aside, though—just going off of the knowledge Sorrentino and I have in common—I’m not sure what makes her think that Jackson “clearly cannot fathom” how terrible things were in the days before abortion was legal. Jackson experienced a difficult pregnancy and childbirth, and she’s now experienced a legal abortion as well, which suggests to me that she could pretty easily imagine what it was like before.
Furthermore, I’m really just not sure what kind of sense that makes. After all, it used to be that pregnancy and childbirth were taboo subjects for discussion, and they were certainly a great deal more dangerous than they are now. Does that mean we shouldn’t talk about such things openly? (If so, I have seen way too many sonogram printouts for someone without children of her own.)
What kills me about this, though, is the knowledge that Sorrentino does have that pro-choice cred. Presumably we’re on the same side—which means I expect more from her. I appreciate that there’s a generational divide coming into play here, and that these days people in their teens and twenties post about things on their Twitters and MySpaces and Facebooks and blogs that older people would never dream of discussing in such a public forum. I get why such a frank discussion of a medical procedure might make people uncomfortable. But there’s “uncomfortable,” and then there’s basically saying, “We won you the right to have that procedure, so shut up about it already.” However, having the right to privacy does not equal having the obligation to keep particular things private. (Similarly, the Lawrence v. Texas ruling does not mean gay people have to stay closeted out of a sense of privacy. Can they if they want to? Of course! But they don’t have to.)
As Evil Bender put it in his e-mail to me, “I’d be inclined to say that fighting against moral scolds who tell strangers what they should do is an EXCELLENT reason to discuss one’s abortion.”
January 21, 2010
I am a crier. I cry when I’m sad; I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m angry, or frustrated, or feeling shame, or just plain overwhelmed. Movies make me cry. Books make me cry. I cry at things that are touching; I have to leave the room when those freaking ASPCA commercials come on TV. I cry when someone I care about cries. Catch me on the right day and I might cry if I’m good and startled, the way an infant will. It’s what I do.
I have also been accused on numerous occasions, primarily by men, that my tears are manipulative, like I’m crying in front of them just to get my way, or to make them feel bad, to get attention, or… I don’t even know, really. At any rate, I’ve been accused of being manipulative for crying. Which, honestly, is almost funny to me—or would be if it weren’t so bloody irritating, if it didn’t reflect such an apparent profound misunderstanding of who I am and what I do—because believe you me, if I could make it so that I only cried in private, by myself, I would make that change in a heartbeat. In addition to the accusations of manipulation, there’s the social narrative that tears = weakness, so apparently these folks are willing to believe that I (and other criers) are thinking, “Hey, so I get to appear manipulative and weak and puffy-faced? Awesome! Sign me up!”
All that said, then, I really, really appreciated Amanda’s take-down of this article by Spencer Morgan in the New York Observer. A sampling:
Of course, one thing that makes the whole “crying is nothing but manipulation” nonsense have even more traction is that women undeniably cry a lot more than men. That makes it easier for ungenerous men, and some women, to chalk crying up to female inferiority—either women are manipulative bitches who are only pretending to be that sad, or they’re hormonal messes who can’t be trusted to handle the grown-up world. That a lot more men are likely to blow up in rage and scream and yell to the point where everyone’s uncomfortable isn’t taken as evidence that men are inferior or overly emotional, I’ll note. But I have special hate for the notion that crying is something that women can and should have more control over. When people take nasty swipes like Morgan’s, I want to ask them if they can drop and start crying right now, to prove to me how much it’s a matter of will and not reflex.
The whole thing is very much worth the read. And furthermore, I think the comments thread is well worth reading, as well, especially if your reaction to what I am or Amanda is saying here is something along the lines of, “But, but—bitchez be crazy!” (Though you can maybe stop after the first hundred or so; somewhere around 125 a dude—apparently a relatively regular commenter, from what I gathered—comes in to try to mansplain things in earnest with the argument that crying is basically just not something Grown Ups do unless they have a properly Grown Up reason for doing so, and it’s pretty painful to watch.)
December 18, 2009
Recently I overheard a conversation in which a woman stated that because she’s a feminist, she opposes prostitution. Another woman chimed in, stating that she, too, opposes prostitution, and that no woman ever chooses to be a prostitute. Those were actually the words she used: “no woman, ever.” She went on to say that a woman might become a prostitute voluntarily to try to escape poverty or what have you, but that that’s not really a free choice.
I thought of that conversation today as I reflected on the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, which was yesterday. I agree with Jos of Feministing when she says that the notion that “sex work cannot really be a chosen profession, regardless of what sex workers themselves might think . . . leads to the continued criminalization of sex workers rather than efforts to make it a safer, non-exploitative job.”
Also, quite frankly, I think convincing oneself that no woman would actually choose to be a prostitute—and nevermind how that framing erases prostitutes who aren’t women, and sex workers who aren’t prostitutes—ultimately enables one toward seeing sex workers as less than human, “disposable persons,” as Michael from Sex in the Public Square put it yesterday. He used the phrase in a paragraph wherein he makes some important points:
We also need to consider the way violence against sex workers is customarily framed as situational or predatory, or how when sex workers are the victims the job and not the person becomes privileged, and the crime becomes portrayed as just another disposable person. What is not conveyed by such reporting is how it is the state itself that becomes the agent of violence, creating the structural factors that shape and facilitate the observed violence. Similarly the agents of social control, policing and criminal justice, are the major determinants of much of the violence. We must also realise that the agents of social control are just tools by which society disciplines subdominant cultures and that equally destructive is the violence of stigmatisation.
The memorial Radical Vixen participated in yesterday sounds like an excellent way not only to memorialize fallen sex workers, but also to focus on their humanity. I recommend checking that particular piece out, as well as the writing she’s done in the past and will do in the future about her fellow sex workers.
(I’m a bit concerned, though, that all of us are sort of preaching to the converted. How might we go about getting this message out to the public at large? How do we go about changing the dominant culture?)
November 10, 2009
To begin with, for the record, here is the pertinent section of the Stupak-Pitts amendment:
SEC. 265. LIMITATION ON ABORTION FUNDING.
(a) IN GENERAL—No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.
People who believe that women might have valid reasons to seek an abortion outside of danger of death, rape, or incest, and who understand that many women, should they find themselves in a position where they need or want to terminate a pregnancy, would need that procedure covered by insurance that is funded, entirely or in part, by the government, find this amendment unsettling, to say the least. (See Ann, Jill, and Shark-Fu’s takes.) The idea that the amendment will probably get removed in committee? Not particularly reassuring. The idea that the amendment is only talking about induced abortion, and couldn’t possibly be used to refuse coverage of an elective D&C to remove an incomplete abortion (as in, after a miscarriage, also known medically as a spontaneous abortion)? Yeah, that one’s also not particularly reassuring. The idea that this is not a big deal, it’s just politics, we have to look at the bigger picture? That’s not reassuring, and it’s patronizing! Whee! Read the rest of this entry »