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Pregnant adventures in benign sexism

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I am one of those women who has always felt very much "like a girl." As is, I think, not the case for everyone, it's always been clear in my head that however you conceptualize gender (a binary or a continuum or an artificial construct completely), I fall, by nature or nurture or for some other reason, pretty well on the female end of it. This has been at odds, sometimes, with how I've been treated--I assume due to my size, but maybe for other reasons as well, I've not always been treated as "girly" in some of the same ways I've heard other women describe. I've not too often felt that I was being protected, or coddled, or that I was on the receiving end of acts of chivalry.

Pregnancy has changed that. Unlike some other women, pregnancy hasn't really made me feel "more female," but it's certainly changed others' treatment of me in ways that I identify as female-specific. People (men, in particular) rush to open doors. Nobody wants me to carry anything. I am asked how I am feeling at least ten times a day. As I get progressively bigger, people are more and more helpful, or at least are trying to be. And I'm not going to lie--it's nice. When I feel badly or am having trouble getting around, it's REALLY nice. But these kinds of gender-related niceties don't come without a cost, another side to the coin, and I've noticed a good bit of that side since I've been pregnant as well.

One example that has come up over the past few days is in Mark's and my interactions with two older men, both of whom are pediatricians we're interviewing. The first interview was terrible for all kinds of reasons, but the sexist undercurrent of it was definitely one of them. First, the doctor assumed that Mark and I were brother and sister. I didn't figure out until later that his confusion came from my selecting "unmarried" on his intake form. When we told him we were the baby's parents, we just weren't married, he was puzzled and seemed perturbed, then said something about how that must be normal in "hippy, granola land" (I had previously mentioned being from Oregon). Whatever. That kind of thing happens less and less, but it does still happen. Later, he asked if "Mom" (that would be me) would be returning to work after the baby was born. No questions about "Dad's" plans. And so on and so forth.

The second interview was much better, and we may actually use that particular pediatrician. However, as I reflect on it after the fact, there were even more sexist assumptions involved. The question about "Mom" returning to work was repeated. The doctor mentioned having evening hours available for appointments "so that Dad can come, too." An anecdote about not knowing whether to call the nurse advice line or go to the ER was illustrated with a frazzled, uptight stay-at-home-mom and a father who "just wanted some dinner when he got home from work!" Most tellingly, though, even though Mark and I were both right there, the doctor addressed only me when discussing all of the baby health decisions one makes in a child's first few months of life, then addressed only Mark when discussing insurance and payment.

I can practically hear somebody out there thinking that these things aren't a big deal, and have to be written off as part of the cost of dealing with past generations. And there is some truth to that--I don't believe that any of these assumptions would preclude this doctor from providing good medical care to my baby (which is why he's still in the running). I also think, to some degree, they are par for the course when one is having a prolonged personal discussion with someone two generations older. However, these things ARE a big deal. The assumptions on which these comments were precluded are invasive, and they are harmful. Though the sexism to which I refer in the title of this post may appear, and be intended to be, benign, it's really not. The same set of assumptions that led our pediatrician candidates to ask if I'd be going back to work, but not ask the same question of Mark, are the ones that help make it harder for a woman to get hired or be taken seriously in her job. The picture the doctor painted, of a frazzled, possibly hysterical stay-at-home-mom keeps scads of women second-guessing their own judgement, intelligence, and choices. Assuming that I'd make our kid's medical decisions and Mark would pay his/her bills does both of us a disservice (aside from being simply untrue).

I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to address this type of ingrained sexism. Yes, I could have argued with each assumption as the doctor made it, but how likely would it have been to have made any difference in the mind of a man who has been practicing medicine for 50 years? I could refuse to take my child to a sexist doctor, but I'm not at all sure that would leave me with a provider at all. The best thing I can think to do is continue, as a parent, to live my life the way I have tried to so far, rejecting archaic gender assumptions in my actions. Yes, I will be returning to work. Yes, I can pay that bill. No, I don't need to ask my husband (and no, we aren't married anyway). My hope is that these actions, taken by me and millions of other women, will slowly change assumptions. I have to admit, though, that the hope feels a little pie-in-the-sky. I am realizing, as I get progressively more pregnant and as I reflect on parenthood, that it may be even harder to wiggle out from under gender-based expectations as a mother than it is as a non-mom. Another new challenge.

10 Comments

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on these experiences - these are the sorts of ingrained gender and relational biases that I'm really only starting to notice. When I went to (attempt to) get my IUD a few months ago, the nurse practitioner said that while they usually recommend the IUD for women who have had a vaginal birth (which makes sense for exactly the anatomical reasons that I wasn't able to get one), I was also a good candidate because I was married.

Hello. Marriage is not a medical condition.

Great post! I absoLUTEly think this is an important topic, and I definitely continue to experience sexism in a heightened way now that I am a parent. It's also interesting (related, but not the same) the way people will talk to you (me) as if we all "know" the baby will be straight. "He could be gay!" I want to shout about 3 times a day. ;) People also freak out about the facts that my husband and I have different last names, when it comes to the baby. I wanted my baby to have my last name, but compromised (long story). But others simply assume the baby has the dad's last name because that's the way it's "done." So many interesting issues!!

The man's "paternity leave" or work plans is as important to suss out as the woman's (if it's a hetero couple becoming parents). But a lot of people don't see that. My husband works at home and watches our baby. That was the best choice for us. It's not for everyone, but I'm amazed at how many people don't even consider it!

Yes, be yourself and live by example! But if you can rebut someone in a way that isn't too complicated, do it!

I'm rambling! I wish we could sit down and chat in person. ;)

WOW. All I can say is wow and Yuck. I have had 3 different pediatric groups since my 5 yr old was born (due to moving and changing insurance) and even though 1 of the groups was sub-par in my opinion, NONE of them ever asked anything remotely like you were asked. (We are in NJ, that may make a difference I suppose.) Ew ew ew! I would be so insulted and disgusted. Perhaps a practice that has a much younger employee base is called for? Both of our large-group practices have an age range from just-out-of residency to long-past-retirement age and all have been open minded and knowledgeable. All questions about returning to work were asked of both parents, and no one made assumptions about who would be caring for the baby, or who would be paying. Sheesh - like you need this kind of stress - I hope you have better luck!!!

People frequently OUT LOUD assume that because I was raised by a man, my mom was like, a complete crack addict or dead. Or that my dad was gay. I think that last one is a funny thing because it's a totally liberal sexist assumption.

What a fantastic post! Max's first two pediatricians were women and definitely not sexist ones. They both assumed that Philip and I made all our decisions about Max together and I don't think I was ever asked by a doctor while I was pregnant or afterwards what my work arrangements were. Why do they even need to know if you're going back to work? I mean, I suppose I wouldn't have minded answering, it's a pretty valid question from friends and acquaintances who are curious. I wonder if I would have noticed in your situation that I was being asked about work and not Philip? Perhaps the assumption is that most men simply don't get maternity leave benefits through their work (Philip's insurance didn't have that at the time we had Max). Yet reading this I am definitely chafing at all the little instances of sexism with these interviews - so maybe I would have noticed after all.

I have tended to give the older men I've dealt with a lot more leeway with regards to sexist attitudes figuring, as you suggest, that I'm not going to be able to change their attitudes but I wonder if we do ourselves a disservice in this regard? These men are influencing younger men in their lives too - I don't know what the best approach is but I feel like I need to counter this kind of thing in my own life rather than passively let it be.

Elizabeth: the ACOG has now also recommended Mirena IUDs for teens for menna... oh hell, however you spell awful, too-long periods. Even teens who have yet to be sexually active, much less have a baby.

G: we recently saw a GI nurse practitioner who was confused as to how she had seen Fiona before, but had never met me. When she figured out that it was because Drew had brought Fiona for that appointment, WITHOUT FIONA'S MOTHER THERE AT ALL, there was a very surprised, "oh!" followed by a very flat, "huh."

One silver lining of knowing ahead of time that our baby would have special medical needs from her first breath was that the providers who wanted to know about parental leave plans all asked about both of ours, and many had some helpful suggestions about maximizing leave benefits and other work-life-balance benefits. And it really was relevant to the providers to know if there would be a sahp, because good lord, the appointments! I cannot IMAGINE trying to keep a job while taking her to all those appointments in her first year. Well, I can imagine trying, I just can't imagine being successful!

Jenny: I get some of the same assumptions made about my mom, because my dad did most of the school-year parenting of me. Actually, my mom was AWESOME, and a fantastic mother, so fantastic, in fact, that she recognized that the other factors in everyone's lives (who lived where, educational opportunities, social stuff) meant I'd be better off with my dad. And on the other side of the same coin, my dad was assumed to be an angel, a saint, for raising his kid. Don't get me wrong, he was/is a fantastic dad. But raising me wasn't something we'll be writing to the Vatican about after he dies.

I'd keep pediatrician-shopping, personally. Even in my teeny little ultra-conservative Idaho town, I was able to find an awesome, non-judgey, non-sexist pediatrician. It's so important to have someone you really respect (and who respects you). It means so much to me that my pediatrician says, at the end of every visit, some variation on "Looks like you're doing a great job!" There's so much self-doubt in being a parent that that simple act of sisterly kindness nearly brings tears of gratitude to my eyes each time.

Run, don't walk, away from that jackass. Life is too short and medical stuff too important to work with someone you can't really trust because they are sexist jerks.

I'm going to have to agree with Skye - I'd keep looking. Feeling uncomfortable at the pediatrician sucks - you don't want appointments to turn into a "game" of "what sexist thing is he going to say this appointment?"

Maybe try finding a female ped who has kids and is a working mother herself? I bet she won't make as many assumptions... : )

I'd suggest interviewing a third, female or younger male, pediatrician. I have never experienced any of this from ours. Dad has come to nearly EVERY appointment, only missing one or two last minute sick visits. She talks to both of us equally, and listens to each of us. When we're all in the room, I honestly feel it's an open team discussion, which she makes a point of also including our children long before they're old enough to talk and answer her. It's a great experience every time, and my kids LOVE their doctor. They don't even fear the shots. I wish everyone had a doctor they were this comfortable with.

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Feminist books we both should read

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A few years back (in 2006!), I wrote a post about the feminist book canon, according to me. I am embarrassed to say that I have done a terrible job, since then, of keeping up with the new books that have been released in what I once thought would be my academic field, and what is still the field I imagine myself getting back to. To try to inspire myself (and maybe you, as well?) I thought I'd take a look and make a list of the newer books that look to be worth reading. I'm not recommending anything here--there is nothing on this list I've read--but here's where I feel like I should start if I am going to get back into reading academic feminist work.

(Please note that my choices, as before, are almost 100% United States oriented. This isn't at all because I don't think other countries have important feminist books to read, it's just that my training is in US history and that's pretty much all I know about.)

Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion by Jean H. Baker

I don't actually know much at all about birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, so I think I'd be well served to read the new biography of her, written by Jean H. Baker, set to be released in November. Baker is a prolific biographer, and I enjoyed another of her books, Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists.

Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World by Leslie Simon

I doubt Geek Girls Unite, due out next month, is an academic tome, but I am more and more interested in work about fandom, particularly female fandom, and how it coincides with art and politics and academia. This one is on my list especially because I thought so highly of Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them.

Those Girls: Single Women in Sixties and Seventies Popular Culture by Katherine J. Lehman

This is exactly the type of book I've been obsessed with since undergrad--a combo of women's history and media studies. Due in October, it's Lehman's first book, but has positive reviews from the likes of the brilliant Ruth Rosen, so I think it's probably worth a look.

College Women In The Nuclear Age: Cultural Literacy and Female Identity, 1940-1960 by Babette Faehmel

This one really excites me--the task taken on by Faehmel, in her first book (released just this month), is to explore the place of collegiate women in the age of the "Feminine Mystique." If the reviews I've read are correct, she eventually argues that while the post-WWII G.I. Bill was great for men, it hurt women. Can't wait to read that.

Women, Work, and Politics: The Political Economy of Gender Inequality by Torben Iversen and Frances Rosenbluth

Mostly out of laziness, I've tended to ignore the feminist economists. I need to stop that, as the older I get the more I realize it's allll about money. This book, written by a Harvard economist and a Yale political scientist, and claiming to tie the most micro level (household) to the most macro (international economics), might be a good place to start.

Battling Pornography: The American Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement, 1976-1986 by Carolyn Bronstein

I am absolutely fascinated by this book, released this past July, as it is the first I've seen that takes a historical, two-sided look at the feminist porn battle of the 70s and 80s. This particular fight is one of the internal struggles within the movement that I am most unsure about, so I'd love to read an account of the original argument.

The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us from Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild by Susan J. Douglas

As far as I'm concerned, Susan J. Douglas is a straight-up genius. Her book Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media has influenced my thinking as much or more than any other. So, I'm really excited she released this new book last year, taking on the more recent "girl power" media blitz and how it has backfired. This one is pretty much at the top of my list.

America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation by Elaine Tyler May

Elaine Tyler May is another feminist historian for whom I have the utmost respect. Her book, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era, is amazing. So who better to write a long-overdue history of the influence of the Pill in the lives of American women? I suspect this book will be the best kind of cultural history, both fascinating and accessible and incredibly informative.

A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz

Stephanie Coontz wrote The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, which I have probably recommended to four dozen people. I heard her on NPR being interviewed about this new book recently--it's an interesting premise, a look at how and why women reacted so strongly to Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. What we should all be reading instead of watching Mad Men...

Naked in the Promised Land: A Memoir by Lillian Faderman

Released in 2004, this book is older than the rest of the list, but I wanted to mention it because I have been wanting to read it forever. Lillian Faderman is a lesbian feminist force (she's written several lesbian history books, including a new one, Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, which I am sure is worth reading), and I often find autobiography and biography to be the best way to really "get" a writer (I loved Andrea Dworkin's autobiography so much I wanted to marry it).

Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle edited by Dayo Gore, Jeanne Theoharis, and Komozi Woodard

Even today, there aren't as many well-done books on Black feminism as there should be. This, however, has potential to be one of them. The contributors list is distinguished and the premise--to take a look at the Black women who had just as much to do with Civil Rights as their more famous male counterparts--is a good one.

Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority, and Equal Rights by Martha Sonntag Bradley

This is another slightly older book, but I've heard so many good things about it, I wanted to include it. Bradley, a professor at University of Utah, gives a great account of the LDS influence on the International Women's Year (IWY) conference held in Utah in 1977 and the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment. The book is apparently based heavily on oral historical accounts given by Mormon women in Utah, which is a great basis and one I'm very curious to read.

I could go on and on, but rather than completely overwhelming both you and myself, I'll stop here for now. Anything on this list strike your fancy? Want to read it together?

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I think I'm going to have to grab that book on pornography and A Strange Stirring. those two look really good.

Many of these look great! I did a report on Margaret Sanger for a Women's Studies class in college, so the book about her is definitely right up my alley. Women, Work & Politics definitely speaks to me now. But I'd be open to reading any if you were going to lead a book club-type discussion through the blog.

Great post! I hadn't heard of all of these, and promptly put them on my Goodreads "to read" list!

Thanks for including "Geek Girls Unite" in your list! So awesome!!

I'm Carolyn Bronstein, the author of Battling Pornography, one of the books on this to-read book list. Thanks for including my work here. If anyone would like to hear me discuss the major themes, I'll share an audio link from November 1, 2011--this is me being interviewed by Alison Cuddy of the Eight Forty-Eight Show on Chicago Public Radio. Thanks!

http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/segment/audio/2011-November/2011-11-01/84820111101c.mp3

I love reading new and old feminists books - just to see how things have changed (or not). Definitely bookmarking this post for future reading!

-India Jones What is Spice?

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Do you express feminism in the way you dress?

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As I mentioned in my Gloria Steinem post, I've recently joined the Feminist Fashion Bloggers group here in the bloggysphere. Today, the group posts the following question for members' blogging consideration:

Do you express your feminism in the way you dress?

I dunno about you, but for me, that's really not an easy question. I believe that the small choices we make in our day-to-day lives have meaning. I believe they are part of our politics. Many people will tell you that wearing dresses, or heels, or makeup, or whatever, has nothing to do with feminism. I don't buy that. We have extremely different standards of dress, and standards of beauty, for women and for men. The decisions we make about how much to cooperate, or not cooperate, with those standards are not neutral.

For many years, my line in the sand was drawn just this side of makeup. I was never, I insisted, going to treat my life like a stage on which my features had to be grotesquely highlighted or downplayed with paint. You can see how that worked out...I started playing with makeup, discovered I liked it, and I was a goner from there. While I'm still determined not to become one of those people who refuses to leave the house without a full face on, I paint myself up more days than not.

So how to I justify it? Mostly, I don't. A long time ago, on a now-defunct feminist message board, folks uses to say that we "all make our deals with the patriarchy." This is, more or less, true--we all have things about which we've decided not to fight, either because they simply don't strike us as important, or because we need tor reserve our energy for things that are, to us, more vital. Clothing choices and makeup use are deals I choose to make. I recognize that I am not make the most feminist possible statement with my clothes, or my makeup, but it isn't important enough to me to be an area in which I take a stand.

Except when it is. I am an absolute advocate for widening the scope of what we call beautiful, especially for women. The idea that you are attractive only if you have the body of the moment, or only if you fit into a certain set of normative standards, is, bluntly, horseshit. In my own life, it's a constant struggle, but I try very hard to maintain a view of my body that focuses on my strength, my capacity to do things, my competence, rather than how I can manage to squeeze into norms that don't come in my size. Women should NOT all be trying to take up less space. I consciously remind myself of this, on a near daily basis. In this way, wearing heels has been oddly liberating--it's a reminder that it really is OK for me to be taller than the boys.

These issues are complicated. The intersection of feminism and fashion is one I haven't thought much about, mostly because I've tried not to think about it. It leads me to uncomfortable places. But I think it's a worthwhile exercise, and I'm really happy that this group is in existence. I'll be continuing to participate in whatever challenges I can, and I'll be reading with great interest.
You can find other answers to this particular question linked on Mrs Bossa's blog.

7 Comments

"The decisions we make about how much to cooperate, or not cooperate, with those standards are not neutral." - exactly. How can they be?

I really like your point about the priorities we make when we choose to fight. I personally have makeup way down the list too, but I still hate that there is a 'deal' at all...

I might put your 'women taking up less space' quote above my.mirror!

'it really is OK for me to be taller than the boys.'

I love this point!

"The intersection of feminism and fashion is one I haven't thought much about, mostly because I've tried not to think about it. It leads me to uncomfortable places. But I think it's a worthwhile exercise, and I'm really happy that this group is in existence"

Brave and admirable, ma'am!

It is so true that we each one choose our own battles and we cannot fight them all. One of your last lines has me pondering...my highest heels are just 3" and even at that I am often taller than my male colleagues. Heels have made me self-conscious for that reason, but perhaps that is a feeling I need to WORK on overcoming.

Love this post. Thanks for going there.

You made some really interesting points, which everyone else has already quoted, ha.
You're right, norms are so boring and our bodies are so amazing for what they can do, rather than just what they look like. Although I find it easy to see the beauty in women's physical appearance too.

I often don't wear makeup, but it's not a purposeful feminist statement. It's more that I'm too lazy to bother with applying makeup every day and I really just don't give a damn if anyone else likes it. I love playing with makeup, but I wear it when I want to and when the mood strikes me.

I suppose the fact that I don't care whether I'm wearing makeup or perfectly coifed hair is a statement of sorts. I enjoy being low maintenance and not feeling bad about being "plain." It's easier for me to get dirty if I'm not worried about my 'do.

Thanks for this post.

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30for30 Day 19: Inspired by Gloria

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As sick as I am getting of my 30for30 clothes (which are really 28for30, since I've declared two of my pieces unwearable), some days it's still fun to put things together. Today was one of those days. This outfit is dead simple, but I think it looks good, and it feels great. I love the super subtle pattern mixing, too (tights, belt, scarf).

30for30 Day 19

30for30 Day 19

30for30 Day 19

I'm wearing:
#5 Josephine Chaus black a-line skirt (also worn on Day #4)
#10 Ann Taylor short sleeved ruched black sweater (also worn on Day #4 and Day #6)
#26 Antia black lace-up wedges (also worn on Day #4, Day #9, Day #11, Day #14, and Day #18)

With:
-Land's End teal and black silk scarf (thrifted)
-narrow blue faux snakeskin belt (thrifted)
-silver matte bangle bracelets (no idea...)
-black patterned tights (DKNY, I think)

Now, will you believe me if I tell you that this outfit is inspired by Gloria Steinem? It totally is. There's this group called the Feminist Fashion Bloggers, which I have recently joined, and they hold blog events (days where the members all blog about the same thing). Today's event is "Fashionable Feminist Icon." So, we're all to post about a fashionable feminist icon. And I was so excited about mine I decided to try to create an outfit inspired by her today as well!

How, exactly, is this outfit inspired by Steinem? Well, I spent a good chunk of time last night going through pictures of her, and these were the common threads I found:

1. Gloria loves an all-black ensemble.
This seems to be true no matter what decade it is.

gloria all black.jpg
In all black in 2008, photo via StyleHive

gloria all black 1960s.jpg
In all black in the late 60s, photo via Smith College

2. Gloria always rocks a great belt.

conch shell belt gloria.jpg
In a wide conch shell belt in 2010, photo via The Harvard Gazette


In a 1970s macrame belt, photo via Gifted

3. Gloria has been wearing straight, center parted hair for 50 years.

long hair 1970s.jpg
Gloria's amazing mane in the 1970s, photo via Life Magazine

gloria hair 2009.jpg
The 2009 version of the same style, photo via Minnesota Public Radio

4. Gloria embraces glasses.

gloria big glasses.jpg
Rocking huge aviators in the 70s, photo via Life Magazine

big glasses 1993.jpg
Round frames, but still making a statement in 1993, photo via Getty Images

5. Gloria likes a nice scarf.

scarf 2010.jpg
An around-the-shoulders scarf in 2010, photo via Day Life

gloria scarf 2.jpg
A flowy, neck-looped number in 2008, photo via Digital Journal

So, when I got dressed this morning, I put these elements together. All black+great belt+long straight hair+glasses+a scarf. And that is how this outfit became a tribute to Gloria Steinem.

Power to women!

30for30 Day 19

Wanna check out the rest of the Feminist Fashion Bloggers' Feminist Style Icons?
Björk - Oranges and Apples

Christine Lagarde- Rags Against the Machine

Cindy Sherman - Mrs Bossa Does the Do

Claude Cahun - Cervixosaurus

Diane Von Furstenberg - For Those About to Shop

Elizabeth Smith Miller - Techie Style

Ellen Page - SK{ru}SH

Frida Kahlo - La Historiadora de Moda from Fashionable Academics

Frida Kahlo - Knitting Up the Ravelled Sleeve of Care

Gloria Steinem - Ef for Effort

Gloria Trevi - Feministified

Grandmother - The House in the Clouds

Griselda Pollock - Magic Square Foundation

Hedy Lamarr - Adventures in Refashioning

Marjane Satrapi - Jean of all Trades

Joan of Arc - Interrobangs Anonymous

Julia de Burgos - Mad Dress Game

Margaret Cho - What Are Years?

Oroma Elewa - Fishmonkey

P.J.Harvey - Northwest is Best

Rachel Carson - Aly en France

Siouxsie Sioux - Yo Ladies

Sydney Fox - My Illustrative Life

Vivienne Westwood - Seamstress Stories

15 Comments

This is such a great idea! I love the variety in all the FFB posts I've read today... and your outfit is also great, seemingly conservative-chic but subtly subversive in its allusion to a feminist icon!

Cheers,
poet

Oh, nicely documented!

So glad you put this together! Most people wouldn't view Steinem as a fashion icon, but she is in her own right.

Congrats on the shoutout on Twitter!
http://twitter.com/#!/YoLadies/status/43000972821270528

And a wonderful post and look!

Great outfit, great icon. Rock on!

It's an outfit victory!

Great ensemble and great inspiration! I totally have to recreate that look now. :)

#5 is from an event I was at to benefit the Women's Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (wrrap.org), a group I was on the Board of for 5 years!! Gloria was absolutely amazing that night.

From your boredom came a beautifully inspired look! (is there .html for a French accent?) "SUPERB!"

Great post! How did you manage to plan your 30 for 30 and make sure you had a Gloria Steinem outfit in the mix? Well done :) I like how you dressed the part today.

You rock! What a great post, and power right back at you. Sometimes simple is chic. I love the look!

HOLLA! I love the angle you took for this, and it's fortunate that you selected someone with such definable style. My pick for an icon was Ellen Page, and I'm planning to do a outfit inspired by her style for tomorrow.

I wonder if Gloria would say that boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses? Because I don't care - her glasses are bomb. =) Great work here!

What a great choice! Love how you analyzed Gloria's style elements, and especially love how you made that style your own for a day!

Also, thanks for stopping by my post on Hedy Lamarr! Disqus commenting was down (for a lot of people, I think) much of yesterday, so the comment box disappeared. Fun with tech gremlins.

Nice pick! She looks great - professional yet approachable. And so do you!

Ha, love the last photo! So glad you decided to join the group. Gloria is so cool - and that is definitely a successful wardrobe formula!

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This is what a feminist looks like

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The other day, the folks over at Fashionable Academics asked, "What does a feminist look like?" They asked feminist readers to submit a photo and a brief description of what feminism means to them. And I'll be linking them to this post in response.

I am a feminist. Feminism is the belief that systematic gender-based oppression of women exists, and that it is wrong and must be reversed. As a feminist, my goal is the eradication of this gender-based caste system, in and of itself and where it overlaps with class, race, sexuality, etc., resulting in true equality of all human beings.

And this what a feminist looks like (when she's being attacked by a stuffed honey badger):
Attack of the honey badger

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Very cute. I'm tempted to post a "This is what a feminist looks like when she's pregnant and playing Angry Birds on her iPhone" photo over on my blog. ;)

Thanks so much for participating! That picture is priceless!

Who says feminists don't have a sense of humor?

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Bite me, Superwoman 2010

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Have you seen Kelly Ripa's commercials for Electrolux? (If not, you clearly aren't watching enough daytime TV).

Here, catch up:

There's so much wrong here I barely know where to start. Where's her husband? This is ostensibly his house and these are ostensibly his kids, as well. And he doesn't have a fraction of the career she does. Shouldn't she have some help? Why is she writing off her (high paid, high pressure) job with a "but I'd rather entertain at home"? And most of all, good GOD, why is it acceptable to show a woman "doing it all" as if that's what we should all aspire to?

And then there's this gem, in which Ripa plays second fiddle to a single friend who is baking cupcakes for all the "hot guys" in her building. Yes, they are "all after her cupcakes." Really? REALLY?

I'm not the first person to be irritated by these throw back commercials. Kenny Darter from Hate On Me writes, "'The problem that has no name' has been identified, and it's called Kelly Ripa." Lemondrop lists the ads as #10 in their list of the most offensive ads to women. At Shakesville, SKM writes:

It would be comforting to think that Ripa's Electrolux ad is sending up the old '50s- early '60s image of the happy housewife made ever more productive by the modern appliances her husband buys. But there's no twist here, no subversion of the stereotype. Unless you count the fact that Ripa is a well-known full-time "career woman" (one of her other Electrolux ads shows her dashing from work to a home full of guests and glazed, passive children). The only new addition to the old 1960 model is that Ripa is both the happy housewife and the breadwinner.

It's that I keep coming back to. Not only is the "these appliances make my housework invisible and even less important!" trope about sixty years out of date (and it was gag-worthy the first time around), but the ads, and Ripa being who she is, make things even worse, implying that not only should a woman keep a perfect house and wait on everyone in it (can't her kids get their own snacks?), but she should also bring home the bacon and buy her own fancy appliances. And, of course, she should do it all smiling, perfectly made-up, and in size 0 designer jeans.

Clearly, commercials don't reflect reality--they'd never sell anything if they did. The ridiculousness of the ads isn't my gripe. My problem is that what is being shown is not the right fantasy. If the boundaries of what is humanly possible could be stretched to allow the perfect superwoman fantasy that Ripa plays in the commercials to exist, couldn't they also be stretched to allow us to do stuff that actually means something? If there were 40 hours in each of my days, as there would have to be in Ripa's for her to honestly host her talk show, play with her kids, have a dinner party, and provide her husband with family friendly nookie, I sure as hell wouldn't spend them doing laundry and making cookies, no matter how nice my appliances were. If we're going to sell women shit by showing them commercials full of superhuman famous people doing the impossible, I want them in capes, fighting crime, saving the innocent, not miraculously multi-tasking in their stylish houses.

When Kelly Ripa played Hayley Vaughan on All My Children, she started out as a punk rock teenager, then worked as a private investigator, was the CEO of a cosmetics company, opened a bar/restaurant and a salsa club with her husband, and became the host of a TV show. She eventually had a couple of kids as well, I think, but I don't remember ever seeing her do laundry. It's a sad state of things when I prefer the soap opera version.

2 Comments

basically agreed, 3 things:
1. I'd buy the first commercial as a plea to single moms IF she didn't POINTEDLY say she's a party "co-host."

2. I have only seen the first one on tv and I assumed she wasn't playing herself....do we know she is? Are those her real kids?

3. The appliances actually interest me but are in no way really described. Bummer. KENMORE POWER! :)

You are missing the joke. The theme music is from "Bewitched." They are clearly implying that, to do everything that perfectly, you must have sold your soul to the devil.

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Bite me, Go Daddy

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There have been rants all over the place for a long time about Go Daddy's smarmy and sexist advertising. Remember the Super Bowl ad? Well, I'd almost forgotten it. I've never used Go Daddy, but also hadn't given them a lot of thought lately.

Then, just now, I saw a Go Daddy ad on TV, featuring the "old Go Daddy Girl" schooling the "New Go Daddy Girl" on what would be expected of her. And then the ultra disgusting CEO popped up and made the innuendo that she'd also be expected to strip for his pleasure or something. I wish I could find it online, but I don't see it anywhere. Anyway, you've probably seen it. It's real class.

So, PSA: Go Daddy is not the only place to secure a reasonably priced URL. Mine are through Domain Site. I pay about $18 for two years of ownership on each domain, have had no issues, and they aren't, as far as I know, sexist asswipes.

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Whiteout review on HC

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BlogHer as women's space

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So that last post about sexist shirts at BlogHer? Should have thought a bit more about what I was biting off before I hit publish on that one. Not that I take back a single word of it--I don't--but I wasn't quite prepared to have so much response.

Reading through the comments, I'm struck by the number of people who are offended that I implied that men shouldn't be at BlogHer at all. I hadn't really considered that opinion to be surprising. That there are a group who prefer that women's spaces are women-only spaces is pretty much a truism in any sort of feminist activity. The debate over whether or to what degree men should participate goes hand in hand with most feminist events. It's an argument that's often just not worth having anymore, because people's minds are made up and everybody just gets pissed off. (If you want to read a bit more about why women-only spaces are needed, there is a pretty good article at Rad Geek People's Daily.) Personally, I am of the opinion that there are some spaces that ought to be reserved for women exclusively, that claims that this is "reverse sexism" ought to be met with nothing more than an eye-roll, and that men who insist that they, too, belong in these spaces are much more interested in their own egos than they are in actually supporting women.

The question remains, however: is BlogHer one of those spaces?

Until this time around, I honestly hadn't thought it was. BlogHer's mission statement is: "To create opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community, and economic empowerment." When asked if guys could be at BlogHer, the founders responded resoundingly that that they could. "Gentlemen, if you are interested in learning more about women who blog, please accept our invitation to the greater blogging community to attend BlogHer conferences." That was their ruling, it is their organization, and it made sense to me. Men who were interested in learning more about and supporting female bloggers, are welcome. I'm down with that. It's not a protected, women-only space, but it's a woman-centered one. Women who blog are, put simply, the point.

I met, I think, two men at BlogHer 07. They both seemed to clearly understand that they were there in support of women, not as their own interest group. They weren't second-class citizens in BlogHer's world, but they were aware that they weren't the focus, and they were fine with that.

That is what I saw as changed this year. It wasn't just the t-shirts, which I've already discussed and I don't want to get into again. It was the "noise," for lack of a better word, that the presence of guys this year seemed to make. They had their own panel, which I mentioned, but there was something else, as well. Something a bit less tangible. A friend (who I won't identify in case she doesn't want to be brought into this shit storm) said that it seemed like just showing up with a penis made men at BlogHer special. I got that feeling too. And, for me, at does take away from the mission.

It is telling to me that in their comments on my post about their shirts, neither Adam (Avitable) or Karl (Secondhand Karl) mentioned wanting to support women as being their reason for attending the conference. In mind, that is the essential difference between the men who should be at BlogHer and the ones who shouldn't. And there is no way to keep out the ones who are there for the wrong reasons.

So what to do? Previous to having read the comments on my last post, I would have suggested a woman-only conference policy. Not that it's going to happen, but that would have been my position. Reading through the comments, though, I am realizing that maybe it is me who is in the BlogHer minority. I think of BlogHer as a women's conference. Other people don't. And if you don't think of it that way, of course the idea of making it women-only is ridiculous. Maybe I'm injecting feminism where there simply isn't any.

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Have you brought your concerns/feelings to the attention of the organizers of BlogHer? It certainly doesn’t seem congruent with the mission statement of BlogHer for you to feel less welcome at the conference than a couple of sexist retards in stupid t-shirts. (and one need look no further than the pictures on Karl’s blog to dismiss his apologists who insist that he isn’t sexist, or a retard)
If you think the vibe/direction of the conference is heading away from women’s empowerment and the original spirit of the event, I’m sure the organizers would want to hear about it. Maybe they can consider changes that would facilitate a more positive experience for all, or maybe at the very least they will be more selective about what is acceptable attire for attendees.
Then again, maybe they wouldn’t do anything different at all, but at least you would have spoken your mind, and if BlogHer chooses to alienate some women to cater to a few men, then you’ll know its not the conference for you.

I haven't been to BlogHer, but in everything that I read about it, I assumed that it was a woman-only environment.

That was uncool of me to use that word (and to put them in the same category as Karl)
Sorry on both counts.

I have problems with men being at BlogHer. I am related to someone who is a Free Mason (which is a secret male fraternity). I bet anything the Masons would push any female away if they dared to ask to be a part of their society.

Why is it that females have to share their territory, but yet fraternal male societies do not?

Sorry that is my personal rant. Not that I ever would want to be a Free Mason but I think that events that are designed to promote women, should stay for women.

Stopping by for an ICLW visit...
No. 95: The Unfair Struggle (male-factor infertility, good friends, neighborhood rumblings)

Its too bad the discussion of this topic seems to bring out the vitriolic commenters. Everyone has a right to their opinion and everyone has a right to disagree.

~ICLW

I once dared ask a big BH blogger about men and BH and was rewarded with a virtual visit from BH founders to tell me why I was a bad, evil sexist woman. Kind of like watching a grown woman call mommy to defend her, because she wouldn't deal with me directly - and this was electrons on a screen, not a person in an offensive shirt who seems to have thralls waiting to defend his every asshat move.

Same sort of apologist bullshit as you have seen. Maybe it is because I am old enough to recognize that sexism is still wrong, even if you snicker at the pun, but I see yet another group that will go down in flames because they let guys like this trash the safety of the space.

I applaud you for bringing this up. Watching ElisaC and others making excuses for BH on twitter is more amusing than the conference must have been. Besides, I found a few new bloggers, like you, and I'll be back. Probably using my real name...but not this time, just don't need the hate.

I've been reading your blog with a great deal of interest as of late. I applaud that you were willing to express what you felt, and I tend to agree that those shirts really had no business being at BlogHer (or the bodies that filled the shirts).

That said, I find it is always a fine line between equality and exclusivity. I went to a women's college, and I had men in all my classes except for our freshman required courses. I liked this because it gave me an opportunity to see what types of reactions men had in a mostly female environment. And they varied--most were supportive and collaborative. Some were just obviously curious. And a remote few were boneheaded punks who clearly just had something to prove and were probably compensating. :) A little microcosm of the world at large, no?

I'm generally against categories like "women bloggers," "women composers," "women whatever." It implies separate but separate. While there is no question that men and women are different, there is enough variety within each gender that I think we start to make dangerous assumptions about what constitute "women's issues" or "men's issues" when we try to create these broad categories.

Lastly, to address the Free Masons example given above. I think a secret fraternal order (which does, actually have a female counterpart: Eastern Star/ Job's Daughters) is a little different than a conference of bloggers. Blogging, by its very nature, is out there, for all to see. And I think if you are willing to partake in such a public medium, you've got to recognize that it really can't be an exclusive club.

Men are a part of a woman blogger's audience, and in a conference that is designed to help women learn about blogging and grow their blog while developing their writing skills, ignoring that part of the audience wouldn't make sense.

I wasn't there to support women. Women bloggers have plenty of support - they're the majority among personal/life bloggers. I was there to provide my perspective on women blogging, which is a valuable one.

If BlogHer's statement was "A community by women, of women, where women can be safe and open up without the pressure of the opposite sex", I would never have gone to the conference.

And, once again, I respected the conference itself by not wearing my T-shirt anywhere except two parties afterwards. I also volunteered at the reception desk for six full hours during the conference. I'd prefer that my actions speak for themselves.

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Silence and sexism at BlogHer 09

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I've tweeted about this a couple of times over the past two days, but I'm writing about it here, too. I apologize for the redundancy--I guess I'm more than 140 characters worth of pissed off.

BlogHer is, as far as I know, an organization which considers promotion of women in blogging to be among its primary goals, if not its very utmost purpose. The conference, in general, reflects this goal. There are some missteps, but the atmosphere is, in general, one I would consider pro-woman.

The attendance, while not 100% female, is very largely so. I haven't seen more than 20 or 30 male attendees since I've been here.

The first one I saw just after arriving, at a restaurant in the hotel. I noticed him due to his shirt. It showed a graphic of a woman with her breasts exposed, her nipples replaced by @ signs. It read "show me your tweets."

Then, not an hour later, I saw a man sporting a shirt saying something along the lines of "I love mommy bloggers--they put out." The next day, the same man attended a party, hosted by an ostensibly feminist website, sporting a shirt reading "I am having very spiritual thoughts about your breasts" or some similar nonsense.

This is not OK. It's not just that these shirts are crude and demeaning, though they are. It's that these men are making a point to bring these crude and demeaning words and images into what is, or should be, women's space. They're the visitors here. This is our culture.

I know who both of the t-shirt wearing bloggers are. Both of them advertised their blog names on the offensive shirts. Getting that kind of attention, clearly, was the purpose (and no, I won't be linking to them). That does nothing towards making it acceptable. Clearly, it is successful--after all, I hadn't heard of either of them before noticing their shirts (though it's not like I'm rushing out to add them to my reader now). But, at the cost of alienating and offending women--the people for whom this space was created--are a few extra hits on your site worth it?

The grrl power vibe at BlogHer can get a little bit nauseating at times. There are lots of people around talking about women as tastemakers, as marketing targets, and as important, cutting edge users of new media. Why, if we're such an important and respected cohort, are we here, in what should be a space in which we make the rules and issue the invitations, dealing with exactly the same stupid, sexist shit we face every day everywhere else?

There is a breakout session for men at BlogHer this year. The title has something to do with being vaginally challenged. Space, it seems, has been made for the guys who chose to come here. I wonder why? Isn't every other technical conference in the world space enough? Do we need to cater to them here, too?

Most of the women to whom I have spoken about these shirts (though thankfully not all of them, or this would likely be my last BlogHer) seem willing to roll their eyes, laugh them off, and not think much more about it. I have no idea whether they really aren't bothered, or whether it's just easier not to think much about it. It's easier, when you are a woman and something offends you, to pretend it doesn't, lest you be labeled a prude or a killjoy.

Well I'm taking a stand on this one. I'm fucking offended. Really fucking offended. These shirts, in whatever small way, undermine the whole point of being here for me. If I wanted to hang out with sexist geek guys, there are lots of other places I could be. Pretty much any place, actually.

All this rah-rah pro-woman stuff is great. I get as choked up about the beauty of seeing a ballroom full of girl geeks all deep in conversation as the next person. But how seriously can I really take it when, among all those rad women, are a few assholes using their very bodies to advertise just how little they really respect the people who created this great space? When, even though we have a numerical advantage that is well more than overwhelming, nobody approaches them, nobody calls them out? What is the real message? The one I'm reading is coming through pretty damn clearly. Even here, in a space made by and for women, a space focused on the power of our thoughts and communication, rather than our bodies, we can easily be reduced to pieces of meat, intended for the pleasure and amusement of even just a few men. And we let them do it. All these forums to tell our stories and share our thoughts, and mostly, we'll all be silent.

90 Comments

This sounds absolutely disgusting. I hope that you're able to say something. I'm so ticked off just reading about it.

The reason I attended BlogHer is because I am not a tech blogger or a geek blogger. I am a personal blogger, and male personal bloggers are a minority among life/personal bloggers.

The T-shirt I designed and had printed was quite simply mocking the stupidity of the Girls Gone Wild concept, a concept that I find to be sexist and exploitative, and replacing that type of hysteria that goes on in those videos with the rampant usage of Twitter.

In order to avoid marginalizing the point of the conference, I specifically abstained from wearing my shirt during any of the official conference sessions. I only wore it to two parties, and walking to and from those parties to my room. And, in fact, when you saw me standing in the ROYO, I was not wearing that shirt, or any type of T-shirt with any slogan at all.

I'm not trying to deny that the shirt has some sexist undertones, nor that I was ignorant of the fact that it might be offensive to a few people. I know this and I'm okay with it. It was also funny. And anytime that someone decides to get offended instead of laughing, a baby gets AIDS.

This is my 4th BlogHer. Most of my friends are women. You don't know me, I don't think we have met, but I'd like to.

The gals who know me know that I am all talk and no bite. I truly do not want to offend, though I jokingly mention how the opposite is true. I am a terminal smartass, very pro-women, and merely looking for laughs. Mostly, laughs are what my shirts generate.

Believe it or not, I fight severe social anxiety. It takes a lot of work fror me to come here every year. My shirts are a way for me to break the ice and have people initiate talk with me, so I don't have to. They also serve to keep the humorless away from me, which is a bonus.

I doubt you willwant to get together, and I am sorry about that. The fact is I am almost the polar opposite of the image my shirts may convey. I am a total marshmallow.

I know both male bloggers you're referring too.

While I think their sense of humor is a little "off" from the mainstream sometimes, I do not, for one second, believe they are sexists to the point that you describe them in this post.

I think they wanted to draw attention because they are the anomaly there in Chicago right now.

I really don't think either of them set out to piss someone off to the point of a post like this.

That is hysterical! Have you truly lost any sense of humor? You say you "know" who the 'offensive' bloggers are but do you KNOW them? I do, and they are the most loving, caring,sensitive men who simply love women. I am very proud to call both of them my friend!

Isn't there anything else happening in the world that is more deserving of your outrage?

What you don't know is that both of these "offensive" bloggers happen to have the biggest hearts possible. BOTH of them took an opportunity last year to make something quite special and memorable happen for three terrific kids. Neither of them hesitated for a moment when they were told what was going on with these three kids. Both of them would give the offensive shirt off of their back(s) if they felt it would benefit someone with a need. Life is too short to take something like this as demeaning to females. These events are for networking. Getting noticed. Obviously, their choice of networking worked, because you remembered the men AND you remembered the exact phrases from their shirts. I'd say in the long run, it worked for them and I imagine that those that were "offended" are probably far outnumbered by those who are capable of actually laughing it off and continuing to have a good time...and I don't know... maybe even taking the time to actually get to know who you're lambasting!

I too know both of these men. They are both awesome people and excellent bloggers, and wouldn't wear these shirts with the intent to offend anyone, but if they do, it's certainly not going to keep them from wearing them again. I think you have probably just spawned the birth of a whole new crop of t-shirts for BlogHer2010.

I think the shirts are hilarious and bring a bit of humor and fun to an arena that can often be nerve wracking for some, as Karl pointed out.

Seems to me blogging has gotten to be a little clique like lately, like you are less of a blogger if you're not a "mommy blogger" or don't document every time your child wipes his or her respective butt. I'm a personal blogger as well, and I'll be at BlogHer 2010.

Wait til you see what I'm wearing... ;0

Sure, they are just socially awkward weenies who find it easy to break the ice by offending with harmless humor. They also attend the BET awards with big N-words on T-Shirts and dressed up like Grand Wizzards of the KKK. It's a real hoot you know and it keeps the people with no sense of humor away. Read these guys tweets and you will see it's not just their T-Shirts that are offensive. The fact that there are women defending them or going along with it is offensive! There are plenty of husbands at home who would love to "meet" them too. They are just joking though... Unless your into it.

I think women laugh it off because we've been taught to take it with a smile.

Karl, sexism and the objectification of women isn't funny and not a great conversation starter. You need to study the history of women and take a look at what's really going on out there.

Don't you think that you're giving them an additional platform by blogging about it and bringing it to the limelight?

Yes, idiots will be idiots, and yes, it's in our inner nature to show the world when someone does something stupid.

However, that being said, tTaking a local "statement" and making it a national "platform" is giving into exactly the narcissism that feeds such lunatics..

They feel they're combating sexism, and in a way, they are. People automatically assume that sexism is male vs. female, but it can (and much of the time is) the other way around.

Discount them as the fools they are, (and they are) and let them fade out into the shadows.

It's the most fitting end for such idiocy.

Honestly? I'm not offended. Not by the idea of males at blogHER or by the shirts.
I might not count, since I'm not there myself, but...

I would probably wear the tweet one myself. Would it be less offensive if a man wasn't the one wearing it? (idle curiosity, not snarkiness)

Did you check out either of their blogs before making your assumptions about what type of people they are? Oh wait, you might want to stay away from Avitables, merely because I can tell by your blog you are not the type of person who would "get" the humor. He's a different brand of crazy that fits in with a select group of people. And both bloggers, I can assure you, are big teddy bears.

You might want to check out ALL the facts before letting the estrogen-fest of BlogHer affect your decisions.

It's really not that much different than women wearing "You Bet Your Pierogies I'm Polish" to a polka party.

Sometimes a joke and sarcasm is just a joke and sarcasm. And it was worn in appropriate areas from what I understand.

Wow. I can't imagine how, under any circumstances, that sort of public display of sexism would be tolerated. Maybe they think it's funny or cute or what the hell ever. It's plain and simply disgusting and even more disgusting that it's being tolerated at a woman-centered event.

Grace, I feel like I get where you're coming from on this. That we as a culture can laugh off something that is completely degrading to women is alarming. Sure maybe these people can get away with being crude and sexist in their daily lives, but it really shouldn't be tolerated at blogher.

That said, I'm not there. I never will attend a blogher since it just doesn't interest me (your post is one more reason to add to my list why not!). I've met so many amazing women IRL that I know because of my blog, which is more than I can hope for.

Keep fighting!

I'm older than most women blogs. I marched with other women to do away 'men's clubs' and the like. Now you want 'women's clubs'? Some of my friends gave up a lot to give you younger women the rights that you enjoy. I hope that I don't live long enough to see reverse discrimination of the sexes.
By the way, I read both of those men's blogs every day. They are hilarious.

Sadly, this is a lot of what I expected. People insisting that the problem is me, because I'm easily offended and have no sense of humor and don't really know these guys. Why the fuck would I want to know someone whose first impression was one of "I'm invading a space in which you previously felt secure and displaying demeaning comments about your gender"? Why would I reward that type of insult with effort on my part to find out who you "really" are? What a big fuzzy teddy bear and how big-hearted and all that shit? Have you rewarded my calling you on this behavior with an in-depth view of my archives, just to make sure your first impression was right and I really am a screaming humorless shrew?

I am far more concerned with the reaction of other women than I am of the reasoning of the dudes who wore these shirts. I asked for their responses to this post, for the sake of transparency, but I'm not at all impressed withe the rationale. You didn't think anybody would be upset? Bullshit. If that was the case, you wouldn't have bothered, and you certainly wouldn't have decided it was too offensive for some circumstances and just right for others.

So women, both here at the conference a not: do you think this is funny? Appropriate? Is this something you enjoy seeing in space reserved for you?

I've only met one of the bloggers you deem as offensive (Karl), but having read both blogs for the better part of the last 15 months, I can honestly say this armchair judging based solely on apparel is a bit much.

I understand the desire to have a women's only group to bond and collectively share opinions and stories, but it screams a bit too loudly as some sort of banishment movement.

The statement "if you can't laugh at yourself, then you are taking life too seriously" rings true here.

I stand by Karl and Avitable's choice of t-shirts, knowing them better than you do. Get to know them and you may change your mind someday.

I know Avitable and Karl, and until you've met them, you really can't judge their true characters. Perhaps the shirts are a way to break the ice and to weed out people without a sense of humor. Perhaps you might learn to stop judging someone based on what they're wearing.
Or, go about and be pissed - it's certainly your option. However, you're missing out on knowing two of the greatest people I know. Period.

The two you are referring to are far from trying to hurt others feelings. It's a way to laugh, joke, have fun, throw that little extra "funny" during the weekend. If you knew these two, you'd know what they meant and why they wear the shirts they do on certain occasions.

Don't judge a book by its cover until you know who just exactly who you are talking about.

I respect your right to voice your opinion on your own blog, but I wish you would try to be more understanding. I would be offended if there was a BlogHim and women were looked down upon for attending. For "invading a space in which you previously felt secure." This is the 21st century. There should be no need to separate men and women. I'm a girl. And I cuss just as much as the men, and I talk about sex just as much. Why is sexuality something to be hidden, ignored? I'm proud of my boobs and every other part of my body.

I know Karl and he is the sweetest, funniest, most marshmallowy man I know. Of course he knew it would offend some. But for every woman it offends, there are fifteen that laugh. He's not trying to disrespect you, babes. He appreciates and adores women.

Is it possible it's your own insecurities causing this? Seems to me that you feel like you're less than a man. I feel I'm equal to men, and will joke about their penis more than they'll ever joke about my boobs. Sex is a good thing. Why stifle it?

In response to the comments from this blog: A little bit of sexism or a lot of sexism.... it doesn't matter how much someone is sexist... the fact is that they acted/behaved in a sexist manner that offended someone. And that is enough to be angry at!

I've never been to BlogHer anymore... but from what I've been hearing from this blog and others, I'm not sure if I want to attend in the future. Men do not need to infiltrate every aspect of women's lives. Men do not need to have their hand in everything. Some places, events, can be sacred for women. It is offensive to me, and I wasn't even there, that men decided to put denigrating images/slogans of women on t-shirts and paraded around like it was no big deal. This kind of behavior, being unchecked, unchallenged is how women continue to be oppressed.

SILENCE = DEATH

Speak out! Say something about these men! Do not allow them to taint what BlogHer stands for by allowing them to 1)attend or two 2)wear these types of shirts. They should be respecting the environment they are in and respecting them women who so bravely put themselves out to put BlogHer together!

Don't believe the hype that others may tell that this kind of behavior should just be laughed at and blown off. Don't believe the hype that their behavior is acceptable. IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE and IT SHOULD NOW BE BLOWN OFF!!

I applaud you for writing this blog! I applaud you for not staying silent!

I'm not attending the blogher conference, but I have seen at least one of the shirts you describe, as I read Avitable's blog. I thought it was funny when I saw it there, and it didn't even occur to me to be offended. I like men, however, and am comfortable joking about sex.
This is my first time reading your blog, but I think your real gripe comes out in the end. Your main problem seems to be that men are present at the conference at all.

I'm not even 100% sure what this BlogHer thing is about, just been reading about it on Twitter. 1. Those guys are GROSS and how have they not been beaten to death yet?! and 2. I would be getting nauseated with all the womenly love stuff too!

I think those types of shirts at a women's conference are probably not the smartest idea, but neither do I find the idea completely offensive. If they get knocked upside the head for it, they'll know better next year.

Seriously?


I can see you marching outside of the hotel - with signs..

"Hell NO, make them GO"...

I find it amusing that Avitable's army has once again lined up in support of this jerk because that is one of the many many things he finds offensive on other people's blogs. He isn't a marshmallow or a great guy. He's a bad bad person with no respect for anyone other than himself. He finds it amusing to use and create swears that are even more offensive than the usual. His deal IS to offend. If he isn't offending, he's in misery. People have advised you Grace to check out his website because it is supposed to prove what a great guy he is. One look at his banner should give you a clue as to his real nature.

I too, find the shirts offensive. But Blogher is such a ridiculous organization that if men want to pay the charge to attend, they'll "overlook" what blogher is really about. Money is the only thing that speaks at Blogher. Any organization that would welcome that level of offense to the vast majority of the attendees doesn't really give a shit about their members. If they did, Avitable wouldn't be allowed to attend because the guy absolutely hates anyone but himself and his huge questionable ego.

Margalit dear - is that you?

I'm friends with both of these men in real life so I take the stance that they are very decent men. However, it doesn't matter what I think of them...not for this post anyway.

Their t-shirts are offensive. I've told them both numerous times that I don't find them to be funny but once my peace was said, I let it go.

Live and let live.

I'm a little concerned with the following statement:

" Why the fuck would I want to know someone whose first impression was one of "I'm invading a space in which you previously felt secure and displaying demeaning comments about your gender"? Why would I reward that type of insult with effort on my part to find out who you "really" are?"

Why would you not want to get a better look? Why would you, as what I am assuming is a woman who is all about the feminism and girl power not want to meet them and at least have the courage to go up to them, face to face, and have a logical and friendly discussion about why you don't like these shirts? Furthermore, why do you want to judge a book by its cover? You obviously seem hurt that people are judging you as a raving lunatic feminazi without reading your blog so how is it fair for you to generalize someone the same way...over a shirt?

They allow men at BlogHer. You have the choice, as a strong woman, to let them rent space in your head and somewhat control you or to actually let it go and reclaim yourself.

This stuff right here? This is the reason I don't go to BlogHer despite having many friends there.

Bravo, Grace. Not only do you have the guts to speak up about the latent sexism that women commit against other women, but you took on some of the cool kids.

Avitable will get away with that because he's in the cool clique. And the truth is that he's cool because most of his fans are too scared they'll be the victim of his slightly psycho wrath that they just kiss his ass all the time. It's just like in junior high, sadly. The "cool" kids are actually just bullies.

If an anony blogger showed up with that shirt, these same women may take it a little more seriously.

As cliche as it sounds, if you replaced a racist cliche with those sexists comments, fewer people would be ok with it. But, IMHO, sexism is still one of that last "isms" that we culturally support. BlogHer has seemed something of a joke to me touting "women" and then giving away swiffers and washers and dryers (seriously?).

Anyways............I completely agree with you. I'm a pretty chill person but it always amazes me how little we actually recognize just how sexist we are these days, and how we make excuses for it to continue.

Great blog.

While I don't agree with what you're written here, I think you've made your point well and are entitled to your opinion.
Adam and Karl are friends of mine and I assure you, their t-shirts, however they made you feel, were in no way malicious. They both truly have good hearts and are very good friends with many in our community. They have brought a lot to BlogHer in terms of making people think and perhaps the shirts were their way of breaking the ice.

I am amazed at all the "I know Karl and Adam, and they're great guys so you shouldn't judge them!" posts.

Please.

Not everyone knows Karl and Adam. And, I'm sorry, but first impressions do count. I'm not at BlogHer. If I saw a guy on the street wearing a shirt like that? Not only would I NOT think "Oh, these guys must be fluffy marshmallows of love who have social anxiety disorder and are just trying to make fun of sexism!" - I would be highly uncomfortable.

It's like when my grandfather would use the "n-word" and talk about "darkies" -- but he was my grandpa! he had a heart of gold! He had friends who were black! It was just how he was raised! I was still uncomfortable and embarassed to be around him, because no matter the context, it wasn't okay.

I'm with you. I found both shirts irritating and obnoxious. I don't know either of the wearers, either, so the only way I can interpret the shirts are as obnoxious. As I noted at lunch, I have a button on my backpack that has a picture of a little girl laughing and says, "Mommy says Republican is another word for fucker." I find this button funny, and I know that people who don't know anything about me may interpret it to mean that I am completely intolerant of Republicans (when I'm just mostly intolerant of them). Wearing a t-shirt or button with a statement makes a statement. If you don't want to make a statement that may be interpreted incorrectly, don't wear it. Bah!

Hi Grace, I didn't see the shirts but from the way you describe them, I wouldn't have liked them either. I have a question though.

Did you say anything to either of these guys when you saw them wearing the shirts?

I don't have a problem with men at BlogHer, I actually think it's great. But if these particular guys are as sensitive to women as some of the commenters here are saying, they chose the wrong way to show it.

Megan

Good for you, Grace. I'm glad you have the courage to stand up for your convictions. I for one am tired to death of being called a killjoy for being offended by sexism. "Oh, you must have no sense of humour, bla bla."

News flash, guys--I happen to know Grace, and she has a great sense of humour: the issue here is that your t-shirts just aren't funny, they're sexist and misogynist. And I refuse to believe that someone who wears a t-shirt with a sexist slogan is as nice of a guy as all that. I don't care how soft and fuzzy and kind to children you are. I'm sorry, but my definition of "nice" just doesn't include blatant sexism.

Men who wear sexist shirts to an event geared at women may be really nice people to their friends, they may even be kind to small children, but respectful to women they're not.

They may even be nice to women they know. That doesn't make the shirts appropriate. It sounds like the racist who denies their racism with the claim "Some of my best friends are black!"

Women who are offended by the shirts don't need to gain a sense of humor; those men need to gain some sensitivity. (As do the women who think it just fine, too.)

Makes me wonder if they're not just getting off on wearing something overtly sexual on their manly chests while surrounded by all those womanly breasts.

I am here in Chicago and I saw most of the shirts you referred to in your post. However, I think that your expectations for BlogHer were so different than mine that we might as well have been attending different conferences altogether.

I never looked to BlogHer to be a "space reserved for [me]." BlogHer's stated mission is about creating "opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community, and economic empowerment." The community I live in includes men. The exposure I seek on my blog includes an audience of men. I derive a level of education from blogs, including those written by men. Men are a part of my life and I don't feel that they are, or should be made to feel, like they are invading someone's space by participating in a conference on something they're passionate about, just as I am.

I hadn't met Karl or Avitable before this weekend, so I'm not coming from a place of long-standing support. But even if I hadn't met them, I would think that the level, non-attacking and respectful comments they left for you here speak just as loudly, if not more so, than their shirts.

If you choose to be offended by them entirely, however, I have to respect that. But asking to make BlogHer some sort of sacred "female-only" space offends me. Kicking men out because you don't like how some of them present themselves in that space is, to me, short-sighted and as sexist as you feel their shirts were.

(1) Having read your post before the comments, I'll say that I would probably have gone up to both male bloggers and commented on the inappropriateness of what they were wearing, given the audience. I can understand your hesitance to do so - both in not causing a scene, and in not wanting to make them feel uncomfortable either. Probably for the best.

Having read the comments, I'm nauseated by all the apologists. How can you attend BlogHer or support that community and still laugh off a tacitly offensive/objectifying message that these apparently awesome-hearted men were advertising as a way to meet people? There are new attendees every year who don't know about the kind hearts, and to all of them the message is saying that not even BlogHer is safe from a little discrimination.

I am with C. Lo above - if it was a tacit message of racism it wouldn't be appreciated, no matter what color the conference was aimed at. This has nothing to do with a sense of humor, and nothing to do with Grace being some sort of man-hating feminist. It has to do with decency.

Maybe it takes a male feminist not to be an apologist.

(2) I have always wanted to attend BlogHer. I know I don't jive with the "Her" part, but I always feel more protected and included in female-oriented communities than male ones. With the next on in NYC I am seriously considering attending.

Grace, I'd love to chat a bit in a non-public channel about your perception of the experience/utility of the event for male attendees.

Whether or not their shirts are offensive, what I find troubling is your insistence that men shouldn't be allowed at Blogher. It seems to me this is a step backwards for women. You're putting us into two camps, but for people to be equal they need to co exist. What about the women who fought to golf where they wanted to golf? So we have to go everywhere men can go, but men can't go where women can go? I'm confused about what part of this is pro woman.

Hello there!

Nopes I was not at BlogHer, and I obviously did not know which two male bloggers you are talking of (till I read the comments).

Everybody is entitled to have an opinion and so are you!

I would have ignored the smartass slogans...

ICLW

there is something known as "class"...and either you have it or you don't.

i do believe the two males SOP is not having any.

i don't know that banning men from the conference is the answer so much as hoping their enablers will start enabling them to grow up.

I'll say up from that I'm a guy. I just want to say, Grace is absolutely right.

"This armchair judging based solely on apparel is a bit much."

Perhaps the point isn't to judge the men, but the t-shirts, and the context in which the t-shirts were worn. The t-shirts, as described, are sexist. If the men were as "nice" as their defenders make them out to be, they would apologize instead of justifying their behaviour.

Grace also has a legitimate concern that BlogHer women would smile and make nice in the face of such obviously sexist provocation.

Chattykathy writes, "One look at Avitable's banner should give you a clue as to his real nature." I googled avitable and she's right. A picture of a smiling Hitler, and the slogan, "tact is for pussies"?

I see: real men denigrate women and mock "pussies" and holocaust victims. Ha, ha. Avitable is such a nice guy.

I have one small gripe with your post, Grace. You shouldn't have expressed your preference that men not be allowed to attend BlogHer in this context. You gave your critics an easy point of counter-offensive: BlogHer might welcome men who don't happen to be jerks.

Grace, I don't have a lot to add but wanted to offer my support. I get sad and frustrated whenever this kind of apologist bullshit goes on - which, when the subject is sexism, happens all too often and too often, by women. I guess the mistake you made was assuming that BlogHer 09 was interested in providing safe space for women - apparently not - and that's a great shame. Good on you for calling it just as you saw it.

I didn't attend BlogHer 09, but after reading this blog post (which I found by way of Karl's blog, by the way - read what you will into THAT), I had a couple of thoughts.

The first was that, when you are offended by something someone does or says, it's always best to deal with it *in the moment*. If BlogHer is really a space meant to empower women, then it should have empowered you to approach Karl and Avitable directly and let them know how you felt. But to resort to writing about it in a blog post smacks of the kind of passive aggressive bullshit that drives me crazy. Got a problem with me, and I fully expect you to let me know at the time. Writing a pissy post about it after the fact makes me, quite honestly, give your beef less credit. It's also disrespectful to both men in a way women have been subjected to for centuries.

As for the subject of the shirts themselves - well, personally I don't get offended that easily. If the other women present didn't approach either man with complaints, then they must not have been as offended either. To assume that other women didn't complain because of the oppression we have been subjected to for years (instead of just the possibility that they weren't offended), is patently insulting.

Simply put - yes, these t-shirts could be interpreted as sexist. But they're just t-shirts. If you can't distinguish between sexism as oppression, and a silly sexist t-shirt, then you have bigger problems than I thought.

But if you were offended (and of course, that's your right)? Then speak up. I thought that was one of the lessons we were being taught at BlogHer. I (and probably a lot of other people) will take you more seriously next time if you do.

I didn't read all of the comments, but I read about half of them. I know both of these guys in real life. Avitable is the guy who sent me a personalized t-shirt with my picture/blog icon on it and the words "I AM STRONG" when I was having doubts about being able to get my black belt and fight back after a major injury. Karl is the guy with virtually no cash who, despite this, flew from FL to PA to meet with his good friend Lisa (Clusterfook) before she passed away from cancer a few months ago. He spent some time at my house one afternoon while here and was completely broken apart and trying to figure out whatever he could do to make life easier for Lisa and her family. He was like an angel to them. Personally, every interaction I've had with Karl and Adam has been a positive one. Sure, the t-shirts may seem a little "off" but I think the reason women are jumping to defend them is not because we're in denial about women's issues, but because we personally know these guys and know that they show nothing but complete respect to women they have interactions with (at least to me).

Do I think the t-shirts are appropriate at BlogHer? I don't know, but one thing is for sure. If I was there and was offended by them, I would have said something to them in person instead of remaining quiet and then ranting on my blog, complete with some pretty serious name-calling. I'm not trying to be nasty. I'm just stating a fact. Maybe if you had spoken with them and told them how you felt about it in a honest and forthright matter, you wouldn't be so pissed about it now.

That being said, you have every right to be pissed about it and feel how you want; but you shouldn't expect every woman to jump on the bandwagon and/or condemn those women who don't. It's not a women's issue; it's a personal one about how you take things and how you approach the situation.

I was there. Saw the shirts. Loved the shirts. Thought they were well thought out. Smart. Self-reflexive. We were obviously not intended to take them seriously.... I can SEE how peeps can be offended, totally. But, if you know these men -- they're SUPER SMART -- you know they're not being exploitative but sending an actually very interesting and intelligent message. I want to commend them for their creativity.

Stephen - If it was just a judgment of apparel, then your statement would be correct. However, I again point out the following statement:

" Why the fuck would I want to know someone whose first impression was one of "I'm invading a space in which you previously felt secure and displaying demeaning comments about your gender"? Why would I reward that type of insult with effort on my part to find out who you "really" are?"

The person writing this post is clearly judging the people in the shirts as well.

Also, were someone to roast me at their blog, then publicly call me out and ask me to "defend myself" on Twitter, as Grace did, I'd be way more reactionary than apologetic as well. For crap's sake, when you ask someone to "defend themselves", that's what they'll likely do.

I don't even like the shirts myself but my goodness, this is a lot of uproar over something that shouldn't have had that much power over someone's experience in the first place.

The day I feel degraded by the slogan on a T-shirt is the day I voluntarily re-chain myself to the kitchen sink. They were just having a laugh. Good Lord!

I agree with you and I don't have to read their blogs before making "an assumption" about someone who wears a douchetastic t-shirt to a women's conference. I also could give two sh*ts less whether anyone agrees or disagrees with my thinking that such shirts and the people who wear them are douches. The wonderful benefits of free thought and speech.

And for the record, I think I had one "run-in" with one of the men mentioned, at least I think it may have been, memory of the name is foggy, and yes, dude was a douche, fried to some or not.

The shirts are so, whatever. If you went up and said something, then you would have "stood up" to the manly influence at Blogher and that should have been it. If you didn't say anything and then wrote this post aren't you doing the same thing by getting the extra 'hits' to your site. I think the fact that some get offended at the thought of men at Blogher is silly. Reverse sexism won't get you anywhere.

This is why I wore collared shirts.

Hi Grace. I know that if I would see those shirts I would be offended, but I'd be too 'nice' to say anything about it. Too nice or too scared to be seen as a humorless shrew. So I admire you for saying it outloud!

If you're willing to wear an obnoxious shirt in public, you should be willing to listen to the criticism. And you should be willing to be judged by the statement on your shirt. Why does Grace have to read their archives to figure out if she's offended by a shirt?

Hello,

Full disclosure, I am a friend of Karl's, and I think a new friend of Avitable's, and a CE for BlogHer who's been to all 5 conferences (of course, this comment reflects only my personal opinion). I don't agree with every single thing any of my friends do, but in this case, I do find the shirts funny.

While I respect your opinion and certainly your right to express it, it is my belief that humor can come from obvious absurdity. Out of the BlogHer conference, I would not find these shirts funny. (Well, show me your tweets is pretty funny in any context, actually.) In this instance, however, it is the very act of these shirts on a man at a conference with over a 1,000 women that makes the shirts funny. The wearing of them in a context where the power structure is flipped from the world we normally live in is actually really interesting. It changes the reading completely for me.

I also believe that who the men wearing the shirts are in their hearts is irrelevant to the conversation - Certainly non-sexist people can do something that is indeed sexist. In this instance, however, I believe the absurdity elevates the act into sheer hysterical humor territory. I can't quite remember, but I'm pretty sure that Karl's BlogHer shirts are how we became friends in the first place.

Finally, over time I would love to see an increase in men at the BlogHer conference perhaps even to the point where it becomes an equal space the likes of which we've never seen.

I disagree with Grace on whether or not men should be allowed to attend BlogHer, but I will agree that, in presenting themselves this way, these individual’s motives for being there can certainly be called into question. I don’t know Avitable, so I can’t speak for him, but I know Karl, and his main reason for going to BlogHer is to pick up women. This has been a pattern for him in past conferences, whether his many supporters will admit it or not. Someone said it perfectly before, its’ all “Just kidding (unless you’re into it)”, that’s what the stupid ass T-shirts are all about.
See, that’s how Karl operates, he wants to be one of the girls to get the inside track, hoping to parlay that into getting attention and/or sex. He is a desperate and pathetic little man. One needs look no further than his pathetic blog to see that. He thinks he’s funny and snarky and all kinds of clever, but he’s mostly just a miserable complainer who wants everyone to feel sorry for him. He makes overt sexual overtures and tries to pass them off as jokes. Look at his stupid joke porno script (Another bit of disgusting sexism that he seemed to revel in the outrage of)
Maybe one day all of his admirers will see through his sad charade and realize that, given the opportunity, he would fuck all of them. Karl is a teddy bear all right, a cute n’ cuddly teddy bear that will try to give you anal if you let him.
And to Karl’s defenders: Being offended by tasteless and inappropriate humor has nothing to do with whether you are able to enjoy sex or sexuality.
Grace, I may not agree with all of your points, but I admire that you spoke up about

Wow. Reading some of the comments I'm shocked.
If you took and switched the order of "men" and "women" in a lot of the sentences, you would be going back in time.
I'm sorry, but that offends me more than some dumb shirt.

A lot of people seem to think that Grace had a responsibility to confront Karl at the conference and engage in some kind of debate with him about his T-Shirts. Something tells me if she did that, we’d be hearing about what a stick in the mud feminazi she was, trying to throw a wet blanket over the party. Sounds like a lose-lose proposition to me.
Would all of you defenders be okay with them wearing a “White Power” T-Shirt, or a swastika, as long as their intentions were to be completely absurd and/or ironic??
LOL!! Karl doesn’t really hate Jews, he’s just being ironic, right?? LOL!!! After all, its just a T-Shirt right???LOL!
Show us your boobies! LOL!! Just kidding! (Unless you really want to show us your boobies, then by all means!!!) LOL!! (Are you going to show us your boobies or not?)
Hey, relax babe! It’s just a shirt, right?
LO fuckin’-L!!!

I join others who are a bit bothered by the implication that men and women should be seperate. I would never find a "conference" evena gender specific one, to be a safe space for me as a woman. Maybe because I have a husband and a son, I dunno.

That said, I do agree that the shirts sound thoughtless. But I do like the bloggers. I enjoy their sites and their humor. I probably would have givent them crap to their faces about the shirt. I think they would have been ok with that.

I don't see offensive shirts as sexist. I see telling Hillary Clinton "Iron my shirt, bitch" as being sexist. I don't feel like they don't bother me because I don't care. I feel like they don't bother me because in the scope of things, they are small battle, while bigger ones exist.

I also don't equate what has been said about what was on the shirts as being the same as using the N word at a black conference. If the shirts had said "suck this, cunt", then maybe. Although really, cunt doesn't even bother me. But coming from a man as an insult? Different matter entirely.

YMMV.

I must be a beast because I spent the entire conference in Karl's company and never once did he objectify me, make a pass at me or treat me with anything other than respect.

I spent years with a sexist, classless pig and I know one when I meet one. Karl and Avitable were neither. As a matter of fact, I was shocked by how reserved and polite Avitable is.

That conference is uncomfortable as hell at first, especially if you're a minority or even remotely introverted. The shirt worked. It was an icebreaker and the reason I talked to him. And out of it, I made a wonderful, platonic friend. I was a bartender for years and cannot tell you how many times I was made to feel uncomfortable about my body (I'm incredibly large breasted) through comments that were supposed to be flattering or flirtatious. Never felt that once in their presence.

Although you have every right to say how you felt about the shirts, it seems almost malicious to make blanket statements about the men wearing them.

I read your post when it first went up and have been thinking about it since then. I've been meaning to get back and comment, but life got in the way. Boy was I surprised (and disgusted) to find all of these comments.

I'm with you Grace. I would have been offended. And, I absolutely believe that women space is powerful and important.

I guess the lesson learned is that BlogHer has NOTHING to do with feminism or the empowerment of women.

First of all, I don't see why men shouldn't be allowed at BlogHer. My objection isn't to men at BlogHer (although I've never been) my objection is to anyone, male or female, that takes a woman to task for not finding misogyny just down right hilarious. As I said, I wasn't at BlogHer, I don't know these two men, I'm just responding to the disturbing comments on this post that claim the OP should have a sense of humor. While everyone has a different sense of humor and women will disagree on what type of humor they find objectifying or objectionable, I find it disturbing that people are trying to invalidate her feelings.

And, isn't the question, "Where's your sense of humor?" often asked of women in order to silence them?

One of my favorite quotes about feminism, misogyny, and humor comes from a post over as Shakesville. The post is actually about rape humor. I know the t-shirts were not about rape so don't rip me apart saying that I'm blowing this out of proportion. I just wanted to state that what she says about "humor" and feminism in the post is relevant to all types of humor that objectifies and denigrates women. The relevant part is:

Geez, can't you take a joke?" That's all it takes—the implication that the woman who objects to public expressions of misogyny, who doesn't find funny the means of her own subjugation, or doesn't find amusing being triggered by careless "jokes" about a brutal event she has experienced, is humorless. Uncool. Oversensitive. Weak. (As though standing up to bigotry is the easy way out, and laughing along is somehow strong.)

Humor that exhorts its targets to participate is even more insidious—and promoting the patriarchal narrative of women as sex class via humor has come to rely heavily on the participation of feminist women themselves. And our allies.

If you are interested in the entire post, it can be found here:

http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/03/feminism-101-on-language-and.html

For the record I DON'T know Karl or Avitable but jeez I sure want to!

LMFAO seriously lighten up people, they are t'shirts that's it. They aren't out there raping women, beating them up, supressing them in anyway, they are wearing t'shirts that have funny words on them.

When did the world get so politically correct? When did everyone start taking everything so freaking seriously?

I LOVE the t'shirts and don't see anything wrong with them, if I'd have been there and come across them I would have walked up to them and fired back a witty comment inline with the t'shirts but thats because I have a sense of humour....

BTW I bet both Karl and Avitable are loving the free publicity for their blogs from this....

As a very, very Old Blogger (hahahahaha) I can tell you this.

1. Blogging IS a clique, regardless of how you wish it was. I have been part of AND rejected by the clique. I now choose my own social path and Blog only for myself - not to be "friends" with other bloggers.

2. I stopped attending BlogHers in 2007. I spoke at the 2006 BlogHer. The vibe was not for me after 2007 - it was ALL marketing, how to get a book from your blogging and I was not into it at all.

3. I do know Karl and he is truly a lovely man. He and I spent many hours next to the pool in San Jose in 2006 laughing with IzzyMom. I can not speak to his shirts, but he has been a LONG time supporter of women bloggers.

4. I really came to your blog because I was looking at your review of the BigHouse Birdman wine I drank last night and stumbled into this post. I forget that there are so many Bloggers in the BlogHer network ( I am a bad blogger)

First off, whoever this Oktoberfist person is does NOT know me. I frequently mention on my blog that I haven't gotten laid in two years. And I have NEVER had sex at BlogHer, this past weekend being my 4th. It's this kind of crap that brings about negative remarks surrounding BlogHer, and that not only makes me sad, but angry. Because BlogHer rocks.

I think this whole issue is interesting in a dialogue sort of way. I've heard the anti-men thing many times before and don't like that sentiment, but there's not much I can do about it.

What I don't like is the name-calling and massive assumptions being made about the men that attend, or the women who do or don't like my sense of humor.

Anyone who truly believes that Adam and I walked into a conference of 1,300 women with THOSE shirts on hoping to OFFEND all those women is an idiot.

As Liz said above (a wonderful gal who I go out of my way to hang with every year), if I wore those shirts in November while wandering around town, that'd be sexist. But wearing them at BLOGHER, where it's so over-the-top ridiculous as to border on absurd? That's comedy. Not YOUR brand of comedy, perhaps, but comedy nonetheless.

I'm glad you commented on my blog. And I am glad you wrote this post, believe it or not. I'm all about the freedom of speech. And under different circumstances, I think you - Grace, that is - would be surprised at how well we'd get along.

Bottom line? I am truly sorry if my stupid shirts hurt you in any way, shape, or form. I adore BlogHer - my favorite people on the planet are there every year, which is why I go - and I'd hate to see BlogHer get any negative press because of me being a freaking idiot.

I've heard the anti-men thing many times before and don't like that sentiment, but there's not much I can do about it.

I don't recall Grace saying anything anti-man. She said that this was a women's conference (which it simply is) and wondered out loud whether men should be there. This isn't anti-man. It's a question gender-specific events and their attendants always have to think over.

What I don't like is the name-calling and massive assumptions being made about the men that attend

Again, I don't see this anywhere in Grace's post.

Anyone who truly believes that Adam and I walked into a conference of 1,300 women with THOSE shirts on hoping to OFFEND all those women is an idiot.

No one said this. In fact, what's offensive to me is that you thought you could walk into a women's conference and not offend women wearing that shirt.

Grace, I'm glad you posted this post. Like you, I would have been pissed off by those shirts at BlogHer, and like you, I wouldn't have wanted to make a public scene. There's nothing wrong with wanting to write about it on your blog.

And you know, I get that the shirts are clever. I can appreciate that they're clever (well, the "tweets" one -- the other one, not as much) and still think they're ultimately disrespectful to the women at the conference and the whole idea of a conference to promote women.

This might be getting into minutiae, but I wonder if the "show us your tweets" shirt would have been less offensive without the graphic underneath it? I think then I would have thought it was clever enough and not offensive. The graphic, though, confuses the message -- does the wearer really want to see our tweets, or is he just not quite brave enough to say that he'll *pretend* to be interested in our tweets but he *secretly* wants us to show him our tits?

So part of the problem is honestly? The shirts weren't clever enough. If you want to play on sexist humor, you just have to be very, very good -- same with racist humor and so on. That goes double if you're outside the group at whom the "ism" is usually directed. Unless the joke is crafted very well, you run the risk of just repeating a cliche. When you're in the powerful group, repeating a cliche about the less powerful group isn't just defective humor; it's also an exercise of power.

As to the wine, I was surprised at how much I liked it. I am not a fan of white wine, per se. Here in Montreal we get about 90% reds and very little white wine drinking. I had grabbed it when back home in NH, since there was a lovely "American wines for 9.99" sale. So we were having grilled chicken and fresh veggies with balsamic...and I thought "Hey, Let me try that Big House Birdman - I have liked the Big House Red in the past, why not"

Plus it was sooooo bloody hot here in the not-so frozen north that red just didn't "feel" right.

All that said, I really quite liked it. Enough to drink half the bottle and then get in trouble for shooting off my mouth ( which is more common that I would like to admit)

Which makes me think - If you know SueBob....Have we met? Not to give you my Bloggy resume...But I am True Wife Confessions ( as one of my multitude of online aliases....I also run Desperately Seeking Something - which is one of the most feminist sites EVER, in my opinion....)

@Shoppista, I should have been clearer, perhaps. I was addressing the comments on this post, in addition to the actual post, both those made by Grace's friends and those made by mine.

There ARE anti-men comments here. There ARE people saying that Grace and you and others don't have a sense of humor simply because you hated the shirts. I don't make that assertion. I'm simply saying you don't have the SAME sense of humor, and that's ok.

And I never walk into BlogHer thinking there won't be some who find my shirts offensive. But quite honestly, if the demographics were reversed and a woman walked into a 90% male conference with a shirt that said "Come sit in my lap," I'd laugh my freaking ass off.

Grace, I know Karl and have read his blog for number of years. You're way off-base in your assessment of him and what you perceive as his motivations. I'm sorry you feel this way, because you're missing out on knowing a quality human being.

you keep saying these men are "invading [your] space" and wow, elitist anyone? newsflash: people with penises can (and do) in fact support the success of women. they also have every right to share your hallowed space as a person with a vagina. men have absolutely every right to be at BlogHer, certainly as much as *you* do, even with your vagina and everything.

this isn't the demilitarized zone for godsakes. people ought to calm down. the problem with feminists is that they attempt to decide for EVERYONE ELSE (especially the women they claim to represent) what is and is not socially acceptable. guess what? i have a vagina and i actually like it quite a lot, and yet i *also* would have had great hars if i saw those shirts in my proximity. and not because i like these guys and am here to defend them. it's because it's funny. and because i don't have a stick up me arse.

maybe you expected people to call you humorless because --- gasp! --- YOU ARE.

nobody owns space, hon. we all live in this world together with our respective genitalia -- the latter being SO not the point.

stop seeing division everywhere and for godsakes, lighten up.

I did not know Avitable or Karl before BlogHer. I'd never met them or read their blogs.

I saw Karl standing outside on the riverwalk, having a cigarette. I read his shirt (the one that was pink and said "this pink shirt means I'm sensitive, now come sit on my lap..." or something), laughed my ass off, and asked if I could take his picture.

I think what appealed to me was not the sentiment, itself, but the moxie it must have taken to wear that thing at EstrogenFest2009. That guy's got balls (*snort*). And he's right - the girls he wants to get to know are the ones who will think it was funny.

I liveblogged the "Vaginally Challenged..." session, which was the first time I had ever heard of any of the panelists. I guess Avitable is enough of a big deal to have rumors spread about him. I did a spit take when I saw his Hitler header, and I laughed. I don't consider myself an anti-woman or anti-Jew or anti-anything woman. Ask the queers - after liveblogging their session I followed them around like a puppy all weekend.

During the session, Avitable struck me as a hilarious person. In order to be funny, sometimes we have to be a bit on the edgy side, and he is. I don't think his humor is for everyone - but no one is forcing you to read his shirts, his tweets, or his posts.

You asked for reactions, and those were mine. I think you left your sense of humor on the luggage carousel. Hope your airline returns it to you.

"Is this something you enjoy seeing in space reserved for you?"
See, I definitely disagree with that statement...it definitely feels like reversed sexism to me. I hate it when women are all like "omg, lets crash this place reserved for MEN to prove our equal rights" and then they go and say things like "space reserved for you". Blogher is awesome because it isn't just for females, men can go. There are no restrictions. Equal rights were invented so that everyone would be treated equally, everyone would get equal opportunities. Blogher is another one of those social networking opportunities that everyone can be a part of, and you seem generally upset that men were there...or at least that was the tone you left in this post and your comment responses.

Although I have never met either of them, they are AWESOME guys and after reading the comments that said they weren't, well I felt sick. If Adam is so horrible, why would he go out of his way to give me a one hundred dollar gift certificate for Walmart when he knew things were hard for us? Because he CARES about his friends, and the people in his life. So I could care less if he wears a "sexist" shirt. I'd wear it, it's funny and ironic.

Like several other have said, live and let live. If a slightly offense t-shirt really gets your knickers in a knot, well...that's not good hun.

I hope my comment doesn't irritate you further, because that's not my intention. I'm just letting you know a little side of Adam that you might not have ever guessed; he IS a giant teddy bear with a great big heart. Sexist t-shirt and all ;)

@ Grace...actually, the idea was presented as an "over the top" reaction to all of the negativity and I thought it was hysterical. He never even asked to take the picture. I offered. And I think it's a hilarious way to respond to something that really hurt his feelings.

You're way off-base in your assessment of him and what you perceive as his motivations...

People keep saying things like this, and saying "but so and so is a big teddy bear," and so on, but this stuff really doesn't matter. Intent doesn't matter as much as effect. It just doesn't. If no one intends to hire equally qualified women at a lower salary but they keep doing so anyway because they just "connect" with the men they're hiring better or whatever, they've still done something sexist.

I don't give a shit about intent. Construction workers might intend to make me feel like hot stuff when they yell "nice ass!," which doesn't change how it makes me feel -- uncomfortable and on display when I'm just trying to go about my business. Actually, that's a great comparison with "show us your tweets" with accompanying graphic. I'm sure the intent was humor. The effect, though, is that I feel tired. Yes, ha ha, tit/tweets. But also, the joke's not clear enough, and the end result is that I'd feel just a little squidgy and deflated at a conference that I *thought* would be a breath of fresh air away from that feeling. That's not cool, and the person who did it may just be a little thoughtless, but what I'm going think is "probable asshole" and walk away.

So maybe people should remember that people can't psychically discern intent. They can only go on the messages they get. The message on the shirt is "show me your tweets, but maybe also your tits." If that's not what you want people to think you're saying, write a smarter shirt.

As for the women piling on Grace with the old "you're a humorless feminist" saw -- you're pathetic. I don't know if you're too dumb to understand the issue, or if you see it but hope if you work hard to be one of those cool girls who "get it," one of those girls who are "one of the guys," sexism will just pass right over you. But it doesn't work that way. In the meantime, you're part of the problem.

Reverse sexism! Ha!

@Grace, yes, I see the difference, of course. I'm an ass, not an idiot. Again, I apologize for hurting you in any way. I've tried to explain myself here, not easy to do considering you or your readers don't know me.

I get what you're saying. And @Shoppista made one of the most compelling arguments just above with her "intent doesn't matter" argument.

I don't know what it says that hundreds and hundreds of women "got it" and laughed, whereas some didn't. That's humor for you, it's very subjective. But when the majority of women I came across cracked up, and went out of their way to find me the NEXT day to see the NEXT shirt, that says I'm not all that off the mark, either.

I could have attended BlogHer wearing a plain white t-shirt and there STILL would have been people offended, just based on the fact that I have testicles. That saddens me because the bulk of my friends are women, and in a place that champions equality for ALL people, it's ironic that there are those ladies that feel men shouldn't be there. I am not saying YOU are one of those people, Grace, but you know I'm right - there is a no-men undercurrent every year. Some of that is expressed in the comments of this very post.

At any rate, I think I've done all I can do here. I would be happy to take this discussion offline, I'd even be happy to discuss it over the phone. Clearly you know my Twitter name, since that's how this debate began.

If you DON'T want to talk or email, that's cool, too. I harbor no ill will toward you or your friends that commented here. Well, except maybe for that Oktoberfist bitch, who is an outright liar.

I wrote a post about it from my point of view, and it's rare I take time to explain my antics on my blog, but still. Read it, don't read it, perhaps you're as tired of this as I am by now...

http://secondhandkarl.com/2009/07/white-elephants-and-apologetics/

I wish you well, Grace. Peace.

Well now, you made me think on something I otherwise would have dismissed. While I'm not offended, I see where you're coming from and I have to agree. Those shirts were inappropriate.

Hello there, this is my first time on your site.

I don't know either of these men, and I know I will be dismissed as another apologist but I am going to say my peace.

I work in a prison and everything that Karl and Adam did or wore this weekend at Blogher would be taken in the spirit with which it was intended at the prison.

That doesn't mean I don't work with sexist pigs, some of them are, others are just so crass with their humor that you know they are not serious.

For the record, I am a lesbian and consider myself to be a hard core feminist, but that doesn't mean I left my sense of humor back there with my ex-husband. If you want to meet a sexist, woman-hating asshole I could introduce you.

I started reading Karl's site when I found Clusterfook a year ago. When she passed, I cried for him as much as her. I can't imagine the pain, but I know that a woman-hating man would not have done what he did for her.

Maybe you should visit MissBritt's site and see how well Adam treats her and her family.

These men love the women around them and genuinely treat them with respect. Maybe a joke is just a joke, and an icebreaker is just that.

Wait, Karl...you have testicles? Is there photographic proof of that somewhere? ;D

i wonder what would've happened if someone would've just gone ahead and taken her shirt off, right there in the conference.

hey guys, this is what you wanted, right? & the ladies think your shirts are funny, so this is cool, right?

no one would've been laughing any more, i'm guessing. i wonder if a person would get kicked out, or what people would say.

Jessica, actually there was a woman who walked naked through the lobby (on purpose). No one seemed to write negatively about that...at least not that I've heard.

I liked you before, now I love you. Not like a little bit either.

Here's the thing, sexy = good, sexist = gross. It's a tightrope, and if you think you might fall off, don't walk it.

The men at BlogHer were guests. Some were wonderful, some were awkward, most were respectful, a few should have been sent home.

It's a real privilege to be a man at a conference by and for women. The privilege was abused, thankfully not by all.

So, these guys were "guests", "visitors" and "privileged to be there".
Correct me if I'm wrong here, & don't know the BlogHer Attendees Rules & Regulations Handbook - Didn't they pay to get in?
Didn't YOU pay to get in?
Sheesh, I'd heard BlogHer was pretty elitist, but I thought it was limited to making fun of someone's shoes or hair.
If you want to attend a private, women-only spa for the weekend, maybe you should go somewhere else.

It seems you should take your problem up with BlogHer. Petition them to ban men and/or enforce a dress code. I guess they'd have to enforce a code for proper behavior, too?
Other than that, quit whining cuz you paid a bunch of money to attend an event where there were some people who didn't live up to your standards.

Maybe next year you can rent a private box?

Truthfully? You would have to know the bloggers in question. NO I am not offended, I find it damned funny. If I wanted to wear a sexist t-shirt, I could. It's called free speech. It matches their blogs, I found it funny.

Clever way to stand out. I don't think the blogger in question really meant to be sexist as much as just funny.

Live and let live, I say.

Tina

Heck, I thought the shirts were kind of funny.

OMG- not a blogger, just a reader, but I unsubscribed a lot of people tonight.

Karl is funny and if he, as an introvert, has the balls to wear those shirts--
GOOD FOR YOU BABY.

I didn't think they were in best taste, but, if you ever read him, JEEZ HOW COULD YOU OVER REACT!!!

done now

I stumbled upon this blog by way of three or four other blogs, and am ASTOUNDED at the apologists.

Grace doesn't need to "learn to take a joke" or "lighten up" (reminiscent of victim blaming - he didn't really mean it...).

Just because you say it's a joke doesn't make it funny. And would anyone DARE to wear a "funny" shirt with a racist message on it to a conference targeting African-Americans?

I'm disappointed that women haven't come farther than this...

Well Grace this is really making me want to attend BlogHer next year so I can kick some misogynist ass right along with you. What a bunch of bullshit. But they are nice people! Puh-lease.

This link popped up in a discussion recently, and for what it's worth, I cringed as I re-read it, knowing what I probably would have (and did!) say three years ago aabout it. At this point, I feel a little older, a little wiser and a lot more able to look aat things like those shirts and see them for the demeaning insults they are.

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Sponsoring the girl geeks

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In one of my earlier posts about BlogHer, I mentioned that I was surprised and happy to see the breadth of the sponsors list for the conference. Now that the final sponsors list is up, I wanted to say a bit more about that.

First, here are the sponsors (this list is pulled directly from BlogHer's site):

Platinum Conference Sponsors

  • Chevrolet

  • Green Works

  • Walmart

  • PepsiCo

  • Tide & Bounce

Gold Conference Sponsors

  • Microsoft Office and Bing.com

  • Ragu

  • Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project

Premium Conference Sponsors

  • Bill Me Later

  • Ketchum

  • Wiley

  • Hanes

  • PLAYSKOOL

  • all

  • McDonald's

  • Elations

  • National Pork Board

  • BISSELL

  • Suave and Degree

  • Wild Planet

  • Motorola

  • Mary Kay

  • Brother

  • Ann Taylor

  • Michelin

  • Disney Consumer Products

  • VTech

  • T-Mobile

  • Bertolli

  • Eucerin

  • HP

  • Geek Squad

Exhibiting Conference Sponsors

  • Blue Avocado

  • Picnik

  • ZESPRI Kiwifruit

  • Safety 1st

  • CHPA Educational Foundation

  • Sprout

  • Safe Kids USA

  • springpad

  • JumpStart®

  • Nikon

  • The Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies

Other Participating Sponsors

  • LeapFrog

  • eos

  • Johnson & Johnson

  • Intel

  • Intelius

  • Pearl of Wisdom Campaign

  • Orbitz

  • PBS Parents

  • Gilbert Guide

  • Motherproof.com

  • Hasbro

  • 20th Century Fox's Strawberry Shortcake

  • PBS Frontline

  • Nokia

  • Dove

A couple of caveats:

First, some of these are companies with whom I strongly disagree on major issues. Some of them are even companies that I boycott. I'm not going to write about that here. I don't censor myself on those issues on this blog, and I may well write again about those companies, but that's not the purpose of this post and I don't want to get bogged down in it.

Secondly, I honestly and completely appreciate each of these companies being willing to sponsor BlogHer. I know they're doing it for business reasons--there is absolutely something in it for them--but I still appreciate it.

Now then:

I've been interested in advertising towards women for a long time, in particular since I wrote my thesis at Reed on Ms. magazine. One of the major problems with Ms. early on was that there both unable to entice advertisers who weren't "traditional women's labels" (cosmetic companies, appliances, etc.) and unable to appease their readership on the subject of morality of advertising "anti-feminist" products. This issue still exists today, obviously, and BlogHer is a great example of how it plays out.

When I last attended in 2007, one of the sponsors was Curves Cereal and Snacks. Some of the people to whom I spoke, particularly those on a panel about blogging and body image, took issue with that. It was a particular problem, I learned, because Weight Watchers had been a sponsor in 2006 and there had already been backlash about that. For my part, I was perhaps not thrilled with Curves' inclusion, but I was generally very happy to see so many companies that are not traditionally "women-focused" on the sponsorship list that year.

This year is even better. Yes, there are some sponsors who are definitely the same ones Ms. would have drawn ire from their readers for all those years ago: Mary Kay, Ann Taylor, eos, and Dove, which are obvious, as well as GreenWorks, Tide/Bounce, Ragu, all, etc., since advertisers still seem to think only women cook and clean. There are several more who are clearly there for the mommy bloggers: Playskool, Disney Consumer Products, Sprout, JumpStart, etc. But there are also a long list of sponsors Ms.'s advertising department would have given up their fringed ponchos for--honest to God gender neutral companies. Some of them are the non-surprising tech companies that go along with a blogging conference, gendered or not, like Microsoft Office/bing.com, Bill Me Later, Motorola, Brother, and T-Mobile. Others, though, I have trouble connecting in any obvious way with women or with blogging, and that makes me inordinately happy. The big one is Platinum Sponsor Chevrolet, but there are also Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project, public relations agency Ketchum, technical publisher Wiley, Elations (a glucosamine condroitin supplement company), Michelin, and PBS Frontline, among others.

What does it mean that these companies have chosen to put their support behind a fast-growing conference of blogging women? Dare I hope it's respect for women's buying power, not just as mothers, cleaners, or purchasers of clothes and cosmetics, but as full-share American consumers who buy cars and cameras and pork (yep, the National Pork Board is another sponsor) and make investments and watch Frontline? Could they really be seeing us for what we are?

Time will tell. I'll be sure to report back next week on how these sponsors conducted themselves and what impressions I got from them at the conference. In the meantime, again, thanks to our sponsors!

3 Comments

Chevy seemed very gendered to me--hello minivans! I think it's just that stereotypically in the 60s women wouldn't have had as much of a say in car choice. And there weren't cars designed for moms.

Wow, I meant to sign up for BlogHer this year because it's in Chicago and I'm in Milwaukee, however I totally forgot to sign up. Whoops. I'm totally impressed with the amount of sponsors that they have. Blogging has become so mainstream now and I'm thankful for the voice that I have, and that there is recongition for 4+ years of hard work.

Happy ICLW!

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Pre-BlogHer Excitement

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We're having a pre-BlogHer meet up locally tomorrow and it has me all excited thinking about this year's conference. I went in 2007, but missed last year, and I am REALLY stoked to get to go again.

Will any WINOW or Heroine Content readers be there? I'd love to meet you.

I've been looking over the schedule, and these are the break-out sessions that are piquing my interest:

Friday:
Break-Out Session #1: Business of You: Bloggers are Pioneers in a Post-"Employee" World
Break-Out Session #2: Leadership: Writing Your Op-Ed
Break-Out Session #3: Leadership: What is "Pro-Woman" in a Post-Palin World?

Saturday:
Break-Out Session #1: Business of You: Advanced Social Media, Syndication and Stats
Break-Out Session #2: Identity/Passions: FoodBlogging in the Time of Recession
Break-Out Session #3: Identity/Passions: Enough About You...Who's Reading You?

I'm also really excited to see the Community Keynote on Friday night. And, you know, pick up as much as swag, meet as many awesome women, and learn about as many new blogs as possible.

I am geek girl, hear me roar.

Relatedly, I was looking at the list of sponsors for this year's conference, and I'm pleasantly surprised. Sure, there are the expected sponsor's for a conference of women--Green Works, Tide, Wal-Mart, Ragu, Playskool, Mary Kay, etc. But there are also some sponsors of the type that women's magazines yearn for--Chevrolet, Microsoft Office, Liberty Mutual, Motorola, Intel. It feels like progress, folks.

3 Comments

Nice to meet you today, Grace. I'll be looking for your post-BlogHer wrapup. :) Looks like a lot of interesting stuff. Wish I was going!

I hope you'll come back and share some of what you learned! I'd love to go to something like this but couldn't do it this year, maybe next year.

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An open letter to President Obama

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Dear Mr. President,

I know it is early in your administration to be asking you for favors, and up until now I have done my very best not to expect too much from you. You've inherited quite the mess, and the last few months have only added to it. Though I haven't agreed with everything you've done so far, I've understood why you did most of it, and have been trying very hard to remain hopeful and keep my desires to myself.

However, I heard some news this morning that forces me to break my silence and ask you to prove your advocates right and your detractors wrong in a decision you will soon be making.

Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter is retiring in June. This leaves a vacancy on the court for you to fill. Of all of the many decisions you will make during your presidency, this will likely be one of the most important and long-lasting. As a law professor, I'm sure you know just how vital it is not to mess this one up.

You'll be getting a lot of advice, from all sides, about how to best fill this position. You'll hear calls to be bipartisan (ignore them). You'll be hearing about the importance of a justice who will support X or Y reading of the constitution. You'll have a team to vet the credientials of any possible candidates. It will all be very complicated.

In comparison, what I am going to ask you to do is simple. There is only one criterion by which I don't trust you to choose the next justice, and it is that criterion I must insist you fill.

The next justice has to be a woman.

There are nine justice on the court. One of them shares the gender of half of the country's population. Over the entire history of the Court, there have been 110 justices; 2 have been women. It is far past time for the highest court in the land to better represent us.

As the country's first Black president, you know a little something about the importance of minority representation in goverment. As the man who defeated the most serious female presidential contender in our history, you know a little something about the importance of gender representation in goverment.

I am hoping that means you get it--you understand the importance, both symbolic and literal, of putting a woman on the court. And I'm expecting you to get it. I helped get you elected. So far, I am not at all sorry I did so. However, if you make some lame excuse about identity politics and appoint yet another man to fill this position, we are going to have a serious problem.

Your hopeful contituent,

Grace

P.S. If you are interested, you can read the post I wrote the last time I was failed on this issue.

2 Comments

Would a transman be ok?

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NoBloPo #21: Feminism Friday

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Remember my Women Making History series? I've been wanting to revisit it. In particular, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite entries. These are the ones I was most pleasantly surprised by, or most impressed by, or just most into. So, without further ado:

Top 5 Women Making History (in no particular order)


  • Nellie Bly (1864-1922): Gotta love a muckraking journalist, and Nellie Bly was one of the first women to really get into it. I knew nothing about her before the series.

  • Dorothy Day (1897-1980): I love Dorothy Day. She basically believed that everyone deserved a chance and that it was her privilege and responsibility to do whatever she could to help. The world needs more like her.

  • Dolores Huerta (b. 1930): I'm a big sucker for a labor activist, and Dolores Huerta is one of the best.

  • Dian Fossey (1932-1985): Another personal hero of mine, Dian Fossey revolutionized the way we think about primates. She was a scientist, a radical, and a hell of a woman.

  • Dorothea Dix (1802-1887): This one was a sad story I knew nothing about previous to doing this project. Dix was a very early activist on behalf of the mentally ill. And she died in a mental hospital.

Wanna read about some incredible women today? There's a place to start.

3 Comments

Hello:

Love your blog, for a week or so it just dissapeared, I wasa bit dissapointed about that.

Great to see you back

Beatriz

My thanks for this good work.
When any aspect of history is buried, expunged, or forgotten, it is not history, but a series of anecdotes.
My mother and grandmother were both remarkable women in the greater sense. Nana had the first car in Oregon to be owned IN HER OWN RIGHT by a woman. she had many other memories that I was too young to rember. Mom Sold magazine subscriptions at 13, went to work full time at 14 got a scholorship at 17, Joinedthe WAAC at 23 as a private, at war's end was a captain in the WAC. Raised me til I was big enough to protect her instead of the other way around and returned to the Civil Service. She retired in 1981 and served her causes until her death . Lesson learned from them is Never dismiss anything as beneith notice.

Thanks again
Doug Polhamius

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NaBloPoMo #7: Feminism Friday

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Top Five Myths About Feminists

  1. Feminists are ugly. Feminists are not ugly. Well, I'm sure some feminists are, just like some of anybody, but I know a lot of very attractive feminists. And there are some famous attractive feminists as well. Ashley Judd? Charlize Theron? Geena Davis? Ani DiFranco? I rest my case.

  2. Feminists hate sex. The feminists I know, whether they are in same-sex or different-sex relationships (or single!), do not hate sex. They enjoy sex and they have sex. They have all kinds of sex, single and partnered, and often enough they even get pregnant and have babies.

  3. Feminists have no sense of humor. This is possibly the wrongest of all of the myths. Feminists definitely have a sense of humor. Some of the funniest people I know are proud feminists. So are some famous funny people, like Tina Fey and Margaret Cho.

  4. Feminists suffer from group think. Given the years of impassioned discussions and arguments I've had, both online and not, with other feminists, this one always makes me roll my eyes. Feminism is not a theory, or an ideology. It's lots of them. For as far back in feminist history as I'm aware, there have always been lots of divisions and disagreements in "the movement." It's likely one of the reasons certain goals have been thwarted as long as they have. There are socialist feminists, liberal feminists, radical feminists, eco feminists, etc. etc. etc. Not so much with the group think.

  5. Feminists hate men. This is probably the biggie. No, most feminists do not hate men. Some of us likely do, and I'd go out on a limb and say some of us have every reason to. But most feminists have lives that include men that we love and respect. Feminism isn't about hating men. In fact, it's not really about men at all. That seems to be the part that people have the worst time wrapping their heads around--something that isn't. about. men.

So there's the top five myths I can think of. What about you? Are you a feminist? What myths would you add?


Additions suggested, a running list:


  • Feminists are not/do not want to be mothers.

  • Feminists are intimidated by masculinity.

  • Feminists are lesbian separatists.

  • Feminists do not shave their legs/wear skirts/wear makeup.

  • Feminists are just looking for things to be offensive.

  • Feminists burn their bras.

  • Feminists are pushy and demanding.

4 Comments

oooo, here's mine: feminists don't want to be homemakers, mothers or stay-at-home mamas.

I have found it difficult, as have many of my friends, to balanace my feelings of feminism with my desire to stay at home with my children. I feel like the popular notion of feminism looks down on these roles, like we can and should be doing something else with our lives, even if what we absolutely choose (even given the world as our option!) is to be at home and be a mother.

How about "feminists hate manly guys"?

or "feminists hate manliness"?

I wish there were a word other than "masculinity" or "manliness" I could put in there, but hopefully the generally point can come across.

Another one: that feminists are always looking to be offended

Believe me, people, we don't to look very far or try very hard to find things that are offensive to women. I see/hear/read about numerous examples every single day. A much as some people would like to believe otherwise, women don't go out looking for trouble...trouble finds us just fine.

Another one: feminists burn their bras! This myth began from a misguided reporter who minterpreted what was going on at the rally and then it was printed in the paper and the rest is history. Other myths: feminist are lesbians, pushy, demanding and radical. Thanks for this post btw - it's a good one!

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Hillary's fourth wave

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Jenny asked for my thoughts on this article. I am only too happy to comply.

My first reaction is to ask, as I always ask, who are these crazy people who thought we were in post-feminist space? Who really thought that we'd done all we needed to do and we now live in an equitable world? I'm always puzzled by that. The article implies that you have to be out of your 20s to really "get" how sexist the world is, that nothing other than a decade in the workplace will teach you. I think that's bullshit. Sure, we face sexism in the workplace, but we were already facing it in the media, in our schools, in our families. I'm hard pressed to think of the moment when I first knew sexism existed--not because I never noticed it, but because it has always been there. I absolutely believe progress has been made by each "wave" of feminism, but to pretend it's over is just ridiculous, and it's hard for me to have much respect for someone who needed what has happened to Clinton to prove we still live in a sexist society.

That being said, I do think HRC's run for president and some of the reactions to it have made the depth of the sexism and the misogyny in which we are still steeped a little bit easier to grasp. Some of the bullshit leveled at her has been so outlandishly obvious in its sexism, it's hard to miss, even, I would expect, for those who had previously chosen to believe feminism was no longer needed. Things like why we find her voice "grating" or are more concerned about her "aging" than a male counterpart are subtle, but the Hilary nutcracker sure isn't.

What I am not willing to say, though, is that sexism is "worse" than racism in the U.S., or that the sexism towards Clinton has been worse than the racism towards Obama. It's a bit of a hard thought to put into words, but I have trouble separating sexism and racism from each other. They come from the same place, I think. The land-owning white men who devised this country thought of both Black human beings and female human beings as property, and to my mind, we're still living with the effects of that in both cases, probably more or less equally. I see the slights against Clinton more clearly, I think, because I am used to being a woman in this society, but that doesn't mean the slights against Obama, often brought to my attention by people of color, aren't there.

If people who were previously asleep to sexism are now coming awake, then Clinton's candidacy is worth even more to me than I thought it was. I can only hope that they'll remain alert and not stick their heads back in the sand once the election is over.

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Other than you, I know almost no one who thinks there is much sexism anymore. Honestly and truly. I don't say this to say you have the wrong point of view, just that you have a very odd one compared to most people in America. You (like most people) purposefully surround yourself with people who believe that sexism is omnipresent. But realize that is not true of most people.

The part of the article I think was interesting was not that the Clinton run awakened people's idea that there's sexism, but that it made people aware that discussion of sexism is basically off limits, and mainly pointed to as "hysterical."


The article also interested me in that women I know who are not generally self-hating, said really sexist things about her. With no self-awareness about this. In my discussion of the Steinem article about how people call "Hillary," I was TWICE angrily shot down before I could even complete the idea (which I think is interesting, but haven't decided if I agree with it). I guess my experience is not that I haven't seen sexism, just that in discussing anything related to Hillary Clinton it happens universally and quickly with people who in other arenas would not be "sexist." In a sense it "outs" people. It's a litmus test.


Again, in my experience, most people I deal with think of calling sexism as trite, cliched, and ridiculous. Like saying the word "hegemony" or having a beer bong--something we all did in college but is SO 10 years ago. In fact, when I mentioned *I* felt a popular movie was sexist recently (and, knowing me you know what that would have to entail), a very respected friend of mine said, "Oh I didn't think you were one of THOSE oversensitive people! It's just a movie!" Because he sees gender discrimination in his female dominate career field as completely antiquated and foreign to his experience.


While I agree, re: Obama's racism is worse than Clinton's sexism, I think the point of the article that resonated is that it's more "PC" and accepted to talk about racism over sexism. To me this article was less about the bigotry, and more the ability to confront the bigotry. That's the part that rang true for me, based on personal experience.


I do really wish she would do the equivalent of the Obama race speech.


Honestly I PERSONALLY like Hillary, though I don't agree with her politically, and I think she's somewhat shady. It's interesting though in my friend group, as in this article, it is assumed everyone is pro-Obama.

They think it exists, but not in cities. Like in rural places. :) You know, like Texas?

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Hear ye hear ye!

The 21st installment of the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans will be hosted by my other blog baby, Heroine Content. Co-parent Skye and I are super anxious to see what you've all got to add to the carnival, so please send in submissions ASAP. This carnival's specific topic suggestion is "Who Do You Love?" but anything blogged between February 7 and April 28 is game, as long as it is a feminist perspective on fantasy and/or science fiction.

Submissions should be sent to me or Skye before April 28. The carnival will be posted May 1.

For more general info on the Carnival, please go here.

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Self-promotion

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I wrote what I think is probably my best Heroine Content piece yet this week, and it hasn't garnered a single comment. Which makes me sad. So I'm linking to it here in hopes someone will go and read it?

Firefly and Serenity.

1 Comments

i saw serenity last weekend (but haven't seen firefly yet), so will definitely go check your review out.

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More on the damn princesses (for Simon)

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OK, in the comments to that last post, Simon wrote:

I demand a more abstract reason for you hating Disney princesses, because: A survey listing reasons each movie princess is regressive, reactionary, racist (or other R-word) doesn't break down the specific overall reason for hating them. Not that I'm all super stoked on princesses. If we're going to barrage young girls with very specific gender programming, we should pick one that will have positive results in the long run - like porn stars (not their real lives, just their on-camera personas) or politicians (ditto). I personally prefer the porn star route, but that's because I'm an awful, awful person. Also, more hormones in the milk, please. But seriously - gimme an intro and conclusion to your post, even if it's a seperate post entirely.

Because I would rather stab myself repeatedly in the liver than ever discuss porn with Simon again, I'm going to ignore that part of the comment and address the point. That last post was intellectually lazy. I can do better.

I have multiple problems with the Disney princesses, both individually and collectively. I touched on my individual problems with them in the last post, but didn't say much about the collective. My biggest problem with them collectively is their very sameness. From Snow White in 1939 all the way through Disney's most recent "princess," Mulan, not a whole lot has changed. Disney pays lip-service to diversity (first through princesses with differing hair colors, and more recently with the non-white princesses), and to increasing "spunk" among the princesses, but really, the story remains the same (as do the big-eyed tiny-waisted princesses themselves). It nearly every narrative, the princess gets in some kind of trouble, generally due either to some mistake she herself makes or to the meddling or stupidity of another woman in the plot, and is rescued by a prince, always "handsome" and usually someone she barely knows. The details differ, but the princesses are never shown with human female friends (woodland creatures and talking dishes are fine, though), and are often in competition with other women. The message that sends is pretty clear--women are against you, but if you're pretty enough and suffer enough, some handsome man will come and sweep you away.

Aside from the old, tired, regressive handsome prince story, I also hate the class overtones many of the princess stories take. The handsome princes in their lives don't just "rescue" them from endless sleep (Sleeping Beauty, Snow White) and entrapment/marriage to icky men (Belle, Jasmine) but from poverty and/or being "ordinary" (Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Mulan). The message is not only that normal lives aren't good enough, but that you need to be rescued from being mundane from some dude.

Honestly, I could go on and on. I get so irritated when trying to write about this that I have trouble making a logical argument. Which I recognize, again, is intellectually lazy. But here's a start, anyway.

1 Comments

Thanks! I think this post nails down some very specific reasons to hate those movies.

As rich and handsome man, I promise to never rescue any young women from poverty - or anything else for that matter.

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A few words on the hating of men

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OK, so I have been called, more than once by now, a man hater. Honestly, it's not something that much bothers me, or that I even correct much of the time. But this is a post I've been sort of putting off writing for a while, and now is as good a time (and this as good a reason) as any.

First, to be clear: I am partnered with a man and have been for years. While it's not perfect, this partnership is happy and healthy. The man is a good man. This man is a man with whom I have every intention of spending my life. My last serious relationship with also with a man. While it wasn't always happy and healthy, whose is in their late teens and early twenties? Parts of it were great, and I don't have any ill will towards that man either. I am neither a lesbian nor a separatist.

I also have other men in my life. Some of them (co-workers, family members) are in my life by chance, but the majority of them are chosen. They are my friends.

I have never been a victim of serious abuse at the hands of a man. Sure, my dad is a fuck-up, but he's never had a large role in my life. I got into with my step-dad a few times as a kid and teen, but he's a mostly good guy. I've never been raped or molested. I've suffered only fairly inconsequential sexual harassment. I've never hit the glass ceiling. Yeah, I've had some bad experiences (a boss calling me a cunt when I was 14 comes immediately to mind, as does every time some dude has ever grabbed my ass), but nothing bad enough to be considered out-of-the-ordinary.

Despite all of the above, I don't find it hard to make a categorical statement against men. I don't find it particularly insulting to hear myself called a "man-hater." Why? Because just because these horrible things haven't happened to me doesn't mean that they haven't happened. Because it is possible to despise men as a class and still like and even love a few specific ones. Because my brain is big enough to hold more than one idea at a time.

The reality is that men as a class are very, very bad for women, as a class. From huge crimes like beating us, raping us, and killing us, to the more mundane expecting us to do all the housework and paying us less for the same job, they're not good for us. And it is both dangerous and stupid to let yourself forget that because the men in your life aren't like that, or it isn't happening to you. First, some of it is probably happening to you, whether you like to admit it or not, and secondly, even if it's not happening to you, it's happening. All over the world, all the time. And that's a damn good reason to hate. There's a word for only caring about things that happen to you directly--narcissistic.

What does it mean, then, to "hate" men and still have them in your life? Well, for me, mostly, it means caution. I have a higher natural level of caution towards men in general, and particularly towards men I don't know, than towards women. That could, I suppose, be called sexism. Given the world in which I live, I'd call it good sense.

It also means that I go out of way to involve women in my life rather than involving men. I choose female doctors, I frequent women-only or mostly-women spaces. This is, at least in part, because I believe that I am safer with women than with men, but it's also because I prefer to be around women. Even if they are in no way directly threatening me, men are likely to irritate me. Your average man (no, not EVERY man, your average man) doesn't think a whole lot about his privilege. That bugs me. And I don't want to have to spend every minute of every day trying to cajole, convince, and educate. I'd much rather be surrounded by people who get it already, and those people are more likely to be women.

So yes, if it makes you feel better to call me a man hater, go right ahead. It might do you some good to think, though, not about why I hate men (because I've been abused or had bad relationships seem to be the going theories), but why you don't. Do you really disbelieve the harm men have collectively done? They've been in charge for centuries, and look where they've gotten us! Or is it maybe just because it's easier to believe the problem is little hysterical me and not something as monolithic as an oppressor class? Maybe thinking about the systematic problem caused by men as a class would bum you out, or cause you to have to change the way you're living your life?

Just a thought.

6 Comments

Standing ovation for you!

And a big amen, to boot.

the hell? manhater? clothes-making-fun-of? wtf is this?!!?

seriously, people have nothing more important to defend than men and fashion? must be nice.

I've been reading your posts for a while, both here as a lurker and on web boards, and honestly, not once I ever even remotely thought you hat men. wow.. I'm sorry people confuse understanding the system with hate.. .

Wow, I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but having read frogs blog, I'm all caught up on the drama. you should feel proud to have raised the shackles of people like that.

Sing it sister!

Your post on male torture in the Whedon world has been linked to on whedonesque and here I am wondering how I haven't stumbled across your blog before seeing as you are a feminist who likes Buffy.

This post is outstanding and I am looking forward to having a scout around your site to see what else you have to say.

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how sassy changed my life book cover

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was a Sassy girl. Though I was a wee bit young for the demographic, being only nine or ten when the magazine started publishing and sixteen or so when it stopped, I loved my every issue of Sassy. It spoke to me. It taught me. It understood my freaky teen aged self.

And, according to Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer, authors of How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time, I was very much not alone. They posit that there are a whole nation of us Sassy girls, including luminaries like Bitch founders Andi Zeisler and Lisa Jervis and Bust creator Debbie Stoller, all of whom credit Sassy as a major influence in their work. And the book, as much as being about Sassy, is about us.

As fair warning, this book is not an intellectual criticism of Sassy or the articles that ran in it. While there is certainly history here (Jesella and Meltzer talked to nearly everyone ever involved with the magazine), there is also a fair amount of nostalgia. And near hero-worship of Sassy's staff, particularly the indomitable Christina Kelly, who served first as Sassy's entertainment editor and then eventually as the managing editor. But the book never claims to be impartial--it says right in the title that it's a love letter--so I think that's OK.

Reading the book got me back into thinking about Sassy, and about how different it was to be a girl outside the mainstream in the late 80s and early 90s compared to now. Before Sassy, and the time period that spurred it (grunge and riot grrrl music, the advent of Generation X, etc.) there had for many years been very little commoditization of being "alternative", especially for girls. Sassy was, the book claims (and I agree), integral to making it hip to be weird by the mid-90s. And although that has certainly turned back on itself by now (emo?), I still think it was culturally positive. It certainly made it easier to be me going through high school.

When I did my undergrad thesis research on Ms. magazine in the 1970s, I was astounded at how much difference a magazine can make, especially to people in the middle of the country and outside cities, and especially before we all had the Internet to easily connect us to like-minded souls all over the place. Reading this book's account of Sassy readers, and remembering my own relationship with the magazine, I got the same feeling. Its major purpose wasn't entertaining me, or educating me, or introducing me to the cool new stuff, it was helping me realize that I wasn't alone.

Now that the Internet serves that purpose for many teens, I wonder if the heyday of magazines is really over? The book implies that it is, pointing out that the 90s zine revolution has been nearly completely replaced by blogs. Stupid as it may be, I'd never made this connection, but I think it's astute. And, again as the book points out, blogs are far more accessible to your average small town girl than zines, which had to be ordered through the postal service if you didn't have a hip local bookstore or coffee shop (which I certainly didn't). Which is good. But I still feel a pretty big pang of sadness to think of girls now not having the monthly mail thrill I got when my Sassy came.

So, if you are a teen magazine scholar of some sort, this book is probably going to bug you. However, if you're a nostalgic Sassy girl like me, you'll enjoy it. It's a quick easy read and gives a bit of behind-the-scenes dirt that is still exciting after all these years. And it will really make you wish you'd kept all those magazines, because you'll want to read them again and they are really expensive on Ebay.

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More prized items

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1976 edition Our Bodies OurselvesThis picture is of my 1976 edition Our Bodies, Ourselves book. It's probably kind of a silly prized possession, as this same book can be had on Amazon Marketplace for $.01, but it is a prized possession anyway. I also have a mimeographed copy of the much less accessible first edition of the book, but it doesn't make as pretty a picture.

I got this book while I was writing my undergraduate thesis, which was about Our Bodies, Ourselves and Ms. magazine's health care coverage in the 1970s. And honestly, I probably did get it from Amazon for $.01 or similar. But it's not monetary value that draws me to it, it's what it stands for. Our Bodies, Ourselves was and continues to be an amazing project, and it was with this edition that I learned about that. Plus it's just a really cool old hippy book. I recently added the 1978 Ourselves and Our Children (found at the Goodwill) to my collection, and it's quickly becoming a prized possession too.

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I have that! And I love it too. It's quite an inspiration .

Yay! That's the edition my mom had when I was growing up, but unfortunately it fell all apart. The one I have is a later edition, that definitely isn't as nice a historical artifact.

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Why you should care about women's bookstores

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So following my post yesterday about supporting your local women's bookstore, I got a question (not in comments) about why one should care whether or not she has a local women's bookstore. What are these places for? Why are they important? And it's a fair question, albeit one with a lot of possible answers, so I thought I'd take a shot at it.

Rachel Corbett wrote an article a couple of year ago about the importance of women's bookstores. She makes several salient points, but the big ones I'd hit on are as follows:

1. Independent women's bookstores are important venues for books, zines, etc. by women that otherwise have few markets, which in turn increases demands for these products in a time where it is hard to get anything published (as small presses disappear).

2. Independent women's bookstores are venues for events, including book clubs, lectures, music, etc. that have a hard time finding other homes. They also provide more general and very necessary explicitly feminist public space.

The article goes on to argue that it might be OK that these places are disappearing, since feminism is becoming more ingrained into other types of communities, and since there is ample feminist space online. I think that's a cop-out, frankly. While I cannot note strongly enough how important I think feminist online space is, it does not replace the need for local, in-the-flesh venues where women can meet, talk, listen, buy and sell, etc. And online space doesn't speak at all to the need for women writing non-mainstream things to have a place to sell those things.

As far as the cultural integration of feminism, few things make me madder faster than the claim that feminism has done its work and should go home now, and that's where that leads for me. Feminism isn't integrated into anything. Just because things are better than they were in the days when indie women's bookstores started to take hold doesn't mean they are all fine and dandy now and we can all stop fighting. While women are still being raped, we still need to fight. While women are still being underpaid, we still need to fight. And while there is so little support for the work of women that the nation is down to a handful of stores dedicated to that work, we goddamn well still need to fight.

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Save your women's bookstore

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Yes, I know I've written about this before. It's important. I'm writing about it again.

There are only a handful of independent women's bookstores left in the United States. The email I got today from my local and once-again threatened store, BookWoman said that they are one of 12. The Feminist Bookstore Network site lists more than that, but not nearly enough, and I suspect some of those listed are either not there anymore or not independent. chora's list only has six. However many there actually are, it's not many, and many of them are under constant pressure to remain open. Right now, my biggest worry is BookWoman, which needs to raise $50,000 before mid-December in order to keep on keeping on. But tomorrow it could be the one nearest you.

So here's what I think we should do, you and I. I think we should do some of our Christmas shopping at our local feminist bookstore, if we are so lucky as to still have one. I think we should do as much of it there as we can. And in case you don't know what's near you, here are a few I know are still in operation:

Antigone Books
411 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson AZ 85705
520-792-3715
antigonebooks@qwest.net

Word Is Out
2015 10th Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302
303-449-1415
louiseknapp@wordisout.net

Bloodroot Restaurant and Bookstore
85 Ferris St.
Bridgeport CT 06605
203-576-9168

Wild Iris Books
802 West University Ave.
Gainesville FL 32601
352-375-7477 Fax -375-7719
wildirisbooks@bellsouth.net

Charis Books and More
1189 Euclid Ave. NE
Atlanta GA 30307
404-524-0304 Fax -522-6663
info@charisbooksandmore.com

Women & Children First
5233 N. Clark St.
Chicago IL60640
773-769-9299 * 888-923-7323
Fax 773-769-6729
wcfbooks@aol.com

Womencrafts Inc.
376 Commercial St. / Box 190
Provincetown MA 02657
508-487-2501
Fax 508-487-2629
info@womencrafts.com

Amazon Bookstore Cooperative
4755 Chicago Ave. S
Minneapolis MN 55407
612-821-9630
Fax 612-821-9631
amazon@amazonbookstorecoop.com

In Other Words - Women's Books & Resources
8 NE Killingsworth St
Portland, OR 97211
Tel: 503-232-6003

Book Woman
918 W. 12th St.
Austin TX 78703
512-472-2785
bkwomanpost@aol.com

A Room of One's Own
307 W. Johnson St.
Madison WI53703
608-257-7888 Fax -257-7457
room@itis.com

And if one of these fine establishments doesn't happen to be in your neck of the woods, maybe consider them instead of Amazon.com for your next online order? And the one after that? Yeah, it's gonna cost you a bit more, but this is one of those things that we've got to work to preserve, or y'all, it's gonna disappear.

2 Comments

That's incredibly interesting. While I shop only at my own favorite independents, I had no idea there was such a thing as a WOMAN'S Independent bookstore. Shame on me.

I don't live in the US but I will pass this on to my friends and family there and will order a few books online from them. Thanks for the heads up!

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Slut o ween

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Perhaps I'm getting prudish in my old age. Honestly, though, I don't think that's the problem. There have been stories and blog posts all over the Net about how Halloween has turned into an excuse/expectation for women and girls, even young girls, to dress provocatively and to male fantasy standards. Naughty nurse, sexy cat, sexy cop, French maid, etc. I personally hadn't given this a whole lot of thought. When I was in fifth grade, one of my classmates came to our Halloween carnival dressed as a ten year-old Playboy bunny. Everyone was aghast. I thought this was something like that--something odd that happened occasionally with young girls and was not generally considered acceptable. As for adult women, I've long ago accepted that a great majority of us will dress in a stupid way if given half the chance and hardly find it surprising when the line between provocative and sluttified is crossed and re-crossed.

Then, yesterday, I went to buy Halloween candy. While I was in the store, I checked out some of the costumes for sale.

Oh. My.

It seems that every women's costume, adult and child alike, has been sexified. There are no witches, just sexy witches; no pirates, just sexy pirates. Slutty superheroes, bad kitties, tavern wenches (OK, so that one was actually kind of cute, and at least it was for a grown up), and even children's outfits that screamed nothing so much as BDSM. Several versions of "pimp" and "ho" costumes! And then something that I can just barely describe, which I think was called a "dollar girl" costume, and seemed to be a short dress made entirely of plastic dollar bills?

Who lets their kids wear this stuff? Are the trick or treaters that come to my door tonight going to be dressed this way? Wasn't it bad enough when little girls were all expected to be fairies and princesses and ballerinas? Now they have to be sexy fairies, dominatrix princesses, and lap dancers?

I'm really not anti-sex, or even anti-sexy dressing. And I can totally see how and why Halloween is a fun night for women to dress more sexily than they would otherwise. I've done it myself. But not as a small child! At the age at which girls now are presumably dressing as "dollar girls," I dressed as a Care Bear, a (non-sexy) pirate, and one banner year, a book! And I had a great time on Halloween and all was well and I wasn't being asked to sell my body before I even knew what it was.

I find these sexy costumes for kids really distressing. The beauty of Halloween as a kid, to me, was imagination. It was thinking about what you could become that would be fun, being allowed to act out and look weird. This seems like just an escalation of the pressure young girls feel every day, at younger and younger ages, to meet a male sexual ideal, whether it works for them or not. And if that is what Halloween is going to be about, then I'd rather skip it all together.

3 Comments

You're not alone on this one...I totally agree. This is a great post.

I went (in the fifth or sixth grade I think) as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I'm sure you can imagine how unsexy that was. ;)

My "Victorian poet" and "Hobo Cat" costumes were totally about getting guys.

p.s. I now see issues with a costume of "hobo" anything, but honestly in grade school I didn't know any better.

Every year I have a big debate with every guy friend of mine about a related but opposite conundrum: there is no "male miniskirt" or "male lingerie". The closest thing I've come up with to it is a suit or tuxedo or uniform, which limits the variety of "sexy man" costume in a big way.
Of course, I could go out without the notion that costumes+booze+drugs=sex foremost in my head.
But I can't think of why I would.
That said, I think it's awesome that the rise of sexy toddlers comes simultaneously as the rise of hyper paranoia about sexual predators.

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Look, I'm over here!

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Have you checked out Heroine Content lately? Don't you think maybe you should? I have a new post up today, detailing the exercise in disappointment that was Alien 3.

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NaBloPoMo and History Making Women

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Last year, I participated in NaBloPoMo, as envisioned by one of my favorite bloggers, the frighteningly amusing and inventive Eden. My contribution to the 2,000ish dedicated daily bloggers was my series on history making women. Though I was very into the project, I didn't get through the whole list, stopping abruptly at #78, Gloria Steinem sometime in February. This means that there are 27 women left on the poster to be profiled, which is a pretty good number to tackle during this year's NaBloPoMo, in November. So that's what I'm going to do. A lot of advance warning, I know, but I just wanted to let you know to watch this space for that, and invite all of you to participate in NaBloPoMo as well--it's great fun!

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Gah. I'd love to do this, but I'll be in North Korea for a weekend. I'm not thinking there will be a lot of internet access.

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The Swimsuit Brigade for Honest Photos

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Suzanne has a post at BlogHer challenging women to post photos of themselves in their swimsuits, to remind all of us that we're the real women with the real bodies out here, and that's OK--more than OK, actually, fabulous. She posted hers and there are/will be others in the comments. I am 100% for it and wanted to share. Since the most recent one of myself I can find is from 1997, I'll be attempting to do one of me tonight, digital camera battery willing.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the skin we live in, y'all.

2 Comments

It's gonna be great! Don't forget to post a link at BlogHer so that others can tell you how awesome you are as well!

i think you had a pic of you and me in the creek with chance from when howell and i visited a few years ago...if you can find it, it would be great b/c i'd would love to contribute to this project as well.

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Other people's stuff

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Even though I have a whole category called "Other People's Blogs," I rarely link here to stuff I read elsewhere that moves me. I dunno why, I just don't much do it. This post, by Flea, guest-blogging at Feministe, however, needs to be read.

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Blog for choice

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blogforchocie2007.jpgOnce again, it is Blog for Choice Day, and as such, I am compelled to say something about why I am a pro-choice woman.

There are a million reasons, and they are the same million reasons that everybody else who is acknowledging Blog for Choice day is likely writing about. The biggest single one, though, is that I believe very very strongly that each person's body must be his or her own in order for us to really consider ourselves free people. And for a woman, upon whose body the burden of reproduction is enacted, part of body autonomy is having absolute authority over if, and under what circumstances, pregnancies are carried to term.

Abortion is a distasteful subject for a lot of people, and if I'm being honest, I'll admit it's not my favorite subject either. I don't like the idea of removing fetuses from wombs. It's unpleasant. Far more unpleasant, though, is the idea of having something growing in your body without your consent. To me, that's the stuff horror movies and dystopian novels are made of. And while it is true, for me, that a child growing inside me would probably not be considered there without consent for very long, I can see how that is not true for women in many circumstances, and for some women under any circumstances. Given, then, that pregnancy can occur unintentionally, allowing women full authority to remove fetuses from their bodies is the only way women can be allowed true free personhood.

Like a lot of people, I'd rather it were the case that abortion was never needed. I'd rather All pregnancies were rejoiced, rather than bemoaned, and that all fetuses developed into happy and healthy babies. But that's not the world we live in. In this world, birth control is inaccessible, or ineffective, or not used for any of a million other reasons. In this world, not everybody wants to have a baby, and even those who do are not automatically in situations were having a baby is a good choice. And given those constraints, legal, affordable, and accessible abortion services are absolutely key to granting full citizenship to women.

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Vote NO on 43

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This entry is specifically for any Oregon readers I might have (and bless you for being here, too--I love to think that there is someone from home reading this), but also for anybody with a parental notification measure on their ballot, or a possibility of one in the future.

Folks, you have to vote no on these. As much as it may make sense to you that an underage girl should discuss having an abortion with her parents before she does it, you and I both know that legislating that is a bad idea, not in the least because so many girls would have their right to choose negated by having to get parental permission, and also because of the possibility of harm or violence to a girl who has to tell her parents. Not everyone has good parents, understanding parents, reasonable parents, and parental notification legislation assumes they do.

In the specific case of Oregon's ballot Measure 43, things are even a little bit worse. What Measure 43 requires is for doctors to send a form letter via certified mail to the parents of any minor seeking abortion services. There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or abusive homes. This means that in some terrible cases, notification of a girl seeking an abortion could be sent to the very man who made her pregnant against her will. I can't imagine anything more destructive to choice than that, not to mention how dangerous it might be for the girl herself.

Parental consent is both one brick in the wall against choice for everyone and a separate and infuriating slap in the face of body autonomy for teenaged girls. It is incumbent upon all of us who are safe in our abilities to make our own decisions about our bodies to protect the rights of those whose autonomy is threatened, particularly in cases like this, where the young women who would be effected aren't even allowed to cast their votes on the legislation that could so drastically impact their lives.

Please vote NO on Measure 43, and spread the word.

For more on Measure 43, see:
NARAL Oregon
No on 43
Oregon Education Association
League of Women Voters of Oregon
ACLU of Oregon

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Before and after

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As a follow up to the Dove piece I posted a few days ago (and is making its way around the Internet in a million other forums as well), I have to share something Nyarly brought to my attention. If you go here, then click on "portfolio" and "before/after," you can see celebrity photographs pre and post-digital enhancement.

One example, a picture of Mariah Carey, is shown below. Others are similarly revealing.

before pictureafter picture

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Ooh! This is a topic I am very interested in!

At some point I just started photoshopping out all zits, unevenness of skin tone and sharpening jaw lines, etc.

I occasionally consider adding tattoos to people's faces, just to see how they'd react. My father was a big fan of the swastika I photoshopped onto his forehead in last year's Passover photographs.

I think I missed the window of opportunity for this post, though.

Damn.

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It's Mr. DiFranco to you*

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So it's a small thing. Or is it? One's name is both a meaningless marker and an encapsulated identity. Both a small thing and not a small thing at all.

I just got off the phone with the vet's office. I love my vet. Love. But I don't love the reception staff, who just can't seem to get the name thing straight. All of the pets' intake forms list their last names as Mitchell Harnett. My name on everything there, from consent forms to credit cards receipts, is Grace Mitchell. And when I called just now, I said, verbatim, "This is Grace Mitchell. I'm calling to schedule an ultra sound for my dog Leo. You may have him listed under Harnett."

So when the receptionist got back on the phone and said, "Mrs. Harnett..." should I have been surprised?

How about when we received a very nice card from Mark's grandmother this weekend, addressed to Mark and Grace Harnett? Mark's grandmother is not senile. She knows Mark and I aren't married (leaving aside, for the moment, that my name would not change even if we were). So who is Grace Harnett?

I'd prefer people not assume Mark and I are married. But I know they will, and that, given our genders and our obvious relationship, it's a statistically probable assumption. And, if you assume we're married, that we'd have the same last name (his) is also a statistically probable assumption, for someone who doesn't know us. So I understand how a stranger would come to the conclusion that my last name is Harnett. However, if I have told you MULTIPLE TIMES what my freaking name is, it just feels disrespectful for you to continue calling me by something else. It's not just that I'm irritated, as a feminist, at the insistence that even if I haven't taken Mark's name, I should. It's that I feel a little piece of my identity, the one I've had my entire life, chosen by my mother, being negated when my name is misrepresented. And this is particularly exhausting when it is at the hand (or lips) of someone who knows me, either personally or professionally. So get with it.

*Ani, "In Or Out"

2 Comments

yeah if you have asked people to call you one thing (for whatever reason) and they call you another repeatedly, they are an asshole and not worth your time/money/patronage, in my opinion. My ex-boss, though I worked for him for almost three years, and despite the fact that he often had to introduce me, never learned how to pronounce my name even though I corrected him MANY times. It was the tip of the iceberg of realizing he did not really respect me.

Yuck. I hate that. The presumptuousness and entitlement of the whole thing just unspeakably annoy me. You'd think some folks could get the hang of it that not all couples are married and not all couples have the same names, but apparently not. Grrr.

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5 Things Feminism Has Done For Me

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In support of Canadian feminists protesting the new goverment's hamstringing of the Status of Women's Canada (SWC), and in blatant copying of some great bloggers, here are five things feminism has done for me:

1. Got me born to an unresentful mama. My conception was not intentional. And my my mother had a choice to whether or not to have me. She considered her options. She made the decision to have me. It wasn't decided for her. And I can't help but believe that started my life out on a better foot than otherwise would have been possible.

2. Allows me to structure my partnership the way that I choose. It is because of feminism and the work feminists have done that I don't feel I have to marry my partner just because that's what traditionally happens next. This is very important to me. It's clearly not yet perfected, as many people are not free to structure their parternships in the ways that best suit them, but for me it has worked out that way.

3. Allows me to say yes when I want sex and no when I don't. All by itself, this is huge.

4. Increases my comfort in my body. As uncomfortable as I sometimes am in my XL skin, I know things would be exponentially worse if I lived in a world where nobody had ever tried to deconstruct the beauty myth.

5. Provides me with a mirror with which to look at other types of inequality. As a woman who believes woman are and have been an oppressed class, I am much more able than I otherwise would be to sympathize with, and hopefully begin to understand, the battles other oppressed classes of people are fighting, and to do what I can to assist them in those battles.

And that's just off the top of my head. The truth is that there are few, if any, aspects of my life that the advent of feminism hasn't positively affected. Without generations of women fighting for equality there is simply no way I could be who I am today.

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The "unresentful mama" one is true for me too, and it didn't even occur to me. It's a good point, though--I'm glad I was born to someone who decided she was willing to be a mom then even if it wasn't planned, rather than to someone who really didn't want to have a baby.

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Real beauty

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Many thanks to Squid for posting a link to this great spot from Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, showing the transition from a model to a billboard. I think it's meant to teach little girls that what they see in advertisements and magazines isn't real, but that's something this not-so-little girl could use an occaisonal reminder about as well.

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Giving up on Madonna

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I've always been a big supporter of Madonna. No matter what crazy-ass thing she did, from the Sex book to the fake British accent and Kabbalah, I've defended her both as a brilliantly self-inventing and reinventing businesswoman and as a certain kind of artist (though not so much the kind she thinks she is). But this time, I have nothing good to say.

Being a news-avoider (both the real kind and the entertainment kind), I had only been vaguely aware of Madonna's adoption plans when my friend S. filled me in last night. Basically, as I understand it, Madonna visited Malawi on some sort of charity trip, donating a bunch of dough ($3 million?) to children there who are being ravaged by poverty and AIDS. Then she decided she wanted to take one of those babies home. Malawi law doesn't allow international adoption. However, rather than starting the labor-and-time intensive international adoption process from a country that does allow international adoption of its orphan children, Madonna decided that her celebrity status would allow her to bypass this bit of "red tape" and picked out a kid.

Yeah. Picked out a kid. One year-old David Banda, who has been living in an orphanage, but who is not an orphan. While David's mother died shortly after his birth, his father is still alive and is involved in his life (sounds like he's at the orphanage due to his father's extreme poverty and inability to care for him).

So not only is Madonna insisting on adopting a child from a country that doesn't allow international adoption, she's also adopting a child who has a father who wants him.

Making matters worse, while waiting for travel documents/permission to take David out of the country, Madonna and her husband, Guy Ritchie, left the country, leaving the baby with employees. Yep. So attached to the kid they couldn't wait a few weeks.

And that's pretty much where it stands now. Her adoption is being challenged, various organizations are arguing over whether it's a good idea, the baby's father has said that he did not support the adoption, but was told by the orphanage that he should, etc.

This is fucking infuriating, for a couple of reasons. First there are the obvious problems with this particular instance--Madonna's complete lack of respect for other people's laws and customs, for the adoption process, and for this boy's existing family. But beyond that, there's what the media around Madonna's baby-buying (because really, that is what this sounds like) does to people who adopt internationally for the right reasons, within the laws, and with years of forethought.

The obvious counter-example to the Madonna story, since we're talking celebrities, is Angelina Jolie. Angelina has two adoption children, both orphans. Her son Maddox is from Cambodia and her daughter Zahara is from Ethiopia. There have been piles of press about these adoptions, both positive and negative, and no shortage of insistences that Jolie bought her babies. However, this story is a lot different than Madonna's--it includes legal adoptions, of orphans, from countries with international adoption laws. And Jolie reportedly spent up to 18 months in Cambodia with Maddox before she was cleared to take him out of the country. While Madonna and Ritchie couldn't spare a few weeks.

The more important thing, though, is what this does to regular families who were brought together through international adoption. It's a subject near and dear to my heart because my best small friend, H., came to her parents, S. and T., by way of international adoption from China. Over the time period we've been friends with S. and T., we've watched much of the adoption process, from the beginning gathering of paperwork through multiple home visits, the months of wondering when the referral will come, the joy when the referral finally does show up, the arduous trip to China, the bonding of the new family, and H.'s first two years on American soil. Being an observer to this process has given me tremendous respect for people who choose to go this expensive, heart-wrenching route, and knowing this family and all of the good, true, right reasons they chose to expand in this way has made me livid at hearing international adoption scoffed at as accessorizing your boho family, as baby-buying. Which it is. Often. And sometimes by otherwise reasonable folks. How much more of this is Queen Madonna bringing down upon those adopt these kids by the rules and for the right reasons? And what fucking right does she have?

2 Comments

I totally agree.

I hope you'll watch Oprah today so you hear the other side. Just because it's in the media does not make it true.....

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More on female bullying

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In the comments to that last post regarding It's a Girls World, my friend Scand asked an interesting question. As I have been a bully myself, what would I have said I was angry about, if asked, during my bullying days?

I wish I had an answer. But I don't. Part of the problem is that my experiences with bullying, both as a victim and a perpetrator, are very hazy. I know I came home from school crying and never wanted to go back and had no friends at times, and I know I participated in a "slam book" and was a terror to other girls at other times, but I don't have any really specific memories--certainly no memories that are clear enough that I can tap into how I felt at the time.

I'm surprised by how clear man women's memories of their childhood bullies seem to be, and I wonder what it means that mine aren't. I honestly don't feel like I was scarred for life by being bullied as a child. It was horrible at the time, I'm sure, but I don't think I suffer from it as an adult. Many women clearly do. What made my experiences different? Was it just that I didn't undergo the kind of terrorizing that some women did? Or is it that I was sometimes on the other side as well?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I believe that one of the root causes of female-to-female bullying and aggression is unresolved anger. Women aren't allowed to be angry, and we have ever so much to be angry about. I think this is part of the reason girls who don't fit a stereotypically feminine mold are often singled out for aggression--they make a good target for other girls who wish, consciously or not, that they didn't have to fit that mold either. Even as an adult, with what I hope is more awareness of my motives and behavior than I had as a child, I can sometimes feel myself becoming angry and resentful at women who are somehow able to live outside of boundaries I feel corralled by. Could the same thing that makes me resentful as an adult have made me a bully as a child? Is that part of the equation?

As I mentioned before, there seem to be two current leading theories of why girls bully each other. The first is Simmons' theory, that girls are not taught how to argue or fight in a healthy way and so they begin to act in mean, petty, passive-aggressive ways. The second, discussed in Leora Tanenbaum's Catfight, is that female aggression is based largely on competition. Women and girls are nasty to each other out of jealousy and competition for scarce resources (time, jobs, men, whatever). Tanenbaum's reasoning resounds with me as much as Simmons' does, but again, I think there is more to it. I think it may be less about "scarce resources" and more about resentment of other girls and women who seem to be getting off easier when it comes to being female.

I truly believe that just being born female in this world is enough to keep you mad for a lifetime. The unending, heartbreaking unfairness of it is enough weight all by itself to piss me off, before any details even come into play. As women, we are reminded a thousand times a day that we are considered inferior, and that everything is going to be harder for us simply by virtue of our sex. So perhaps seeing other women seem to deal with it easier, not be bothered by it, or fit naturally into roles that we have to contort ourselves into feeds into this anger, and we (wrongly) target those women for being better contortionists, rather than blaming the guys who created the boxes.

It's not a perfect theory by any means, but instinctively it feels reasonable to me. As a 27 year-old woman who has given a lot of time and thought to being a woman, I can admit that I'm angry all the time. Every day. And it is a lot to carry around. I hope that I don't take it out on other women, but if I am honest with myself, I know at times I have. And how much harder is it if you can't admit that you're mad? Or if you don't even know you're mad, or you do, but you have no idea why? It's not really surprising that the helplessness and confusion leads to misguided rage.

But how to get beyond the rage--or, better yet, use it for something constructive? That's the real question. And I still don't have an answer. For myself, all I can do is try to take people one at a time, for who they are. Try to err on the side of kind. But I know it's not enough. It's never enough.

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It's a Girl's World

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girlsworld.jpgI've long been interested in the subject of female aggression, or, put simply, why women and girls are so damn mean to each other. This interest is largely personal, as I've been on the end of a quite a bit of female-to-female bullying, both as a child and as an adult, and I've been on the bully side more often than I'd care to admit as well. It's partially theoretical or academic, though, as the more involved I've become in feminist academic and social circles, the more sure I am that the biggest barricade in the way of real feminist change is, in fact, women's attitudes towards each other.

Which is a fairly controversial statement, really. A lot of feminists do not see it that way, and many are even insulted by the idea, as they think it implies that it's women’s own fault they are oppressed. Which isn't at all what I mean. I believe that the ways in which women abuse each other are highly patriarchally conditioned.

A lot of scholars on the subject of female bullying agree. There are several good books about this, the most famous and easily accessible of which is probably Rachel Simmons' Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls (others worth checking out are Phyllis Chesler's groundbreaking Woman's Inhumanity to Woman and Leora Tanenbaum's Catfight: Rivalries Among Women--from Diets to Dating, from the Boardroom to the Delivery Room, which focuses on the competitive aspects of conflicts between girls and women). In her search for an explanation for the way she was treated and the way she treated others as a girl, Simmons interviews girls of various ages, races, classes, and backgrounds, as well as does significant secondary source research. She comes to the conclusion that the best explanation for the passive-aggressive nastiness young girls show each other (behavior including spreading rumors, exclusion, trying to turn others against someone, etc.) is that girls aren't taught any other way to express disagreement. In short, girls don't know how to fight in a healthy way, so they fight in a supremely unhealthy one.

Simmons and her theory make a guest appearance on the most recent piece I saw on this subject, the CBC/National Film Board of Canada Production It's a Girl's World. This short film alternates between interviews with and footage of a clique of 10 year-old girls in Montreal and their families and interviews with the family, friends, and tormentors of 14 year-old Dawn-Marie Wesley, a British Columbia girl who committed suicide after being bullied. Filmmaker Lynn Glazier simultaneously explores the most serious possible consequences of bullying, telling the story of the Wesley case, and the sources of bullying behavior and how it plays out, observing the Montreal girls.

The most interesting part of the film for me was Glazier's footage of the Montreal girls' parents (mostly their mothers, as (tellingly?) only one father seemed to be involved). Their reactions went from taking the situation very seriously to completely avoiding reality and brushing everything off with "they'll outgrow it." Especially interesting were the very different reactions of the parents of the two biggest bullies in the group. One set of parents was very pro-active, talking at length with their daughter about her behavior, keeping her home from activities if she did not socialize nicely, etc. The other mother denied that her daughter would have anything to do with bullying behavior until very late in the game.

The parents of all of the girls in the group got together on several occasions to discuss the issue, at one point bringing Simmons in as an "expert." In what I found to be the film's most telling scene, the girls' parents sit around a table, watching footage of the group of girls having a discussion about bullying with Simmons. In the discussion, the girls display typical behavior--one whispers to another behind her hand, several gang up on another and tell her she should be talking, one belittles another for not speaking up. Then the mothers display very similar behavior, one brushing off another's concerns, a second drilling a clearly upset woman about her parenting tactics, and several sitting quietly, looking as if they wished they were anywhere else.

To me, it was that scene, more than anything else in the film, which really drove the point home. Not only is bullying a dangerous, extremely harmful force in childhood, but we don't necessarily outgrow it. This is bad for us, individually and collectively, and bad for our kids. How can we expect a group of 10 year-olds to learn to disagree constructively and treat each other with respect when their mothers can't do it either? And who polices the mommies? Where does it end?

The same thought entered my mind watching an interview with one Dawn-Marie Wesley's bullies and her grandmother. Both the teenage girl and her grandmother did little but make excuses, saying that Dawn-Marie engaged in the same behavior, it was normal, doing everything but calling her suicide an overreaction to a completely average situation. With an attitude like that coming from the adult in her life (her grandmother), how could the teenage bully ever expect to be any different?

I don't completely agree with Simmons' bullying theories. Or, I agree with them, but think they are only part of a very complicated picture. I can certainly see her argument for girls' passive-aggressive behavior being largely due to not being socially able to be out-and-out aggressive, but even if girls were to be more "masculine" in their behavior towards each other, to bully with fists and punches more than glares and whispered rumors, we'd still have a problem, you know? And I believe a lot of that problem comes from the massive unresolved anger many woman and girls carry around with them. We're right to be angry--we live in a world that systematically devalues us at ever turn. The problem is that we turn that anger on each other, because we're too afraid to band together and turn it on those who really deserve it. The boys. We spend so much energy attacking each other, standing in our own and each other's way, and it's time and energy we could spend attacking them. But keeping us at each other's throats is all part of the plan, isn't it? It's much easier to dominate a population hell-bent on dominating each other.

The answers the film suggested were ultimately unsatisfying, at least to me. While I was glad to see the Montreal girls' parents taking bullying seriously and talking to their children about it, I don't much think it's going to help, even in their specific cases, much less overall. Forcing a girl to apologize for her past behavior, or encouraging her to make other friends if the ones she has are mean to her, don't really address the issue. I never heard any mother tell her daughter she was right to be mad, or offer to help her figure out who she was really mad at. And I'm not surprised. I've spent a good deal of time thinking about this stuff-more than most, probably-and I still can't figure out who to be mad at most of the time. I only pray that if I ever have a daughter, she and I can both learn.

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Way back when you were on the bully side, if someone had asked, who would you have said you were angry at?

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Texas will miss you, Governor Richards

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ann_richards.jpgI'm so sad about Ann Richards' death yesterday that I haven't been able to figure out what to say about it here. As a woman, as a "progressive," and as a transplanted Texan, I've long admired Governor Richards' work and looked to her as proof that sometimes Texas can be something good, even something great. We'll miss her.

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In uniform

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I wrote my first anti-uniform piece when I was 16. I was a member of a local newspaper's teen team, and I fought to be assigned the anti-uniform stance in a point-counterpoint article (front page of the section!). As a picture to accompany the article, the girl who wrote the pro-uniform side was given a small budget and told to go to Target or Wal-Mart or wherever and buy clothes she would consider an appropriate uniform for high schools. I was told to come in my own clothes, whatever I thought best reflected my typical style. Then they took our pictures back-to-back and printed our pieces. She came in navy pants with an elastic waist, a plain white polo shirt, and plain dark shoes. I came in jeans I inherited from my stepfather, a hand-tooled leather belt from the 70s (with someone else's name on the back of it), a striped v-neck, and Birkenstocks. We were equally comfortable and able to move around. We were equally "covered up." We both felt, I assume, that what we were wearing said something about ourselves as individuals.

More than ten years later, I have no idea what my "opponent" (whose name I've forgotten) thinks about dress codes and uniforms. As for me, though, my stance hasn't changed much. Now, as then, uniforms make my skin crawl, and I abhor dress codes. It's not so much about the mystical ability to "express myself" through my clothes as it is about control. The way I see it, dressing is an extension of body autonomy, and I don't want someone else telling me what parts of my body need to be covered, by what, etc. It irritates me in employment situations (which are, mostly, voluntary) and it enrages me in schools (which are, mostly, not).

I spent much of high school pressing the dress code issue. My high school did not have a particularly stringent code, but certain things (midriff tops, shorts or skirts that were too short, spaghetti strap tanks, hats, etc.) were not allowed. I wore all of them at one time or another. It wasn't about being sexxxxeeee, or about showing off my body. It was about testing boundaries. It was about exercising my own autonomy, and seeing how far I could push.

Interestingly, when I moved to college, where there was no dress code (literally none, we had naked students at Reed), I started caring a lot less about my clothes. I had my own uniform, of a sort--baggy cargo pants or BDUs, a t-shirt, a hoodie. I did a few wild things with my hair, pierced my navel (not allowed in high school), got my first tattoo (also not allowed), but basically, I kept myself covered up and didn't think much about it. As an adult, working in professional environments, I wear clothing that is, by and large, appropriate. I do wear sleeveless shirts and dresses, which some people find inappropriate (particularly because it shoes my upper arm tattoo), but none of my employers have had any problem with this, so I guess it's fine. Having the freedom to dress the way I see fit hasn't turned me into some kind of monster. If anything, it's let to me chilling out about the whole situation.

Dress codes and uniforms, in most cases, are about control. They generally come about through dictates rather than community processes, coming down from a superior as rules for inferiors. This is the case in schools, in places of employment, and in prisons. I object to this kind of control. I buck against this kind of control, and I think a lot of people do. And moreover, I think we should, particularly women. Because in truth, there's not much difference between someone with power over you telling you to cover it up and telling you to take it off. Either way, someone who is not you is exercising control over your body decisions, and I think it's right to fight that.

My basic premises are as follows:

1. People should be left to dress as they see appropriate, with the exception of dress codes needed for safety reasons and uniforms needed for identification purposes (i.e. police officers, fire fighters, etc.);
2. If left to their own devices, people will generally dress in a way that is deemed "appropriate" for whatever their position/station is;
3. If left to their own devices and not dressing "appropriately," people generally aren't hurting anyone or anything anyway.

I honestly don't understand what is so hard about that. It seems to me that uniforms and dress codes are just unnecessary rules in nearly all cases, and I don't see any point to restricting people unnecessarily. The so-called benefits of dress codes seem mostly invented to me (safer? less distracting? less classist? really? are you sure?), and the drawbacks are much larger than people realize.

1 Comments

A few things:

Schools-
Kids are in a learning phase - understanding themselves, the world around them, and require guidance, RULES, and understanding. Better than a dress code is regular discussions about what it means to "express yourself" via your fashion statements and what "appropriate" really means. I found it fascinating that you choose the word appropriate to describe the way you dress at work, yet shun dress codes, since the dress codes are all about defining appropriate.

Work -
In many employment situations, the customer sets the standard. Not many people are likely to drop $60,000 on a car from someone with tatoos on their face and assless chaps. The business needs the customer to exist, so they deem that inappropriate for work based on what the customer's expectations are.

There are also dress codes in the work place that relate to saftey that I agree with.

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More on the Willard Suitcase Exhibition

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I can't get the Willard Suitcase Exhibition out of my head. I even dreamed about it last night. So this post will contain "spoilers," as it were, and I highly recommend you click the link and take a look for yourself before you read it.

I have a great big family, and, as is often the case, it comes with lots of family lore. Stories about the time Uncle X said that and Grandma Y did this and all that. I have an inordinate fondness for these stories, both because of their personal connection to my family and because I love me some history, especially oral history. One story has always really bothered me, though. My maternal grandfather's eldest sister, Edna, gave birth to twins, I think in the 40s, and "lost her mind." I don't know what exactly "lost her mind" means in this case--could have been post-partum depression, could have been something else. Edna was institutionalized and eventually given a lobotomy. As far as I know, she died in the state mental hospital. She never got to mother her babies. She never got to make her own decisions. She lost her freedom, and then she lost part of her brain.

I thought about her a lot while I was looking through the Willard suitcase pictures. What might her suitcase have contained? Pictures of her kids (she had older children as well as the twins)? Of her siblings (there were eight)? Her parents (already dead by this time)? Who spoke for her? When she was first committed, did she have any idea that she was never going to have the opportunity to return to her old life?

And did she really need to be committed at all? Was what she suffered from what we now know as post-partum depression, which, Tom Cruise's rantings aside, is a fairly common medical condition in women who have recently given birth and has several possible courses of treatment, none of which involve locking someone up and cutting out part of their brain? Even if she had something more rare--schitzophrenia, say--was she a danger to herself or anyone else? And even if she was, how much of a danger do you need to be before it's a legitimate choice to lock you up and throw away the key? Or give you a lobotomy?

The written about the people who owned the suitcases found in the attic of Willard Psychiatric Center portray people who had similar stories to my great-aunt Edna's, though none of them were given lobotomies. None of them sound all that "crazy," yet all of them spent decades, usually more than half of their lives, in locked mental wards without recourse. Some of them were "odd" their whole lives, others had reactions to tragedies that were considered inappropriate. Many of them were immigrants, and there were clear language barriers. Everything was taken from these people, from the suitcases that laid untouched in an attic for half a century or more to the very basic human right of free will. Very few of them were treated, and those who were were given electroshock "therapy" and high doses of drugs that did things to their brains that were not dissimilar to what a knife did to Edna's. In many cases, it seemed as if treatment was a ruse at best--they were being punished, in a way so severe that even at the time prisoners got better treatment. And punished for what? Very few of them were violent. Punished for thinking differently?

I don't think it's a coincidence that of the nine people portrayed in the online suitcase exhibition, six were immigrants to New York at the time of their admission to Willard and another was African-American. Nor do I think it's chance that seven of them came from working-class backgrounds. I am surprised only four of them are women. What we choose to define as "mentally ill" both in the first half of the last century, when the suitcase owners came to Willard, and now, is heavily influenced by race, class, and gender. We live in a society that wants to regulate the thoughts of people whom we do not trust to think "right" for themselves. In the commentary for the online museum, it says. "In the medical records, one finds no indication that any of [the suitcase owners] thought that their confinement at Willard was warranted, or that they benefited from being there." Most people came to Willard via a court order, and more than half of them left in a casket, after a stay averaging over 30 years. And what about my aunt Edna? Did she think her confinement was warranted? Did she want them to cut out part of her brain to make her more compliant? Somehow I doubt it.

I find this infuriating, but also, as I said yesterday, really frightening on a personal level. The instances that precipitated the suitcase owners' commitment to Willard seem so...common. Unemployment, death of a loved one, things that can do happen to anybody. And were their reactions all different than mine would have been, or will be, in similar circumstances? How am I to know that having a child wouldn't cause me to "lose my mind" just like Aunt Edna did? And if I did, would I be allowed to speak for myself? Would anyone speak for me? What would be in my suitcase?

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Thanks for posting the link to that...I spent a long time looking at it yesterday. Did you check out the audio clips? I guess some of the patients there (but not the ones whose suitcases were displayed) WERE lobotomized, and one of the former nurses talks about that. There are also bits about the seclusion rooms, "typhoid cages," and "the blitz" (shock therapy). Pretty interesting, scary stuff. It struck me also that of the people whose suitcases were displayed, most of them seemed decidedly NOT in need of being there. I wondered how much of that was what they chose to display, and how much was simply the proportion of people there who actually had good reason to be there.

Grace, I was so moved by your reflections on your aunt's experience in response to your reading the suitcase website. So many thousands of people endured that experience unecessarily. And Jess, I just wanted to let you know that the only criteria we used to select the people to include in our study was that they had suitcases with a lot of rich material, which made it easier to understand something about who they were before they were institutionalized.

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What a difference a name makes

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I've been following a conversation on one of the feminist message board I frequent which centers around naming--specifically, it's been about what, if anything, women chose to do with their last names when they marry, and whose last name kids get. This is something I've pondered before, as I'm surprised that so many of my married/mommy feminist friends took their husbands' last names when they married and passed those names on to their kids. As we are all aware, I think, this is a patriarchal tradition. We can and probably do disagree about how important a tradition it is, but its roots are undeniably in the patriarchy, and I would think refusing to change your name upon marriage or assume your offspring will bear your male partner's name would be one way for heterosexual feminists to fairly easily usurp the status quo (though I realize that is easy for my unmarried, non-mom self to say). So I'm surprised by how seldom it seems to actually be done.

For the record, my plans are as follows:
1. Don't get married.
2. If I do get married, make no change to my name.
3. Don't have kids.
4. If I do have kids, hyphenate their last names, probably with my last name before the hyphen and Mark's after the hyphen, but that's negotiable.

For me, that's what makes sense. Mark and I are already the Mitchell-Harnett family/household. When I fill out paperwork for our dogs, I put Mitchell-Harnett as their surname. Why would it be different for children? I'm Mitchell, he's Harnett, our kids are Mitchell-Harnett. Seems easy enough.

But of course people have arguments against hyphenating. The most common one is that it isn't a long-term solution, as people's names will get too long if they keep hyphenating in future generations. And that's a problem, but all naming conventions I can think of have problems, and frankly, I'd rather let future generations work those out for themselves than keep on with an archaic tradition like the one we have now. Plus, as my friend Tishie pointed out, that problem can be solved by parents with hyphenated names choosing only one of their two names to pass on, thus passing something on from both sides.

If keeping your own name and hyphenating kids' names is so easy, though, why haven't any of my feminist friends done it? Generally, they give one or a combo of the following reasons for taking their husbands' names:
1. They don't care, names don't mean anything anyway, it's more important to him, since it's not important, it's not a feminist battle worth fighting, etc.
2. They want their whole family to have the same last name.
3. They want to divorce themselves from their former last name.
4. It's just easier.
5. You have a man's last name either way, at least your husband's is chosen (unlike, presumably, your father's).

As much as I admire and love and respect any number of women who have made this decision, and used one or all of the above reasons for doing so, the reasons just don't cut it for me. To begin with, I just don't get names as not being important. Names are, besides our appearances, our primary identifiers. They are ties to our families, our cultures, etc. And, if they really don't matter, why is changing them important? Why is it even a custom? I just can't imagine giving up my name and not feeling as if I've lost something.

In the case of women who have a specific reason for wanting to be rid of the name they've grown up with (often abuse, etc.), I don't understand why taking a different "by default" name (a husband's) would be preferable to choosing another name for yourself. I can totally see why renaming yourself would be an important part of healing and important way to sever ties with an abusive family, etc., but I don't see how this wouldn't be even more the case if you choose the name you change to, rather than just taking someone else's.

As far as families all having the same name, it probably is easier. But easier isn't necessarily better, and as often as not, easier reinforces the status quo. So why it may indeed be easier for an individual woman to take her husband's last name and pass it on to her children, minimizing confusion, etc., is it really easier for women as a class, in the long run? And as far as the family all having the same name, why do we assume that the only way for that to happen is to use dad's name? What's wrong with dad changing his name? The whole family choosing something new? Mixing names? Hyphenating? If having all family members have the same last name is really important to you (and it's not to me, but I grew up with a different last name than the people I lived with, so my perspective comes from there), there are lots of ways to do it.

Basically, I think women do themselves, if not as individuals, then as a class, a disservice by changing their names when they marry and not insisting that some element of their names be passed on to their children. In my mind, it ends up being one more way for women to subsume their own identities to those of men, and I don't like that.

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why not make up a new name for you and your husband? i think taking a name you chose yourself instead of staying with some dude's name is better, for me at least it would be.

"If keeping your own name and hyphenating kids' names is so easy, though, why haven't any of my feminist friends done it?" Well, I certainly did it. And it hasn't been hard, but I've written about this often elsewhere so I won't repeat myself here.

I didn't realize that Sarahlynn, or I'd forgotten it. Did you write about it on your blog? I'll have to go look.

My grandmother changed her last name both times she got married. There is real question as to the proper spelling of her maiden name. One of the charming things about last names is the ability to trace lineages and feel an emotional connection - I don't love Jenny's solution because the last name is going to change with every generation. Grandparents would be pissed. I think the last name change should be based on whichever last name sounds snappiest or least lame when paired with their first name. So you wouldn't get people with alliterative names post-marriage, like Sarah Smith or Jenny Jones. Because that shit is just wrong.

I agree completely with this post, Grace. I'm not going to rag on anyone who chose to change her name after marriage, or call them bad feminists, but you know, it's just not a feminist choice, whatever excuses there are for it.

I used to get into frequent discussions about this on the Ms. Boards and The Phoenix. Since then, I've blogged about it a couple of times: http://sarahlynn.blogspot.com/2004_08_01_sarahlynn_archive.html http://sarahlynn.blogspot.com/2006/02/gender-traitor-name-thing.html

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Get with it, Gilmores

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So I'm currently obsessed with Gilmore Girls, as I've made clear. But I have to tell you, Rory and Loralei pissed me right off today. As did Luke. I just started the third season, and in one of the first episodes, the vingnette at the beginning features Loralei and Rory sitting in Luke's cafe while he complains about a messy, loud table with kids that doesn't buy much. OK, whatever. Then one of the women at the table starts breastfeeding her baby, and Luke goes apeshit about how that's gross and she's exposing herself and women should go in a barn or a cave or something to do that. And Loralei and Rory don't say anything to correct him. They even chime in on the grossness factor. Bad, bad form.

It was a bit of an a-ha to me, because most of my conversations on the subject of breastfeeding have been with people who are all for it, and I honestly didn't really think that "ew yucky breastfeeding!" was still the popular opinion, at least not among the generally fairly women-friendly (among whom I would count the Gilmores and Luke, and yes, I know they aren't real people, I'm just making a point). Guess I was wrong.

I'm not going to stop watching the show or anything, but if I were watching in real time, instead of many years after the fact, I'd be firing off a nasty email to the creators and the station and everyone else I could think of right now. And I hope someone who was with it enough to watch the show when it was on originally did just that.

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I also haven't spoken with anyone who is anti-breastfeeding. Although I guess I take all Luke rants as ridiculous. I seem to recall Television Without Pity making a deal about it.

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Blogging for GLBT families

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blogging for lbgt families iconToday is the day to blog for GLBT families. In support of all of the GLBT families out there, and particularly the ones over on my blog roll, I wanted to put something up to acknowledge that.

I thought quite a bit about it, and decided that the best thing I can do is to hit it from my perspective, which is that of a functionally heterosexual woman (i.e. a woman in a different sex relationship--we've been over this ground before) watching what is happening to her gay and lesbian (well, just lesbian, to be honest) friends and they families they are creating.

And what I see happening is a lot of bullshit. I see amazing women building great families, with or without children, and not having those families recognized in most basic ways by the state. I see these women having to fight, litigate, and make awful choices just to get the recognition that those of us who are not in same-sex partnerships take for granted. And it really, really sucks.

It seems to me that the right to create families and have those families recognized is a basic right of citizenship in this country, or even a basic human right. Even when we strip away someone's citizenship rights, we don't dare take away someone's family. We don't tell a prisoner, for example, that s/he has no legal or social ties to his/her partner, parents, or children anymore. We would find that too intolerably cruel. Why, then, is it OK to do it to someone based solely on the her gender being the same as her partner's? What kind of logic is that?

Given the very basic level at which these injustices strike, it's hard for me to imagine how much they must hurt--to have people who know nothing about you or your family make arbitrary distinctions between whose baby your child really is, or who serves as next of kin to your partner--it's unthinkable. And I cannot express how much admiration I have for the gay and lesbian families all over this country who are doing the hard work every day to create the families they need and demand recognition of those families, one painstaking piece at a time. I really, really wish it were easier for all of you, and I know it will be some day.

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North Country

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North Country movie posterIt took me a long time to see this movie, which may be surprising, given that it's about sexual harrassment and labor rights. There were two big reasons for that. The first was that I thought it would be depressing (and it was); the second was that I thought Charlize Theron would bug me (and she did).

First thing first: I am sick to death of seeing Charlize Theron "uglied up" to play "white trash" characters. While Josie, Theron's character in this film, isn't a serial killer like Eileen Wuornos, and I don't think they had Charlize gain any weight for this role, she's still a woman of a certain class, and watching Theron play women of this class turns my stomach. It feels like a bad, insulting impression. And the northern Minnesota accent she puts on for this one makes it even worse.

That being said, this movie wasn't as bad as it could have been. Above all else, I guess, I like to see stories like this one told, and depressing as it is, I like to see them told the way they are here, without an ending that conflates happiness with winning a lawsuit (a la Erin Brokovich). It's defeating, though, to watch women so mistreated, and realize that even if the lawsuit is won (which, of course, you know it will be, or they wouldn't have made the movie), things aren't really going to change all that much.

The film is dreary and depressing. It gives you the sense of constantly being cold, except for the scenes inside the mill, which give you the sense of being suffocatingly hot. It's hard to watch. And it should be, so I don't hold that against it. At least not as much as I hold Charlize Theron against it. Who the hell decided she was a good folk hero? Good Lord.

Frances McDormand, however, is amazing here as always. Watching her makes me happy. However, watching her play (SPOILER ALERT) a character who is slowly dying is less than thrilling. It is improved by Sean Bean playing her husband, though. More movies should have Sean Bean in them.

So...this is probably a movie you should see, but don't expect to enjoy it. And, if the film isn't depressing enough, keep in mind that the real story is much, much worse.

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Rollergirls

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roller derby logoI finally finished watching the season of "Rollergirls" last night. And I loved that show all the way through.

Parts of it were really stupid, and obviously dramatized to a point that docu-drama may have been a better genre for it than reality show. But be that as it may, it was fun to watch (and not just because it's set here!) and it made me feel good about womankind.

In the season finale, one of the skaters (Sister Mary Jane, for those playing along at home) says something about roller derby teaching her to love women again. And you could see that, and I think that's a big part of what got me about the show. The women who created and participate in Lonestar Rollergirls really seem to love each other. They fought a lot, all season, and there was way, way more catty bullshit than I wanted there to be, but at the end of the day, they created something together, fought for it, worked for it, and loved each other. And I don't see much of that, in my real life, in my online life, or even on TV. Groups of women creating things that matter and that last and that are fun and benefit them is something I'd really love to see more of, everywhere.

Maybe it's stupid to get that serious about something like roller derby, but I honestly don't think it is. We are trained to take men's organizations and interests, including and especially their sports, seriously, but not women's. And make no mistake, these women are athletes. I can't even fucking stand up on skates, and I know they're athletes. And general badasses, too. What the group of women involved in TXRD have done, in terms of business, in terms of athletics, and in terms of building a truly woman-run organization, impresses the hell out of me.

And it helps that some of the women featured on the show resonated with me so much. Some (Catalac...) didn't, but that was more a function of reality TV always needing a bad guy than anything else, I think. Others, like Punky Bruiser, Lux, and SMJ, I really wish I knew in real life.

Which is another thing I loved about the show. For the first time since I watched Angela Chase in MSCL in 10th grade, I finally saw some women on TV who reminded me of me and my friends. Only more than Angela, because these are real (or at least mostly real) women, not the figment of a TV writer's imagination. Helps too, I guess, that they are women in my town, women near my age, etc. But it's more than that. These are women who wear the same clothes in multiple episodes, have jobs they really don't like, settle for only barely suitable men, and often throw up their hands at the whole damn thing and just have another drink. Just like the ones I know.

So yeah. "Rollergirls" was good fun to watch, and it gave me a lot of food for thought about women's organizations and the bullshit that they face both from without and from within (I think I blogged about the "Clownsnack" episode a bit back--that was a really good example). I recommend it.

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Hah! You're a total sports fan. Dork.

While I totally enjoyed Roller Girls, the outfits grated on my nerves. They played the overt sexuality card all the time. Sure it was tongue in cheek, but it draws n the male audience as much as if it were Girls Gone Wild. I wish they would take themselves a bit more seriously.

That was one thing that really interested me about the difference between the way the derby plays out here IRL and the show--the show is MUCH more sexualized. At the actual derby, the sexualization is only a part of it, and only something that some of them do. There are other participants that just don't play that part of the game, and it seems to be not only "allowed," but not a second thought given. Which is cool, I think. I mean, if the overt sexualization truly is optional, then it bothers me less, you know? It does, of course, say something about who they chose to show (or who chose to be filmed) on the show though, doesn't it?

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Chick lit

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Chick Lit signTo your left, you see a sign I spotted in a bookstore the first night I was in Minneapolis. It caught my eye, and I have since been thinking about chick lit.

From what I can tell, chick lit covers any book by a woman or about a woman. And it is-surprise!-a derogatory term for these works. They aren't real literature. They're literature lite. Literature for girls. Diet literature. Chick lit.

On one of the message boards I read, someone posted a link to an L.A. Times article about men's vs. women's favorite fiction. The men's top five were:

1. "The Outsider," Albert Camus
2. "Catcher in the Rye," J.D. Salinger
3. "Slaughterhouse Five," Kurt Vonnegut
4. (tie)
"One Hundred Years of Solitude," Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"The Hobbit," J.R.R. Tolkien
5. "Catch-22"," Joseph Heller

The women's top five were:
1. "Jane Eyre," Charlotte Bronte
2. "Wuthering Heights," Emily Bronte
3. "The Handmaid's Tale," Margaret Atwood
4. "Middlemarch," George Eliot
5. (tie)
"Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen
"Beloved," Toni Morrison

You will notice, of course that all 6 of the women's list are by female authors, while all 6 of the men's are by male authors. The article goes on to say that only one book by a woman ("To Kill a Mockingbird") appeared on the men's Top 20 list, while six male authors appeared on the women's Top 20.

What's more interesting to me than the gender of the authors, however, is what the books on these lists are about. In the men's list, you have one book about a self-involved alientated guy accused of murder, one coming of age book about another self-involved college guy, two books centered on soldiers or veterans, one patriarchal family history, and one fantasy book about a bunch of short guys on an adventure. The women's list, however, features a much more broad-reaching woman's coming of age story, one dystopian feminist novel, one novel about a slave woman, and three books that are basically about getting married. Yup, I'm not a literary purist. At the end of the day, to my eye, "Wuthering Heights," "Middlemarch," and "Pride and Prejudice" are all basically about getting married.

And maybe that's the problem.

The books that are written by women that get the most press, the biggest readership, the most Oprah-time, whatever, are, speaking very generally, about things like catching a man. While there may be some biting social commentary underneath, the top level of the story is about man-catching. And it's hard to take that as seriously as war, or coming of age, or even destroying the ring.

The thing is that's it's not that women don't write books about other things, or even that we don't read books about other things, it's that when women are asked on surveys like this one what their five favorite novels are, they don't list books about other things. And classes that focus on "women's literature" (academicese for chick lit) always start in the same place: Bronte, Eliot, Austen. Marriage, marriage, marriage.

Which isn't to say that there is anything wrong with books about relationships, even romantic ones. But why in the world should books that focus on this one topic define women's literature? We can do better than that, and have done better than that. Women write, and write well, about their other relationships, about their place in society, about adaptation and maladapation, about coming of age, about drugs, about sex, about major ethical dilemmas, even about war. It's no accident, to my mind, that Harper Lee is the only female author who showed up on the male Top 20 list--Harper Lee wrote about something.

There are people, I'm sure, who will argue that books about romantic relationships (always heterosexual, always ending in marriage) are just what woman want to read. I don't buy it. I think that's what we're taught to want to read, from Jane Austen through Jennifer Werner. And it's not enough. We're selling ourselves short, both as readers and as writers. Relegating ourselves to chit lit. Which is downstairs, by romance.

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Well, if it's any consolation, I think the reason "Chick-Lit" is a title at all is because fiction in the US is more of a ladies game - they're considered a real market whereas guys (and by that I mean Dudes) are no longer such a market. In the UK I think they have a whole category of books called like, "Lads Books", which is more or less the equivalent of "Chick Lit". I'm pretty sure I remember there being some male writer who in the US would be considered all "smarty pants" who went to the UK for a book tour and was shocked to find that there was a strong contingent of guys reading his books, and they were wearing striped shirts, pressed jeans and getting shitfaced on beer while screaming soccer slogans. I think that was like, Chuck Palahniuk. What the hell am I rambling about? I started thinking about this in terms of gendered storytelling and ran off into talking about market demographics. Sorry for the incoherence, ya'll. I'd can it, but I think this is an interesting line of talk and want to hear more people's thoughts.

Oh, and since when are Relationships and Marriages not Things?

It's not that they aren't Things, it's just that they aren't the Only Things That Happen to Women, you know? Anyway, I think your demographic argument is actually kind of interesting. I mean, if you think about who is reading novels in America, outside academia, one of the first things that comes to mind (or my mind, anyway) is book clubs. And book clubs are nearly 100% female, from my understanding. I wonder what the gender-based patterns on book sales actually are? The article also mentioned that women are comfortable with used/borrowed books, while men are more comfortable with new books.

I took a class about this! Yay look, my education pays off! THe best distinction is that chicklit is genre fiction, ie NOT literature. If you go into a Borders, you'll notice romance, scifi, mysteries, christian, westerns are all outside of the mainstream fiction section. Except fiction is called "literature." So Toni Morrison is not chick lit, she is literature. So the distinction of chick lit is most definitely NOT just a woman author. A lot of people are "above" genre literature. I think pretty much everyone still has some sort of snobbery about one of the genres I listed above (i.e. "OH fantasy books aren't REAL fiction--they're just junk food/guilty pleasure books.") But the most maligned of all of these is probably romance fiction. Chicklit has a lot of the themes of romance, but is a lot more modern than most chicklit books. Hallmarks of chicklit include --Working single young woman main character with high powered career, or at least working hard toward a good career --some romantic element/interest, though usually not erotic. Maybe she's trying to get married or just got out of some big relationship. --shopping! shoes! booze/partying! --brightly colored covers/graphics. --humor --lots of female relationships (ie her friends) So big examples--Bridget Jones, and the Sophie Kinsella Books, Sex in the City, etc. So some chicklit titles I am sure are penned by men, so author is not the factor. Chicklit is POPULAR fiction meaning you probably aren't familiar with a lot of the women writing literary fiction. Which is why these books get more press, Oprah time, etc. not because of their subject matter. Simon is right about women having more publishing purchase power, and the UK and lads books. So Nick Hornby is the classical example of a lad author. I don't think Chicklit is NECESSARILY a negative term for the genre, but it can be used as such in the same way romance is. Basically lots of people like reading "throwaway" or "lowbrow" lit for fun. Because it's fun. It's not about their actual day to day struggles. I would point out that in these top 5's you mentioned, most of those books are on HS reading lists. My guess is people who don't really read just rattle off something they read in HS. A lot of people who read genre fiction are really ashamed of it. And won't admit to reading it even though it's FUN. They don't define women's lit, because these books are by definition NOT literature. I think chicklit is what some women want to read. You don't do things like hide reading a certain genre of books for fun unless you really want to do it. However, I doubt most people read ONLY one genre. There are books we read when we want to be intellectually challenged and those we read when we want something to take to the beach, relax and not think. Do I disagree with some of the themes in these books? Sure. Do I think American culture is a vast conspiracy poised to make us think our lives our meaningless if we are single? Yep. Do I care if people read what they want for fun? No. Do I think them reading these books indoctinates them? No--you aren't looking for in depth social commentary when you pick up "The Devil Wears Prada." You want to laugh.

Oh and most books and music are about finding love, so I don't think that's just chicklit. I mean the themes of "About a Boy" by Hornby are pretty much exactly the same as chicklit. Even Palahniuk, who is considered "transgressive" writes pretty much all about finding someone to love.

It's nice that my damaged memory has apparently latched onto something a third party can confirm. One thing that I think it interesting is that of all the genres mentioned, only "chick-lit" has any tag-on (admittedly abbreviated) of the word "literature". I suspect this is less of an argument for the literary value of the books and more of a "what sounds best" situation. But that question leads me back to Grace's post in two ways: #1: Is Jane Eyre chick-lit and was Jane Austen a chick-lit writer? #2: Is Grace's concern not so much the whole respectability of "chick-lit" in general, and much more the idea that the Real Literature that women say they like shares so many themes with less respected genre stuff. For #2: Is the stuff in the guy section any less concerned with less respected genre crap? Adventure, murder, etc.? I don't know, as I cannot read and have not read any of the books on the list. I did see "Lord of the Rings", which I understand to be based on "The Hobbit". After seeing it, I spent the next two months experimenting with homosexuality, only to eventually realize that homosexuality is gay, and therefore, not for me. I do think that the two most popular stories in the US (and probably all over) are gender tales, either ones about being a Woman or being a Man. Consensus?

To answer the intelligible part of Simon's post... #1: Is Jane Eyre chick-lit and was Jane Austen a chick-lit writer? I'd say yes. #2: Is Grace's concern not so much the whole respectability of "chick-lit" in general, and much more the idea that the Real Literature that women say they like shares so many themes with less respected genre stuff. Yep, exactly. My gripe is with the idea that "women's books"--from "genre" chick lit all the way to Women's Literature, is basically concerned with the subject of getting heroines In Love and better yet Married Off.

I did my thesis on the intersection between 'chicklit' as a genre (and societal judgement) and political literature. Most women writers address some serious political issues through the lens of social networks. I concentrated on Kingsolver because her writing about love and family and community is seeped in politics and criticism of society's view of communities and women. She gets stuck in chicklit. Because she writes about women's lives without the self-censorship of 'things that make literature'. Christ, just look at 'Ulysses' for an example of literature that isn't about 'things'. Life, for women, has been scially constructed to revolve around relationships (whatever they may be) so it is no surprise to me that women writers use that as their basis for exploration of life.

"At the end of the day, to my eye, "Wuthering Heights," "Middlemarch," and "Pride and Prejudice" are all basically about getting married." Well, I disagree. One of the strongest themes in Middlemarch is how the social pressures towards matrimony can hurt *everyone*, not just women, and how several of the characters (both female and male) find themselves trapped in marriages that, in a more enlightened age, they could have left. (George Eliot's own unconventional relationships may have influenced her feelings about marriage = trap.) Also, Middlemarch is more about the unfairness of the class struggle in Britain, and the intolerable pressures resulting from totally unfair social inequalities. Wuthering Heights also subverts the 19th-century social ideals of matrimony by having a series of disastrous, toxic marriages throughout the book that aren't at all "happily ever after", and leave you feeling as if it would have been healthier if no one had married at all. Catherine Linton/Heathcliff and Hareton Earnshaw do get married at the end, but this is peripheral to the unfolding action of the novel, which centres around the complicated, bizarre character of Heathcliff and deals with issues of race (Heathcliff is probably black), social class (again - lots of that in English literature), madness, obsession, and good old Victorian melodrama (with a touch of necrophilia - nice touch, Emily). The only important "love story" bit is the affair between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw/Linton, which never really happens, because apart from all other considerations, she dies halfway through the novel. Pride and Prejudice is a lot more concentrated around getting married than Middlemarch and Wuthering Heights, but the idea here isn't the same as chick lit. Chick lit is mostly about young, modern women with careers who are preoccupied with getting married because they're lonely or want sex or whatever, and usually, after a series of calamities and poor choices (not to mention the shopping), the heroine ends up with some sweet dopey guy (hopefully with lots of money and charmingly floppy hair). In P&P, the women want to get married, not because they're lonely, but because if they don't, they'll likely be homeless, because women couldn't inherit property. If you read Jane Austen closely, her bitterness at the wretched unfairness of women's lot in life virtually leaps off the page at you. It's not about "Ohhh, I want to get married to some dreeeeamy guy", it's more about social commentary and women's rage at the ludicrous, appalling, horrible lack of options there were for women in Georgian England. Getting married wasn't fun and games - it was a matter of life or death. It's just not the same as chick lit. *Describing* women scrabbling about desperately trying to find husbands is not the same as *approving* of it. I wouldn't say P&P is about getting married at all. It's about women trying to find the most bearable way to live what is essentially an intolerable way of life, because if you make a mistake, you can't do a damn thing about it and you'll either starve to death or suffer horribly for the rest of your life. In that way, I think Jane Austen's books are practically protest works - there's so much social injustice in there, you could write a PhD thesis on it. Hm. I just looked up a database of PhD theses, and it appears quite a lot of people already have. Anyway, I wouldn't put too much belief in this book survey. I know plenty of men who are as obsessed with Austen, the Brontes and Eliot as I am, and feel powerfully influenced by fiction written by women also. :)

Oh god, I practically wrote a novel myself just then. Sorry! I get excited about 19th-century literature.

I tried to reply the other day but my computer kept crashing. GRRR! Jane Eyre/Bronte/ etc is actually classical LITERATURE. IE not genre fiction. All of the books on your list are ones that most of us had to read in HS. I would guess that's a good reason for them being on that list. A lot of people who read genre lit won't admit to it nor would they say it's their favorite book--it's popcorn. Also Jane Eyre-type lit is actually gothic lit, the predecessor to romance, so it's sort of has to be about marriage/romance. I have no idea what Women's Literature is. I would also point out that a quick look at amazon's literary fiction in general shows that pretty much ALL popular books are about families/romance/marriage. I don't think it's a woman thing, I think it's an everyone thing. I mean look at popular music! Everything is about finding that soulmate. Or them breaking up with you. Pretty much. And all of these lad books are about the same thing, sayign to me that everyone is interested in these subjects. Is that right? I would say no, but I don't think it's a "woman" thing or a marketing to women thing.

Ok, but what we're not asking here is WHO is making decisions about what is and is not publishable? It seems to me that the publishing industry is still, to this day, heavily male-dominated. Therefore, what we see gracing the shelves of a bookstore is not necessarily what is being written, but what publishers think women should be writing about and will sell. Lord knows there are thousands of would-be authors out there who either don't have the publicist that Atwood does, or whose books haven't been snapped up by a publisher. Second, what is the recent proliferation of Chick Lit doing for feminism? Is it reversing the gains made by first and second-wave feminists? Or is it a result of a fourth wave of feminism where it is ok to celebrate one's femininity while at the same time remaining a feminist? Just a few thoughts that have been bugging me about this genre (because I, too, happen to have snuck a few guilty pleasures from time to time with Kinsella's and other such books). Another thought: why has this genre not yet proliferated among Canadian authors?

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Solicitation

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Next month, I am participating in a benefit walk for Safe Place, a fantastic local women's shelter/organization combating domestic and sexual violence. So, I'm soliciting contributions to sponsor my walk. My current goal is to collect $300 for Safe Place. If you think you might want to contribute, please go to my walk web page.

Thanks in advance!

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Reading material

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The 9th Carnival of Feminists is up at Mind the Gap. It's completely worth your time to go through it (at least it's worth mine so far--I'm not finished yet). And I'm not just saying that because I have a post included, I swear.

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My biology is not my destiny

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(Cross-posted at Avast! Femininst Conspiracy!)

Babies are born to be breastfed billboard

I don't know if you are seeing this billboard in your city, but it is all over mine.

And it pisses me right off.

At first, I thought it just pissed me off because it was ass-backwards, and that if it said something like, "Breasts were made for feeding babies," I'd be OK with it. After all, of all the things a person is "born" to do, is being breastfed really at the top of the list? It just seemed...trite.

But thinking more about it, the other way would piss me off just as much, if not more. Because yes, breasts are used to feed babies. I understand the biology there. But as a feminist, I take issue with what I choose to do with my body taking back seat to the biology of what my body can do (or what I assume it can, I mean, I don't know that I could breastfeed, and some women who would like to can't, so that's another problem). Men, this city, this state, this country...they already own my body to a degree that I am uncomfortable with--the last thing I need is billboards to dictate to me what my body parts are for. The capacity to bear and nourish a child is not and should be conflated with the decision to do so.

Given the anti-breastfeeding factions in this country, as well as the massive miseducation about breastfeeding, I understand the need for pro-breastfeeding campaigns, and campaigns that focus on how breastfeeding is a natural, healthy thing and not something that should cause women shame. I support public breastfeeding for women who choose to do so. I'm all for it. But that does not change my dislike for being told what to do with my own body, whether it is by some dude or the media or the La Leche League. At the end of the day, my breasts, just like my uterus and every other part of me, are for whatever I say they are for. We may be mammals, but we are not beasts. We can and have in many arenas moved beyond our biology and made decisions based on other criteria, and there is no reason childbearing and nourishment should not be one of those arenas. Just because my body (again, assumedly) can bear a child does not mean I have a responsibility to do so, and just because my breasts have the capacity to nourish does not mean that I am under any obligation to choose to use them that way. My biology is not my destiny.

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Babies were born to be fed to beasts.

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(Cross-posted at Avast! Feminist Conspiracy!)

Selling Women Short book coverby Liza Featherstone
Basic Books, November 30, 2004

This excellent, interview-based book follows the case of Dukes v. Wal-Mart, the gigantic class-action suit brought against Wal-Mart by its female employees. Journalist Featherstone talks to what have to be a hundred current and former Wal-Mart employees, managers, lawyers, etc. in her effort to get the whole story, and the story isn't pretty. The picture painted is one of institutional discrimination against women on a scale of over a million. The discrimination permeates all levels at Wal-Mart, with women making less than men for the same jobs, being sexually harassed, and all of the usual crimes. The thing that makes Wal-Mart different, though (or at least this is the case the prosecution will be making) is that the policy of discrimination is not limited to a given man, or a given store, but to the entire, huge company. As women fight their ways up the management ranks at Wal-Mart, things get worse rather than better, and eventually nearly all women top out. For all of its rhetoric about being woman-friendly and family-friendly, Wal-Mart does worse by women than any other company its size.

The strength of Featherstone's book is on two counts. The first is her persuasive rhetoric and extensive interviewing, the second is her focus. Featherstone largely allows the women involved in the case to speak for themselves as to their treatment at Wal-Mart, and their stories provide a very strong foundation for the institutional statistics she provides, but doesn't bore you with. Giving Wal-Mart management their say, she also talks extensively to current and former high level Wal-Marters, and quotes from the testimony that has already been heard in the pre-trial motions for the case. While her sympathy to the protestants is obvious, she seems a decent journalist in at least trying to get the other side of the story. Such as it is.

As opposed to other anti-Wal-Mart pieces, such as The High Cost of Low Prices, Featherstone focuses her work not on everything that is wrong with the company, but specifically on its sexism. While she does end up arguing that unionization will do more for Wal-Mart's female employees than this lawsuit or anything else that may come along, she spends most of the book focusing on the specific problems of female Wal-Mart workers, and given how much information is available just on that one subject, this is a good call. Though the discrimination of women at Wal-Mart does tie into other problems with the company (hypocritical conservative moralism, poor treatment of workers), it is refreshing to see a focus on women, and to see Featherstone's academic rigor in defining her subject.

Overall, this book is the best piece I've seen or read on the evil that is Wal-Mart. While it misses whole huge problems with what Wal-Mart does (like the conditions of overseas workers, for example), it does a wonderful job with the issue that it does take up, which is one of the ones that I'm most concerned with as a feminist. I'd highly recommend it.

Sisters book coverby Jean H. Baker
Hill and Wang, September 14, 2005

I picked up this book after watching the movie about Alice Paul and the end of the suffrage movement, Iron-Jawed Angels. I realized while watching the film that I didn't know enough about Paul, or about feminism's "First Wave" in general, to tell if the movie was giving her a fair portrayal or not. This book was a good introduction, I think, but more information will definitely be needed.

Sisters is divided into five sections, each dedicated to the life and work of one particular famous suffragist: Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard, and Alice Paul. By her own admission, Baker focuses more on the women themselves than on the history of the work they did. In her mind, the women of the first generation of American feminism are largely forgotten by all us Second Wavers and beyond, relegated to images of uptight prudes in high-collared dresses, with no lives or histories of their own, and she seeks to correct that. Due to this focus, and to each section only being about 50 pages long, she doesn't get much into the politics and activism, so look for that elsewhere. What she does talk about is each woman's childhood (three of five were very bad), religion (two Quakers, two Christians, and one atheist), personal relationships (Stone and Stanton were married, the other three were not, and four of the five women may have had lesbian relationships), and general personality. So I came out of the reading knowing not a whole lot more than I had started out knowing about suffrage politics, but thinking that Susan B. Anthony was probably been a damn fun person to be around, while Lucy Stone was probably not.

Given what it is--a lightweight, biographical account of five tremendously important women in less than 300 pages--it's fantastic. And while I hunger for more information, I know at least know what and who specifically I want more information on. Alice Paul remains the most intriguing figure to me, and Frances Willard appeals even less than before. The earliest years of the suffrage movement, particularly those that eclipse the Civil War and Reconstruction, are unbearably depressing, and it's much more fun to focus on the 20th century part of the battle. The book gives me lots of starting points. It's also a very easy read, and I'd recommend it for others who, like me, are embarrassingly ignorant of the suffrage movement in the U.S., especially if it is something you want to know about and don't want to dedicate a lot of time to. Iron-Jawed Angels isn't bad on that count either, actually. I'm going to be trying to move on to something a bit more substantive next, so suggestions are welcome.

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In which my love of roller derby is cemented

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I previously mentioned that I've been watching Rollergirls on TV and was interested in seeing it for myself, since the league that they made the show about is local. Last night, Mark and I, along with The Princess and C-Man, went to check out the Texas Roller Derby Lonestar Rollergirls. (The name, I have learned, is important, because the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls are not the only roller derby game in town--there is another league, with a disconcerningly similar name, the Texas Rollergirls Rock N' Roller Derby. Why there are two leagues instead of one bigger league is a mystery I have yet to unravel.)

It was so. fucking. cool.

The bout was between the Holy Rollers and the Putas del Fuego. As anyone who has been watching the show knows, the bout between these two teams last year was a nailbiter, coming down to a one-point Holy Roller victory in the last seconds. So this was a bit of a grudge match, I guess. Between that and the publicity generated by the show, the place was packed packed packed. We got there about 20 minutes before the doors opened and the line was around the building. We ended up getting in by virtue of having pre-purchased tickets online, but the venue sold out and I'd guess there were 500-1000 people there. It was crowded enough that we couldn't get sufficient seats on the bleachers and I had to stand most of the evening. In two-hour hold cowboy boots. But it ruled so much that I don't care how badly my feet hurt today.

It took quite a long time for things to get started, so I had a while to scope out the crowd. It's a really interesting mix. There are the requisite young Lonestar-drinking hipsters, as would be expected, but also enough middle-aged people that they can't all be participants' parents, and a fair number of average looking folks, people with kids, etc. I'd been kind of worried that the vibe could be either hipsterer-than-thou or intimidating-drunk-WWF, or, worse, a strip club kind of thing, but none of these worries proved true. In general, the crowd seemed very respectful (though less so as the night wore on and people got drunker), excited, and in to having a good time. People had obvious awe for the women skating, and not in an exploitative way.

When things finally did get started, it became clear that TXRD has found the perfect balance between a really fun good time and serious competition. These girls are not fucking around; this isn't Jello wrestling. They are impressive on their skates, and they would be no matter how they dressed. While part of it is definitely about theater and spectacle, there's also an honest athleticism that I really wasn't expecting. Puta Chingona didn't just trash talk the crowd and wear a backless shirt, she also skated circles around her opponents and scored probably 30 points by herself. It was nothing but amazing to see this super-thin, very pretty, quite young woman kicking ass and taking names like that. Puta captain Chola is a similar case. She's hot. Hot hot hot. Looks like Salma Hayek hot. She wears pleather pants with her name embroidered on the ass. She also fucking rocks the rink, and is obviously way more concerned about how her team is doing than she is about how many fans are drooling over her. That's what I mean. On the surface, it all looks very sex-positive and post-feminist, but in truth, TXRD was one of the most feminist things I've seen in a long while. Women run the show, and they are obviously doing it not for the sake of being on display, but for the love of doing it. And it's not just the skaters in the rink, either--the whole thing seems to be run by the players. They're taking tickets, they're selling t-shirts, they're running around keeping things organized. They're making the rules and I hope they're making a profit (given the crowd, they have to be). It's fantastic.

But back to the bout. It was very much not a repeat of last year's close battle. This year, the Putas outclass the Holy Rollers by quite a lot. Part of this must be due to injury. Holy Roller star Miss Conduct (left--and she seriously is a star; people were having their picture taken with her all over the place) is out with an injury, as is co-captain Punky Bruiser. The Holy Rollers were very dependant on their amazing captain, Smarty Pants and what seemed to be a bunch of newbies. And it showed. As bad-ass a skater as Smarty Pants is, the Holy Rollers still lost by like 30+ points.

So let's talk about how they dress. Yep, they are sexified. The Holy Rollers schtick is that they are Catholic school girls, and they all wear tiny plaid skirts and white shirts, modified as the players see fit with garters, fishnets, visable bras, whatever. The Putas tend towards black and flame logos, but they're similarly tarted up. They show their briefs often, and tend to have things written on them. And, given the propensity in this group for piercings and tattoos, yeah, they look a little bit like the Suicide Girls. But they're not. For one thing, this is sport, not porn, and it's clear when you watch it that the sport comes before the tarting. Secondly, the tarting isn't mandatory. The Putas have a new team member, Bones, who chooses not to play the tart game and skates in pants and a tank top, and nobody stopped cheering because they couldn't see her ass. I also have to love that all bodies really do seem to be accepted here. There's a wide variance, from very small girls to girls by size and above, and nobody, teams or crowd, seems to differentiate between the two. It's not hard for me to see that as empowering.

What I saw last night wasn't alterna-girls parading in front of a male crowd for shallow accolades, dressed in uncomfortable clothing they didn't choose and trying to fit someone else's standard of beauty. What I saw were women who have created and are keeping control of their own thing, dressing in a way that amuses them and makes them feel attractive, and focusing more than anything on their sport and on their support of each other. And I feel damn good about that.

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Wow, it sounds really awesome. Your post inspired me to look into local matches, and it turns out Cleveland is forming it's own roller derby. Since I've always loved skating and liked rugby for the 1 semester I could fit it into my college schedule (not coincidentally the semester I was flunking a few classes), I put myself on their mailing list. As a potential skater. I figure I could always take myself off their mailing list later. Practice starts in March. We'll see what happens.

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Grace's feminist canon

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My friend T. recently asked me for a list of my favorite feminist books, to use for a book review website project he's putting together. Unable to contain myself with the joy of this task, I put together a fairly comprehensive list (though I edited it down quite a bit). It was so much fun, I thought I'd share it here. Disagree with my picks? Think I left something essential out? Comment--I'd love to hear what you think!

Foundations

vindication of the rights of women1. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (W.W. Norton and Company, 1987)
2. The Second Sex by Simone DeBeauvoir (Everyman's Library, 1993)
3. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (W.W. Norton and Company, 1963)

It's tempting to me to skip these books altogether, because I don't like any of them, but I think they are necessary as foundation if you really want to get into this stuff.

Histories

the world split open4. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America by Ruth Rosen (Penguin, 2001)
5. Personal Politics: The Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement & the New Left by Sara Evans (Vintage, 1980)
6. Tidal Wave: How Women Changed at Century's End by Sara Evans (Free Press, 2003)
7. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle Freidman (Ballantine Books, 2003).

If you only read one book about feminism, the Ruth Rosen book gets my vote. It's very comprehensive, yet easy to read, and it has an amazing bibliography, sorted by subject. It's a great place to start. Personal Politics is also important, as it situates 2nd wave feminism in the other social movements of the time, which is something people are likely to miss. I haven't read Tidal Wave, but given what a good historian Sara Evans is, I can't imagine it's anything but good. Freedman is also a top-notch historian, and her book is excellent. It does a better job than the others with feminism before the 1960s.

2nd Wave
Dear Sisters8. Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement edited by Robin Morgan (Random House, 1970)
9. Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women's Liberation Movement edited by Rosalyn Baxandall and Linda Gordon (Basic Books, 2001)
10. Sexual Politics by Kate Millett (Doubleday, 1970)
11. The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution by Shulamith Firestone (Vintage, 1971)
12. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (McGraw Hill, 1971).

Of the first two, which are both document/essay collections, I'd say Sisterhood is Powerful is probably the better book, but Dear Sisters is a lot easier on the eyes and more reader-friendly. Both are definitely worth reading. The other three are all books written by activist women during the late 60s and early 70s. Kate Millett's has to do with sexism in literature, while Greer's and Firestone's are more broad-reaching.

3rd Wave

manifesta13. To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism by Rebecca Edby Walker (Anchor, 1995)
14. Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
15. Listen Up! Voices from the Next Feminist Generation edited by Barbara Findlen (Seal Press, 1995)
16. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio (Seal Press, 2002)

I'm not a huge fan of most of the 3rd wave writing, but I think Manifesta gives a nice overview, and I am a big fan of nearly everything Rebecca Walker has written. Listen Up! is also a primer of sorts--short, easy-read essays. There is actually a newer version of it as well, Listen Up 2 Edition, which was published in 2001, but I haven't read it. Cunt is a must-read.

Radical Feminism

gynecology17. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism by Mary Daly (Beacon Press, 1990)
18. Pornography: Men Possessing Women by Andrea Dworkin (E.P. Dutton, 1989)
19. Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law by Catharine A. MacKinnon (Harvard University Press, 1988)

This is a category I am not all that well-versed in, but I've read Pornography, and got quite a lot out of it, and the other two books seem to be standards.

Women of Color

feminism is for everybody20. Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks (South End Press, 2000)
21. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks (South End Press, 1981)
22. Women, Race, and Class by Angela Y. Davis (Vintage, 1983)
23. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lord (Crossing Press, 1984)
24. Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism edited by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman (Seal Press, 2002)

I am ashamed to say that I don't know nearly as much as I should about this category. However, I can vouch for both the Davis book and Feminism is for Everybody, and I have heard nothing but good things about Ain't I a Woman. Sister Outsider is mostly short stuff, and I have read most of it and loved all I've read. Colonize This! is anther one I haven't read, but since the rest of these are older writings/writings by older women, I think it's good to include a younger perspective as well.

Sexual Minority Feminism

stone butch blues25. Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation by Karla Jay (Basic Books, 1999)
26. Stone Butch Blues: A Novel by Leslie Feinberg (Firebrand Books, 1993)
27. Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam (Duke University Press, 1998)
28. Amazon to Zami: Towards a Global Lesbian Feminism edited by Monika Reinfelder (Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996)

Again I haven't read all of these, but have heard good things about all of them. I can personally vouch for Tales of the Lavender Menace and Stone Butch Blues, and neither should be missed, in my opinion.

Beauty/Body Image

the beauty myth29. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf (Anchor, 1992)
30. Body Outlaws: Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image edited by Ophira Edut (Seal Press, 2003) (Formerly Adios, Barbie! Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity, Seal Press, 1998)
31. Girl Culture by Lauren Greenfield and Joan Jacobs Brumberg (Chronicle Books, 2002)

The Beauty Myth is an all-time favorite of mine, and I think it holds up well over time. Body Outlaws is more fun to read, however, and is also quite good. Girl Culture is a photo essay book, and it's amazing.

Memoirs/Autobiographies

in our time32. In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution by Susan Brownmiller (Delta, 2000)
33. Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant by Andrea Dworkin (Basic Books, 2002)
34. Saturday's Child: A Memoir by Robin Morgan (W.W. Norton and Company, 2000)
35. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem (New American Library, 1992)

For my money, memoirs are the best way to get into reading feminist writers, especially someone like Andrea Dworkin. The Brownmiller and Morgan memoirs are both excellent, and Steinem's is a bit too wishy-washy for my taste, but you can't argue with her selling power or her staying power.

Misc

backlash36. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape by Susan Brownmiller (Ballantine Books, 1993)
37. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi (Crown, 1991)
38. Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood by Naomi Wolf (Random House, 1997)
39. Femininity by Susan Brownmiller (Ballantine Books, 1985)

These are about a variety of topics, obviously, but they are books I think are important and beneficial that don't fit in elsewhere.

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So, what book would you recommend as a primer for the average guy?

Hrm. Depends. I think Against Our Will is the one guys should really read, but it is a tough read and it's certainly not a primer. On a more accessible front, Femininity gives some insight guys would do well with having.

Hey Grace! I'm working on my Master's in Women's Studies at TWU in Denton, and we are required to take a couple of classes dealing with women of colors. The books we read in the "intro" class were real eyeopeners: This Bridge Called My Back, by Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga and the follow up text, This Bridge We Call Home by AnaLouise Keating and Gloria Anzaldua. Dr. Keating teaches the class, btw, so it's totally excellent. Anyway, in my Epistemologies class we are reading Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins, which is EXCELLENT also. Just thought I'd throw a couple of really great ones into the pot for consideration...

excellent list- thanks!

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Nine Lives

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Nine Lives movie posterRemember how I said I don't much like short stories? Well, I don't generally much like vignette-style films, either. In general, a short piece of a story isn't enough to get me involved in the characters and caring about what happens to them. But this film is the exception that proves the rule.

Written and directed by a man, Rodrigo Garcia (most notable for TV direction and cinematography, including Gia and several episodes of Six Feet Under and Carnivale), Nine Lives is nine short (10-15 minute) films, each done in a continuous shot. Each one centers around some element in the life of one women. There are some intersecting characters between the films, but their intersections are more incidental than important, and each piece stands on its own.

1. The first of the stories is about an inmate, Sandra, played by Elpidia Carrillo (Bread and Roses, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her). She seems calm and collected until she is unable to talk to her visiting daughter due to a faulty phone; then she loses it. Later, in another vignette, we see her get arrested, but we never know what crime she has committed.

2. The second story is the one that seems to be getting the most press. In it, Robin Wright Penn's (White Oleander, Forrest Gump) Diana runs into an ex-lover, Damian (played by Jason Isaacs , who plays Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies but looks very different here), in a supermarket. Both of them are married, Diana is pregnant, and yet the tension between them is palpable and it is easy to see how they could fall back into their old relationship. The scene is incredibly well-played and Wright Penn shows off her acting chops with an understated performance that is hard to watch and easy to identify with.

3. The third tale is the most heart-wrenching. It is a scene between a woman, Holly (brilliantly portrayed by Lisa Gay Hamilton from The Practice) and her sister (a nice supporting turn by the very lovely Sydney Tamiaa Poitier--yep, daughter of that Sydney Poitier). Holly has returned to the house where she grew up, ostensibly to "make amends" with her abusive father, but rather than showing their conversation, the focus is on the discussion between Holly and her sister before her father's arrival. It's sparsely and painfully done, leaving detail to the viewer's imagination, and is carried perfectly by both good dialogue and the strength of Hamilton's acting.

4. The fourth vignette indirectly refers the viewer back to Diana's story, as it co-stars Damian, from the grocery store, and his wife, Lisa, played by Molly Parker (Iron Jawed Angels, Waking the Dead). They are in a new apartment, and are visited by Sonia, played by Holly Hunter (Thirteen, The Incredibles, O Brother Where Art Thou?) and her boyfriend, Martin (Stephen Dillane, seen before in The Hours and The Gathering). The focus of the story is the fucked-up relationship between Sonia and Martin. This was probably the least compelling of the vignettes for me, even though Holly Hunter was as fantastic as always.

5. Next, in the story that was the most moving of the film for me, we meet Samantha, played by Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Veronica Mars). The power of this scene doesn't come from Seyfried, however, but from the brilliant Ian McShane (Deadwood, Sexy Beast), who plays her disabled father. The scene follows Samantha as she is pulled back and forth between her father, with whom she seems to have a good relationship, though he is obviously quite ill with what seems to be a degenerative disease of some sort, and her mother (played by Sissy Spacek), who comes off as cold and tired. We see how dedicated young Samantha is to her father, and how resentful the situation makes her mother, and how terrible the whole situation is. The best part, though, is the dark comedy in the banter between Samantha and her dad, and I attribute that both to good writing and to McShane's immense talent.

6. We next see Lorna, played by Amy Brennemann (Judging Amy, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her), on her way to a funeral with her parents. As it turns out, the funeral is for the wife of Lorna's ex-husband, Andrew (William Fichtner, best known for his war movies, and recently seen in The Longest Yard). When Lorna and Andrew have sex at the funeral home, during the viewing of the body, it is unclear whether their affair has been ongoing or whether it has been sparked by the events underway, but the viewer is once again asked to think about relationships and whether or not they are ever really over.

7. The seventh vignette takes the viewer back to Samantha's story, but this time it centers around Sissy Spacek's (If These Walls Could Talk, In the Bedroom) character, Samantha's mother, Ruth. The scene takes place in a hotel, where Ruth seems to be about to embark on an affair with her daughter's school counselor, played by the unusually goofy Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall, Practical Magic). Though Ruth's behavior in this scene is less traditionally sympathetic than it was in her prior scene, where she was at home taking care of her family, I still felt more towards her character here, where you could see how very tired and starved for fun she is. The scene twists when Ruth witnesses another woman being arrested (Sandra from the first vignette), and it ends with her leaving the hotel without having consummated the affair.

8. The second-to-last scene is also quite moving. It is fairly straightforward, showing a conversation between Camille (played by Kathy Baker from Boston Public) and her husband, Richard (portrayed by a very well-cast Joe Mantegna from Joan of Arcadia). Camille is lying in a hospital bed, waiting to go into a masectomy. Scared, angry, and belligerent, Kathy Baker knocks the role of Camille out of the park, and the story leaves you both hopeful for how things will turn out for Camille and furious at hospital system that is treating her like a piece of meat when she's in this frightening position. Characters from other scenes show up here as well, with Holly as Camille's nurse and Lorna's mother as her anesthesiologist.

9. There has been some criticism of the film's final scene, but it was one of my favorites. It shows a visit to the cemetery by Maggie (the always incredible Glenn Close, whom I most recently enjoyed in last season's The Shield) and her daughter, Maria, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, War of the Worlds). While you watch the scene, it is unclear who the two are visiting, and the film's surprising final shot shows this vignette, too, to be about a woman-specific type of grief.

Each one of the nine scenes is beautifully shot, nearly perfectly acted, and tightly written and directed. Even the stories I cared less about (specifically Lorna) are extremely well-done, and those I cared more about are heart-wrenchingly beautiful. The actresses are all top tier, and the movie is blessedly free of oversexualization (with the single exception of an obnoxious focus on Amanda Seyfried's breasts in Samantha's story). Instead, it focuses on telling simple stories of women's lives, with humor, sadness, wistfulness, longing, and a subtle intelligence that is very difficult to find in contemporary movies. This is a film I will think about and remember for a long time to come, and I highly recommend it. I will certainly be on the lookout for Garcia's next offering.

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ehhhhhh! i want to know how the final scene ends! email me or something!

First, holy shit! I knew he looked familiar, but I didn't realize that was Ian McShane! On Lorna's vignette, I read it a bit differently. They'd been divorced for a year or so IIRC, and she is the one who left him for another man. I do not think they were having an affair during his second marriage, but that he had never gotten over her, had married on the rebound, didn't do a good job of hiding his true feelings from the new wife and she subsequently killed herself because of this pain. Perhaps she left a suicide note that explained her motivation, which would explain why some people were so hostile. Andrew was too suprised to see Lorna at the funeral--and it seemed like he hadn't seen her for some time. Also, if they were having an affair, I really don't think she would have attended the funeral in the first place, because she would know she could see him later and offer her sympathy in private. I definitely agree that she had unresolved feelings for him, though it seemed the sex was more out of kindness for Andrew than desire on her part. It was so perfunctory and detached for her--it didn't come across as an illicit tryst between lovers. It was more like therapy. Unlike the scene with Diana and Damian, Lorna and Andrew seemed candidates for falling back into their relationship out of habit or familiarity, whereas Diana and Damian still had passion and love (and pain) to spare. If that makes any sense. It was such a good movie. Thanks for helping me to re-live it! (and how in the hell do you manage to remember all this stuff without writing anything down during the film? I'm jealous!)

viGnette

Spelling on the blog is so not a priority. Thanks, though, I'll make the correction.

Thanks for the extensive review! -Flourish

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Art may imitate life, but life imitates TV

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(Title courtesy of Ani.)

I just watched the other day's episode of Rollergirls. And suddenly I understand why I feel so terrible.

The espisode centered around Clownsnack. Clownsnack was a founder of the Lonestar Roller Derby, but she quit last season because her mom was sick. This season, she wanted to come back. Rather than welcoming her back, some of the current roller derby members (in positions of power) put her through the audition and hazing process of a new member, then they told her she didn't make a team. Ultimately, some of the TXRD's other members protest about Clownsnack's treatment and she's granted another audition and gets back on to her team.

The reasoning given for not wanting Clownsnack back by the women who are keeping her out varies, but it basically centers around her expecting special treatment because she's been in the league before, her being "flaky" for having quit (even though her reasons for quitting seemed very good to me), and the league being something different now than the it was when she was involved. Basically, they seemed to argue that they'd outgrown her and that they wanted their league to be something different than the one she was familiar with, so she wasn't welcome.

Ding ding ding.

It is incredibly painful to watch something you put your time and heart into be taken away from you, and that's how this had to feel. To have people for whom you have worked and to whom you have given decide they are beyond you, or they want different things than you do, so you should just go away quietly, please. On the show, Clownsnack and her supporters refuse to let her be shut out, and she ends up back on the team, but I can't help but think it must be a pretty hollow victory. After being humiliated and insulted like that, I don't see how she could go back at all. On the other hand, though, why let something she loves be taken from her just because a vocal minority are big assholes?

That is the question.

The bigger question, though, is why is it so impossible for a group of women to get together and do anything without these types of battles? Why does someone always have to be "out" in order for everyone else to feel secure being "in"? And why is the cruelty with which we perpetuate these crimes against each other necessary?

Honestly, it makes me want to give up. It makes me want to give up on the entire idea of a community of women. It makes me want to give up on believing that we deserve better than the treatment we give each other. It makes me want to give up and hide in my house and never try to be a part of anything again.

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I haven't seen the episode, but look forward to it. It's been my experience that when someone starts a group event, they expect that the group will form to their ideals of how it should be rather than let the group evolve into whatever it evolves into. It because the view of many rather than the view of one and that's when breakdowns occur. So perhaps, in this rollerderby, she anticipated that this group would fulfill a particular vision and didn't take into account that each person's personality would influence the evolution of the league. And I think that applies to all communities - male or female populations. There seems to be some demand for conformity wherever you go, so we all look for the place where we can conform easiest rather than be true to ourselves and enjoy the differences.

No human group exists without heirarchy and power dynamics, and one of the safest ways of feeling better about your position, if you aren't at the top, is to find someone you can push out of the group and keep them there in the most inferior of all positions. Try it sometime. It's totally fucking fun.

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Blog for Choice

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As it turns out, the blogging for choice to which I referred in my last post is not a month, but a day. January 22, which is, in an eerie coincidence, considering what I wrote, my mom's birthday. So here's what I am doing, and what you should do, too:

1. Go here and sign up to commit to blog about choice on January 22.
2. When January 22 rolls around, write at least one blog entry having to do with choice issues.
3. On January 22, go check out some of your fellow bloggers' words on the same subject.

That's it! Easy-peasy!

Oh, you could also add the Blog for Choice sticker to your sidebar, like I'm about to do. That'd be cool, too.

Thanks to my e-friend Bomb for straightening me out on all of this.

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Letter to Target

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In case anybody was wondering what to say, here is what I'm saying:

Target Executive Corporation
TFS 1AX
PO Box 9350
Minneapolis, MN 55440

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to inform the Target Corporation of the loss of my business. I have been a Target shopper for over ten years, and in recent years have shopped at Target nearly exclusively for many food items, personal care products, house wares, clothes, etc. I estimate that my household spent about $5,000 at Target last year. Recently, I started filling my several hundred dollars per month worth of prescriptions at Target. I have always been very happy with Target's selection, prices, and customer service. I am sad to say that all of my business will cease immediately.

Target's recent decision to allow pharmacists to not fill customers' prescriptions for Plan B irrevocably changes all my previous good will towards your corporation and your stores. I am incensed that the Target Corporation finds it acceptable to allow its pharmacists to discriminate against women in this way. No pharmacist should have a right to refuse a patient a legal prescription. Target's excuses for this policy, that it "protects the civil liberties" of your employees, leaves me even more angry. How will you protect these "civil liberties" when you hire someone who doesn't want to sell condoms or Viagra? How about someone who thinks Harry Potter books are Satanic and doesn't want to stock the shelves with them, or ring them up at the register? It is clear that this explanation is simply an excuse to allow discrimination against women, and that is something I absolutely refuse to support.

I would love to be able to resume my business with Target. However, until this policy is reversed and a public apology issued, I will not. While it may well be more expensive and more inconvenient for me to take my business elsewhere, I will continue to shop at other stores rather than Target until I hear that these actions have been taken. I will encourage my friends and family to do the same, and several of them have already agreed to boycott your stores. It is my understanding that other people all across the United States are taking or preparing to take the same action. Coming into the holiday season, I am sure many of us would have been making major expenditures at your stores, and due to this discriminatory, anti-woman policy, we will now be making those expenditures elsewhere.

I am fiercely disappointed in Target for enforcing this policy, and for issuing such a blatantly false explanation for it. I sincerely hope that the economic consequences of your discriminatory behavior haunt you this Christmas season, and I will do everything within my personal power to make sure that is the case.

Sincerely,

Grace Mitchell

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FANTASTIC letter!!! Good for you!

Amazingly articulate letter, Grace. I don't know what the etiquette is for these things, but would you be against my blatantly plagiarising your letter and sending a letter of my own to Target?

Not at all. Plagarize away.

I am a busybody fuck, and I say you should take the first sentence and put it at the end of the paragraph. Make the point of what a great loyal customer you are, then tell them you are going away. Cheap, sure. Possibly pointless, yes. But I like to tell people how to change their letters.

Cool, thanks Grace. To be a complete lazybones about it, would you mind telling me the address I should send the letter to as well? I'm not sure which department to direct such letters to (letter-writing neophyte....). Thanks!

The address I got from Wyz is at the top of the letter, Anais. That's the one I'm using.

Oops, duh. Sorry, it's been a long week of being holed up in the basement of my university library :) This is great, letter snet!

Hi Grace. Please feel free to tell me to mind my own business, but are you sure you want to put your full name as well as your location on your blog? Great letter though.

sorry, just saw elsewhere how irrelevant that suggestion was! It also sounded very patronising - I know you are perfectly competent in use of the internets. Forgive me, I was/am sick and feeling very out of it. Take care!

Thanks for posting your letter and through that keeping me informed about the Target issue. I don't go there often but had been desiring some of their cleaning products. Now I think I'm going to look up how to make my own daily shower spray on the internet!

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Me+Target: The End of an Affair

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Nyarly and Portia have both written excellent posts recently about the evil of Target, so I won't go into too much detail. Suffice it to say that they've proved themselves to be profoundly unwilling to protect the reproductive rights of women by allowing their pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for Emergency Contraception. While this may not be unusual, it is completely unacceptable.

And so, Target and I are breaking up.

I've thought for several days about writing this post/making my commitment to stop shopping at Target public, because I am going to miss Target like I've never missed a lover or a friend. Target has been a constant part of my life for years, and I'm there at least weekly. I fucking love Target. Probably 80% of my discretionary spending is done at Target. Quitting Target cold-turkey is going to be really fucking hard.

But it has to be done. As a feminist, as a woman, and as someone who at least tries to be a concientious consumer, I cannot contribute my money to a corporation that refuses to defend my basic right to get the medicines prescribed to me. So I'm not going to. And I am going to write a letter to Target, detailing how much money I spend there and how I won't be doing so any longer because of this policy. If Target reverses this policy and issues a public apology, I'll reconsider. If not, I will find somewhere else to buy my worthless plastic crap. It's that simple.

This is the way in which the free market is democractic, folks. We vote with our dollars. I'm not personally a big fan of this system, and it would certainly be easier just to pretend it doesn't matter what Target's policies are--after all, I don't need EC. But it does matter, and taking a hit to the bottom line is the only way this or any other bullshit policy is ever going to be reconsidered by Target or any other bigass corporation. So we have to put our money where our mouths are and refuse to contribute to our own oppression. And, no matter how tough it is, that's exactly what I intend to do.

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want to use my letter as a foundation? and please, actually send a letter. not an email. one letter is actually worth a few hundred thousand according to what i learned at a naral meeting tonight. here's the address, by the way. Target Executive Corporation TFS 1AX PO Box 9350 Minneapolis, MN 55440

No fear, Wyz. I am writing my letter today and will put it in the post tomorrow. I promise.

looks like target and i will have to break up too. i thought it was the less evil alternative to walmart...f'ing stupid big corporations.

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I Have Chosen to Stay and FightTwisty has a brilliant review of Margaret Cho's new book-and-DVD combo on her site, and that is what got me thinking about writing this, though it has been in my head for some time. While I haven't read the book, I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, I did see a live performance of Cho's Assasin tour (which is what the DVD is), so I am pretty familiar with what Twisty's talking about. And my reaction was very much like her's.

I think Margaret Cho is funny. But I think she used to be funnier, and I think her funniest bits now are the ones that happen when she stops trying so hard to be political, stops pandering to her gay male audience, and tells her own truth. Unfortunately, at least when I saw her, these moments were few and far between.

I have a vague memory of the first time I saw Margaret Cho, doing standup on TV. I still lived at home, so I guess it would have been the mid-90s. She was talking about a tour she took through the South, and said something about southern weather and racism, along the lines of: "It's not the heat, it's the humidity, and it's not the hate, it's the stupidity." It was brilliant. She went on to make fun of her mother, and I laughed until I was on the floor. Later, probably in I'm the One That I Want, she took on the celebrity machine that wanted her to lose weight and take "Asian" lessons in order to play herself on her short-lived sitcom. That was funny. And it was more than funny--it was personal, it was political, it was insightful. I miss that Margaret Cho.

In contrast, her Assasin show seemed mostly to be about the fabulousness of gay men. While I certainly have no problem with gay men, they're men, and frankly, I could use fewer men in my entertainment. More than that, though, I was uncomfortable with the underlying misogyny of the things Cho did say about women (most notable was the Laura-Bush's-pussy-tastes-like-Lysol comment--I really could have lived without that one). If these comments had been in the context of a woman-focused show, they'd have been no issue to me, but because they were pretty much all Cho seemed to have to say about women, they rubbed me completely wrong.

Twisty says that Cho is "an Air America personality, not a militant." I couldn't agree more with that statement. There is something uncomfortably trendy about Cho's politics, and it leaves me with the same discomfort as the rest of the Air America crowd does. Which pains me to say, because these are folks--particularly Cho and Janeane Garafalo--for whom I had tremendous respect before. I have absolutely no issue with celebrities taking on politics--in fact, I think it's great--but when they seem to be using politics to further their celebrity, rather than using their celebrity to further causes they believe in, I get a little bit itchy.

To compound my distaste, I came upon a blurb in some entertainment rag the other day announcing the production of Cho's new sitcom. That's cool, I thought. Then I read on, and saw how proud Cho was said to be about her recent weight loss. Now, this blurb could well have been bullshit (and I can't for the life of me remember where I read it), but if it's not, then how short a distance have we come? Didn't Cho already fight this battle? In my mind, her best work has been what she's had to say about this subject, but that doesn't mean I want her to have to go through it again.

I have great admiration for a lot of Margaret Cho's work, and I don't doubt her commitment to at least some of her political causes. However, Cho's words meant more to me before they seemed so constructed. I loved hearing her rail against racial and sexual stereotypes and the body image industry, and I missed that while I was listening to her go on and on about the fabulousness of all her gay male friends. I miss her being about women. There are so few celebrities out there who really seem dedicated to our gender, and it makes me sad to think we may have lost one.

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I agree on all points.
I think I saw that same show in the 90's - I remember her making fun of her Mom & it was hilarious. I was 15 at the time & I remember looking up to her for a long time.

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It matters to me

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If I hear one more time that we're "past identity politics" and it now doesn't matter if Bush's next Supreme Court nominee is male or female, I'm going to fucking scream.

It matters to me. I am part of the 51% female portion of the United States' population, and having an 11% female Supreme Court matters a whole fucking lot to me. And-gasp!-I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to get a nominee who is BOTH qualified AND female!

I know Bush is going to appoint a conservative. I don't like it, but hey, that's how the rules work. I can deal with that. But it incenses me to hear people--both men and women--say that we're beyond gender, that it doesn't matter anymore. The implication there, that those of us for whom it matters quite a lot, are somehow behind the times, somehow beating a dead horse, is sickening. Fuck that. I not only want a woman, I want it to be unapologetically OK to DEMAND a woman. I want HALF of the Supreme Court to be made up of women. Liberal women, conservative women, black women, Latina women, Asian women...I want the Supreme Court to look like what our country looks like. And until they do, I don't have a lot of faith in the decisions they make.

More than anything else, though, I want people to stop saying it doesn't matter. It matters to me, and goddammit, that ought to be worth something.

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Well said, Grace. FWIW, it matters to me, too.

i dunno why, but knowing you feel the same is going to give me courage to be verbal about it tonight when i'm hanging out with conservative christians. (i have no friends; i have to borrow my cousin's.) i guess it's that whole, i know i'm not alone thing.

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Atticus: the name, the man

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In the comments to my original post about Atticus, Scand asked me to speak about why I have all-male pets, as feminist. She also asked why I gave Atticus the name I did. So I thought I'd answer those things:

The all-male pet thing has been almost purely coincidental. We were looking for a female dog, and I was skeptical about getting a male dog, when we got Chance. However, I loved Chance on site, so I got over my gender preference. The rescue person from whom we adopted Chance also told us that male dogs are harder to get adopted out than are female dogs, so for me, that's one more reason to consider male dogs. With Leo, we were attracted to him due to his breed makeup and personality, his gender was really an afterthought. Also, both Chance and Leo were altered when we got them, which I guess effects the "maleness" of the personality. In Leo's case, I doubt it made much difference, I'd wager that he was always gentle. In Chance's case, he may have been a real problem had he not been neutered (and I believe he was neutered early on). In any case, I wouldn't consider having a non-altered male dog (but I wouldn't consider having any non-altered pet, so I guess that's sort of neither here nor there).

With Atticus, I didn't even know what his gender was until after I'd decided to adopt him. The tag just said his name was "Sam," which could have gone either way, and you can't tell by looking at him (at least not without a closer inspection than I was willing to perform in Petsmart). I've heard male cats are actually more friendly and less mean-spirited than female cats, but at Atticus' age, I doubt there would be any difference even if that were true. So again, it was pretty much a coincidence that I found a cat that I was draw to and that cat happened to be male.

Mostly, the truth of it is that I don't really think of my pets as gendered at all. It just doesn't really occur to me.

The bigger question, I think, and one that I will try to remember to address here at some point, is why I, as a feminist, am so attracted to "aggressive," stereotypically male breeds of dogs. But that is a whole other discussion.

Atticus is named after Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I decided a couple of years back, after watching a dog show, that I wanted to get a beagle and name it Atticus Finch. It just seemed like a great beagle name. However, I then learned a bit about beagles and realized that I will never get one (they have a totally wrong personality for my type of lifestyle, and it's sort of mean to get just one, as they are quintessential pack dogs). So I decided I'd hold on to the name for a cat, since it has the added benefit of working with the nickname "Atticus Catticus," which I think is hysterical (I also named a stray neighborhood cat in our old neighborhood Purrsephone, so you see how my tiny brain works here). Mark doesn't like the name much, but he'll live with it.

Incidentally, I also really like Atticus for a child's name, but it's one of those names I like but wouldn't ever actually saddle a kid with, so it's perfect for the cat.

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Yay, i was right about where the name came from! :) Funny how it is male dogs and female cats that are harder to rehome, though - especially since the usual stereotypes of the animals in question are linked to those genders. I think the choice is just about our personalities - i like female cats, with all the stroppiness and so on that this entails, but then i also admire women who have some of those characteristics more than i should.

PS i used to know some people who called their cat 'Oedipuss', so you're in good company.

I love Atticus Catticus. That's too great. Now I want a kitten. Again.

My dad-in-law speaks fondly of a cat that a college dormmate illegally owned called "Entropy". I think that name is hilarious for a cat.

Oh, yeah, and thanks for responding to my questions in such detail. A whole post, even!

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My opinion on Kos

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My opinion on Kos has never been high. In fact, I don't read it, cuz it pisses me off. But like other women in the Blosphere, I have to point you to this, if you haven't read it yet. Damn right.

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Greatest American update

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Of the top 25, there are 3 women. Three. Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Bah.

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And you know if it came down the three women, Oprah would win. Double bah.

What the hell? Wasn't Susan B. Anthony American?

She was in the 100 noms, but didn't make it into the Top 25. Yet Elvis did. As did Muhammad Ali. As did W.

And in whose patriarchal judgment are these the "top 25" Americans? Could we have a few words for Margaret Sanger? Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Alice Paul? Sarah and Angelina Grimke? Charlotte Gillman? Abigail Adams?

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Another brick in the wall

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Feminists have a lot to fight against. I mean, obviously there is the Patriarchy (TM) in general, but there are also a million small, insidious things that make feminist progress so hard.

One of them, as I am rediscovering over the past few days, is that women give up on each other far too easily.

I could give you a dime for every woman I know who hasn't stayed with a loser guy for too long at some point in her life (and this doesn't just mean boyfriends and husbands--fathers, brothers, and friends all fit into this category as well) and still have plenty of change in the emergency jar. Women are socially programmed to never give up on men, no matter what they do. Even when they are non-responsive, even when they are mean spirited, even when they are abusive. Women find the ability within themselves to keep giving, keep trying, just keep on, often for far longer than is healthy or good. Giving up on other women, however, is a whole other thing.

This goes beyond just judging each other harshly, which we also do. This is about writing each other off, thinking that other women are just not worth the trouble, not worth arguing with, not worth teaching and learning from, just plain not worth it. Rather than the innumerable chances we give men to learn, to change, to apologize, to explain, we give each other so very few. How many women have you known with whom you lost touch for reasons you can no longer even recall, mostly because they were so minor and could have so easily been mended if one or both of you had just been willing to keep on keeping on?

Why do we do it? I think partially it's about our self-worth, and how we are taught to view the worth of other women. You have only to look at the myriad of women throwing their best girlfriends over for the guy of the week to see where our priorities are supposed to lie. Sometimes, not giving up takes a sacrifice, it takes other things having to be shelved for a bit, and we're just not as willing to do that for women as we are for men.

Just as we are taught that the value of women is lower than that of men, we are simultaneously taught to expect more from women than from men. We are harder on each other when we screw up because it's less expected, and I can even remember saying to other women, in anger, "I'd expect that shit from a man, but not from you!" This double standard puts us in the position of thinking that women's small transgressions are bigger than they really are, and of not being able to accurately gauge how angry we should be.

Another part of it, I think, is that it is easier and safer for us to get angry and stay angry with each other than it is to get or stay angry with men. This is something that can be seen, for example, when a man leaves his girlfriend or cheats on her with another woman. Who is the bad guy in this scenario? In my experience, the bulk of the hate is generally directed towards the "other woman." Why is that? Why would a woman have higher expectations of another women, who she may not even know, than of a man who she presumably has a relationship with? Could it be, in part, because we can feel fairly secure that if we get into a disagreement with another woman, we won't come back from it with a black eye or a broken arm?

The bottom line is that, no matter how many reasons there are for women to give up on each other so easily, it's hurting us. If we could give each other the benefit of the doubt in even half as many cases as we give it to men, we'd be so much stronger.

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Fan mail

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The fans make it all worthwhile...

And you may not want personality tips from me but you need them from someone; you are tiresome and humorless. You give feminists a badname. I realize you're stuck in a college-town mentality but fucking grow up! One day hopefully, you'll look back and giggle and say "God,I was such a self-righteous boring prig."

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Another call for help

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Dear Fabulous Feminist Family and Friends,

As some of you know, In Other Words, Women's Books and Resources is Portland's nonprofit, feminist bookstore. IOW always has books that change women's lives and the world. We always strive to inspire new, diverse, and cutting edge writers and guarantee the availability of books by feminists, lesbians, and women of color. IOW values books as cultural and intellectual expressions, not merely commodities. Our core values are building, strengthening, and supporting women's community, diversity of feminist perspective, education for empowerment, and social change through grass roots activism. If you are not familiar with our organization, please visit us at 3734 SE Hawthorne or on the web at www.inotherwords.org

Summertime is always difficult for In Other Words since sales are generally low from July through September and income from textbook sales doesn't come through until
October. We are working on new ways to generate income on a more consistent basis throughout the year and have put some new marketing strategies into place. Heard us on KBOO? Seen our new ad free RISE UP listserv? However, right now we need your help and this is why I'm contacting you. This is a call to action. There are many ways to do your part to keep In Other Words alive.

Support your local, feminist bookstore; she supports you. In Other Words is a 501(c 3, non-profit, which makes all donations tax-deductible. Many of you have contributed in the past and have expressed great satisfaction of helping to keep a community resource alive. We are grateful and better off for it. Since we are in a summer sales slump and we all know the work of feminism is not over, please consider donating right away even if you usually give around the end of the year. Just mail your tax deductible check to the address below and we'll mail you a receipt. But wait there's more. If you are unable to make a tax-deductible donation right now, there are many other ways of supporting this community resources. We would be so grateful and our community will be better for it.

Come on down and visit! In Other Words, located in historic SE Hawthorne is open seven days a week. We offer a comprehensive, diverse collection of women's writing, women-positive gifts and videos for rent, non-sexist children's books, cards, stickers, posters, buttons, and space for community meetings and education, readings and workshops.

Shop! Fill out that summer reading list. Gift certificates are available in any denomination. If just 100 of you made a $25 purchase we could easily pay our rent.

Browse or contribute to our music and art sections. We have an art gallery, supporting local women artists, and our local music section is the best of its kind. Every purchase made helps keep us (and a feminist artist) alive.

Consider doing all your gift shopping now. Through the month of August we are having a 50% off sale. Don't miss this opportunity to save big on selected titles. While you are in the store, pick up our calendar of events and see what we are offering the community this month. Stay tuned for upcoming benefits.

Go to www.inotherwords.org. For those of you that live outside of Portland or can't make it over to Hawthorne--I know you read, and you probably order books on line. By using our web site to buy your books, you can really help us out. Just go to our website and take a look, check out our store history and calendar of events. You can buy any book off of our web site, have it shipped directly to your home. It doesn't cost you any more -- it is just like buying a book from amazon.com only feminist and contributing to the sustainability of independent media. And it does not have to be a women's book. You can order ANY book off of our web site. In Other Words has been around for ten years, and buying your books from us is a really easy way to support one of the only non-profit feminist bookstores in the country. Thanks very much for
considering these options. Your purchases, donations, and support contribute to
keeping our community space devoted to women's writing, performance, and art
sustainable. Feel free to forward this to anyone you think may be interested.

Thanks in advance!!

The staff, volunteers, and board of In Other Words.

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Ask a Working Woman Report

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With a heavy heart (Odd Girl Out)

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Odd Girl Out book coverAs anyone who has been anywhere near me recently is undoubtably sick of hearing, I just read this really great book. It's called Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. Basically, a writer took the time to talk to a bunch of groups of elementary-to-high school aged girls about how and why they are mean to each other. Teaching girls not to be aggressive, the author postulates (and I think she's right), backfires into girls putting their aggressions into all of this underhanded, backbiting meanness. Rather than just getting in an argument or a even a fight and getting it over with, girls spread rumors, exclude, keep secrets, use particular kinds of body language, "kill with kindness," etc. And it causes psychological damage that haunts us for the rest of our lives, sometimes sutble ways, sometimes in clear-cut ones, like abusive romantic relationships, self injury, and eating disorders.

Every single fucking thing in the book rang true to me, both from the perspective of the aggressor and from the perspective of the victim. The thing is, it didn't just ring true to my childhood memories, but to my interactions with women now. The fear of exclusion and of being talked trash about, the cliquishness, the jealousy, and the searing, barely hidden anger that underlies it all--it's all still here, and I am not at all sure that I am reacting to it any differently at 25 than I did at 15, or even at 5.

If it's here for me, is it here for other women? Is it poisoning our relationships with each other? Most importantly, how can we get past it? Can we talk about it without falling too deep down a well of recrimination? Can we lay our feelings at each other's feet, bare ourselves, and still live to tell about it? Can we learn to trust each other?

I'm caught up in trying to figure out what the first step could possibly be. The truth is that I am terrified of women. The truth is that I want more than anything else in the world to be able to love and cherish and trust other women, to be a part of a sisterhood, but I don't. And every time I think I am getting close, I get burned worse than the time before. And I don't know how to stop it, I don't know how to fight my way through the layers of bullshit that lie between me and my sisters. I keep trying, because really, what else can I do, but frankly I'm losing hope. We were taught from birth to fear each other, to hate each other, and to keep all of our rage to ourselves until we could find a suitably "feminine" outlet for it. We were doing it in kindergarten, and in middle school, and we're doing it now. How do we unlearn that? Individually and collectively, how do we get past what we've become?

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Bookwoman

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The following came across my email this afternoon:

Dear Friends and Supporters of BookWoman,

We are writing to ask your help. The still sluggish economy, our rising rent, and the difficulties of the construction project on Lamar Blvd. are all colliding to make this our most challenging summer ever. BookWoman is having a severe cash crisis! We are asking that you come shop at BookWoman right away and tell all your friends! If 160 people each spend $25 here in the next two weeks we would be able to pay our August rent on time. Why not start your holiday shopping now!

Or if you are able to give a small donation of $10, $25, or $50, it would be most gratefully and lovingly received. Although BookWoman is not traditional non-profit, we exist to serve all the women of Austin and all our diverse communities- both in the selection of the products that we carry and the in-store programming that we support and provide.We are actively looking for more economic digs...any leads will be welcome. It is really hard to believe, but we are nearing our 30th anniversary. It's a huge and humbling milestone. Hopefully we will be able to continue our work.

In Sisterhood: with love and gratitude for so many years of your support,

Susan, Kristen, Marla & Jennifer
BookWoman
918 W.12 St.
Austin, Texas 78703
www.ebookwoman.com


First thing is first--if you have any spare money lying around and an inclination to help keep a really wonderful store in business, go on down there, if you are local, or go to www.ebookwoman.com and buy something, if you aren't.

Secondly, this is the third or fourth feminist book store in trouble I've heard about lately. There are no words for how much this pisses me off. It is ESSENTIAL that we keep these businesses going. Given the social and political climate around us, protecting our safe havens is more than a good idea, it's a necessity. These stores were some of the first places in the past few decades for women to gather, to be safe, to talk and laugh and cry and be together. They carry books, magazines, music that other stores won't touch, full of information that we need to have access to, as well as entertainment that makes our lives richer. This is a service to the feminist community, and it is one that doesn't pay for itself. If we don't get off our collective asses and support these stores, they won't be here much longer.

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If you missed the March

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Go to Margaret Cho's blog and watch her little film clip (top lefthand corner). It's good stuff.

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The march

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My elation is wearing into exhaustion at this point, but nothing has ever been so worth it.

I think the March for Women's Lives may well have been the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Right up there, anyway. I'm trying to decide where it falls on the continuum, and it's definitely in the first-Ani-concert/Renn Faire (which is NOT a Renaissance Faire) area. A million people (or 800,000, or whomever's estimate you want to believe), most of them women, marching on the capitol to demand what is rightfully ours. All smiling, singing, shouting, waiving signs and flags. I can't imagine another time when I will be able to see so much beauty and so much hope in one place.

It really reminded me of a part of my politics (and my life, really) that has gotten away from me lately--hope. One of the pre-march speakers used that Che quote about optimism being the weapon of the revolution, and I remembered how I used to believe that. And then, looking around me, I really felt like it was true again. We may be under the harshest regime this country has seen in decades, atrocities might be committed falsely in our names both at home and abroad, but we are not cowering and we will not give up.

I really am exhausted, and in theory I am supposed to perform some odd ritual known as "homework" tonight, so I'm going to leave this here. More reflections tomorrow, hopefully. To close, though, to my sisters who are reading this and weren't able to make it to the march yesterday, your presence was felt. I know I thought of you often. And to my sisters who were, thank you for marching with me.

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March for Women's Lives Celebrity Coalition

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This is the list of celebrities supporting the March for Women's Lives in a couple of weeks. Gives me an idea of some folks I may be supporting who I wouldn't have expected. Cindy Crawford? Ed Asner?

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President's Day

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Something unpredecented and unpleasant happened to me this afternoon.

I was walking from the parking lot towards the building where I had class. My school is next door to a presidential library that has a big, if strange exhibition ending today, on President's Day, so there were people all over. It took me like 20 minutes to find a place to park.

Anyway, I was walking along, wearing baggy jeans and a semi-fitted t-shirt with no bra. This is a pretty standard school day uniform for me. Yes, I should probably wear a bra. But I don't like wearing a bra, so if there is any way I can avoid it, I do. Suddenly, someone leaned out the window of a passing car and yelled "boingy boingy boing! Nice tits, bitch!"

What, you ask, is so unprecedented about that? Street harassment is something I complain about all the time, though I have noticed it happens far less here than it did at home.

The individual leaning out the window and yelling at me was unmistakably a woman.

I've been called every derogatory name in the book, had all of my body parts complimented or criticized, been propositioned at least 100 ways, all from passing cars. But I've NEVER been yelled at by a woman before. And it's SO much worse.

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Sunrise

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I walked Chance into an amazing golden sunrise this morning. It almost made being up at 7:30 when I don't have class until 2 worth it. Almost.

I have a stupid group project meeting at the massively inconvenient hour of 9am this morning. Then I'm coming back here and working (read: coming back here and taking a nap) before 2 o'clock class.

So far, having my schedule split into work week and school week seems to take a lot of pressure off.

I am trying to decide if I want to submit a paper/which paper I want to submit to the Women's Studies Colloquium thing. I am tempted to submit an abstract of the paper I am going to write for PD on HPV, since I would like to get more into women's health policy work, and presenting some would be good for the resume. However, I feel weird about signing up to present a paper I haven't written yet. Hrm...The deadline for abstracts is Nov. 14, so the chances of me writing it before then are pretty low, too.

Still, I think that's what I will do.

I am going to try to have grits for breakfast. We'll see how that goes.

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Love your body day

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Love your body day:

I love my body because my skin and hair feel nice to my touch
I love my body because it allows me to adequately enjoy baths
I love my body because it allows me to see, to hear, to smell, to touch
I love my body because of the way it feels to stretch out in bed in the morning
I love my body because it is a vessel through which I can play with my dog
I love my body because it gives me sexual feeling
I love my body because it has round parts and narrow parts and identifies me as female
I love my body because I am a fast typist
I love my body because of the ultra-comfortable feeling I get after a great meal or a couple of beers
I love my body because it can dance and sing, not well, but joyfully.

Why do you love your body?

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