Friday, August 31, 2012

Rape Culture in our "Justice" System

TW rape

I'm speechless. A friend just passed this my way.

Is it any shock that this happens...

Two Catholic school athletes who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old... They said they lifted her shirt, pulled down her pants and penetrated her vagina with their fingers because, according to one of the teens, "we thought it would be funny, but it wasn't." 

When we have a system where a representative of the court says this...

Paul Richwalsky, chief prosecutor in the juvenile court division of the county attorney's office, told her "get over it and see a therapist. … The jail was for 'real' rapists, murderers and robbers," according to an affidavit released Thursday.

I'm so horrified.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Disingenuous Ann

I've had a couple of recent exposures to Ann Romney. I watched a profile of her on Rock Center a few weeks ago and last night I watched her speech at the RNC (which you can read here, if you missed it.) On both occasions I have been left with an exhausting feeling that she is so incredibly disingenuous.

Now, before I expand on this I want to clarify one thing. It could be easily said that I'm being sexist because I'm attacking a politician's wife. Mitt is the candidate--not Ann, I get that. And it's true that so often politicians' wives face an unfair amount of sexist pressure and scrutiny. However, last night, when Ann threw her arms up and said, "I love WOMEN!!!!!!!" in possibly the most ridiculously Oprah fashion ever, I decided all bets were off. The Romney campaign is using Ann as a supposed access point to female voters (that's not unusual.) Ann is being spun as "like me" and "for me" and "someone who gets me" and because of that, I am going to respond.

As I said, the word that keeps popping up for me in regards to Ann is other words, I can't shake the feeling that she's being incredibly fake and insincere. There were so many reasons I felt this from her "I love women" declaration while supporting a party/candidate that works against us, to the opening of her speech in which she said love is the most important thing, but then made a snide comment about her marriage being "real." A few things in particular stuck out to me the most.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thinking About Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga in Vienna earlier this month
I've been reading Caitlin Moran's book, How To Be A Woman, as recommended by my friend Meghan. It's super entertaining and I'll be posting a review of it soon. In the meantime, I read a passage last night in which has been stuck in my mind and helped me, perhaps, finally reconcile my relationship with one Ms. Lady Gaga.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The World of Tumblr

I'm so fascinated by Tumblr. Equal parts in love and horrified. It can be pretty easily summed up by explaining that you can find whatever you are looking for on Tumblr.


I've been chugging away at my new project over there, Sexism! As Spotted on Facebook. I'm gathering a nice little following and I get the occasional submission. Sadly, it's really easy for me to do a couple of quick searches a few times a day and find a TON of fodder. (Like 70+ posts in 8 days.)

While we're on the subject of Tumblr, I was recently asked by a regular commenter, Kit Jordan, if I could pass along my favorite blogs to follow, as she had just started Tumbling* herself. Here's my list. What would you all add?


Reproductive rights:

Fat/body positivity:



General feminist/leftist people who I think are cool:

I do want to add that that Tumblr (as with all social media) can be super hit or miss. It's a lot of "for fun" stuff and it isn't always hard writing, but there are a lot of pockets of social justice Tumbling that have really great stuff going on. Often (too often) bigots find their way into the fray so you do have to wade through that, but overall it's a pretty awesome place. Plus the general demographics are very young. As someone who is vastly growing too old for youth culture but works with adolescents, it's important for me to stay connected and Tumblr lets me do that much to my frequent amusement and horror.

*Yes, I'm going with the verb "Tumbling." Get over it.
**I'm updating this time to time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When Thin Is "In" (in other words, always)

TW eating disorder; body talk

In my creation of my new Tumblr, I've been paying really close attention to the images that are shared on Facebook. I've found a ton of fodder for my project, but I've also noticed a few things which have caught my eye for other reasons. One such image is floating around and making me cringe. It's not necessarily sexist, but it is really triggering when it comes to eating disorders. I've included it under the cut.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dumb Dads

I'm just sitting here watching TV and a commercial popped up which played on the whole "dads are so stupid and mess everything up" business. It's one of the gendered stereotypes that bothers Ronald the most, I think. He's always imagined parenting in his future and is pretty insulted by the constant implication that he'll be a bumbling fool. I mean, he once wrote a letter to Jif peanut butter because he was so bothered by the phrase "choosy moms choose Jif."

This "dads are so duuuuumb" stereotype is one that I've used to make feminism accessible to heterosexual men who are open to the discussion but don't really "get it" unless they can see how sexism affects them directly. And it's not a hard point to make. This stereotype is extremely present in pop culture; from Homer Simpson to Michael Keaton's "Mr. Mom" and Ray Romano on Everybody Loves Raymond, there's a plethora of men who are really, really incompetent when it comes to raising kids. Insert a joke about how the wife has a 3 year old, a 5 year old, and one really big kid. Yuk, yuk.

It's certainly insulting to the great fathers out there, but it also has implications for women who are co-parenting with them. When the narrative constantly affirms that men can't be trusted with raising kids, then who should? Even in this seemingly silly way, "proper" gender roles are reinforced. We are taught that the onus of child rearing and housework should fall on women--so it still does.

Here I'd like to reference a recent status my friend posted on Facebook where she expressed how sad it is when her married, heterosexual friends post statuses praising their husbands for doing the smallest things in the world--the things which should be expected of an adult. You know, the stuff that makes up the mundane day-to-day requirements of a partnership. You've seen the statuses I mean: "My hubby vacuumed today AND made dinner! I'm one lucky gal!" Lady, who did those tasks every other day!? And as someone else on that thread pointed out: when did we start calling it "babysitting" when a man is caring for his own child? KNOCK IT OFF. I mean...look up the definition of babysitting and tell me what is says.

But seriously, just like all stereotypes, this shit has got to go. It's feminism 101 stuff here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Narrowly Define Rape? (Hint: Rape Culture and Being Anti-Choice)

TW rape talk.

By now, I'm sure you've heard about how Republican Senate candidate and current Missouri Representative Todd Akin said, "...from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare...If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

For further reading on this situation, I suggest you check out Shakesville's running coverage on the topic. If all of this doesn't make your head explode, I first must ask: WHY?! But I assume you are a decent human being and your head is thoroughly exploded. After you've picked your brains off the floor, I'd like to talk for a minute about why people attempt to narrowly define rape. As Ian Millhiser wrote at Think Progress, Akin (with our current republican VP nominee) has been in the business of trying to dismiss certain types of rape for a while:
Last year, Akin joined with GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as two of the original co-sponsors of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill which, among other things, introduced the country to the bizarre term “forcible rape.”
HUH? What the hell does that mean anyway? What is forcible and what isn't? And what rape isn't forcible? Furthermore, why in the hell would a representative be in the business of categorizing rape types? Does that create JOBS?

OH Millhiser continues:
Federal law prevents federal Medicaid funds and similar programs from paying for abortions. Yet the law also contains an exception for women who are raped. The bill Akin and Ryan cosponsored would have narrowed this exception, providing that only pregnancies arising from “forcible rape” may be terminated. Because the primary target of Akin and Ryan’s effort are Medicaid recipients — patients who are unlikely to be able to afford an abortion absent Medicaid funding — the likely impact of this bill would have been forcing many rape survivors to carry their rapist’s baby to term.
Aaaaaand there is it. This is ultimately about controlling people's bodies and forced pregnancy. Really think about that. Akin's policies and statements are made from such a disturbingly anti-choice place that they are aimed at forcing someone to carry their rapist's baby. But most people don't really like that idea, so of course he is trying to say "If you got pregnant you weren't really raped!" I mean, we all know that rape victims are really just lying hussies who wanted it. Duh.

Sarcasm aside, I've said this before and I will say it again: narrowly defining rape helps no one but rapists. It perpetuates rape culture. If we doubt and deny that women are raped unless some arbitrary standard is met (a stranger attacks a modestly dressed virgin in an alley way and she fights like hell the whole time and doesn't get pregnant) we allow for the continuation of rapes which don't fit this standard. And a majority of rapes don't meet that standard. So rape continues.

And who ultimately benefits when rape is normalized? Is it women?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Announcing: Sexism! As Seen on Facebook

I wanted to officially announce that I am embarking on a new project. I have started a Tumblr called "Sexism! As Seen on Facebook." It is a place to call out all the horribly misogynistic stuff that is floating around Facebook and other social media platforms. Please follow it on Tumblr, submit what you are seeing, add it to your Google reader, and/or share. 

Beyond the announcement, I wanted to take a moment to explain why I decided to start this project and answer a few questions:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Wrong Idea of "Equality"

So often, I see people with privilege talking about "equality" and fairness in a way where the terms are taken in the most unexamined, uninformed way possible. I have a few examples about what I mean:
  • A thin person tells a fat person that she is equally oppressed because she's been made fun of for being thin.
  • A man states that if women want "real equality" then they can't expect to take maternity leave or be given time at work to breastfeed.
  • A white person claims they face just as much racism as people of color because they swear they've been called a "cracker" one time and real fairness would mean the elimination of all slurs.
In each of these cases that chief problem is the denial of the cultural context in which we operate and the history involved. In other words, stuff just ain't the same for different groups of people. Yes, all body shaming is a problem, but the cultural context is repeatedly telling us that fat bodies are wrong. Therefore, thin people benefit from thin privilege on a daily basis and simply because they have experienced body shame, doesn't mean their experience is anywhere similar to that of a fat person. The same goes for the white person who benefits from their white privileged literally every day. Their isolated incident with the slur does not remotely compare to the daily oppression people of color face and our long, violent national history with racism.

And as for the example of with the man who is talking about "real equality" for women, the problem is that his version of "real equality" is again ignoring the world in which we operate. It takes a man's situation as default and denies the sexism that women face on a daily basis. As I've said before, I feel strongly that you can't achieve an actually equitable society through expecting women to behave and think like men in order to be seen as legitimate, to get ahead, and be successful. My brand of feminism has never been about this. Instead, it is about making systems (which have always favored men in the past) also work for women. If we take how men do things as the standard and expect women to conform to that, we're simply validating patriarchy.

It's so much more important in each context, that we examine the "-isms" at play--the existence of oppression and the history of discrimination. The real problem is that when people benefit from white, male, thin, able bodied, straight, cis, etc. privilege, they don't want to compromise that position. So they deny the situation and instead talk about this false notion of equality which ignores the real world we operate in.

To me, it is much more important to think critically about how privilege affects our world and how we can work toward the eradication of various oppressions than to try to figure out some arbitrary standard of "equality."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Breaking Bad, Power, and Abuse

TW discussions of emotional abuse

Breaking Bad is one of my all time favorite TV shows. It has the uncanny ability to pull you in and get you hooked, even when you know you are rooting for "the bad guys."

I'm pretty sure people can and are writing entire dissertations on the gender portrayal of the show, so it's not something I can tackle in a blog post. But I do want to talk about the current state of Walt and Skyler's relationship and how I think it reflects a toxic and abusive relationship. With that said, if you haven't yet seen the current season up to the most recent episode, there will be spoilers after the cut.

Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Walt (Bryan Cranston)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Teaching Kids Fatphobia

Yesterday, I happened to catch Amanda Levitt's thoughts as she tweeted watching Matilda for the first time since she was a kid. She had some interesting observations. Here are some of her tweets consolidated:
Watching Matilda as an adult is really shocking when the last time you watched it as a 10 year old. The way fatness and gluttony are treated like mortal sins makes me really sad so many kids had to watch this. I do find it really interesting how conflicted the body of the villain, Miss Trunchbull, is. Not only is she physically strong, which is used as a way to harm the kids at school but also used to devalue her. Ms. Honey is portrayed as a delicate flower who speaks softly and the first kind person Matilda has ever met. Matilda is a great film to show how we teach children fat stigma.
Levitt got my wheels turning on this subject. I think it's pretty well known how poorly fat people in the media are portrayed as a whole, but when you take a look at the media children are consuming, it becomes disturbingly clear just how clearly we are teaching fatphobia to our youngest citizens.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Today in Misogyny: Killer Joe

[Content note: rape]

So Killer Joe. I hadn't heard of it until I saw it the other day. Holy crap, is it one of the most misogynistic things I've ever seen! I honestly can't stop this movie from flying through my head...and yet, I don't have the energy to write a full review of it. As a film, it might have accomplished the goals it set out to do. I mean, it sure created a super villain in Matthew McConaughey's character so...kudos...?

But what I can't stop fixating on is how little the writer, Tracy Letts, clearly thinks of women. I mean, I have never in my life, seen a more hyperbolic depiction of the virgin/whore dichotomy in a film. Add to that the literal ownership of a woman, the fact that we see every female character naked at least once, and a rape scene involving fried chicken, and you have the utter piece of garbage that is this movie.

The movie--all around--is full of horrible people, but the women get the shit end of the deal. At the end of the day, it was a sexist, classist nightmare that panders to shock value without any real substance to back it up. I just don't even know what else to say.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Not a Teen, but Loving Rookie

As my friend Meghan recently brought to my attention, there is a contingent of us 20 somethings who love Rookie Magazine. Are you aware of Rookie? I've mentioned it before (because it's awesome.) It's Tavi Gevinson's online magazine that features absolutely amazing information for teen girls.

As Amanda Hess said in her Slate piece on the subject:
As for us adults? Rookie allows us to believe that had it been around 10 years ago, “maybe I wouldn't have done half the self-destructive shit that I did to myself at the time,” my friend told me. “And maybe I wouldn't be so fucked up about some of these things now.” 
But beyond wishing I had something like Rookie 10 years ago...what's not to love? It's kind of my dream--a media space created for (and more importantly) BY teen girls. It's not a bunch of stale, pale, male executives trying to conjure up they *think* teen girls would like. It's girls talking to each other. It's real, fresh, fashionable, friendly, and fun. It features advice from Sady Doyle, and Gillian Jacobs, encourages girls to have healthy relationships, builds self esteem, introduces the Diva Cup, and makes feminism look really damn cool.

Like I said. It's kind of my dream.

I work every day with girls who are steeped in the teen world and sometimes it can a tough place to be. Not knowing where you fit in...feeling ashamed of your body...worrying about what people think of you...feeling alone. But spaces like Rookie work with me to 1) remind girls they're not alone 2) give them a voice 3) provide wonderful information and support and 4) highlight the best of girlhood.

So yeah. I love Rookie. It makes me happy. What of it?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Last Names Redux

I've written in great detail about my personal choice to not change my last name when I married. It was a really important decision for me and one that I made after lots of detailed consideration. So when I see someone talking negatively about this decision, I bristle. Especially when that judgement occurs in a feminist space.

Let me disclaimer: I love Persephone Magazine. A lot. It's a great community and a great blog full of fun feminism. But today they ran a piece about last name changes that made my head spin. New author, January, had this to say about the topic:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Racism + Guns

On July 20th, James Eagan Holmes shot and killed 14 people at a movie theater in Aurora, CO. On Sunday, Wade Michael Page killed 6 people at a place of worship in Oak Creek, WI. On their face these incidents seem extremely similar, right? However, the reaction I have seen has been quite different.

Monday, August 6, 2012

All Objections to Feminism are not Equal

I've been thinking about this blog for a while and a conversion I had last night crystallized my intentions to write it. I write a lot about accepting the term "feminist." It is a very important goal of mine to make sure that the movement is better understood and to dispel the many stereotypes that exist about feminists. I want people who believe in gender equality and the end of sexist oppression to understand that they all have a place within the movement.

So when I encounter someone who is for equality but against feminism, I bristle. My first concern is that they've been indoctrinated to believe the sexist stereotypes that feminism has been associated with. However, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that I need to remember that all objections to feminism are not equal. I mean this specifically about women of color who do not identify with the movement because of its history of racism and ongoing incidents of racism in the white feminist community.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Spectacle: Chick-fil-A Day

As I'm sure almost anyone in this country is well aware, Chick-fil-A is embroiled in a controversy for their anti-gay practices and policies.

In a show of support for the chicken chain, anti-gay advocates declared yesterday "Chick-fil-A" day. If you are anything like me at all, your various social media outlets were probably blowing up with commentary on the issue. (Luckily for me, I think I've FINALLY cleared up my list to the extent that the most virulent anti-gay comments were filtered out.)

One thing I have seen is that the issue is being distorted by the right into being about the first amendment, the idea being that people are just supporting Chick-fil-A's constitutional right to hold anti-gay views. 

Did you catch that? In typical fashion, conservatives are using the Constitution (again) to distract from their bigotry. I saw a picture yesterday which really nicely summarizes this:

[Text reads: So when anti-gay rights organizations boycott and protest JC Penny's (sic), Ellen Degeneress (sic), DC Comics, Electronic Arts, Marvel Comics, The Lifetime Network, Toys R Us, etc they are exercising their freedom of speech. But when gay rights activists boycott Chick-Fil-A they are infringing on the company's freedom of speech?]

Seriously, what the Chick-fil-A supporters seem to be ignoring here is:

1) It is a legitimate right for those of us who support gay marriage and general equality to boycott companies that do not align with our values. And really, it's about time that one such company received this much attention and negative press. 

2) It is also within our constitutional rights to speak out against the anti-gay bigotry at play here and to verbally disagree with people who continue to support Chick-fil-A, either as a strategically anti-gay statement or through passive ignorance.*  

Sadly, too many people are still in favor of hateful practices which discriminate against various individuals who are different from them. For example, yesterday, Chick-fil-A recorded record profits. Such awesome people as the Palins showed up to their neighborhood Chick-fil-A to show solidarity with the chain. 

As I said about the issue on my Facebook: If you're on the same side of an issue as Sarah Palin, rethink your views, bro.

Lastly, I want to end with a call to my fellow progressives on this issue for two points:

A) Not all support of Chick-fil-A is equal. This is something which I think deserves more attention. While I think that it is wrong to continue to mindlessly patronage Chick-fil-A if you support gay rights, there are some people on the left who don't truly have a choice in this matter and it is not productive to demonize them. For example, many people who support gay rights and might be gay themselves, work at Chick-fil-A and maintain that job out of necessity. As I recently saw on my Tumblr newsfeed from Brian Stuart: "This is something some progressives get horribly wrong on the regular. It’s fine to boycott a company. It’s fine to advocate for a boycott. It’s not fine to feel entitled to anyone’s participation."

B) Chick-fil-A is not unique. There are other companies who actively work to support conservative agendas. Sometimes it can feel really overwhelming to try to only support businesses which are aligned with your views.  And it certainly takes at least some level of privilege to do so. (I mean, think for example if you live in an area where your only access to produce is at Wal*Mart and it takes a car and a lot more money to shop at the local farmer's market.) But if you do have the means and ability to "vote with your money" then doing so by only boycotting Chick-fil-A is lazy activism. It's like jumping on the KONY bandwagon--it's a start to greater change, but it's not that meaningful if you don't let the awareness take you to the next level.

I'm sure there is much more to be said about this issue. But honestly, I think we're all already a bit tired of it, aren't we?

*See point A above.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Racism: Olympics Edition

Gabby Douglas is an incredible gymnast and now an Olympic gold medalist. But that might be hard to realize, because if you are listening to the media and general Olympics coverage, Gabby is not getting a fair shake. From people criticizing her hair and her mother, to her invisibility in some promotional photos and NBC's coverage, it certainly feels like racism in action.

Due to my traveling schedule, I missed out on all of the gymnastic events so far. But I wanted to round up some of the best coverage I've seen on this for further reading. The linked pieces below get into much greater detail about how Gabby is being treated. Check them out!