Thursday, October 25, 2012

Women's Worth as a Function of Desirability to Men

Oy. I can certainly tell that my event is next week. I haven't had a chance to stop and write anything much lately. But I'm here now and that's what counts! Plus, I found out this week that I received a promotion and after the event, my work will change. I'm really excited about it.

Ah, but that is all neither here nor there. What is on my mind right now is the idea that a woman's worth in society is directly proportional to how much your average dude wants to have sex with her. In plain language like that, it might sound a bit odd, but when you think about it, it's clear. We all know that there is an expectation on all women to look a "certain" way. In turn, that certain way becomes the particular look that most men are socialized to find attractive. Women who look this way, whether they actively try to or not, are playing by the rules and are subsequently rewarded for their looks.

So really, at the end of the day, a woman's value is unfairly reduced to her fuckability. But let me back up. I started to think about this in reading Lesley's Kinzel's Two Whole Cakes last week. She says,

Monday, October 22, 2012

Feminist Reads: Reviews of "Why Have Kids?" and "Two Whole Cakes"

So I'm becoming a bit back logged on my promised book reviews.

I think I had said so far I'd get to How to Be a Woman, and Why Have Kids?. And I just now finished Two Whole Cakes. I think I'm probably going to pass on HTBAW (who hasn't already reviewed it, anyway? Just check what they have said.)

But I'd really like to take a quick look at Why Have Kids? and Two Whole Cakes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Male Allies and Feminism: Leadership in the Movement vs. Personal Identity

I've been reading/watching closely the Hugo Schwyzer-fest happening at a few lady blogs this week. (I mean specifically, Persephone and xoJane--the former which I read regularly the latter, I do not but went that way when I saw several Tweets exchanged with and by the author Lesley Kinzel.)

I don't even want to touch the Schwyzer stuff specifically. If you want to read about that, go to almost any prominent feminist blog, search for his name and read and read and read. (Oh, and there's this Tumblr about him too.)

What I do want to touch on is the idea of male feminists and their place within the movement.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oh, Male Opinions...

I'm not a man hater. (This is the part where trolls will foam at the mouth because YER A FEMINIST, YES YOU DO HATE MENZ.) But seriously...anyone who actually reads what I write or knows me "IRL" can tell you that I am definitely not a man hater.

That aside, I'm not ashamed to say, I sure am getting tired of hearing white male opinions this week. And by week, I mean IN LIFE, but you know, this week particularly.

Let me just run through a few gems.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Valuing Thinness Over Health

Content note: weight talk


So I've been sick. I'm doing better today, but Sunday night through Monday afternoon was hell on earth for me. I'm pretty sure it was food poisoning.

Like I said, I'm feeling a lot better now, but after surviving my body purging every single thing in it for 24 hours, I got to thinking about how in moments like this, the temptation is to crack a joke about how I should be happy that I lost weight*. Even after all the work I have done to be more body positive and self accepting, that thought slips in my head. But then I check myself, because, let me assure you, there is absolutely NO silver lining to the experience of those 24 hours.

So often when a fat person looses weight--even under very unhealthy circumstances--s/he is applauded. Like this submission at the This is Thin Privilege blog: "Thin privilege is chronic vomiting and sudden weight loss (30 lbs) being treated like a good thing by your primary care physician." Experiences of this nature are all too common. Often when people develop eating disorders, the verbal affirmations they receive at their initial weight loss act as reinforcements of their unhealthy behaviors.

Jasmine Peterson at Gender Focus shares a similar story:
In recent months, I have been under a tremendous amount of stress, so much so that I had been unable to eat or sleep, and I turned to some pretty maladaptive coping mechanisms. During this period, I lost a great deal of weight. It wasn’t intentional, and it wasn’t desired. It was merely a side effect of the intense stress I was under. It is a signifier of my distress; it is not a signifier of beauty or health. 
What I began to notice, however, was that people were making a lot of comments about my weight loss, and my appearance. Their valuations of my body were positive; they were reinforcing my unhealthy weight loss through their positive comments about my body: “You’re so skinny” or “You look so good”. And even when I explained how this weight loss came about, people would make comments like “Well depression looks good on you” or “I wish I had what you had”.
Did you see that? "I wish I had what you had" even when what thing is extremely unhealthy and dangerous. All in the name of thinness.

It's just a reminder that being skinny is the most important thing. Fat people are body and food policed under the guise that others are "just concerned about our health" but that whole facade falls away when a fat person gets sick and loses a few pounds. Suddenly the talk turns to how wonderful it is that we slimmed down through the illness. What happened to health?

It's a disturbing trend and a reminder that using weight as a short hand for health can be not only inaccurate but also be very dangerous. 

*This is an assumption on my part. I've long scorned scales.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Slut Shaming and Halloween Sexism

I will be the first to tell you that we have a problem with sexist Halloween costumes.

I'll also be the first to tell you that we're have a slut shaming problem, in a general kind of way.

I got to thinking about these two things today when I was scrolling through the "sexism" tags on Tumblr and I came across a couple of blogs exploring the gender divide between costumes. Here's a great example:
[Photo of a man and woman dressed in "Wild West" style costumes." The woman is in a cowgirl costume with a tiny hat, short shorts, and a front tying tiny shirt. The man is wearing a long brown coat, jeans, holster, bandanna, and full size hat.]

Also on the sexism tag were plenty of people talking about how prevalent slut shaming is in our world.

So here's the statement I tweeted earlier today, "Important/tricky balance: Acknowledging that Halloween costume makers are utilizing sexism but not slut shaming women who buy said costumes." A friend tweeted me back that he'd like to see that as a other words, what am I really getting at?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October Is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Content note: Discussion of abuse, especially emotional. Oh, and also some made up words in the first sentence...

As I've written about before, my mom is a breast cancer survivor, but due to the pinkification, sexification, and politicalization of breast cancer awareness raising, I'm not really keen writing about that topic. Besides, in the sea of pink this month, it can be easy for another incredibly important awareness campaign to be lost.

October is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a cause which is very close to my heart.

Monday, October 8, 2012

What I'm Reading

Here are a few things I am currently enjoying...

Today is Columbus Day...a day which has a pretty disturbing past, such that I'm not sure why anyone would "celebrate" it. Mark Anthony Rolo has a piece up about what today really means.
"We should have been wiped out," she says. "It's a miracle Native people still exist. I have never liked the word 'conquered.' We are still here after 500 years. And maybe every time Columbus Day comes around, we should rethink who the real heroes are: the explorer or the survivors?"
Every time "Half the Sky" gets held up as the greatest thing, I've had a nagging doubt in my mind. That doubt was just perfectly articulated by Sayantani DasGupta at Racialicious:

...I often ask my students to evaluate a text’s ethical stance by asking themselves –"whose story is it?" For example, are people of color acting or being acted upon? Although the film does highlight fantastic on-the-ground activists such as maternal health activist Edna Adan of Somaliland, the point of entry, the people with whom we, the (presumably) Western watchers, are supposed to identify, are Kristof and his actress sidekick-du-jour.
This is a bit older (in Internet years) but if you're interested in fat activism or body positivity at all, I highly suggest you add Fat Heffalump to your Google reader. Last month she tackled myths about fat bodies:

2. Having a fat body is like carrying around a 2o/50/100/whatever lb/kg sack of potatoes/dirt/lard whatever.
Wait, the average adult skeletal structure weighs about 20lbs right? So is having a skeleton like carrying around a 2olb weight?No it’s not. Fat bodies are not attached to us, like some kind of extra luggage – they ARE us. Our whole bodies hold ourselves up – bones, muscle, organs, skin, fat, everything – it’s all part of a complex machine that propels us around our lives. If you hand me 50lbs, I’m going to feel it’s weight, because it is not part of me. But 50lbs of my own body weight (or whatever number you choose) is part of me, and it has it’s own function in my body. The only time I’ve felt like I’m carrying a burden is when I believed I was worthless because I was fat. That wasn’t the physical weight of my body, it was the weight of stigma.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Consequences of a Sex Negative and Anti-Choice World

Content note: This post is about a really sad, disturbing news story regarding a Florida teen who killed her baby shortly after giving birth at home in secret. 

I'm incredibly sad right now.

I just read this story on a friend's Facebook.
A 14-year-old girl who authorities say secretly gave birth to a son and then strangled him, will be prosecuted as an adult. Cassidy Goodson is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. She was arrested Sept. 28 after deputies say she gave birth to a 9.5-pound boy in the bathroom of her house. Detectives say she used a pair of scissors to "pry the baby out," and delivered the child alive and into the toilet. She then strangled him with the umbilical cord still attached and put him in a shoebox, according to detectives. The girl's mother found the baby in the box, hidden in some laundry. Detectives say the girl hid her pregnancy from her family. According to officials with the Polk County Sheriff's Office, the high school freshman killed her baby because she "didn't know what to do with it" and "didn't want the relationship with her parents to change."
I'm so, so sad. But not just because a baby was murdered...I'm sad about every detail of this story. I can't help but think of the girl in the story too. What level of desperation must she have achieved? Clearly she was afraid of telling her parents that she was pregnant....and what, exactly, what going on with them? What type of communication was occurring, or more likely NOT occurring, in that family? What level of denial was present? What messages were sent to this 14 year old about sex?

I'm not trying to absolve this child from what she did. What went down in that bathroom is beyond troubling behavior and it makes me suspect that there is much more going on for this young woman than the story above states. I, of course, have no clue what the full details are, and I have no idea what should be done. But, what I can tell you is that when I hear about these incidents (which are far too frequent, look at the "related stories" on that link above) I feel like we're all implicated.

Our culture, which actively shames sexual activity and suppresses reproductive choice, is at least one factor in situations where children get pregnant, ignore and/or hide the pregnancy for nearly 10 months, and then choose to kill their babies shortly after birth rather than face the consequences of telling their parents.

Think about it. What are the chances that this type of situation would occur in a world where teens had access to full, accurate information about sexuality and contraception? Would this be so prevalent if we all talked openly about sex? If we felt no shame or stigma in it? If we were comfortable using the pill and/or condoms, etc. when we choose to have sex? And in this hypothetical world, if a teen did get pregnant, would she have any reason to hide it from her parents? I'd think it would be much less likely, at least. She could be comfortable telling them, getting their help and support, and making choices that would be best for her.


I'm seriously just so sad about this.

I mean, honestly, how long will we keep going with sex negativity and anti-choice policies before we will take a good, long look at what's going on and admit that this path makes no sense?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Being Viewed as a Person Vessel Instead of a Person

I'm currently reading Jessica Valenti's fabulous new book, "Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness." It's really wonderful and I'll post a review when I'm finished.

In the meantime, I wanted to talk for a moment about an excerpt from the book which really stood out to me. Valenti discusses the enormous pressure put on women to be perfect moms. She talks about how we are told that the absolute most important thing we can do is be moms and adds:
And really, how insulting is it to suggest that the best thing women can do is raise other people to do incredible things? I’m betting some of those women would like to do great things of their own.
I think about this culture message from time to time. I have certainly heard it and have the same reaction as Valenti. As I wrote recently, ciswomen are forever viewed as pre-pregnant and with that comes a cultural narrative which prioritizes the potential of said offspring over who the women currently are.

This observation stood out to me in particular because of Rian Johnson's new time travel movie, Looper, surprisingly. (This will get semi-spoilery.) I saw Looper this past weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it from a purely entertainment perspective. However, from a feminist perspective, I was a bit troubled. In it, Emily Blunt plays the only noteworthy female character. She is a woman whose primary role is to be a mom to really important little boy. It reminded me all too much of Sarah Connor from the Terminator movies (Blunt's character is also named Sarah. I suspect that's no coincidence.)

In both cases, the Sarahs matter because they will mother guys who will go on to change the world.

Now I'm not saying that either of these female characters are weak. Rather--they both actually display at least some level of bad assery. But their ultimate importance, in the context of their worlds, is to be a mom to a super significant boy.  It all affirms what Valenti is talking about in her book.

Every time I write about motherhood, I hope to make it clear that I absolutely respect it. I'd like to repeat that again here. (In fact, I think that our society plays a lot of lip service to the importance of mothering but doesn't back it with any real action--like paid parental leave--that's a huge problem that I don't have time to do justice right now.) So I am in no way saying that mothering is insignificant. But my main point remains that we shouldn't be teaching our boys that they should aspire to greatness while teaching our girls to aspire to mother a great man.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Oh, Lady Friends, Feelings, and Growing Up

I can admit, I feel a little weird writing this. Although it's foremost in my mind right now, it feels more personally revealing than a lot of the other things I write about. Ah well, here goes.

I've been thinking a LOT about close female friendships lately. And I'm not sure why, but I really feel like I am lacking in tight female connections as of late. It's threatening to make me despondent and I'm writing this as a way of processing. It's long and a lot of self-reflection and general rambling, so proceed with caution.