Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A comment on humor

Tonight I saw someone that I was good friends with several years ago. Our friendship ended mainly because I went to college and he didn't and because when I saw him he would make offensive comments.

Example: Last fourth of July my friend who's from Sri Lanka unknowingly sat down in a chair where someone else had been planning to sit. He said, "Oh, you just got brown skinned." We said, "Brown skinned?" and he said, "Yeah, it's like being jewed." We told him those comments made us uncomfortable and he continued to say similar things, later attacking one of my friends by saying she hated men.

Tonight I saw this friend again and he was with another friend that likes to make offensive comments. They started saying offensive things and told me they were going to hit me with a car because I am a Marxist. I told them I was uncomfortable with what they were saying. They would stop and then start again on a new train of offensive things. I didn't want to leave because I knew as soon as I did they would talk about me and how I have no sense of humor, but I wanted to leave because I was uncomfortable. Eventually I just left.

This left the question: why do they feel it necessary to make these comments? I feel like I have a very humor-filled life without making jokes that bring groups of people down. Do they enjoy making other people uncomfortable? And if so, why do they enjoy it?

Quote of the Day: Megan Fox Edition

Via Jezebel:

"If you want your girls to feel strong and intelligent and be outspoken and fight for what they think is right, then I want to be that type of role model." - Times of London, June 2009

Thanks to my friend Stef for finding this for me.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Maria Isa - Image

Maria Isa, off her new album Street Politics.

On being a woman in hip-hip:
I always see these hip-hop bills and they always have like 10 men and one female. So, I knew I had to rep hard, because you have three men and one female and you’re going on first, and you’re just a little girl in a skirt who raps. And I really wanted their respect.

Apologies and Excuses: Eating as a Pathology

This summer I’m doing research at my college, and I’m living with two roommates. Something I’ve noticed is that I’ve been actively avoiding eating in front of them, and I think this tied into a larger theme common to many women: Food guilt.

At my college, I have worked for the past two years at a small convenience store on campus. The store is frequented by a large number of students and is an employer of many more. One of my main tasks as a student employee is to check people out at the register, which means that I get to know, or at least recognize the faces of, the people who shop at the store.

I quickly noticed a trend in which female customers would come in, bring what they deemed “unhealthy” foods (ranging from a bag of Cheetos to a bottle of Coke) to the register and make excuses, either to me or whoever they were with, about why they were purchasing such items, despite knowing how “bad” they supposedly were. Other female customers would bring a basket filled with food to the register and quickly go on about how they hadn’t eaten all day, how it was for their friends, or something similar, as if they needed to provide a reason for buying so much to eat. And there were others who I saw more often and who obviously recognized me, who would some in and say things like, “I’m sorry that I come in here all the time. You must think I’m fat for buying so much food.”

The strange part about all this is that when I was working and I encountered women saying such things, I thought it was really odd. But whenever I went to buy food at the same place, I always secretly wondered what the student cashiers thought of me and the food I was buying.

The other strange thing was that no matter how much, or what kinds of things, the male customers I saw purchased, they made excuses and apologized drastically less frequently than their female counterparts.

As I recall these experiences, all I can think about is how, for women and girls, relentless socialization has turned eating into a pathology.

From a young age, girls are taught that appearances are important to their identity. They are socialized into this in many ways, ranging from the types of compliments they receive (“You look so pretty!”) to the kinds of play things meant for people of their gender (Barbies, princess dress up clothes). This appearance-centered world that girls are socialized into is made more problematic when it’s coupled with the narrow ideal of female beauty: being flawlessly thin.

For women, eating is not merely about nutrition. It is seen as a disorder, a pathology. Women are taught to control their bodies through controlling their eating habits with the help of diet plans, low-fat food, diet soda, and other such products. If a woman eats, she is often made to feel as if she has “let herself go,” as if she does not care about her body the way she should, as if there is something wrong with her.

And so women who come to buy food at the convenience store at my college campus make excuses for their purchases have clearly internalized the messages from the greater society that say that eating is a poor reflection on them – that it is a disorder.

As a young woman who deals with this problem every day of my life, who feels extreme guilt for eating anything and who feel hyper-aware of how other perceive my eating habits, I have not been able to fully explore all the reasons and meanings behind this issue. But I do hope to write about this more in the future.

NOTE: The main idea for this post came to me after reading Reading Ads Socially by Robert Goldman. In chapter 5 of this book, Goldman writes about how advertisements contribute to the notion that if women don’t add up to the idealized image of female beauty, that they have a flaw. I thought this point fit particularly well with my experiences and the common problem of women’s messed up ideas about eating.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Hello Strangers!
Well, I haven't blogged in a long time, and if you are a new reader, you may not even remember me. But, quickly, I'm Kate. I'm one of the original bloggers and biggest slacker of the Female Impersonators. I go to school with Amelia, but this summer I have a nice little, unpaid internship at Democracy for America.
I'm living in Vermont with an awesome host family, biking places on my bright yellow 1982 bike, drinking coffee, photocopying, doing work projects, and enjoying the summer sunshine. Its been a nice few weeks.
I don't have wifi at my house, so I have to blog from the public library. So I can't promise that I will be blogging regurarly, but I'm gonna give it a good effort.
Democracy for America is Howard Dean's organization. It emphasizes grassroots action in all fifty states, and encourages citizen participation in local, state, and national politics. I love my job so far, and I must say it was pretty cool being in a conference room with Howard Dean the same day that he went on the Colbert Report. The organization is working to get support for the public option, so I'm learning tons about healthcare. Hopefully, I'll blog about that this summer.
I don't know anyone in Vermont, so I've been spending a lot of time reading. I just finished The Woman's Room, which I was inspired to read after hearing the author died. It was an extradinary book, and I would recommend it. Now, your turn; I would love any book recommendations from readers.
I don't have anything very specific to blog about, but expect to hear from me more soon.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Apparenly only women can display products and metal cases

You know what I'd like to see?

Game shows where the attendants are men. I'm looking at you, The Price is Right, Deal or No Deal, Wheel of Fortune, etc.

I can do without a reinforcement of beauty standards in my game shows.*

*That doesn't mean to replace societally approved beautiful women with societally approved beautiful men. A little diversity of beauty in there works for me too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The real failure behind the Transformers movie

My friend Will, in forestry school for urban forestry, had this to say about the new Transformers movie:

"It's metal fighting metal. And no one's recycling. Tell me who recycles all that metal--no one. That's the real tragedy."

Hehe. Has anyone actually seen it and want to share on the nature of recycling? I bet Optimus Prime recycles. At least, the Optimus Prime of my youth.

Quick Read: Muslimah Media Watch on Neda and the Media

Take a minute to read this really great post by Fatemah at Muslimah Media Watch on the media's use of Neda Agha-Soltani's image after her death:
Aside from the talk that she is a martyr for Iran’s opposition movement, many in the West are using her death to educate themselves about Iran’s current crisis, viewing Iran through a lens of violence and cruelty, which many add to their current knowledge of the country as repressive, backward, and unsafe for Americans. Neda’s death may help Iranians band closer together and become stronger in their fight for a government that treats them with respect, but here in the West, her lifeless body is little more than another reminder of the instability and danger of “over there”.

What difference has her death made here in the West? As far as I can tell, the only Western response to her death (aside from the gruesome fact that her last moments are a now common fixture on blogs and news sites) has been a website, weareallneda.com, where mourners can leave messages to a Neda who cannot read them. Below the site’s banner is a stylized rendering of her lifeless face amid a river of blood, shown above left.

The cruelty and horror of Neda’s death may be a call to action, but her death mask shouldn’t.

You can find it here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hairstyles are not political news, pt 5

Minnesota Independent, you know I love you, right? I enjoy your local focus on progressive topics, often providing good information on local feminist/GLBTQ/progressive organizations and individuals for blogging. That's why it makes me sad to see this:
In a new official portrait photo issued today, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum appears to have moved the part in her hair from the left to center-right. The Democrat also has added a House of Representatives pin on what appears to be a mauve Mao jacket, effectively jamming attempts at easy ideological interpretation.

Seriously? Come on, that's the best you can do today? The clothing and hair of politicians is NEVER news, but especially when it involves women. Of the four Minnesota politicians mentioned in the article, three are women (Betty McCollum, Amy Klobuchar, and Michele Bachmann vs. Tim Pawlenty) plus a fictional woman (Betty Crocker). And the only reason you mentioned Pawlenty is because you wanted to make fun of his mullet.

Let's spend more time talking about something else, even though I'm sure you're getting tired of reporting on the Franken/Coleman Senate race. I'm sure you can either a) find something else, or b) not post at all.

I don't know if you've heard this or not, but fashion and women's hairstyles are not political news. Parts one, two, three and four.

Old School Sexism

According to Disney, I will never have a beau because...

I don't walk feminine, talk feminine...
I don't act shy or sigh feminine...
I'm not delicate or demure...
And I never hide the real me.


A friend of mine told me this song ("Femininity" from the movie Summer Magic) made her think of me in an ironic sort of way. I haven't seen this movie. Have you? What do you think of this song?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Calling yourself progressive isn't a free pass to be NOT progressive

(potential trigger warning)

To the young man working with me on a progressive political campaign:

I know you self identify as a feminist, but let me tell you, saying you're going to "cunt-punch the bitch" isn't REMOTELY progressive at all.

It's not irony, just your weak excuse for saying something like that in a car full of feminists. Irony, when done right, creates a discordance between truth and an intentionally false statement. It's saying you hate ice cream while holding an ice cream cone and eating it.

It's not irony because you meant it. When sincerely talking about how much you didn't like the women in question, it's not irony to threaten sexual violence and verbally disparage her. It's not irony because you weren't being ironic, just offensive. Even so, violence against women is never funny and never to be tossed around lightly by a young man.

Calling yourself a feminist isn't a free pass to let whatever women-hating bile spew from your mouth. So until you start respecting women, both in word and action, stop self identifying as feminist. You're not helping.


"In what could be interpreted as sexist bullshit..."

So, during my daily perusal of the BBC News website, I came across this screen and had to get a screen shot of one of the pictures featured on it, since I'm sure it won't be up long. Above a link to this article ("Argghougooou!") on the front page were two pictures: The face of a female tennis player that I could not recognize...and a hippo with its mouth wide open. The caption read, "Does the grunting really help tennis stars?" If you click on the picture above, you will see the screen shot I took. I put a little red box around the picture in the lower left corner.

Awesome, I thought. Equating women athletes with hippos. Not like girls who want to be athletes have enough to deal with already. Let's just add to the mix the fear of being associated with an animal that has been used as a comparison to degrade large women.

When I finally got to the article, I could already imagine some of what I was in store for. I'm not an avid tennis fan, but I do find it interesting the way the topic of grunting tends to be covered so frequently (as I wrote about here).

I'll admit that when I first read this piece, I was really skeptical about it. A lot of what I have read about tennis players and the noise they make has portrayed women in very unfavorable terms that sometimes seem to have little to do with the topic at hand - the noise they make. This piece was especially upsetting.

First of all, the picture at the top of the article is a rectangle composed of four smaller pictures, three female tennis players and one male. Two of the women are shown hitting a tennis ball, as is the lone male player. The third woman is shown with her mouth open, in an expression that looks like one of joy. She is not hitting the ball. Her inclusion in an illustration about the noises made by tennis players hitting tennis balls is confusing. Perhaps it is to remind the reader of the hippo with its mouth open?

Once I finally made my way into the piece itself, I was struck by the terms used to describe the sounds at some women's tennis matches. In the second paragraph, the author, Tom Geoghegan, describes a fear that some women's matches "now bear more of an aural resemblance to a torture chamber." Not far down the page, the author tells how Portuguese player Michelle Larcher de Brito's "grunt has all the aural elements of a wounded fox."

Grunting isn't a new phenomenon in tennis, the author assures the reader. In the 1970s, Jimmy Connors was known for his "noisy game" and in 1988 Andre Agassi had a complaint lodged against him for his "expressive exertions."

Before diving into the perceived drawbacks and benefits of grunting during matches, and an overview of the rules of the sport regarding it, the author had this to say:

But, in what could be interpreted as a sexist backlash, it is only since women took up the habit that it has become much of an issue.

Interesting that you would say that, Tom Geoghegan. I was definitely getting the sense that you were being sexist in your choice of descriptions of female and male players. I understand that these players may very well make different sounds during their games, but the huge discrepancy between descriptions relating women's sounds to "torture chambers" and "wounded foxes" and men's sounds as "noisy" and "expressive exertions" is inexcusable and sexist. There are ways to describe differences in sounds that do not rely on such degrading images, especially when such images are only applied to one group of athletes, and not another.

This piece was so full of sexist fail that I'm not even going to talk about its other content.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all fathers, grandfathers, or other male guardians in America today.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Transgender people and passing in Iran: Be Like Others and Offside

I just wanted to pass on these two clips from Be Like Others, a documentary on transgender individuals in Iran.

Trent Gilliss from Speaking of Faith writes,

What’s surprising to me in these clips is the nature of the conversation. Even though there are discussions about operations and genetic tests confirming a biological male identity, the root of these conversations is love and caring and community. Despite her objections about his transformation, the mother in the second clips spends as much energy lecturing her son on wearing less makeup and donning the hijab properly when going out; in the first clip, a member of the transgender community reprimands a peer for going out in public with hair hanging out the back of her hijab and talks of bringing respect to their community.

Although these individuals are pursuing lifestyles that are outside the cultural norm, it doesn’t mean that they abandon their upbringing and the values instilled in them. They continue to live within the larger culture, defying some strictures while observing others. Obviously, they face predicaments I can’t imagine, but, it’s also heartening to see that their families remain in dialogue with them in tense circumstances. I find that heartening and am anxious to view the documentary.

I'm looking forward to seeing the documentary as well. While on the topic of passing genders, I want to mention Offside, a movie about women in Iran trying to pass as men in order to see a World Cup match. While what the women in the movie are doing is vastly different from the people in Be Like Others, it's an interesting fictional take on something similar. The girls in the movie end up being caught by the police and put in a holding pen until their relatives can pick them up, but in the end the celebration of winning the match overcomes all gender restrictions. The gender-bending and quietly powerful subversiveness is enough for me to recommend this movie. While what's actual said in the film is thought-provoking in its own right, what's left unsaid is just as interesting.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Today in horrible.

Bacardi Ad Uses Misogyny To Sell Alcohol To Women.
Wanna look amazing this summer?
Get your hands on the hotness-boosting accessory now:
An Ugly Girlfriend!

Why TV sucks: Part nine

I've been meaning to blog about this for a while because I saw this commercial almost every day when I was at home for a week, earlier in the month.

The commercial is for Go Daddy, a web hosting company, which apparently has been criticized before for its sexual commercials. The following is the version that I saw on TV.

The above version prompted me to look online to "see what happens next." This is what I found (probably NSFW).

Now I admit, I am a harsh critic of most advertising. But even the casual viewer should be able to determine the absurdity of this commercial. The overt sexuality, even in the abridged TV version, has no connection to the services offered by the company. In fact, after viewing this commercial two or three times on TV, I still wasn't able to say exactly what Go Daddy was. I have a huge personal problem with advertisements that do not even attempt to focus on the product/service they are promoting. Isn't that the whole point of advertising? I know people will say that "sex sells," but what exactly is it selling if we're too distracted by the sex to know anything about the product? Either way, exploiting women's bodies and their sexualities to sell web hosting is unacceptable. Period.

Parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sarah Haskins writing movie script about ... boyfriends??

I love me some Sarah Haskins as much as the next woman, but something about this doesn't sit right with me:
She might be Internet famous, but now Haskins is hoping to branch out. She recently sold a screenplay with her writing partner, a friend from college. It’s called Book Smart, and chronicles the two overachieving girls who realize in the middle of their senior year of high school that they don’t have boyfriends and haven’t had enough fun. They decide to put their minds to getting boyfriends by prom and “hilarity ensues,” says Haskins, adding that it just might be inspired by real life. “I'm not going to spoil the ending but you can see it in 2017.”
Really? Really? Come on, Haskins. Boyfriends are not instant equations to fun. Let's hope the script ends up as witty and self-reliant as Haskins' Target Women segments.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Links

Hello everyone. I'm currently in the middle of some summer feminism-related research which is keeping me busy. But I have been trying to keep an eye out for stories for you all to read about. Here are some of the headlines:

GOP activist DePass apologizes after joking on Facebook that gorilla is related to Michelle Obama. (via Womanist Musings. I definitely suggest reading Renee's commentary)

Letterman sorry over Palin joke. (More at Feministing)

Is Sonia Sotomayor Mean? (via Shakesville)

Who was really cheated in Iran's vote? Women. (via Feministing)

Those are just a few.

What have you been blogging or reading about, readers?

Monday, June 15, 2009

What counts as obese/healthy?: BMI index and my 10k

Michelle at The Pretty Year wrote about how appearances can be deceiving and the BMI index isn't always the best judgment of someone's health. She says,
"When you talk about the Obesity Epidemic, you are talking about me. (And probably yourself. And that’s okay.) ...

“Oh, but you’re an exception! When I say obese, I mean, like, you know– fat people.”

That’s nice– but that’s not what the BMI says. And the BMI is a mathematical formula, so there’s no arguing. Statistics that talk about the percentage of Americans (or whomever) that are overweight or obese include me. Not that it matters whether or not I am subjectively “fat,” being that “fat people” are, you know– people. And not so much The ObeseTM. But who needs “subjective” when you have a nice, “objective,” highly scientistic, evidentiarial-based formula derived from two important, health-related numbers: height and weight.

I know how she feels. I hover between size 14 and 18, most often wearing a 16. By BMI standards, I'm right on the edge of overweight and obese. According to the scientific calculations of my height and weight, I'm one of those people that needs to buy two airplane seats, that uses the money "people like us" - ie, regular, non-obese, HEALTHY people - pay in for health insurance, that wears only stretch pants and eats ice cream.

But you know what? I ran a 10k this weekend. I ran and ran and didn't stop, not until 6.2 miles after I started. I didn't think I was going to be able to run the whole way, but I made it to mile 4 and thought, "Why not? I'll just keep going until I feel I can't go anymore."

Do you want to know how many non-obese people I passed while running? Or how many people started out running but then walked? Or once I passed them, started running again because apparently size 16 people aren't supposed to pass skinny people?

By BMI standards, I am obese and not possibly healthy. In my real life, a life that's not judged by standards of height and weight but by my accomplishments, I ran 6.2 miles on Saturday. You would think a person has to be at least marginally healthy to finish a 10k.

These are my family members who ran/walked the race with me. From left to right: my mom's aunt, my mom's cousin, my uncle's girlfriend, my other uncle and his baby boy, my mom, and me. With the exception of my mom's aunt, we all ran the whole race. By BMI standards, my mom is at the upper end of the healthy weight while I'm obese.

Let me say this - slow and steady wins the race. Or at least finishes without stopping. And the BMI index doesn't have the last word on healthy.

Encouraging girls to participate and remain in after school sports programs

After my last post, I found this New York Times article interesting.
MetroLacrosse, which serves 600 children, is one of several Boston sports groups that are aggressively trying to increase girls’ participation. The city is at the vanguard of a movement to close the gender gap in urban areas by rethinking traditional activities and looking for new ways to encourage girls to play.
This is being done by trying to include a broader range of programs that would more likely appeal to girls, such as dance and yoga, instead of focusing so closely on traditional team sports.

A 2002 Harvard School of Public Health study found that girls made up 49 percent of Boston’s youth but made up only 33 percent of those participating in sports programs after school. These results led to the formation of the Boston Girls’ Sports and Physical Activity Project which was tasked with evaluating opportunities for girls in Boston's sports programs.

The effort has reached as far as the elementary school playground. Employees at Sports4Kids, a nonprofit group that oversees recess at public schools, have been devising ways to shake up gender roles and increase options for girls. Tes Siarnacki, a recess coordinator at a school in East Boston, regularly encourages older girls to referee boy-dominated soccer games, and assigns older boys to monitor double Dutch
jump rope, which is played mostly by girls.
There's more at the link. I think the idea of mixing up the genders at different recess activities as described above may be a good idea. I am unsure, however, about the idea of tailoring programs to fit more stereotypically feminine ideas of what kinds of physical activity would be done by girls. If girls really aren't participating in sports programs like boys are, maybe we should be more concerned with treating the cause and not merely the symptoms of this fact. Why aren't girls as interested in traditional team sports and boys? Is there a gendered reason for this?

What do you think?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Advice: Workplace sexual harassment

Hello, I'm Prudence. Today's letter is about the Intern and the Office Lech.

Women's Voice: I'm a college age girl and last summer I had an internship at a small office. There wasn't a very strict dress code, so I usually wore jeans and a sweater. One day, an older co-worker who had been very friendly and welcoming, pulled me aside and said I was distracting him by wearing V-neck sweaters. I immediately apologized and promised that I would dress differently in the future. I wore my jacket for the rest of the day. After that, he started telling me about his past sex life and how he would have loved someone like me when he was younger. Then he told me that interns were supposed to have their pictures taken and asked me to take a few with 'more boobs'. When I left the internship, I was too embarassed to say goodbye to him. I also never got back in touch with my actual boss, even though he asked me to because I was afraid this person was going to tell him bad things about me. How much of this was my fault? And what should I have done? Signed, Dress Code.

Prudence: Dear Dress Code, you have some nerve being young, attractive and topping it off by having a pair of breasts. You're lucky this guy didn't bring a hostile work environment suit against you. Ok, even though you've left this place of employ, you need to get back in touch with your former boss and explain why you left so abruptly without thanking him. Ask for a meeting or talk to him on the phone and tell him exactly what happened. Say you were so embarassed and mortified you simply didn't know what to do and so you left but now in retrospect you need to let him know so another young woman doesn't have to go through this. Then tell him you very much appreciated the opportunity you had and you learned a lot. I bet you did.

While some of Prudence's advice regarding getting in touch with the boss was helpful, she failed to clearly address the advice seeker's main question - how much of what happened was her fault?

Here's the advice I would give to Dress Code:

None of this was your fault. That man's actions were out of line, unprofessional and constitute sexual harassment. His comments and actions made the workplace uncomfortable for you, which then impacted your work performance. He abused his position as an older, full time employee by acting inappropriately towards you as younger summer intern.

If something similar to this happens in the future, document the harassment with specific details such as what was said, when, where, if anyone else overheard it, etc. Bring it to your boss and issue a complaint against the coworker, if you so wish (and I encourage). But definitely document the harassment, in case in the future you need to establish a pattern or escalation of his behavior. By all means, get back in touch with your former boss to let him know what happened. Perhaps this man has a history of sexual harassment, and you can help prevent another woman from experiencing his inappropriate behavior.

This isn't Mad Men anymore. Sexual harassment within the workplace shouldn't be tolerated. Many women in the past have braved sexism, harassment and the struggles of the court system to establish the workplace sexual harassment laws we have today so you wouldn't have to apologize for wearing a V-neck sweater. But above all - this wasn't your fault. You are not responsible for his actions, regardless of how you were dressed.

She's good at soccer. She plays like a boy.

This week I’ve been helping my mom with a soccer camp for kids in our town. It’s a Challenger British Soccer Camp, where British coaches come to the United States to teach soccer and British culture. In addition to teaching skills of the sport, there is also a World Cup tournament in which the kids are put into teams and they pick a country to represent as they play the other teams.

Yesterday, my mom and I were watching the kids play one of their World Cup matches, and I remarked that two of the teams seemed to be rather unevenly matched. My mom replied that the team that was winning by a large margin seemed to have all the good players – several boys who were very talented at handling the ball, and a girl, who my mom said was good because “she plays like a boy.”

The comment caught me off guard, but I quickly tried to get my mom to realize what she had said by asking, “So you have to play like a boy to be good at soccer?” My mom answered, “Well, she’s tough.” I thought to myself how absurd of an idea that toughness was somehow inherently absent in girls unless they behaved like boys, but the conversation stopped there.

This one comment by my mother, a woman who was a dedicated athlete, playing soccer as the only woman on a men’s team when she was younger, completely blew my mind. I plan on having her read this post when I am finished with it so maybe she can see more closely the problems with comments like this.

First of all, it buys into the idea that being tough is the opposite of what is expected of a girl. The idea that girls are supposed to be passive, gentle, and nurturing has been used to shame girls into restrictive gender roles for years, keeping them from being able to accomplish all they are capable of, simply because society can’t seem to handle having too many “tough girls.”

When I was younger, playing in a youth league on a co-ed team, I remember my father, an avid soccer fan and coach, telling me to stop saying I was sorry whenever I ran into someone, stepped on them, or hit them with a ball. He used to say this to me so often that even eleven, twelve years later, I still can hear him telling me, “Stop saying you’re sorry! You shouldn’t be sorry! This is soccer!” Looking back on his words, I can see that he was trying to get me to focus on the game, be unashamedly tough, just as a boy would be. The boys never said they were sorry, my father would tell me. When I didn’t show the proper signs of toughness, I was told off by my own father.

I played varsity soccer for three years in high school, and during one match my senior year, I was hip checked by an opposing player. The hit was hard and I fell to the ground. I got up and was in pain, and as I tried to walk it off, I was limping a bit. The father of one of my team mates noticed that I was limping and he yelled at me from the sidelines to stop limping and just shake it off. The comment angered me because I was legitimately hurt. In fact, the same injury still bothers me from time to time two years later. But how dare I show pain. Pain is for sissies. For girls.

The second issue with associating being a “good” athlete with “playing like a boy” is that it plays into a huge problem when it comes to sports (and other aspects of life) – using the female as an insult. “You play like a girl!” and “Sissy!” are some of the biggest insults that one can throw at a young athlete, and both of them are so insulting merely because they equate said athlete with a female.

Females have the added struggle in this country (and most countries, I would think) of having to carve out a space for themselves in a sphere of life that had been, for ages, dominated by men. I will say here that I acknowledge that perhaps women and men have different physical abilities, but I would like to point out that just because men were allowed to participate in sports before women doesn’t mean that it is right to say that playing like a man is the only way a woman can be considered good at her sport. People of all genders could easily emphasize different aspects of the same game and all be good at it for different reasons. And who decided that being tough is a strictly male characteristic, anyway?

But until these problematic attitudes disappear forever, the girls and women who go out and play sports will be the real winners for taking on such ideas without even knowing it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Defending Conservative Women: Playboy, hate f*cking, and misogyny

This all happened last week, but I'm just catching up to it now:

Apparently Playboy put an article by Guy Cimbalo on its website titled "So Right It's Wrong: Ten Conservative Women I’d Like to Hate-F*ck," which was removed 24 hours later. I wasn't able to read it, but Jezebel caught the list and addressed the utter horrific nature of the piece. Feministe also responded based on the Jezebel piece. The list included Michelle Malkin, Megyn Kelly, Mary Katherine Ham, Amanda Carpenter, Elisabeth Hasselback, Dana Perino, Laura Ingraham, Pamela Geller, Michele Bachman, and Peggy Noonan.

While I've made it clear I'm no fan of Michele Bachman, it's always been that I've disagreed with her politics.

If we defend liberal women from sexist attacks, we sure as hell better defend conservative women from sexist attacks. Like Sarah Palin, like Ann Coulter, we can't let any woman be attacked.

Elizabeth Hassleback responded on The View:

In the clip, Hasselback details her actions and thoughts regarding the piece, and Sherri Shepard equates hate f*cking with rape - a point that some people have a problem with. Amelia McDonell-Parry argues that hate f*cking is consensual sex with someone you can't stand, maybe want to call names, but want to have sex with them regardless. I've enjoyed McDonell-Parry's articles and posts regularly, but I'm going to push back on this and suggest that none of the women on this list want to have sex - hate f*cking or not - with Cimbalo. And what do we call nonconsensual sex? RAPE. I think her suggestion that calling it rape is wrong contributes to our rape culture. She admits that the piece was offensive and misogynistic but that it's a different viewpoint for Cimbalo and the women on the list. In my opinion, it just perpetuates that if you don't call it rape, then it isn't rape. And that's just wrong.

So to Michelle Malkin, Megyn Kelly, Mary Katherine Ham, Amanda Carpenter, Elisabeth Hassleback, Dana Perino, Laura Ingraham, Pamela Geller, Peggy Noonan and yes, even Michele Bachman - we will not stand for this. You deserve better. As a liberal to a conservative, I'm sorry we let this happen.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Are we glass half-full progressives or half-empty progressives?

A few weeks back, I had a conversation with one of my roommates that's stuck with me ever since. It was a beautiful day, he came home on his lunch break and we shared lunch in the sunlight on our front porch. Sooner or later (as it usually does), the conversation came around to feminism and women's rights.

"Isn't it so amazing how many advancements women have made?" He asked. "There's been a lot of progress regarding women's rights, but we still have a long way to go," I replied.

"Think about the past 100 years... I mean, 100 years ago, I could pretty much buy you to be my wife if I wanted."

"And that still happens in some places, internationally and in this country. I'm sure some men still consider women as property when proposing marriage, not to mention the way some people view women's bodies as commodities," I rebutted.

"Well, what about the percentage of women CEOs and in executive positions? That's increased dramatically in the past 15 years alone," he shot back.

"That's all fine and dandy, but it does a fat lot of good when white women make 77 cents, black women 63 cents and Latina women 52 cents to every white man's dollar, and the national courts didn't find it constitutional to rule against pay discrimination. It took an act of Congress to make pay discrimination easier to report, and even then it was a contested bill. How is that progress when we can't even get people to agree that women should be paid the same as men?"

"How about Hillary Clinton? She made a legitimate run for president. There's progress."

"But she DIDN'T WIN. And the media passed sexist remarks, articles and opinions as news on a daily basis."

We continued the conversation until he had to go back to work, but I thought about our conversation long after it ended.

In general, his tone was pretty optimistic - he thought American society had made a lot of advancements in regards to women's rights, especially if you consider it on a lengthy time line. Me, on the other hand, kept pushing back on his rosy outlook of women in society. It's caused me to wonder if I'm just pessimisitic on the feminist front, if I can't see the forest for the trees. I remember building or completing something when I was younger and proudly showing it to my dad, whose first comment was always something that needed to be fixed.

Maybe it's because I read so much on feminist blogs and pay attention to women writing about their lives that I know things aren't pie and ice cream all the time. Compared to my friend, who while he's knowledgeable and reads pretty much every Wikipedia page online, probably isn't as invested in keeping up-to-date on feminist/womanist/heterosexist/anti-racist/progressive news as I am. Do we report more bad news than good? Do progressive bloggers fall into a similiar "if it bleeds, it leads" mindset, posting on how shitty the world is as opposed to the good parts about our lives? Are we so caught up in defending Sotomayor from sexist and racist attacks that we're missing the excitement that she was nominated at all? Or are things really just that bad?

This half full/half empty mindset can be asked of all people with progressive outlooks. Can we truly celebrate President Obama when Oscar Grant lies dead? How do we negotiate our excitement for Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont in the face of Prop 8 and so many Defense of Marriage Acts? How do we hold Jennifer Finney Boylan in one hand and Angie Zapata in the other?

I think as much as people say it can't be done, we have to try to have it both ways. We have to celebrate our victories and joys while mourning our losses, in both people and politics. It's a rearview mirror mentality, in which we keep looking forward to see where we're headed but always one eye looking behind us, to see where we've come and what we've sacrificed along the way.

We have to be proud of what we've done without losing sight of all that we have yet to do.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why TV sucks: part eight

It is every young girl's dream to grow up, meet Prince Charming, and have him wrap her up in bubble wrap just like he would a piece of someone's "precious" furniture. Because that's how a guy really shows he loves you, by treating you like someone's "belonging" that needs to be moved with care (because wives, like that desk they're moving, better not come into a man's house tarnished in any manner).

Or at least that's what this Mayflower Moving commercial seems to want us to believe. They're the good guys! They protect the precious little ladies when they aren't busy protecting your precious belongings. Aww. How...precious.

But my sarcasm would not be well-appreciated by the makers of this commercial MayflowerMoving posted the commercial on YouTube and a lot of commenters took issue with the portrayal of the woman as a piece of property. But the video's poster came to its rescue, saying at one point, "really isn't meant to be sexiest! just supposed to show the care he has for both his wife and his work." And later, after even more female commenters failed to buy the "it's not sexiest!" bullshit, the poster replied, "The commercial is meant to be light-hearted. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They will be passed on to the creative team who created the ad." (AKA don't get your panties in a bunch, ladies, no sexism here! It's light-hearted! Smile! It won't kill you!).

Own up, Mayflower Moving. Women as property? That's one of the oldest sexist ideas ever. Advertising fail.

Thanks to reader Jennifer for the heads up.

Parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

To be or not to be a feminist...

It amazes me how willingly some people shirk the label "feminist." It's even more amazing the answers some people give for doing so. I have talked to people recently who clearly hold feminist ideas, yet they refuse the label and don't even recognize their own ideas as feminist in nature. Lindsay has covered a similar topic before.

One of the most striking patterns is that people feel that they can't be a feminist if they don't engage in some sort of activism. But what constitutes activism? Even if it's making choices to reject sexism in your own life, that's a form of activism in my book. But a lot of people I have spoken to seem to disagree.

What about you, readers? Have you ever had a similar experience, with someone who clearly holds feminist views rejecting the label for a reason you couldn't understand? What do you feel constitutes feminist activism?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Little Victories: Superhero edition

I talked to my grandparents today who recently attended my 4 year old cousin's graduation from pre-kindergarten. They said it was a nice ceremony and all the students got certificates for graduating and going on to kindergarten.

At one point in the ceremony, the teachers all asked the students what they wanted to be when they grew up. Grace, my cousin, rocked the answer like none other. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said, "I want to be a female superhero."

While the nitpick in me thinks that she didn't need to add the signifier "female" to superhero, I'll let that rest and just rejoice in the fact that my 4 year old cousin wants to be a superhero. And damn it, she'll do it too.

Unsafe abortions in Tanzania take toll

The feminist blogosphere has done a good job at covering the murder of Dr. George Tiller in his church in Wichita, Kansas this past Sunday. This news has been deeply felt by many of us who identify as pro-choice, and other bloggers have done a much better job talking about this event than I feel I can.

However, I found this piece on the New York Times website the other day that I felt tied in with the news of Dr. Tiller's murder in an interesting way.

I will warn that it's a rather brutal reading about the large problem of unprofessional and unsafe abortions in Tanzania where the procedure is illegal, except to save the mother's life, and ignorance about safe sex practices is widespread (only about a quarter of Tanzanians use any form of contraception).

Maternal mortality is high in Tanzania: for every 100,000 births, 950 women die. In the United States, the figure is 11, and it is even lower in other developed countries. But Tanzania’s record is neither the best nor the worst in Africa. Many other countries have similar statistics; quite a few do better and a handful do markedly worse.

People who provide safe abortions are very important asset to the women who seek them. We need to support these people and make sure they have what they need, be it supplies or protection, to do their job.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Twin Cities candlelight vigil for Dr. Tiller

Minnesota Choice Coalition is putting together a candlelight vigil for Dr. George Tiller, the doctor murdered this weekend for providing late-term abortions in Wichita, Kansas.

Where: Loring Park
When: June 2, 9-9:30
Bring your own candle

NARAL Pro-Choice writes, "There will be no speaking program, no bullhorns, no chanting and no political rhetoric. We just want to gather to silently reflect on one man's life and contribution to the pro-choice movement, and to mourn among other pro-choice supporters."

If possible, RSVP to danb@prochoiceminnesota.org.

Hope to see you there.

How do we respond to face-to-face racism/sexism/heterosexism/isms?

While at divinity school, I feel like I've been living in a bubble. An amazing, inclusive, loving, accepting of all genders, races, sexual orientations, abilities, etc bubble. A bubble, however, is fragile. I graduated just last weekend and already, I've come face to face with the realities of life outside acceptance.

My uncle got married this weekend, so I spent a fair amount of time in northern Wisconsin where my extended family lives. One of the guests at his wedding had Nazi tattoos and my cousin confirmed that he was known for being anti-Semitic and racist. This man was the son of the bride's friend, did not say anything offensive to me or any of my family members, and I probably wouldn't have paid as much attention to him if his presence hadn't upset my cousin.

The entire encounter made me question my response to such situations, when we're faced with an unspoken intolerance, an intolerance that need not be brought to life but is understood and implied. How do we reject that? He didn't do anything racist while there (apart from his tattoos and presence), but does that mean we should say something? If there's no action of his and thus no action of ours, are we implicitly condoning his worldview? Also, he's connected to me by random and thin threads; does that tenuous link really make me the right person to question his intolerance?

I'm really don't have answers to any of these questions; most often in situations like this, I begin with questions and end up with even more questions. I don't know how to respond and I'm unsure of the actions I should take to dismantle racism, especially and even more so when it's confronting me face to face.

As I think about the weekend and my failure to live up to my anti-racist ideals, I feel guilty for my lack of action, even in response to his inaction. However, I also think about the ways my own family members exhibited racist and sexist behavior - my grandma calling my childhood doll a "n****r doll," my grandpa talking about "the orientals" and his ideas of how they hunt, my cousin using a slur against one of her teachers, and my grandpa not allowing me to help load the car because once he met woman who packed the trunk differently than he liked. In most of these instances, my sister or I spoke up and pushed back against their comments. When people we loved made statements we disagreed with, we wouldn't let it stand.

While some action is no excuse for inaction, I feel like confronting the people we love is a good start. If we can speak truth to the people around us, we can start to move out of our comfort zones and speak truth to strangers.