The newest American Girl doll is a j00

30 05 2009

For those of you who aren’t familiar with American Girl, I’ll summarize.  American Girl is a collection of dolls, who all have an individual backstory and personality, and who are meant to help educate young girls about different significant historical periods.  Felicity was from the American Revolution, Kirsten was a Swedish immigrant from the 1850s, Addy was a run-away slave from the Civil War period, Samantha was Victorian-era, and Molly grew up during World War II; since I was little, they’ve added plenty of more historical dolls, and there are series of books about each one (including a book about the “holidays,” namely Christmas or similar).

The company also started releasing modern dolls, which could be personalized to look JUST like you (but in doll form, and they didn’t introduce curly hair for a while, those weirdos).  The clothing and accessories were modern, too.  I wanted one, but since I already had a doll (Kirsten, who, by the way, is the best), my parents wouldn’t buy me a second.  Boo.

One day, though, I was looking through the catalog, and I noticed that in the holiday section for the modern dolls, they now had a Chanukah outfit and accessories.  Maybe it was a sign that I would some day turn into a feminist or something, but I showed it to my parents and told them that it upset me.  “Why?” they asked.  “Because they’re only doing it just to look like they’re including Jewish people,” I said.  I pointed out how all of the accessories were ridiculously stereotypical (a dreidel and menorah), and the clothing was somewhat offensive; the clothing was white and blue, which I pointed out to my parents were the colors of the Israeli flag, but were only considered “Chanukah” colors because people think that if Christmas has colors, so do other, “Christmas-like” holidays.  I also didn’t understand why there was a Chanukah outfit, but nothing about the high holy days or Pesach.  My parents taught me the word “tokenism,” and I wrote a letter to the Pleasant Company, makers of the dolls, telling them that I, a young customer, was unhappy with the Chanukah outfit.

That’s right, folks.  I got offended over something as a KID that today would offend the crap out of me now.  This is really impressive, considering that when I was little, I wanted nothing more than to be a Disney Princess.  Go figure.

For the record, a couple catalog seasons later, and for the rest of the time we subscribed, there was no Chanukah outfit.

So, why is this relevant?  Well, meet Rebecca Rubin.  She’s the first Jewish American Girl doll!

My feelings are conflicted.  On the one hand, I still find it pretty insulting that the Pleasant Company has to make such a big deal out of their cultural dolls (they did the same thing with Addy, Kaya, and Josefina).  I also need to wait and see exactly how they handle the doll’s story: are they JUST going to talk about Chanukah?  Are they going to make a huge deal about explaining all of the Jewish culture and faith that’s in the story?  Essentially, is Rebecca Rubin going to be “Jewish immigration for dummies?” or is it going to exist as a way for Jewish American Girl fans to connect better to the franchise?

The one thing I hope I’ll appreciate is that part of the character’s story is dealing with Christmas being celebrated in public schools.  I still have trouble dealing with the pervasive nature of Christian commercial holidays.

This’ll be the first time I’ve read American Girl books in a million years, so once I actually get my hands on them and see what’s in them, I’ll be updating.  American Girl, which is pretty famous for selling merchandise that costs more than a solid gold toilet, is also famous for teaching young girls American (and American immigrant) history through the historical dolls.  The history is from the point of view of women and girls, which to me will always make the franchise somewhat positive, even if the commercial aspects drive me abso-positively nuts.

Abu Ghraib photos reportedly depict rape and sexual abuse

29 05 2009

[trigger warning]

A report in The Daily Telegraph has emerged claiming that the Abu Ghraib photos which President Obama is refusing to release graphically depict rape and sexual abuse.

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, has reported the existence of such photographs to The Daily Telegraph. Although the allegations of rape and sexual abuse had previously existed, the existence of photos of the acts had not previously been revealed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Prop 8 to live on … for now

29 05 2009

As many of you already know, this past Tuesday, the California Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 was indeed an amendment to the state constitution, which means that same-sex marriage in California is officially prohibited by the state constitution.  This amendment does not apply retroactively, which means that the approximately 18,000 same-sex marriages already performed before Prop 8 passed are still valid marriages.

On the one hand, I do think that the court made the correct decision with regards to how people can decide on changes to their state constitution.  I do NOT think that’s even remotely okay to ban same-sex marriage, but constitutionally, Prop 8 stands.

However, consider what has happened since Prop 8 was enacted.  At first, the only states left to be awesome were MA and CT.  It was lonely.  But suddenly, we were joined by Iowa, Vermont, and Maine.  New Hampshire is working on it, and then we can be all, “Come on, Rhode Island, stop sucking.”  And Iowa’s victory is huge; it proves that New England isn’t alone, and it gives courage and strength to same-sex marriage advocates in the midwest and elsewhere that success can happen in states that aren’t notoriously liberal.

As of now, I would consider the 18,000 existing same-sex marriages in California to be a depressing consolation prize.  While I’m very happy that these couples are not being stripped of their benefits and status, it’s not symbolic of any sort of equality.  Instead, it’s simply that there’s no legal recourse to nullify the marriages.

I also think it’s too soon to judicially challenge the same-sex marriage ban in California, or in the other states which have banned same-sex marriage and unions.  Instead, I think that same-sex marriage advocates and supporters need to focus on pushing for same-sex marriage though the legislature in other states, as we’ve seen in Vermont and Maine, and hopefully New Hampshire soon.  The more “normal” same-sex marriage is, the more likely judges will be to rule in favor of same-sex marriage, and against marriage bans and other LGBT-unfriendly laws.  If we rush to have a federal lawsuit, we run the risk of bad timing.  The Supreme Court may rule against same-sex marriage, thus setting a precedent that reinforces the cultural norm that LGBT people are merely second-class citizens.

Friday Blogaround

29 05 2009

Happy Friday everyone!  Here are some must-reads:

Higher Ground, Not Common Ground by Merle Hoffman in On the Issues magazine:

As a person who feels that war should be the strategy of last resort, I still like to read military history. I find myself going back to the wisdom of Sun Tzu who wrote in “The Art of War” in the 6th century BC: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

As feminists who fight battles against those who would deny women’s freedom and equality, we know the mettle of our enemies. They are relentless, committed beyond secular principles, willing to look at things in the very long term, absolutely sure of their righteousness and totally determined.

They have one solid line, which they define and defend. Those who stand on their side are with the angels; those who stand on the other are misguided, at best, and sinners, at worst.

Educating Ourselves to Oblivion by William Astore:

Can there be any doubt that education matters not just in how we view the world, but in what kind of world we create — or simply accept? And can there be any doubt that, despite a massive educational infrastructure (admittedly now fraying badly), Americans remain remarkably poorly informed about the world? Last year, Rick Shenkman, the editor of the History News Network website, published a book (now out in paperback), Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter, excerpted at this site. Stupid enough (or ill-informed) was the answer.

Cheney’s Bunker Mentality by James Ridgeway:

Say what you will about Dick Cheney, at least he’s consistent. While he was in office, the Vice President made a practice of exploiting the fear and loss wrought by the 9/11 attacks to advance his own political agenda—and he’s still doing it now. During his speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, according to Dana Milbank’s calculations in the Washington Post, “Cheney used the word ‘attack’ 19 times, ‘danger’ and ‘threat’ six times apiece, and 9/11 an impressive 27 times.”

When Systems of Oppression Intersect: Mental Health and the Immigration System by Thea Lim:

Angry Asian Man reports on the story of Xiu Ping Jiang, a 35 year-old Chinese illegal immigrant diagnosed with a mental illness who has been stuck in immigration limbo for over a year.

Detainee Abuse: New Details Reported by Melissa McEwan:

[Strong trigger warning.]

My heart went into my throat as I read the headline in the Telegraph this morning: “Abu Ghraib abuse photos ‘show rape’: Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged.”

Oh god. Oh god.

The images, according to the story, show one male American soldier raping a female prisoner, a male American translator raping a male prisoner, someone else forcibly removing a female prisoner’s clothes to expose her naked breasts, and other sexual assaults being committed on prisoners “with objects including a truncheon, wire, and a phosphorescent tube.”

Infant Formula Product Placement in Chemistry Matric Exam by Lauredhel:

School and university exam writers often invent scenarios. They play with made-up names for people, they dream up companies, they have fun devising original scenarios and puns to spice up their questions.

But what happens when they get bored doing that, or don’t have time, or when an alternative is shoved under their noses?

There is a national government Senior High school examination for 18-year-olds in the Netherlands. The chemistry exam is a 3 hour exam consisting of four questions, each with a series of sub-questions. This year’s exam has just taken place, on May 26. You can download and read the exam questions and the technical appendix.

Nine Simple Ways to Scare Your Date by Sarah.of.a.lesser.god:

There are several advantages to being a content singleton, one of which is not having to deal with first dates and the thorny path known as flirtation. But I finally decided to just learn to flirt, and decided to take some cues from Marie-Claire’s nine steps to flirting like a pro, provided by a guy named Neil Strauss (he likes to be considered the world’s greatest pick-up artist). I got some amazing results and learned some valuable lessons!

“Mild Mannered” Grandfather Stabs Cheating Wife by Renee:

That is the “gentle” face of an aggrieved man.  Seldom had a read about a more sympathetic person.   This poor sweet grandfather was happily looking forward to his golden years with his wife of  35 years, when he experienced a totally understandable “moment  of madness .”  Brian Gibbs has admitted to wounding with intent and was jailed for four-and-a-half years.


We need a Men In Power Club, because those menz don’t already have power

28 05 2009

saltarelliMale privilege is all around us.  By simple birthright, men are automatically more powerful and privileged than women are in society.  But of course those menfolks snatch every opportunity they get to further flaunt their privilege and to snatch onto every last piece of it so that they can maintain it and keep it all to themselves.  How dare anyone, especially those darn feminists, try to call them out on it or snatch it away from them?!

A third year student at The University of Chicago, Steve Saltarelli, just founded a new (misogynist, sexist, Oh no! But what about the men?!!) group on campus called Men In Power.  It’s supposed to “help more men get ahead while raising awareness of the male experience.”  Uh-huh.  Because of course in a patriarchal society, every dude wonders, But what about the menz?!!

In March, Saltarelli wrote a satirical article about the need for a group on campus that would:

spread awareness and promote understanding of issues and challenges facing men today…We would simply advocate for men in the same manner that female groups advocate for women.  Anyone with an interest in both studying and learning from men in powerful positions, as well as issues involved with reverse sexism, may become a member of MiP.

In addition, the Men In Power club would host weekly study breaks/screenings of “movement-oriented films” like 12 Angry Men, Men of Honor and X-Men;  an open-mic night on issues about body image; a barbecuing tutorial; a “Protecting What’s Yours: Drafting a Prenuptial Agreement” workshop; as well as various fishing, hunting and flag-football retreats.

After the article was published, Saltarelli received emails from students who were legitimately interested in joining such a group and so he decided to start a Men In Power club.  (But if the article was written as satire, then Saltarelli wouldn’t have actually been serious about being directly involved in forming it and supporting its formation.)  The mere name of the group reiterates male dominance, a fact of our patriarchal society, and reproduces sexist, oppressive structures that maintain male privilege.  It also suggests that power is something that men lack.

Other feminist blogs have covered this already (see here and here), so I don’t want to repeat what’s already been said but I’ll close with this: Saltarelli, grow up and get over yourself and your male privilege!  Do your homework.

Dick Cheney is inescapable

28 05 2009

Via Campus Progress:


Seriously fucked up, triggering and vomit inducing

27 05 2009

I read this on The Curvature and it’s absolutely sickening.

Just 2 days ago, an unnamed serial rapist in Australia was sentenced to 9 years in jail for “having sex with his intellectually disadvantaged [now 27 year old] daughter” last year in March when his daughter was 26.  On March 29, 2008 the rapist “followed his daughter home and had sex with her” and believed it to be consensual because she didn’t say anything.  And then, “the next day he had sex with his daughter again.”  (By the way Sunshine Coast Daily and all other rape apologists media sources, we do not call this “having sex”.  This is called RAPE. Sex and rape are two very different things.)

As a woman with a disability, she already exists as a vulnerable, stigmatized and ostracized body in society.  Women with disabilities are raped more often than women without disabilities.  There are several reasons for this that Cara highlights in her post, like the fact that people with disabilities have fewer resources at their disposal and they may be afraid to come forward about sexual assault/rape especially if/when they are dependent on their attackers, who are often family members or caretakers.  Not to mention rape myths like the fact that disabled women are sexually undesirable and therefore “un-rapable”.  And given the stigma that disabled women already face, if they do speak out they may be even less likely to be believed.

Feminists have repeated this over and over, but people like this serial rapist still don’t seem to get it: The absence of “no” does not mean “yes”.  Silence does not mean “yes”.  I hate the sense of male entitlement to female bodies that makes people buy into the bullshit that unless a woman objects to any level of sexual activity, men have a green light for them to just go ahead.  Most male rapists know that women are not consenting and that they aren’t having sex with her but that they’re raping her.  Because of this male sense of entitlement, male rapists feel that sex is a given unless a woman explicitly says “no”.

From the Sunshine Coast Daily:

At the time of the offences, the man had been out of jail for a year after serving 10 years for repeatedly raping his step daughter from the time she was 10 years old.

The court heard the man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victims, was in a relationship with a woman from 1979 to 1983 and they had a daughter in 1982.

He left that woman to begin a relationship with the woman’s 17-year old daughter from a previous relationship.

The 17-year old already had a three-year old daughter of her own, and when the little girl was nine, years old the man began a sexual relationship with her while living at a Sunshine Coast caravan park.  (Again, FYI Sunshine Coast Daily, this is not a “sexual relationship”.  As a minor, a 9-year old child cannot consent to a sexual relationship.  This is sexual abuse.)

He raped the girl for the first time around her tenth birthday.

The abuse continued until 1997 when the girl was about 16 years old.

He also raped another 16-year old family member in 1996.

In 1997, the man was sent to jail for a total of 35 offences and was eventually released in 2007.

Clearly this rapist is a sick, sick man with a laundry list of sexual abuse and sexual assault towards female family members.  Why was this rapist, convicted with 35 charges and possessing such a clear and consistent history of sexual abuse and sexual assault, released from jail after only 10 years?  And now, why is he sentenced only to 9 years of prison and eligible for parole in as early as 2012?

This is seriously fucked up.