California elementary school censors a student’s report on Harvey Milk

20 05 2009

The American Civil Liberties Union is claiming that a San Diego County school, the Mt. Woodson Elementary School, violated a student’s rights by censoring her report on Harvey Milk, an American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.  The school reportedly refused to allow the student to present the project until her classmates had gotten permission from their parents.

Apparently, the school concluded that the presentation called for a district policy that mandates that students’ parents be alerted before the students are taught about something involving sex.  The ACLU is asking school officials to apologize to the 6th-grade student, permit her to present her project again in class and clarify the school’s sex education policy.

So because Milk was a gay rights activist, somehow this made the subject inappropriate for students in the minds of the school officials?  This is more than a question of censorship, but there seems to be some homophobia in the mix here as well.

When your mere existence is constantly used as an insult, what does that do for your self esteem?

20 05 2009

I was walking in the Village in New York City the other day and I walked by a woman walking with a young boy and holding his hand. He was visibly upset about something and started shrieking really loudly. The woman kept trying to shush him but he just got more agitated and shrieked even louder. Finally she said, “Stop screaming so loudly! You’re acting like a girl!”

That seemed to do it. The boy quieted down but still looked disgruntled and upset. It is saddening that for many young boys (and men too), being called a girl is an insult. They equate being a girl with something bad, something you definitely don’t want to be. Girls are constantly taught that there is something inherently wrong with them, just by virtue of having a vagina and being female. Boys know from early on that being called a girl is the ultimate insult. What does this do for the self esteem of girls who later become women?

With all this in mind, I read Why I didn’t want a girl and kept cringing at the internalized misogyny the author, Amy Wilson, harbors. At the time she authored the story, Wilson is pregnant with her third child. So far she has two sons and hopes that the third child is a boy as well (it ends up being a girl, to her disappointment) because she “likes boys better”. Ahh, so she seriously likes people better solely based on gender without knowing anything about their personalities or who they are? Way to be superficial and make a broad generalization.

Wilson writes:

…when I say I am the mother of two boys less than two years apart, I get a respectful nod or even a big thumbs-up for having that much testosterone in my daily life.

Daily life is already infused with testosterone. Hello, we live in a patriarchal society! What’s sad about her comment is that across the globe, many people value boys over girls because boys are more “useful” or “strong” or whatever bullshit justification they come up with.

When the receptionist at Wilson’s doctor’s office accidentally blurts out on the phone that the baby is a girl, Wilson is extremely dismayed and disappointed. She writes:

Even before I had sons, I worried about having a daughter. I could handle boys, with their cut-and-dried needs, but girls were so much more complicated. Girls have elaborate hairstyling requirements. They whine and mope, manipulate and triangulate. How was I going to deal with that?

Wait, what? “Girls have elaborate hairstyling requirements”?! Maybe if you choose to elaborately style your baby girl’s hair. As far as I’m concerned, baby boys and girls have really short hair that don’t require elaborate styling. Besides, babies (regardless of whether they are boys or girls) “whine and mope, manipulate and triangulate”. It’s not a girl specific thing to do.

I was ashamed of feeling apprehension about my unborn daughter. But I couldn’t shake it. What if I weren’t able to embrace what she loves? What if I couldn’t stomach daily viewings of “The Little Mermaid?”

My sons sneer at all things princess, and so do I. We love to pore over the Birthday Express catalog so the boys can plan the themes of their parties through 2013. My role in this is to gasp, “Oh, I think you should have a pink-poodle party!” “YUCK!! That’s for GIRLS!!” they shriek, and I laugh along with them. What will I do when I have someone who wants a pink-poodle party?

Sexist and misogynist much? She is raising the next generation of sexist, misogynist male pigs. I feel bad for her daughter who will be raised with two boys who so thoroughly despise girls. And then she goes on to say:

One of my friends who knows the secret thinks a girl will be great for me. “You deserve a girl!” she said, after watching me separate my two fighting boys. “Just think, she’ll be quiet. Calm. Easy.” It’s true: Even inside me, she’s different. When my boys would kick, I’d press against their little feet, and they’d kick back, harder. This baby? If she kicks and I press back, she goes completely still.

Uh-huh. In utero gender essentialism? Right, girls are passive, submissive and obedient. Beginning in the womb.

I sure hope that Wilson’s daughter never reads this. Reading this made me feel horrible for her daughter (who is now 16 months old), being so hated before she was even born.  Women like Wilson are reasons we need more feminist mothers, and feminists in general, who don’t buy into this gender essentialist, sexist and misogynist bullshit and patriarchal gender roles/norms.

EW!, OUCH!, and seriously fucked up!

20 05 2009

A 75-year old woman in Russia, Nina M, got a “designer vagina” to help herself get a husband:

Dr Anna Uzunova said: “Usually such requests are from much younger women.
“But she wanted to have an active sex life despite her age so we agreed to do the operation and help her.”
After the operation, Nina delighting said: “I feel like a young woman again.”

It is disturbing that Nina M underwent vaginoplasty, intrusive surgery performed on female genitals to tighten vaginal muscles, just to make her vagina more appealing to and desirable for men and to help her snag a husband. Why do we live in a society where women consider male sexual pleasure a large factor in the decisions they make about themselves and their bodies? It’s my vagina, if you don’t like it, don’t go near it! And my vagina is for me and my pleasure, not for male sexual conquest.

What the press is focusing on is her age – yes, she is 75 years old – but the real issue is the pervasiveness of ageist and misogynist standards of beauty/standards of femininity and the extremes to which women venture in order to fulfill those unrealistic and unhealthy standards. This is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Furthermore, vaginoplasty is not a cheap surgery. The fact that Nina M had that much money and chose to spend it on this is unsettling.

Beauty is a commodity that decreases in value as time goes along. And since beauty is everything – women are taught that our value is based on our appearances alone, not our intelligence, sense of humor, compassion, or any other personality traits – many women fear aging. The anti-aging industry is booming. From anti-wrinkle creams in drug stores to Botox and plastic surgery (nose jobs, boob jobs, etc.), women will do whatever it takes to not appear old. Because old = ugly = non-sexual = undesirable. And no one wants to be a discarded good.

What this case also reaffirms is society’s male-centric view of sex. Sex is thought of in a highly heteronormative way in which female pleasure is missing from the equation. It’s all about male pleasure, and making sure that the man enjoys sex. Reconstructing the vagina for male consumption to enhance male sexual pleasure reflects heteronormative ideology that ascribes the vagina as solely the site for penile penetration.

There is a lot of dialogue in the feminist community about female genital mutilation and the health risks, pain, and trauma that it puts women through. However, licensed surgeons practice genital mutilation in the west as well. Just because it’s super expensive and performed by a licensed medical practitioner in a clean hospital bed does not take away from the fact that it too is harmful and another form of patriarchal colonization of female bodies.

Economic downturn affects abortion seekers and abortion providers

20 05 2009

planned parenthood

According to an article in today’s LA Times, the Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles County has 15% more patient cases now than they had at this time last year.  And ACCESS in Oakland, CA, an organization that helps low income women with reproductive health care, 72% of calls received are from women contemplating abortions which is up from 60% last year.

Executive director Destiny Lopez says that most of the women calling already have families but feel like they don’t have the financial capacity to have another child, contrary to popular stereotypes of childless women getting abortions.

The article points out the unsurprising fact that women are factoring in the economy and their current financial circumstances when deciding whether or not to have children.  Women are realizing that they cannot afford to raise a child (or in many instances, another child) during these economic times, whereas under better economic circumstances they would’ve just had continued their pregnancies and had children.

However, the economic downturn has also made it difficult for women seeking abortions to get those abortions.  For low income women who are already struggling, paying for an abortion can be very difficult.  The cost of an abortion  ranges from around $450 for a first-trimester abortion to $1,200 for a second trimester abortion.  Not all insurance companies are willing to cover the cost of an abortion and enrolling in Medi-Cal, California’s health care system for the poor, can often be a slow and tedious process.  In some  cases, women who wanted to have first-trimester abortions and scrambled to put enough money together found out that by the time their insurance came through, it was too late for a first-trimester abortion and they were uncomfortable with having a second-trimester abortion (nor did they have enough money to cover one).

Abortion clinics are also suffering due to the economic recession.  Some clinics have had to shut down.  For example, the Women’s Choice Clinic, one of Oakland’s oldest feminist abortion clinics, closed not too long ago because it couldn’t pay all of its bills.  This increases the burden of abortion clinics, like Planned Parenthood, that are still open and have more women seeking abortions.

A more optimistic point of the article is the fact that more women today are conscientious of using birth control than they were a year ago:

A recent Gallup Organization survey conducted for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that nearly one in 10 married woman indicated that the economy was a factor in their decision to postpone a planned pregnancy. That same survey found that one in five women is more concerned about having an unintended pregnancy than a year ago and about one in five women is more conscientious about using birth control.

Meat is oh-so-manly!

20 05 2009

Vintage sexism via Sociological Images:


This is a Campbell’s Soup ad from the 1940s.  Because meat is so manly!  And you know, men who work so damn hard everyday to put food on the table need “Beef! Beef! Beef!” to keep them strong and healthy so they can keep raking in the big bucks.  And of course women are supposed to fulfill their housewively duties and cook for their husbands.  Cook Campbell’s Beef Soup, that is.

Officials pull the plug on plans for a sex theme park in Chongqing

20 05 2009

Via The New York Times and The Guardian:


A statue of a pair of female legs in a g-string stood over the park entrance...

...but was dismantled over the weekend along with the rest of the park.

...but was dismantled over the weekend along with the rest of the park.

The first sex theme park in China, “Love Land,” was under construction in the city of Chongqing until the weekend, when local officials shut the operation down mid-construction.  Officials deemed the sexually explicit park an “evil” influence.

Plans for the park had included naked human sculptures, giant models of genitals, sex-technique “workshops,” and a photo exhibit about sex history.  Lessons on safe sex and use of condoms were also part of the plans for the park attractions.

The park manager, Lu Xiaoqing, told China Daily that the park was “for the good of the public,” would be useful for sex education, and would help adults “enjoy a harmonious sex life.”  “Sex is a taboo subject in China, but people really need to have more access to information about it,” he said.

Developers had billed the attraction as tasteful, but public outcry over the park prompted an emergency tour last weekend by officials. “The investigation determined the park’s content was vulgar and that it was neither healthy nor educational. It had had an evil influence on society and had to be torn down immediately,” a municipal publicity official explained to the Global Times newspaper.

Whereas some argue that the park would have been socially beneficial and that officials were being too prudish, others viewed the park as a lewd and unhealthy influence on the community.  Whether the park was ahead of it’s time or just too obscene, it’s a pity that so much money was poured into constructing the park only to have it destroyed by wrecking balls.