Not just a pretty face

27 07 2009

Here is a little rant.  Often times in my life people (both men and women, but more commonly men) have told me, “oh it’s okay, you’re so pretty” or “don’t worry, you have such a pretty face.”  The context of these statements vary but generally can be separated into two categories:

1. Talking about and gaging my chances of success.  i.e… “Don’t worry about finding a job after you graduate.  You’re pretty, of course you’ll get a job.”

2. When I want/need something from someone who is a (cisgender, heterosexual) male.  i.e…”You should just ask him,  he can’t say no, you have such a pretty face.”

Yes, being called pretty is a compliment, but it is irritating and offensive that such statements reduce me to my looks alone.  When discussing my concerns about my future, finding a job or whatever after college, why is it that I will “be okay” primarily because I am pretty, not because of any other characteristics I may possess?  Why can’t I not worry because I am intelligent, hardworking, talented, and passionate?  Why does it have to be mainly because I am pretty?

Essentially, by saying that I don’t need to worry about finding a job after I graduate because I am pretty, one insinuates that success is dependent on having good looks.   Not only is this superficial but it is sexist because it denies women their subjectivity and instead objectifies them, reducing them to be merely the direct objects for the cisgender, heterosexual male gaze.  Our cultural and social experiences are irrelevant and our most important function becomes maintaining someone else’s (that someone being a cis, het male) subjective reality.

And case two, when I ask a male for something (and am likely to get it because I “have a pretty face”), is just another example of institutionalized sexism that prevents men and women from achieving true equality.  These practices, granting women something or letting them get off the hook just because they are pretty, continue to otherize women as a separate and unequal group.  Further, these perpetuate the objectification of women in which women are valued most for their appearance and their beauty rather than their personality, their brains, their achievements, etc.

What is also upsetting is that when I’ve spoken up about this and expressed how I felt (I appreciate the compliment, but I would also like to point out that your statement is also sexist) is that I am so quickly silenced by “Gosh, you feminists can’t just take a compliment”, “Whoa, I was just saying you’re pretty, no need to get mad”, or “You’re looking way too much into that, all I said was that you’re pretty, what’s the big deal?”  These silencing techniques further the objectification of women in which we are primarily supposed to be pretty, but silent, faces.

A tribute to the late Dr. George Tiller

27 07 2009

Here is a beautiful piece from the NY Times written in memory of Dr. George Tiller, a true vagina warrior who devoted his life to providing women with a crucial health service despite hindrances, threats, harassment and violence.  It’s a reminder of how tragic Dr. Tiller’s murder was and what a great loss it was for the feminist/womanist community.  Here’s taste of the article:

It did not take long for anti-abortion leaders to realize that George R. Tiller was more formidable than other doctors they had tried to shut down.

Shrewd and resourceful, Dr. Tiller made himself the nation’s pre-eminent abortion practitioner, advertising widely and drawing women to Wichita from all over with his willingness to perform late-term abortions, hundreds each year. As anti-abortion activists discovered, he gave as good as he got, wearing their contempt as a badge of honor. A “warrior,” they called him with grudging respect.

And so for more than 30 years the anti-abortion movement threw everything into driving Dr. Tiller out of business, certain that his defeat would deal a devastating blow to the “abortion industry” that has terminated roughly 50 million pregnancies since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

They blockaded his clinic; campaigned to have him prosecuted; boycotted his suppliers; tailed him with hidden cameras; branded him “Tiller the baby killer”; hit him with lawsuits, legislation and regulatory complaints; and protested relentlessly, even at his church. Some sent flowers pleading for him to quit. Some sent death threats. One bombed his clinic. Another tried to kill him in 1993, firing five shots, wounding both arms.

In short, they made George Tiller’s clinic the nation’s most visible abortion battleground, a magnet for activists from all corners of the country.

Dr. Tiller would not budge.

Continue reading the rest.

Barney’s, This is Completely Unacceptable

27 07 2009

File this under WTF?!!  What were you thinking?!! Via Sociological Images, Barney’s New York had this window display up this past week, but took it down when shoppers complained:

Barney's 1

Barney's 2

The mannequins (obviously female) are apparently being attacked by some invisible assailant with what is supposed to be blood. This display glamorizes violence against women, making it seem fashionable and sexy for women to be in danger or hurt. Depicting women being violently hurt for the purpose of selling clothing is despicable and serves to perpetuate rape culture and a culture of violence.

Sunday Catch Up

26 07 2009

Here are a few things we missed:

This Is What Rape Culture Looks Like.

A woman walks into a rape, uh, bar…

New laws help domestic violence victims.

Human rights violations in U.K. jail.

Women and the Minimum Wage.

Women don’t ask for nasty voyeurism.


On Gendered Language.

On the word “transition”.

Perhaps Silverton is Not Completely Accepting of their Trans Mayor.

Banning Cesar Chavez: Whites “Sanitizing” US History Again.

Same crap, different day.

Marketing Asian Women to Anti-feminist Men.

When the Outside Looks Like the Inside.

Quick Hit: Healthy Teen Initiative amendment passed

25 07 2009

On Wednesday July 22nd, the US House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Healthy Teen Initiative amendment to the proposed health care reform bill, Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.  It passed 33 to 23.  Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) introduced the Healthy Teen Initiative amendment, which supports comprehensive sex education by allocating $50 million dollars in state grant funding for “evidence-based education programs…to reduce teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.”  The grants are to be available to both public and private nonprofit programs, including ones presented in schools, community-based, and faith-based organizations.

President and CEO, Joseph DiNorcia, Jr. of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) said:

It is far past time that we start addressing the challenges to health and well being of young people with programs that comprehensively address sexual health and behavior instead of with programs that are ideologically based or narrowly focused. Thanks to the leadership of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we are one step closer to achieving this goal.

Equal Rights Amendment Reintroduced

25 07 2009

Earlier this week on Tuesday, July 21st, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Judy Biggert (R-IL), and over 50 co-sponsors.   The ERA would add a part in the US Constitution to say, “Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex”.  For the bill’s full text, click here.

The ERA was originally introduced as the “Lucretia Mott Amendment” at the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls “Declaration of Sentiments,” which is regarded as the founding of the women’s rights movement in the U.S.  In 1972 the ERA passed in Congress and was sent to the states for ratification.  It was approved by 35 states but was never ratified because it fell just 3 states short of the 38 required for a constitutional amendment to be ratified.

Congresswoman Maloney said:

Women have made incredible progress in the past few decades. But laws can change, government regulations can be weakened, and judicial attitudes can shift.  The only way for women to achieve permanent equality in the United States is to write it into the Constitution.  These 54 words, when passed by Congress and ratified by 38 states, will make equal rights for women not just a goal to be desired but a constitutional right.

Rep. Biggert said:

Thanks to the work of pioneers like Lucretia Mott and Francis Willard, American women have achieved a level of independence and equality once thought to be unattainable.  This amendment will carry on that tradition by forever enshrining the rights and freedoms of our daughters and granddaughters in the Constitution of the United States.  I’m proud to join Congresswoman Maloney and my other colleagues in this historic effort, and look forward to working with them to protect the basic liberties of women here and around the world.

According to Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, citing research from the World Economic Forum, in comparison to other countries worldwide the US ranks 31st of 128 countries overall, but 76th in educational attainment, 36th in health and survival, 69th in political empowerment, and 70th for wage equality for similar work and 71st for representation of women in our Congress.

Many people do not know that the ERA was never passed.  We need the ERA to pass in order to help women overcome deeply entrenched and systemic sex discrimination so that society as a whole can benefit.

Wednesday Blogaround

22 07 2009

Happy Wednesday!  Here’s what we’ve been reading:

Jimmy Carter protests religion’s treatment of women – Thank you Jimmy Carter!  Last week he issued a position paper opening with “Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.”  It’s awesome to see such a prominent man of faith take a stance and speak out on sexism in organized religion.

Lessons for Feminists from Sarah Palin – what the feminist community can learn from Sarah Palin: from the beginning when she first entered the political limelight to her recent resignation speech.

Kansas Attorney Sued After Showing Pictures of Alleged Rape After Refusing to Prosecute – Okay, this is fucked up.  A county attorney in Kansas chose not to prosecute a rape that occurred at a party in 2007, but chose to show pictures of the assault to parents of other people who attended that party to prove that there was underage drinking.

Why the planet needs more non-breeders – a post from fbomb, an awesome new young feminist blog, on Cameron Diaz’s decision to not have kids (for the environment) and how women are caught in a double bind where they are judged for both wanting/having kids and not wanting/not having kids.

Racism in Cambridge: Harvard Professor Gates Arrested (Updated) – RacismReview’s take on Professor Gates’ recent arrest.

Cop Sues Burbank Police Department for Discrimination – Last week, Asian American police detective Christopher Lee Dunn filed a lawsuit against the Burbank Police Department alleging that he was the victim of discrimination and retaliation prior to being unjustly fired.  This is the sixth time that the Burbank Police Department has been sued for discrimination since May.

If You’re Disabled You Cannot be a Customer – People who are differently abled are often treated as second class citizens and “treated like an inconvenience and rushed out of sight”.

On Chris Brown’s Public “Apology” – Or rather, Chris Brown’s non-apology.  “The message [from his “apology”] is clear: beat, bite, punch and strangle your girlfriend, and as long as you apologize, you are a-OK.”

“Every 3rd day the murder of a trans person is reported”

21 07 2009

Via Questioning Transphobia, TransGender Europe (TGEU) is collaborating with an online multilingual magazine Liminalis on the Trans Murder Monitoring Project. Their preliminary results show that over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of reported murders of trans people. Since early 2008 the murder of a trans person is reported every third day, on average.


From a TGEU and Liminalis press release:

Every 3rd day the murder of a trans person is reported:

Trans Murder Monitoring Project reveals more than 200 reported murders of trans persons in the last 1 1/2 years

In April 2009 the international NGO Transgender Europe (TGEU) in cooperation with the multilingual Online-Magazine “Liminalis — A Journal for Sex/Gender Emancipation and Resistance” started a new project, the /Trans Murder Monitoring Project/, which focuses on systematically reporting murdered trans people on a worldwide scale.

The very preliminary results of the first step of this project have revealed a total of 204 cases of reported murders of trans people world wide in the last 1 1/2 years. 121 cases of murdered trans people have been reported in 2008. From January to June 2009 already 83 cases of murdered trans people have been reported.

Furthermore, the preliminary results show an increase in the number of reports of murdered trans people over the last years. Since the beginning of 2008 the murder of a trans person is reported every third day, on average.

The cases have been reported from all six World regions: North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The majority of cases have been reported from Latin America and North America. On these continents the majority of cases have been reported from Brazil (59) and the U.S.A. (16) for 2008 and from Brazil (23), Venezuela (20), and Guatemala (10) for the first six months of 2009. Moreover, the preliminary results show a total of 11 murdered trans people reported for Colombia followed by 5 for Honduras and 4 for Mexico and Venezuela for 2008, and 6 for Mexico and 3 for Argentina, and the Dominican Republic for the first six months of 2009.

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Belated Birthday, Nelson Mandela!

19 07 2009

nelson mandela

Yesterday was Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday and the first ever Mandela Day, a day dedicated to transforming the world into a better place.  It is “a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each person has the power to transform the world, the ability to make an imprint”.

Mandela Day is part of the legacy that Mr. Mandela left behind.  He devoted 67 years of his life to peace activism and social justice.  Mandela Day is a way for us to honor to his dedication and commitment to engaged citizenship.  It serves as an inspiring reminder that we are all capable of creating change.  As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Activism is a never-ending endeavor, as there is always more room for progress and improvement.  Mr. Mandela once said, “after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”.  The establishment of Mandela Day should serve as a reminder to all of  us that Mandela Day should not just be once a year, but instead every day of our lives.   Many of us may perceive activism as a grand gesture when in reality activism can be easily integrated into our everyday lives.

So, Happy Belated Birthday Mr. Mandela, and Happy Mandela Day everybody!  Here is a message from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

Nelson Mandela is a living embodiment of the highest values of the United Nations. His commitment to a democratic, multi-racial South Africa; his steadfast pursuit of justice; his willingness to reconcile with those who persecuted him most – these are just some of the hallmarks of a remarkable man. To this day, he works tirelessly for peace and human dignity throughout the world. His engagement in the fight against AIDS broke new ground against stigma. He is an exemplary global citizen.

What lessons he has taught us! How inspiring he has been, across the world, across the generations! Millions of people are better off thanks to his contributions; many have been moved to pursue lives of service in his image; many, facing tribulations of their own, have found both solace and fortitude in his example. Above all, he has shown the difference one person can make in the face of injustice, conflict, poverty and disease.

Nelson Mandela has made a lasting imprint on our lives. That is why I am so pleased to join people throughout the world in wishing him a happy 91st birthday. May we all continue to benefit from his wisdom, his good works and good humour for many years to come.

You wouldn’t want sweat to ruin Your Big Day!

19 07 2009

I saw this on Oh, You’re a FEMINIST?!:


This was an email that The Knot sent out with the subject line as “Worried about sweating excessively on your wedding day?” The body of the email said:

BOTOX® is approved by the FDA as a treatment for excessive underarm sweating when antiperspirants fail. There are enough things to worry about on your wedding day! Sweat stains on your wedding dress should not be one of them!

Aha. With sweat being so unfeminine and all, brides should really just get Botox so they don’t ruin their wedding by sweating and leaving sweat stains on their dresses. Makes a whole lot of sense to get this injection to stop sweat on Your Big Day, doesn’t it?

For Your Saturday

18 07 2009

Here are some good posts in the feminist blogosphere to check out:

Lessons from the Rape Culture and a piece inspired by that post.

The Obamas and the Door of No Return.

Hillary’s Challenge – Would putting women first make for better foreign policy?

The Latest Marriage Dust-Up.

Reproductive Rights Matter At Every Age.

Shave and get drunk, because you’re already brilliant.

“Disabled Girls” Video Game.

The Supreme Court and Redefining Racism.

Friday Linky Love

17 07 2009

The Progressive Case Against Sotomayor:

Sonia Sotomayor’s all-but-certain confirmation will be a notable victory for Democrats, and for the cause of diversity on the nation’s highest court. Whether it will be a victory for criminal justice is another question—one that seems to matter little to most of her liberal supporters.

The Rights of Men:

I’ve been half-listening to the Sotomayor hearings all this week, and have been fairly bored—how many times can you listen to a woman answer the same question? But every once in a while someone throws out a real gem, like Senator John Coryn (R-Texas) quoting Martin Luther King Jr. to make an anti-affirmative action point (because that’s exactly what MLK meant when he said he dreamed of a day when his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”)

PFAW on the litany of right wing fringe lies about hate crimes legislation:

People for the American Way has released a document about the tired, hoary, untethered-from-reality pack of lies that the professional anti-gay set keeps spewing about hate crimes legislation, “As Senate Prepares to Take Up Hate Crimes Bill, Far Right’s Inflammatory Claims Should Not Be Taken Seriously.”

Lateisha Green’s Killer Dwight DeLee Convicted of Manslaughter as a Hate Crime:

There is a verdict in the trial of Dwight DeLee for the death of Lateisha Green.  Green was a trans woman who died from gunshot wounds in November; DeLee was originally charged with murder in the second degree as a hate crime.

Just minutes ago, the verdict came back and was announced on Twitter (the AP also has a blurb).  A jury convicted Dwight DeLee of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime.

Real Bras? They’re not for trans women:

On a slightly less surreal, but possibly more absurd note than the trainwreck that is VWHC’s trans exclusionary policy comes this report in the Vancouver (where else?) section of Xtra West (link here).

See, us trans women, we’re so speshul™ that we even get our own speshul™ underwear now.

“Affirmative Action Increases Diversity by Discriminating Against White Men”:

Only some crazy fringe politician that no one ever listens to or pays attention would say something like that right? I guess only Pat Buchanan on MSNBC. See video below if you can stomach it.

The Brazil Files: Bela or Bust Part 1 – On Gender:

I recognize that to say that the preoccupation with being beautiful for women in Brazil boils down to three separate entities is oversimplifying. Gender, class, and race obviously intersect constantly and are difficult to consider beyond their Venn diagram-like existence. Yet for the sake of clarity and hopefully accessibility, I have decided to discuss this topic in three parts: 1) gender, 2) class, and 3) race.

Ratification of Important Women’s Rights Document Sparks Controversy in Cameroun:

Let’s start off with some good news- Cameroun joined 27 other African countries in promoting the health and rights of women when it ratified the Maputo Protocol on May 28th, 2009.  The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, better known as the Maputo Protocol, guarantees the human rights of women throughout the continent.   Adopted by the African Union in 1993, the Protocol calls for the adoption and implementation of national measures that uphold women’s sexual and reproductive rights, political and social equality, and the right to live free from violence and coercion, while providing a comprehensive legal framework for holding African governments accountable for violations.

Eyelid Gluing for a “Western” Look:

I’ve posted in the past about surgical procedures used to give “Asian” eyes a more “Caucasian” or “Western” look. As Alexia R. showed us, though, there are temporary means of getting a similar effect, particularly gluing a fold into eyelids. WonderHowTo posted a video showing the technique:

Is Amitjo Kajla Too Pretty to be a Prison Guard?:

Former prison guard Amitjo revealed to the industrial tribunal in Birmingham that she believes that she was forced out of her job because of her appearance.  She is claiming constructive unfair dismissal. The chief complaints sited against her were the amount of make up that she wore and the alteration of her work uniform.  The work uniform was deemed to be to revealing, while Kajla claims that it was only reduced to be size appropriate.

Transphobia in Casino Rama in Ontario

15 07 2009

Back on March 27, 2008, Carol Ann Kotsopoulos, a 38 year old transwoman from Meaford, Ontario, was escorted out of a ladies’ bathroom in Casino Rama in Orillia by a female security guard. Kotsopoulos was in the bathroom, taking care of business of in a closed stall, when a female security guard yelled at her, “Are you a woman or a man?”

Kotsopoulos responded in a joking way, “I’m a transgendered woman, do you want to look?”

The security guard told her, “You cannot use this washroom, you’ll have to use the unisex washroom” although Kotsopoulos said, “There is no unisex washroom that I have ever seen there.”

The guard then escorted her to a public area where she was surrounded by four other guards. Apparently the first guard was called over to the bathroom because another patron had complained.

Kotsopoulos was humiliated, shocked and traumatized, and she filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that is pending mediation with Casino Rama and an adjudicator, which will likely occur in the fall.

This is deeply disturbing and bears witness to the rampant transphobia that still persists throughout the world. First of all, what kind of question is “Are you a woman or a man?” And who the heck thinks it’s okay to yell that at someone while they are peeing? That is plain rude, insulting and degrading.

Besides, was it really necessary to have five guards? Isn’t that a bit much? All she was doing was minding her business in the bathroom, not wielding a large knife or pointing a gun at anyone. Sigh, these guards need something better to do with their time.

Says Monica over at TransGriot:

The casino is not only owned by First Nations peeps, it sits on reserve land. You would think the last place a transperson would face such disrespect is in a First Nations owned casino due to the concept of two spirit people that is part of First nations culture.

The casino is managed by a US based company called Penn National Gaming in Wyomissing, PA. The Casino Rama is also the largest First Nations owned commercial casino in Canada and the only one in Ontario.

I understand where Monica is coming from, but at the same time First Nations culture is not a homogeneous and monolithic group so it might be unfair to lump them all together. She continues:

Would Ms. Kotsopoulos gotten that type of disrespectful and humiliating treatment from the Casino Rama security staff if she was a high roller dropping big money instead of the smaller amounts she could afford based on her small monthly disability pension?

So clearly this is not only a trans issue, but it is also a class and physical ability issue. Like we’ve said before, oppressions are all interconnected and they function together to maintain the status quo, and this is just one more testament.

Let’s hope that Kotsopoulos’ case proceeds well in the fall.

Colleges and universities are legally responsible for preventing sexual assault

14 07 2009

I’ve blogged about sexual assault on college campuses and the need for comprehensive sexual assault policies that actually work and are implemented before (see here, here, here, here, here, and here for a taste), so here’s some relevant news.  The National Association of College and University Attorneys had a conference in Toronto recently and there was a panel discussion on campus sexual assault and harassment policies.

Maureen McClain, a panel member and a lawyer with a San Francisco law firm, warned that colleges and universities need to ensure that they have policies that are “as clear as possible and then…followed carefully” when dealing with sexual assault and harassment investigations.

The panel stressed that colleges and universities can legally be held accountable for failing to prevent sexual assault and harassment, and since having a good policy in place is a part of prevention, it’s necessary for institutions to have and follow a sexual assault and harassment policy.  It is also important for them to revisit and possibly even revise their policies yearly.

Monique DiCarlo, the sexual-misconduct-response coordinator at the University of Iowa, said:

It doesn’t mean completely redoing the system all the time, but listening to people who are using the policies to hear their concerns and make parts clearer.

Presenters at the conference stated that nationally judges may begin adopting a broader standard when ruling on lawsuits pertaining to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prevents discrimination based on sex in education.  Judges are increasingly holding colleges liable for failing to prevent sexual assault and harassment on campus.

Colleges and universities need to create policies that are accessible, clear and specific to their campuses.  These policies are useless if students don’t know about them, so it’s important for institutions to make sure that students are aware of the policy and feel comfortable using them.  Furthermore,faculty and staff members need to be trained in responding to student allegations of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is the number one underreported crime on college campuses and we have quite a while to go before colleges and universities take sexual assault seriously and take proactive measures to prevent it from occurring.  Prevention can take many forms, and one way is to implement a clear and comprehensive sexual assault policy.

Sadly unsurprising, but still upsetting

14 07 2009

On July 1st, the White House publicized a report delivered to Congress that lists every employee and his/her title and salary. Ariel over at Community Feministing has a great post that really breaks it down with a critical feminist lens and includes a chart of White House salary levels according to gender. The male/female ratio is pretty much 50/50 – 49.7% of White House staffers are women.

Unsurprisingly however, women working in the White House earn less than their male counterparts. How much less? $9,462 less. While the average salary for male employees is $82.020, the average salary for female employees is only $72,558. So in the White House, women are earning $.88 to the male dollar. Nationally, women make $.77 to the male dollar (yes the wage gap still exists).

When looking at median salaries, the median salary of a female White House employee is $57,129 whereas the median salary of a male White House employee is $67,059. And more women occupy lower paid positions than do men as evidenced in the graph below.


Thanks again Ariel for compiling and analyzing all this. The results were sadly unsurprising but still disappointing. It’s more proof of why feminism is still relevant and necessary.