The toy NOT to get your daughters

2 09 2009

Thoughts on this pole dancer doll has been circulating among the feminist blogosphere recently:


Yup – it’s a pole dancer doll for children to play with. This Pole Dancer doll “dances to the music and moves up and down the pole as well as around and around the poll”. My initial questions upon seeing this are:

1. Who the heck thought that creating this and marketing this product to children was appropriate and acceptable?

2. What kind of parents would want their kids to play with this doll?

Not that pole dancing isn’t an acceptable activity or profession, but this pole dancing doll hyper-sexualizes girlhood and reinforces the idea that the most important thing about a girl is her ability to flaunt her sexuality for the male gaze.  As Melissa writes:

My objection to this item is that it introduces as a fun activity a sex act to which a child cannot consent and actively seeks to sexualize children, specifically girls, and specifically in an objectified and submissive sexual role.

By objectifying and hyper-sexualizing girls, this doll reinforces society’s fetishization of youth (especially for girls/women). This fetishization of youth creates ageist standards of beauty which further enables the cosmetics and plastic surgery industry to thrive.

Cougar Town – more on why I hate the word cougar

2 09 2009

I’ve shared my thoughts about the cougar label before, so I’ve been really annoyed at all the ads I keep seeing on the New York subways for Cougar Town, a new ABC sitcom set to premiere on September 23rd, featuring Courteney Cox.

cougar town

Cox plays 40 or 40-something year old Jules Cobb, a newly divorced woman in Florida with a 17 year old son. She decides to get back in the dating scene to add excitement into her life. There’s an older post on Jezebel about why Cougar Town looks awful, and the first reason that they list is the use of the word “cougar”.

There is nothing liberating or transgressive about the cougar label when it applies to women.  As Rebecca Traister writes in Salon:

Cougars. Pussies. Foxes. Faster pussycat! Kill! Kill! Active, aggressive female sexuality is always talked about as feral, often feline. When it’s older, apparently, it develops sharper claws and teeth. Unless, that is, it’s exhibited by a primmer and more contained MILF. That’s just a lady with kids who men want to fuck. It’s impossible to tell, until we get closer to the specimen, whether she has any interest in doing the fucking herself.

The enthusiasm for the “Wild Kingdom” analogy is a sign of how strange and hysterically funny the idea of energetic female sexual desire is — whether it’s in the form of 34-year-old Drew Barrymore, who has cheerily referred to herself as a “pre-cougar” or “puma” because she’s dated men a couple of years younger than her, or 50-year-old Madonna, who recently dated 20-year-old Jesus Luz. How sad and backward that we have to give it a nickname, animalize it as if it’s outside the boundaries of civilized human behavior, make it a trend, pretend that Demi Moore invented it. That’s not progress, and it’s not a step forward for women.

Yes, must we animalize female sexuality and try to cutely conflate older single, attractive women who have sex with younger men with (the Wikipedia definition of a cougar) “large, solitary cats [with] the greatest range of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America.”

If you go on Urban Dictionary to look up what a cougar is, you will find degrading definitions:

An older woman who frequents clubs in order to score with a much younger man. The cougar can be anyone from an overly surgically altered wind tunnel victim, to an absolute sad and bloated old horn-meister, to a real hottie or milf [Mother I’d like to fuck, made popular by American Pie]. Cougars are gaining in popularity — particularly the true hotties — as young men find not only a sexual high, but many times a chick with her shit together.

“An overly surgically altered wind tunnel victim”, “an absolute sad and bloated old horn-meister” or “a real hottie or milf “? Are those really the only ways that we can think of older women in society? Is that the only vocabulary that we have to describe older women? Ageist much? Misogynist much? And isn’t it demeaning to call an older, more sexually experienced woman a “chick with her shit together”?

The third definition listed says:

An attractive woman in her 30’s or 40’s who is on the hunt once again. She may be found in the usual hunting grounds: nightclubs, bars, beaches, etc. She will not play the usual B.S. games that women in their early twenties participate in. End state, she will be going for the kill, just like you. Associated with milfs.

And the example they give of how to use cougar in context: I bagged a cougar last night at the club.

Sigh. I don’t even know what to make of this.

More ageism and sexism in advertisements

8 07 2009

Saw this ad for Ripolin Paint on Sociological Images.  Sociological Images, in the post, also points out some more ads that criticize and mock older women.

The images are not necessarily safe for work or lecture, so they are below the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Palin may be gone but her anti-choice legacy remains

7 07 2009

Via Clara Jeffrey at Mother Jones, one of the last things that Sarah Palin did in office was to further a proposal that would mandate girls under the age of 18 seeking abortions to get parental consent first.  This proposal was certified last Thursday, July 2nd and now, backers just need to obtain 32,734 signatures from Alaskans for it to go on a statewide ballot to be voted on next year.

This proposal would require parental notification and consent except in the following situations: 1) the young woman submits a notarized statement saying that she is a victim of abuse by a parent or guardian, 2) the young woman manages to persuade a court to allow her to bypass notification, or 3) a doctor declares a medical emergency.

This proposal is ageist and anti-choice bullshit masking as paternalistic “protection”.   Not only is Palin shaming young women for having sex (OMG!!!  Gasp!!  The thought of teenage girls having sex?!!!  Completely unheard of!!) but she is also crafting an anti-choice legacy to remain in her absence.  It is a fundamental right for women to have complete autonomy of their own bodies.  If we can’t even make our own choices about our own own bodies, what can we do?

Vice President of Alaska’s Planned Parenthood Clover Simon said, “We believe there are several legal problems with this initiative, including the setting of court rules, and our lawyers are now taking a close look at our options.”  Planned Parenthood is preparing to counter this initiative because in reality, laws like these further jeopardize young women.

Before Palin’s resignation, two of Alaska’s public health experts, Beverly Wooley and Jay Butler, were canned for intervening in Palin’s anti-choice initiatives.  Writes Jeffrey, “Both made the critical mistake of wanting to present scientific evidence on the impact of parental consent laws to the state Senate.  They never got the chance; the Senate ‘ran out of time'”.  This is outrageous – firing competent staff members for presenting sound scientific evidence!

Wooley meant to cite research from states that had already passed similar legislation.  Some of the research demonstrated that with parents involved, young women tend to get abortions later on in their pregnancy which is not only more of a health risk but also more expensive.  Meanwhile other findings showed that with parental involvement fewer young women get abortions.  The latter result is what an anti-choice crusader like Palin would iterate and reiterate.

Sigh.  So while Palin may have resigned, her anti-choice legacy remains behind.

Monday Catch Up

6 07 2009

Hope everyone had a good Independence Day weekend.  Here are some things we missed:

Four Freedom Movements You Should Know About This Independence Day.

Renee’s take on Sarah Palin‘s public declaration of her intention to resign.  More thoughts on that here, here, here and here.

Racism takes a toll on the health of African Americans living in a predominantly white society.

How Racism Works – people mistakenly de-contextualize racism and perceive it as something that functions in individuals rather than seeing the big picture of how racism is institutionalized and structured in our daily lives in society at large.

A good 101 post on Three Dumb Things About “Reverse Discrimination”.

Thoughts on disability and respectful language.

Arab TV Soaps Reinforce Gender Bias and normalize violence against women.

This is old news, but good news nonetheless – last week, an Indian court decriminalized homosexuality.

There is no such thing as trans privilege.  For necessary 101, here is a great and important post on vocabulary when it comes to gender and cis.

Stop bullying transgender children.

Trigger warning – Sexual Abuse of Female Inmates in Oklahoma.

Carnival Against Sexual Violence has worthy reads you should check out.

Gift giving by stereotypes – an interesting look at the intersection of stereotypes we have about age, class and gender.

Sunscreen’s shady business – a look at the $1 billion a year sunscreen market.

It’s easy to watch a documentary (like Food, Inc.) and be inspired to take action, but often times we may get back into our daily routines and be stunted from any activism or we may simply just not know what to do or how we can help.  So to counter that here’s I Saw Food, Inc.  Now What?

All right, happy reading everybody!

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.

You mean Latina woman aren’t all maids?

21 04 2009

On April 19th, on NPR’s website, an article described the long career of actress Lupe Ontiveros.  Apparently, she has played a maid at least 150 times.


Additionally, she finds that she’s not just asked to play maids; she’s asked to do her best to reinforce Latina stereotypes.  She describes to her interviewer a common occurrence in auditions she attends:

“‘You want an accent?’ And they’d say, ‘Yes, we prefer for you to have an accent.’ And the thicker and more waddly it is, the more they like it. This is what I’m against, really, truly,” she says.

Ontiveros was so sick of playing stereotyped Latina parts that when she received a script for Miguel Arteta’s Chuck and Buck, and saw that her role would be a woman named Beverly, she immediately accepted the part.  “I’ll do it because her name is Beverly, it wasn’t Maria Guadalupe Conchita Esperanza — this Latino stereotype,” she recalls telling Arteta.

Ontiveros has accepted maid parts throughout her entire life, and continues to do so in order to find work.  However, she says, “I long to play a judge. I long to play a lesbian woman. I long to play a councilman, someone with some chutzpah.”  She says at the end of the article that she thinks other Latina actresses, such as Jennifer Lopez and America Ferrera, have more options; they aren’t confined to the stereotyped accented immigrant maids.

What truly upsets me while reading this article is that Ontiveros, who has proven herself as an actress in films such as El Notre, is forced to conform to Latina stereotypes in order to find work.  I do think it’s pathetic, ignorant, racist, and sexist that so many film and television show execs are actively trying to reinforce racial stereotypes, but I wish that it would be easier for actors like Ontiveros to just walk away.  However, if she needs the work, what is she supposed to do?  She is caught in a classic double-bind, where she can take the money offered, so long as she helps reinforce stereotypes that she herself is against.

Apparently, Ontiveros will be appearing on the TV show Reaper soon, as a grandmother without an accent.  I watch Reaper, and so I’m very excited to look for her in upcoming episodes.  I’m also hoping that one of my favorite show has given her the opportunity to play a non- or less-stereotypical role.  If she is indeed on Reaper, I will update you all in the comments.

Why does it take a “surprise” for these people to eat their words?

14 04 2009

Okay, I officially love this woman (I’m also a huge theater geek).  But I am appalled at how rude and hateful people were to her before she started singing.  The amount of disrespect displayed by the audience members and judges simply because of this woman’s age and physical appearance is pretty much disgusting.  It shouldn’t take a “surprise” for these people to have to eat their words.  I applaud Susan not only for her incredible voice, but for her bravery and composure in the face of blatant prejudice.   And Simon, you are officially full of shit claiming that you knew that she was going to be talented before she sang.  And for goodness sakes, Simon, never call a woman a “tiger.”  Susan Boyle, you rock.  Britain’s Got Talent judges and audience, you suck.

P.S.  I’m not sure why the embedding isn’t working for this video, but here’s the link if it doesn’t work.

She is a woman, NOT a cougar

10 04 2009

I just saw a commercial for one of TV Land’s new reality television shows, The Cougar.  It is a dating show hosted by Vivica A. Fox where 40-year old Stacy Anderson from Scottsdale, Arizona will “look for love among a group of hot, excited twenty-something bachelors.”  These Bachelor-esque shows are so problematic.  Not only do they reinforce compulsory heterosexuality and hegemonic beauty standards but reality dating television shows also group people together to compete for “love”.  This commodifies them and makes them available for public consumption.

Furthermore, I am sick of the “cougar” label.  Calling a woman a “cougar” is both ageist and sexist.  This is the star of the show.  She is a woman, not a cougar.


To set the record straight, this is a cougar:


An older woman who dates much younger men merits a label while an older man who dates much younger women is fine?   The whole (ageist) premise behind the “cougar” label is that after a certain age, women get desperate for men and prey on younger men.  Oh, what she wouldn’t do to get in bed with a younger man!  Meanwhile, reverse the roles – if you have an older man who dates much younger women (like older men who divorce their wives and find themselves younger trophy wives) that’s not perceived as desperate or predatory.  Instead it’s almost like a status symbol, just something more to make the men seem more distinguished and successful.

Calling women “cougars” suggests that women who enable themselves to age naturally, and desire and actively pursue sex are animalistic.  It shames them and suggests that they are not properly feminine – patriarchy constructs femininity as forever youthful, docile and passive.  Any woman who defies this, any woman who follows her natural aging process and actually wants and likes sex, is vilified, stigmatized and instantly otherized.  This maintains male privilege and helps maintain other sexist double standards like the he’s a stud/she’s a slut one.

The “cougar” label also over-privileges youth and beauty, as if those are the two most important things in life.  It implies that “cougars” are so desperate not only to get in bed with younger men, but also to cling onto their youth which is quickly fading and escaping them.  Instead of celebrating and embracing aging, a natural and inevitable process, the “cougar” label continues to reject it and make it seem repulsive and undesirable.

“Cut Back: Facing Ageism”

4 04 2009

Just a few minutes ago, I was lucky enough to click on the link from a commenter on this blog.  The commenter is Patricia Sahertian, and she provided a link with her comment on a recent post.  Since I’m a bit nosy, I always click these links, but they usually turn out to be useless advertisements.

However, this link really caught my attention.  Ms. Sahertian is the creative director of a documentary called “Cut Back:  Facing Ageism.”  She is an artist, and her work has appeared in Fine Art Magazine and home decor journals.  Although this is her first documentary, Sahertian’s extremely diverse accomplishments include work as a sculptor, painter, graphic designer, musical director, writer, and creator of book designs.  For a full list of her accomplishments and to view more info about Fight Ageism, click here.

Here’s the trailer for the film.

Sahertian’s film  provides personal accounts of ageism through interviews with a diverse group of individuals about their personal experiences with ageism.  The documentary also includes comments by attorneys, employment specialists, and other experts about the effects of age discrimination.  Sahertian traveled the US and Ireland, and filmed over 150 hours of footage, but the documentary is now finished and Sahertian is entering it in film festivals across the nation.

Discrimination against older people (Jeunism) is something that isn’t discussed nearly enough, especially in the college population.  But this form of discrimination affects our parents, our relatives, and will eventually someday affect us as well if we do not work to change the way people think about aging.  

And to make Sahertian’s project even cooler, she has painted gorgeous portraits of the individuals interviewed and is selling them on!  Check out her portraits and some information about the participants in the film here.

I want to thank Ms. Sahertian for commenting on the blog and for bringing her documentary to my attention.  I never thought I would actually write a post about one of the commenters, but ageism is an extremely pervasive form of discrimination that isn’t confronted nearly enough.  Ms. Sahertian’s documentary looks like a great way to learn about the very personal effects of age discrimination and to examine the ways that we think about age.

Transphobia, Sexism, Fatism, Ageism, and Bullshit All Rolled Into One Hideous Advertisement

3 04 2009


This is old news, but I found the ad so offensive that i felt compelled to post it anyway.  Apparently the creators of the ad find excessive drinking to be extremely repulsive, but of course only for women.  Why?  Because drinking excessively is drinking “like a man.”  And the ad relies on attempting to provoke disgust by displaying a masculine-looking face with makeup and female attire.  A trans woman in the town where the ad was distributed has filed a complaint about the ad, and asked for its removal.  However, NHS claimed that the posters had been effective in reducing excess drinking in women, and saw no reason to remove the ads.  The creators of the ad  insist that they made the ad in conjunction with the “national lead for the transgender community,” and that the ad is not transphobic or problematic.

There are legitimate health risks of excessive drinking, both for women AND men.  But this ad doesn’t even make it clear that excessive drinking is the problem.  “Wine doesn’t just come with cheese.  For women it is accompanied by hair loss, wrinkles, and obesity, plus other problems like breast cancer, early menopause and memory loss.” By making the ridiculous implication that drinking wine makes women old, obese, and unattractive, the ad plays on misogynistic stereotypes of appropriate female behavior and reinforces cultural ideals of feminine attractiveness.  By displaying a masculine face with makeup as an example of the imminent aging, obesity, and unattractiveness for women who drink excessively, the ad also implies the breaking of socially imposed gender roles is equivalent to a lack of attractiveness.  It’s pretty disgusting that an organization that is intended to promote public health could create an ad that is so offensive and harmful in so many ways.