Monday Blogaround

5 10 2009

Here are some things that popped up on my feminist radar:

What Counts as Real Rape? – More from Gwen on the Roman Polanski case

Concerns About Racism Are “Weird” – The trivialization and dismissal of racism by saying “it’s weird”

US Fence Causes Increase in Border Deaths – Today marks the 15th anniversary of the poorly misguided border strategy known as Operation Gatekeeper

Childbirth at the Global Crossroads – The implications of surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology on women in the “developing” world

End the War in Afghanistan – Peter Rothberg’s lists ways you can help end the war in Afghanistan

Fiona Pilkington inquest: how ableism can lead to suicide – ableism has been instituted and normalized in our society, thus marginalizing and erasing certain existences

Woody’s To Face Boycott – The Fairness Campaign is calling for a boycott of Woody’s Tavern at 4 PM Tuesday

My Weight – Stomp out weight bigotry and fatism. As Joy Nash says, “Tell people how much you weigh. It’s just a stinking number.”

Reclaim the Night (For Cis Women Only) and the London Cis Feminism Network – Feminism is not fully functional if it excludes trans people

Activist Modus Operandi: Methods of Communication – a great post from Genderbitch on activism for marginalized groups and tips on how to be an effective activist





Gwen- The Homeless American Girl Doll

1 10 2009

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, one out of every 50 children in the US is homeless.  And the American Girl doll company seems to be trying to take a stand on this issue…by providing a new homeless American Girl doll named Gwen for the exorbitant price of $95 (talk about irony).  The doll, “Gwen,” has been quite controversial in the media lately.  Whereas some see this as a positive step towards promoting tolerance during the economic downturn, others see it as really poor taste.

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Let me point out that “Gwen” is not new news.  She is a limited edition doll who has been around for quite a while.  But, the media only seems to have picked up on the story quite recently.  Gwen’s biography on her Wiki page reads:

Gwen and her mother Janine fell on hard times when her father lost his job; they later lost the house as they were unable to keep up payments. Soon after, Gwen’s father left them and they became homeless the fall before the start of the book’s events. Initially, Gwen’s mother has them live in their car until the winter comes; she then takes them to Sunrise House, a place for homeless women and children. Sunrise House helps them get on their feet and eventually get a new apartment.

Gwen is presented as a companion doll to Chrissa, the first “Girl of the Year” doll.  Gwen is one of Chrissa’s friends, and Chrissa’s movie and books include scenes of her defending Gwen from school bullies.  Sonali, Chrissa’s other “friend” companion doll is also available for purchase.  Bitch Magazine asks:

Does the fact that homeless-shelter Gwen and “at least part South Asian” Sonali are sidekicks rather than Girl-of-the-Year themselves contribute to the other-ing and tokenizing of disenfranchised or non-white young girls? Or is it good that they’re getting the American Girl Doll treatment at all?

CBS sent a correspondent to an L.A. homeless shelter to get some reactions to the doll.  One woman in the shelter claimed that the doll touched her heart, but was disturbed to discover that the doll was not actually being used to raise money to help the homeless.  Others in the shelter found the creation of the doll in itself offensive.  The American Girl company claims the doll “offers valuable lessons about life.”  The company also notes that although no proceeds directly from the sale of Gwen dolls and related items go to help the homeless, the company has donated nearly $500,000 since 2006 to HomeAid, a national nonprofit group that seeks housing for homeless people.

Another concern about the doll is that instead of teaching tolerance, the doll is just promoting complacence.  Some fear that the doll sends the message that homelessness is an acceptable aspect of society, and that it is perfectly okay to have some children be homeless while others are privileged (and buying $95 dolls).

Andrea Peyser at The New York Post is especially upset by the doll.  She says:

What message is being sent with Gwen?

For starters, men are bad. Fathers abandon women without cause. She’s also telling me that women are helpless. And that children in this great country, where dolls sell for nearly 100 bucks a pop, are allowed to sleep in motor vehicles. But mothers don’t lose custody over this injustice. Because, you see, they are victims, too.

I am really very perturbed by Peyser’s implication that a woman should lose custody of her children if she is abandoned, loses her job, and is forced to be homeless.  And Gwen’s mom in the stories is not actually “helpless” at all, but is struggling nobly with Gwen to make ends meet and to survive.  There are women who are abandoned by their husbands (yes, Peyser, sometimes completely without “cause”), lose their jobs, and are thrown into poverty, and the fact that Peyser implies that these experiences are unheard-of is really ridiculous and offensive.

I can see where the company was trying to go with this doll, and I think as a child I would have really identified with this character, given my background.  In some ways, it is really nice to see a doll acknowledge other family experiences and it might have been comforting as a child for me to see that there are other families who struggle, and other children abandoned.  I remember having so many images of perfect families thrown at me that I really felt inadequate and abnormal in a lot of ways.  A lot of criticisms of the doll have focused on preserving children’s innocence, arguing that this doll is inappropriate for children.  But to assume that children live in a bubble is kind of ridiculous to me.  The truth is, a lot of children are feeling the impacts of the economy firsthand.  A lot of children struggle with family issues.  These problems exist, and it seems irresponsible to act as if they do not.

But $95 is ridiculous.  And perhaps, like Bitch Magazine points out, Sonali and  Gwen aren’t quite being given their due.  Do Gwen and Sonali’s position as “companion” dolls somehow make them seem “less-than” and other-ized?  Why must Gwen be the quiet insecure girl who is bullied and called names, but is then so nobly defended by her savior, “Girl of the Year” Chrissa?  Is “Gwen” actually a successful attempt at teaching children acceptance?  Or is it just another marketing ploy to make big bucks by exploiting other peoples’ misfortune?  Is the irony too much to bear?





How’s this for something I didn’t know before?!

30 09 2009

A groundbreaking recent study finds that (GASP!) women wear shoes that cause pain!  What an enlightening finding!  I had absolutely no idea!!  From the NY Times article:

More than 60 percent of women said that in the past they generally wore high heels, pumps, sandals and slippers, all of which researchers rated as higher risk.

Women who wore heels, sandals and slippers were at greatest risk of the most common pain linked to poor choices in shoes, the study found: pain in the hind foot and around the ankle and the Achilles’ tendon.

What a revelation!!

“I think women need to really pay attention to how a shoe fits, and realize that what you’re buying could have potential effects on your feet for the rest of your life,” said the paper’s lead author, Alyssa B. Dufour, a doctoral student in biostatistics at Boston University. “It’s important to pay attention to size and width, and not just buy it because it’s cute.”

When it comes to shoes, men make much better choices, the study found; fewer than 2 percent wore bad shoes.

Hmph.  “When it comes to shoes, men make much better choices”?  Gee, maybe women don’t make “better”, “smarter” choices about shoes they buy and wear because of social pressures exerted on women to look good all the time, which entails wearing high heels.  Or maybe it’s because high heels are gendered female.  There really isn’t much of a market for male high heel shoes.  And since high heels are gendered female, it is harder to find comfy and supportive women’s shoes.

Just maybe.





Weekly Feminist Reader

27 09 2009

Cara covers the story of a Trans Woman Murdered in Hollywood

Partisan Politican Contributions by US Companies

A Take on The Good Wife: The Wrong Side of the Mommy Track

Health Care Reform — at the Price of Women’s Health?

Nike Makes Black Athlete Look Like…an Animal? An Alien? What?

Cross-generational discussions can be difficult – but we need to have them

Trans-misogyny? There’s an app for that

A topic that’s worth revisiting over and over again: How to be an ally

The Reverse of Discrimination is “Not Discrimination”

Minor Offenses: The Tragedy of Youth in Adult Prisons

What’s wrong with [not just young people] everybody now

Malkin’s venom knows no bounds: Obama “doesn’t like this country very much”, is the “Groveler in Chief”





The toy NOT to get your daughters

2 09 2009

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

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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.





Diesel Fail

4 08 2009

Diesel Intimates and Underwear has a new ad campaign out, featuring model Ariel Meredith, posing in these images:

Diesel

Diesel 2

Diesel 3

This is a very tacky and sleazy ad campaign.  What’s up with the guy smearing lotion on her stomach?  And what’s up with the butt grabbing?  That is purely objectifying, especially the butt picture which only shows her butt being grabbed.





American Apparel Fail, yet again

1 08 2009

I am not a fan of American Apparel, never have been and never will be.  Many people are quick to defend it because the products are made in “non-exploitative settings”.  Okay, so it’s great that the clothes are sweatshop free and made in an air conditioned LA factory where the workers are paid full wages and receive health benefits.

But “exploitative” has other meanings too.  Like sexually harassing workers on a normal basis.  Calling your female employees sluts at work because it’s “endearing”.  Firing people because they aren’t deemed attractive enough.  Constantly objectifying women.  Dov Charney and American Apparel engage in very misogynist practices that disgust me.

American Apparel operates to create and perpetuate an unrealistic, exclusive standard of beauty.  Charney has recently requested that all “ugly” employees be fired because they are “detrimental to the AA ‘aesthetic'” and hindering the company’s ability to profit.  Gawker has an email from an AA store manager:

Summer is supposed to be a great sales season for AA. Needless to say, with the state of the economy, sales haven’t been going so well. Dov usually gets on the conference calls and talks to people, but one week, he went on a huge tirade and made stores that weren’t doing well send in group photos. Why, you ask? He made store managers across the country take group photos of their employees so that he could personally judge people based on looks. He is tightening the AA ‘aesthetic,’ and anyone that he deems not good-looking enough to work there, is encouraged to be fired. This is blatant discrimination based on looks.

Dov personally judged each person in group photos that were sent in, and if you weren’t to his liking, then boy… watch out. The comments that he made were raging from childish ones to insulting ones. Managers that don’t comply with these new standards are afraid of losing their jobs. Employees who aren’t up to Dov’s “look” and whose work ethic is “just ok” are being targeted and scrutinized and the minute they make small mistakes, they are being fired. But it’s only because Dov wants to weed out the “ugly people.” It’s ironic that he would rather have gorgeous slackers who don’t move the product [or lift a finger] working there than normal looking people who are really aren’t that bad looking, but are A+ sellers and great at customer service. The real irony here is that he is no [looker], himself. He’s asking for a class-action lawsuit and i hope that when it rains, it rains hard. Worst place to work, ever. This is happening at many stores across the country.

This is seriously fucked up.  So yeah, in addition to the sexual harassment lawsuits against him, I won’t be surprised if sketchball Charney has another round of lawsuits to deal with.