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





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.





Angry Green Girl sexualizes women for a good cause

3 09 2009

via Sociological Images

You may already know that I have some serious issues with the way that PETA uses women’s bodies to promote vegetarianism (along with PETA’s other offenses which we have blogged about here and here and here and here and here).  Well, here’s another example of a similar situation.

agg_logo

Angry Green Girl, according to her website is “shamelessly exploiting everything I got to save our world!”

The site has some mildly educational videos about environmental issues, all using scantily clad attractive women to attract heterosexual men to environmental causes.  Some of the videos include a fully clad man called “Can’t Get Laid Guy,” to whom the “hot” women are downright mean. By conforming to stereotypes of the shallow, ditzy, self-centered, and rude but attractive female, the site seems to attempt mainly to attract “geeky” heterosexual men.  With statements such as “As for you, think about turning off the lights before you leave your apartment and maybe some day a sober girl will give you her real phone number,” the site attempts to attract these men with the vague hope of one day being able to gain sexual access to beautiful women (as long as they go green).  The site also reinforces the stereotype of the smart but nerdy male who has absolutely no social life and no chance with the beautiful but cruel and shallow female.

Will watching attractive women parade around in bikinis really convince heterosexual men to care about environmental issues and change their lifestyles accordingly?  I highly doubt it.  In the videos, the environment seems less of a focus than heterosexual male access to beautiful female bodies.  Personality is treated as an unimportant factor on the site (the girls are downright mean and extremely shallow, but are still presented as the height of sexual desirability.)  So what is Angry Green Girl really selling?  Sex.  And it may be sad but true that “sex sells,” but sex sells Calvin Klein underwear and string bikinis, not causes like environmental activism.

But don’t take it from me.  Watch some of the videos from the site and decide for yourselves.

And here’s a video from an Angry Green Girl hybrid-only waterless bikini car wash.

Good cause?  Yes.  Good tactic?  In my opinion, not so much.  What do you think?





The toy NOT to get your daughters

2 09 2009

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

poledancedoll-299x300

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.





“The woman on page 194”

30 08 2009

Page 194 of the September issue of Glamour magazine features a picture of 20-year old Lizzi Miller, “size 12-14 and an avid softball player/belly dancer.” Given that the average American woman is a size 12-14, Miller is normal, although she is considered a plus-size model. She’s pictured sitting in her underwear with a huge smile on her face, accompanying an article about body confidence, entitled “What Everyone But You Sees About Your Body.”

Lizzie Miller, the woman on page 194

Lizzi Miller, the woman on page 194

This picture has generated an influx of fan mail to Glamour‘s mailbox. One reader from Pavo, Georgia said that Miller’s picture is “the most amazing photograph I’ve ever seen in any women’s magazine. Another reader from Somerset, Massachusetts wrote in saying: “This beautiful woman has a real stomach and did I even see a few stretch marks? This is how my belly looks after giving birth to my two amazing kids! This photo made me want to shout from the rooftops.”

Of all the acclaim her photo’s gotten, Miller says:

When I read them I got teary-eyed! I’ve been that girl, flipping through magazines trying to find just one person who looked a little bit like me. And when I didn’t find it I would start to think there’s something wrong with the way that I looked. When J. Lo and Beyoncé came out and were making curves sexy, I started to accept myself more. It’s funny, but just seeing them look and feel sexy enabled me to do the same.

It is great that Glamour is pushing for size-acceptance and featuring real, normal looking women instead of models, because the reality of it is that most women do not look like models you see in the magazines or on television. From a Glamour blog post:

So let’s start off this week with something we can all get behind: a toast to the woman on p. 194, and to the spectacular sexiness of owning who you are. Trust me, Glamour‘s listening, and this only strengthens our commitment to celebrating all kinds of beauty.

Let’s hope that Glamour is listening and will continue to feature women who do not necessarily fit under hegemonic standards of beauty. Check out The 5 Ways Glamour Undermines Its Size 12 Self Acceptance Message for more thoughts on this.





Caster Semenya to undergo sex determination

29 08 2009

In case you haven’t heard, there has been some serious bullshit going on about Caster Semenya, an 18-year-old world champion runner from South Africa, whose privacy is being invaded beyond belief in a controversy over whether the runner has too many male characteristics to compete as a woman.  On Tuesday, Semenya won the 800-meters race at the track and field world championships, just hours after it was determined by track officials that she would need to undergo sex testing to determine her further eligibility to compete as a woman.  Many people globally are rightfully angered about the public invasion of the young woman’s privacy.

Lamine Diack, President of the International Association of Athletics Federations, (the organization who ordered the investigation) has admitted that the confidentiality of the investigation was breached, called this “regrettable,” and asked for an inquiry.  However, these words are little comfort to those who are outraged by the implicit sexism, heteronormativity and racism in the investigation.  Controversy and finger-pointing has also arisen over who was the one to raise the question about Semenya’s sex to the I.A.A.F.  It has also been noted that white South Africans seem to be conspicuously absent as Semenya’s supporters.

Leonard Chuene, President of Athletics South Africa, said to The New York Times:   “We are not going to allow Europeans to define and describe our children…The only scientists I believe in are the parents of this child.”

According to a test three years ago, Semenya’s testosterone levels were in the normal range for women, and she was judged to be definitely female.  But regardless of the results, these investigations emphasize how global society continues to denigrate, mock, and intimidate those who do not conform to a rigid binary of gender stereotypes.

The New York Times notes that Semenya has been subjected to harassment about her sex before.  “Boys used to tease her all the time…Sometimes she’d have to beat them up,” said Semenya’s great aunt, Martina Mpati.  Semenya’s high school principal told South African newspaper “The Star” that at some track meets, the other team would demand proof of her sex identity, but after they returned from the toilets, “she would be cleared and the competition would resume.”

But as if physical exams and taunting weren’t enough, her sex has become an item of global attention and speculation, simply because of the way that she looks and speaks.  Semenya should not be subjected to this blatant gender discrimination.  But sadly, Semenya is forced to deal with this discrimination on both a private and public level, and she is being further taunted and humiliated globally because this most recent investigation was made public.

Dave Zirin calls out the “twisted, sexist, racist, and heteronormative” history of track and field in this MSNBC video on the subject.  Check it out.

Zirin also wrote an excellent piece on the subject in which he points out that:

fifty years ago, Olympic official Norman Cox proposed that in the case of black women, “the International Olympic Committee should create a special category of competition for them — the unfairly advantaged ‘hermaphrodites.'”

But it seems that we have remained relatively stagnant on this issue, and it still seems all too often that the athletic success of women (especially non-white women) causes their sex identity or honesty (or both) to be questioned.  The possibility of an endless spectrum of genders, even sexes, seems to be thought of as entirely impossible in a global athletics culture which values only a clear-cut gender binary in which male is the more athletically successful of the two categories.  We must resist this urge to define what is acceptable by these stereotypes of what it means to be male or female, masculine or feminine.  Perhaps only with the erasure of these stereotypes and this rigid gender/sex binary will we be able to stop the further humiliation and degradation of innocent people like Semenya.