Tufts’ “No-Sex” Policy creates quite a stir

4 10 2009

As most Tufts students already know, Residential Life has established new rules to regulate sexual activity in dorm rooms. As the Tufts Daily reported:

The Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) has added a new stipulation to its guest policy that prohibits any sex act in a dorm room while one’s roommate is present. The stipulation further states that any sexual activity in the room should not interfere with a roommate’s privacy, study habits or sleep.

This has caused a buzz around campus and on lots of news stations. The SAFER blog has a post up containing their thoughts about this. It links to the Tufts University Survivors of Rape and Sexual Assault blog which writes:

Hmmm…you know what else is of a sensitive nature and uncomfortable to talk about? SEXUAL ASSAULT. Why is Tufts so willing to take initiative to create policies about consensual sexual activities, but failed for so long to acknowledge that sexual assault is a problem for the students (not just the school’s reputation) and to “take the lead” in addressing it? I’m obviously very invested in sexual assault at Tufts for very unfortunate reasons, but this rule made me think. What goes on behind closed doors during meetings addressing sexual assault? Do these key players think that the assaults are only rare occurrences? Have they always thought that what they do is okay and that they’ve addressed this crisis properly? It is very possible that the administration has merely been ignorant, but ignorance is not an excuse. This is why a good administration would make sure everyone is well-educated and trained to know how to deal with sexual assault.





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.

Gwendollfull2.jpg

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?





Guido Westerwelle – soon to be the first openly gay Foreign Minister of Germany

1 10 2009

GuidoWesterwelle

Guido Westerwelle is going to be the first openly gay Foreign Minister of Germany, a position that is basically equivalent to the Secretary of State in the United States.  He heads the minority Free Democrats Party and has a reputation for being an exhibitionist, but what seems to get him the most attention is the fact that he is gay. Why do people care more about a his sexual orientation instead of his politics or policies that he’s committed to?

Some are worried that the prominence of Westerwelle and his partner, Michael Mronz, and the publicity they garner will “undermine the security and support of Germany within the international community”.  Pessimists and pundits claim that leaders of nations with anti-gay laws like Iran will have less than great relations with Germany now with the appointment of Westerwelle.

Why the negativity though?  This is definitely a step forward.  Westerwelle can lead by example.  He has already used his publicity and high profile to encourage LGBTQ youth.  He told a popular magazine geared towards gay people:

I can only tell all young gays and lesbians to not be disheartened, if not everything goes their way. This society is changing for the good in the direction of tolerance and respect … though slower than I would wish.

Well, Congrats Westerwelle and Hurray Germany!





Sexy reading

1 10 2009

Here are some good resources for people who are interested in sex, sexual politics, comprehensive sex education, or being a sex educator a sex therapist.

Books:

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science by Mary Roach

Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation by Leora Tanenbaum

Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex by Judith Levine

America’s War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty (Sex, Love and Psychology) by Marty Klein

Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio

Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles by Robin Baker

The Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides

Pornified: How Porn is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships and Our Families by Pamela Paul

Websites:

Adult Video News

Carnal Nation

Feel free to add any other suggestions by leaving a comment!





Why is this petition circulating?!?! And why are so many people signing it?!?!

30 09 2009

There is a petition circulating to Free Roman Polanski.  PUKE!  Some names of celebrities who have signed it so far:

Natalie Portman (this surprises me)

Pedro Almodovar

Gael Garcia Bernal

Woody Allen

Wes Anderson

Martin Scorsese

Penelope Cruz

Harrison Ford

This is all really depressing.  The petition states:

Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom.

Um, have people forgotten that he raped a 13 year old girl?!?!?!  Whether or not he is a French citizen, a renown and international artist, a wealthy and powerful man, he should not just be let off the hook for his crime!!  And people should not be so quick to defend a rapist!!  (Unfortunately we do live in a rape culture where this sort of shit is not atypical.)

Even though Samantha Gailey has expressed no desire to pursue the case, as Melissa writes on Shakesville:

The simple answer for that is because justice doesn’t operate on the principle of what’s best for the victim; it operates on the principle of what’s best for the community. (That’s why prosecutors represent “the people.”) Particularly in a case of sexual assault of a minor, there is additional pressure to prosecute, even if the victim(s) don’t support the prosecution, because interviews of convicted/admitted child rapists in prisons suggest that the rapist who only rapes once and never again has about as much supporting evidence for his existence as does the unicorn. (To wit: Roman Polanski’s ensuing relationship with then-15-year-old Nastassja Kinski.) Some of those who understand this principle nonetheless argue that Polanski is now an “old man,” as if old men don’t rape. Unfortunately, they can and they do.

The more complicated answer to If even the girl he raped wants to let it go, why shouldn’t we? begins with this statement of fact: Her reasons are not yours.

Samantha Gailey’s primary reason for not wanting the case pursued, according to the public statements I’ve read, have to do with her not wanting to subject herself and her family to the public scrutiny and media circus that will inevitably surround Polanski’s return to the US and any subsequent court proceedings.

She’s not motivated by sympathy—in fact, she has explicitly said she harbors no “hard feelings” but also feels “no sympathy” for Polanski, and in recent years publicly stated she wished he’s come back just so she could put the whole thing behind her, irrespective of the outcome.

The truth not being spoken is that the people incorporating Samantha Gailey’s wishes as part of their arguments aren’t doing so because they want to protect Samantha Gailey. They’re doing it because they want to protect Roman Polanski.





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.





On Inclusionary Language

30 09 2009

This is a wonderful post about Why Inclusionary Language Matters. It really gets to the heart of a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about lately.

Here’s an excerpt:

What do all of the following words or phrases have in common?

Bitch. Cripple. Grow a pair. Lame. Cunt. White trash. “He/his/him” as a generic when the gender of a subject is not known. Ballsy. Harpy. Whore. Female impersonator. Jewed. Real woman. Retarded. Slut. Dumb. Natural woman. Harridan. Witch. Idiot. Man up. Biological sex. Crazy. Tranny. Step up. Breeder. Shrew. She-male. Gay. You guys as a generic greeting to a mixed gender group. Skank. Mankind. “Man” as a generic for “people.” Gyp. Insane. Schizo/schizophrenic. “Disabled” as a noun. Women born women. Ungendering by using “he” as a pronoun for a trans woman or “she” as a pronoun for a trans man.

They’re all exclusionary. Some of these words are actively used today as insults, and some of them have a historical context of use as insults which oppress, silence, and marginalize large groups of people, some of whom happen to be women. Some of these terms are racist, some are sexist, some are classist, some are cissexist, some are heterosexist, some are ableist. (I deliberately haven’t used speciesist terms here because, while I think that there is a clear intersection between animal rights issues and feminism, others may disagree, and thus, may not think that using speciesist language is exclusionary.) Many of these words are a common part of the vernacular; I use “bitch” all the time, for example. Many are examples of subconsciously exclusionary terms, in that people use them thoughtlessly, without realizing what they are really saying.

All of them should not be used by people who claim to be feminists, if feminism for them is about advocating for all women and improving conditions for all women. I include myself in this admonition. Every time we use them, we engage in othering. We exclude The Other, and make it clear that we don’t actually care about the issues that other people may experience. We make it clear that our claims of ally status are just lip service.

At its core, feminism should be, to my mind, about justice. Justice for all women. Not just women who fit into a very narrow set of categories. And this is why we need to use inclusionary language. This is why we need to cultivate spaces which are truly safe for everyone. This is why we need to own our actions and apologize for them if they are hurtful. We cannot repair the damage we have done to other human beings, but we can work to prevent it in the future.

Lots of people like to defend exclusionary language. They say that they like using a term, or can’t come up with a good alternative, or don’t really see why they should have to change. “The word doesn’t really mean that anymore,” or “but I’m not really [pick your poison]ist, so it’s ok.” But, here’s the thing. Even if the word doesn’t mean that anymore, that doesn’t mean that it does not carry very negative implications. Even if someone thinks that the word is being used in a positive sense, it is still loaded with negative meaning. It does not mean that the word does not have a very loaded history. It does mean that every time you use it, you are unconsciously enforcing a system of oppression. You can participate in and even perpetuate a system of oppression without actively subscribing to it.

People who dislike being told that they should not use exclusionary language are often people who have something to lose if actual justice is achieved. If we ever live in a society where trans hatred doesn’t exist, everyone who is cis gendered will lose privilege, for example. As the old saying goes, “we all like to see our friends get ahead, but not too far ahead,” and this appears to apply to social justice issues as well, though you would be hard pressed to find someone who openly admits it. Being informed that you are hurting people with your actions threatens people when they have something to lose in this fight. This is why people push back so strongly when they are informed that their word usage is hurtful. This is why people become defensive when they are asked why they failed to include different perspectives in discussions. This is why people get angry when they are called on their privilege.

You can believe with all your heart that sexism is terrible and evil, but when you call a woman a bitch, it kind of undermines your point. You can think that people with disabilities are oppressed and marginalized by society, and that this is wrong, but when you call something “lame,” you’re saying that you think it’s ok to continue oppressing people with disabilities. When you say that someone should “step up,” you are unconsciously erasing everyone in the population who cannot step, like wheelchair users and people who are bedbound. When you refer to someone or something as “insane” or “crazy,” you are using mental illness as a slur.

So stop it. Stop using exclusionary language. Start including people.

And stop trying to defend it. If you’re too lazy to find a better word or phrase to use, that’s your problem, not society’s. If you can’t be creative enough to think of a different word or phrase, a word or phrase which does not exclude or silence someone, you apparently have not heard of a thesaurus.

I highly recommend that you read the whole thing.








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