Category: feminism

Feminist Porn & Scaly Llamas

Posted by – August 25, 2014

No really, stick with me. A former student sent me this short interview with Tristan Taormino about feminist porn and was surprised to hear that 1 in 3 porn viewers are women. Surprised, because that’s an amazingly high percentage, & surprising, because as a feminist who has always been pro porn, that seems like a significant shift in the sexual/cultural landscape. But you can’t underestimate ease of access and privacy, and I suspect that being able to view porn on a home computer or mobile device makes it easy enough that women – who might otherwise not want to go to the kinds of places you have traditionally been able to see or buy porn – has made a huge change in things, much as VCRs did back in the day.

As a result: feminist porn, where labor is treated fairly (yes, labor – sex work IS work) and where maybe we need to rewrite the story.

Almost simultaneously, a friend sent me this link to female spec fic writer Kameron Hurley talking about what it’s like to write female characters, and especially why she writes female characters who are soldiers and warriors. And while I think her initial example – of those scaly llamas – confuses the subject a bit, she’s basically saying that we see writers write women as the women who have always been written and that those of us who are women even participate in this because This Is How Women Are Written. If you write them any other way, there will be objections, right? We must believe it is exceptional and rare for women to be in power, or violent, because that is not the story about women that has been told time and time again.

This interview and this blog post intersect in a cool way, no? If you always present women (and men, for that matter) as the same kind of sexual beings they have always been in porn, you get the same porn. But what happens when women are portrayed as dominant, as multiply orgasmic, as physically strong? What happens when men care for or love deeply the women they have sex with, and that is apparent in porn? What if men are shown to forego or postpone their own desire in order to make sure the woman is satisfied? What happens?

Well, you can watch feminist porn and see for yourself that llamas aren’t scaly. That’s what happens. Maybe, in fact, we’ll get around to seeing human sexuality &desire on screen that’s far more what we know sex to be.

Serano Clarifies: That New Yorker Article

Posted by – August 5, 2014

I have been accused, in the past, of being a ‘handmaiden’ to trans politics (really) or of being biased.

What I am a handmaiden to is representing both sides of an argument with respect; discovering where and when someone is theorizing a person’s sexuality as if their humanity were not important, and in underlining any attempt to fetishize, pathologize, or other the complaints made by people when they are being presented in belittling, dehumanizing ways.

That’s what I didn’t like about that New Yorker article. It took a lot of ideas – ideas that aren’t wholly without merit, I might add – and presented them as if the people who object to them are just a bunch of angry nutjobs.

Julia Serano wrote an open letter about the article, in which she said:

But what really bothers me is that your mainstream readers (most of whom have little-to-no prior knowledge about radical feminism or transgender activism) will most likely not see through the article’s journalistic-ish veneer, and will assume that it represents an “objective” and “unbiased” presentation of the situation. And they will assume that transgender activists are mean people and completely out of control, because they have not been offered any evidence to suggest otherwise. And the insinuations that Goldberg makes throughout her article — that trans people act irrationally, are sexually deviant, and potentially dangerous — will seem to have “truthiness” to your readers, because the media has been propagating these very stereotypes of us for almost half a century. And when your readers do eventually meet a real-life trans person, perhaps they will misgender them, or dismiss them as a “pervert,” and justify those acts by referencing a New Yorker article they once read.

As I’ve said before and as I will say many times again, people do not even realize the depth of their own transphobic views. They don’t realize that these definitional framings of gender are both false and so, so, so not objective. I have had arguments with myself and other deeply felt and thought feminists over the years and examined all of these ideas, such as Blanchard’s, to the point of pain.

What I have realized, ultimately, is that I dislike the radfem take on women not because it’s radical, or because it dehumanizes trans women (although those help). It’s that it fails to take it’s own standpoint into the analysis, fails to realize that the definition of gender as a class of oppression – one I don’t disagree with – is highly, highly subjective.

That is, I don’t like their stuff because it’s cracking bad theory. Anyway.

As ever, more to come.

That New Yorker Article

Posted by – August 2, 2014

I’m still on the road so this won’t be complete, but it’s sad to see such a biased article on the divisions between trans identity and feminist politics, especially by a major magazine that could have done worlds better.

My main complaints?

  • few and buried quotes by trans people
  • nothing from trans inclusive (cis) feminists
  • fairly useless bits from Blanchard
  • in general, poor framing of the definitional debate involved.

I’ll write more at length at a later date.

#ToHellwiththeNFL

Posted by – July 26, 2014

4th.

Posted by – July 4, 2014

hijabi superheroes (2)Happy 4th of July to one & all!

(For more about this Captain America, check io9′s post about the artist and the drawings.)

Shakespeare Rewrite

Posted by – July 1, 2014

Some are born great

Some achieve greatness

And some have greatness given to them through systemic inequality

– from dearnonacepeople.tumblr.com, via buzzfeed, and h/t to Bri

Hobby Lobbied

Posted by – June 30, 2014

There’s a part of me that wishes we could all go back to bed and pretend it’s Sunday night so that there would still be a chance these awful rulings wouldn’t have been handed down by the Supreme Court today, but they were.

The first is that labor unions can’t collect dues automatically from the workers they represent in negotiations with the management. It will decimate labor unions and workers’ rights.

The second is that corporations don’t have to cover contraception. The fear is that this will allow corporations to decide what kind of healthcare they have to insure. What’s happened is this: we are not talking about an individual being able to choose based on religious exemptions. We’re talking about a corporation being able to. As Justice Ginsberg put it:

In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Theoretically, then, a corporation could not provide pre natal care, trans health care, etc. If the company is owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, they could deny all access to modern medicine because that’s their religious beliefs. Also, “contraception” isn’t just the pill; it’s also the shot (Depo-Provera), the ring (Nuvaring), contraceptive implants (IUD), diaphragms, cervical caps and permanent contraceptive methods, like tubal ligation. I haven’t read yet if it includes vasectomies, but it should (and I’m guessing doesn’t, because patriarchy).

The fear is a slippery slope where religious exemptions are claimed in order to deny LGBTQ+ people employment or marriage benefits. Why should they have to cover my wife’s health insurance if they believe my marriage is immoral and against their religious beliefs?

Here are some of Justice Ginsberg’s best quotes in her dissent, some of the major issues, and a brief synopsis of her grounds for it.

The good news, if there is any good news, is that most corporations will continue to cover contraception because financially, speaking, birth control is way easier to pay for than pregnancy.

Choice.

Posted by – June 5, 2014

I’m teaching Amartya Sen’s “More Than 100 Million Women are Missing” tomorrow, mostly to bring out issues about choice, which we, as Western feminists, tend to think is almost always a good thing, supporting body autonomy.

But in patriarchy, if girls are so devalued, and a woman chooses to abort a female fetus, is that feminist, or not?

I love questions that have no easy answers.

There is a 2011 follow-up to Sen’s article called “160 Million and Counting” that we’ll be reading as well. The UN estimates are as high as 200 million.

This is the kind of tension in feminism that makes it impossible to express a glib, bumper sticker opinion, one in which an individual woman’s choice is an expression of a deeply misogynistic culture. Trust Women? Maybe not.

So what do we do? Keep women from choosing which fetuses to keep? Because – well, you see the problem there.

It’s one of the cases where the individualized ideas of “freedom” fly in the face of feminism. No one can support gendercide, and yet the women making these decisions are making a sound, pragmatic decision for the welfare of their own families.

Triggery (But Funny?)

Posted by – May 28, 2014

I found it kind of stunning, either way. Pretty much the truth of it, as disturbing as it is.

It reminds me of that Margaret Atwood quote that’s circulating a lot- here’s a paraphrase: when men are asked why they’re afraid of women, they say women may laugh at them, but when women are asked why they’re afraid of women, they say men may kill them.

Elliot Rodger

Posted by – May 25, 2014

Elliot Rodger was still a virgin at 22, and he was angry that he was because too often, men’s value is in their ability to “get women”. There are a lot of good articles out already – Slate’s & The Belle Jar‘s & Jess Zimmerman’s in Medium’s Archipelago are standouts – all of which have pointed out that Rodger was not a madman because he didn’t need to be. He only had to be a man, full of entitlement and male privilege – entitled to women’s bodies and to sex. His connections to various groups who persist in thinking that “game” is what convinces women to have sex with men, and that women are only attracted to jerks – never to a “perfect gentleman” as Rodger thought he was – has been well documented, despite those groups and online communities having scrubbed any and all of his posts. I assume they don’t want to be held responsible for failing to recognize someone who wasn’t just blowing off steam but planning to kill.

And what always strikes me about these kinds of complaints is the thing that I had to explain to my wife as she was transitioning: there are men who can yell that they want to do you across a crowded street and it’s a compliment, even if totally inappropriate, and there are others who can shake your hand politely who fill you with caution if not fear.

When I have made this observation (here on my blog and elsewhere), invariably someone who is male – or who used to be – says something about how the real difference is whether or not the man is attractive or handsome or whether the come-on is welcome.

That is not the case.

As Jess Zimmerman points out in parentheses:

“If women‘s mysterious disinterest drives you to consider murdering them, consider that you may be terrifying. Women are smart enough to notice that you’re the kind of guy who’s driven to blood rage by simple rejection.”

And I would add, not only do women pick up on someone who hates them enough to threaten or commit violence; they can, too, pick up on a more subtle and less violent misogyny as well. And that is what I feel is the difference between the men I’ve just mentioned: using “gentlemanly” manners to cover a deeply felt hostility or hatred toward women will not work.

And as someone who has hung out with kinky folks – for whom fulfilling a woman’s fantasy of rape, degradation, or humiliation is not uncommon – I know there are men who respect and adore women enough that even these difficult fantasies do not change their respect for the women they top.

By no means am I saying that only when men respect women enough do they “get” to exert power over them; that is the illusion, not the fact. The fact is that what comes first – what gains a man privilege into a woman’s trust – is their respect and understanding that only once their misogyny is something they have become aware of, worked on, realized and acknowledged does it go away.

It strikes me that this is not unlike racism, or transphobia, or ableism or any of the other kinds of blind hatreds are culture teaches us. And we are all taught them; women in a patriarchy can also be misogynists who do not trust or like or respect other women the same way that even gay men can hate themselves and other gay men because we are all raised in the stink of homophobia.

But the thing about Elliott Rodger is this: so many men who want to date or have sex with or marry women figure it out. They realize they love their moms or their sisters or their daughters and realize the women they are dating or sleeping with or marrying deserve the same respect as the women they know and love. Gay men, on the other hand, especially those who live in a very intense masculine homosocial environments, can express a misogyny that is raw and unchecked. That is, they haven’t had to do the work necessary to realize that women are awesome. Those gay men, I might add, are very, very rare, and getting rarer by the day. The only time their misogyny is still apparent is in the disrespectful, violent attitudes they occasionally express toward trans women, which many, many people have witnessed in these recent uproars about RuPaul and Trannyshack.

What I’m saying, ultimately, is that people – not just women – are wise enough to pick up on someone who hates you for who you are. The white kid who loves rap but who hates black people will never feel welcome by blacks socially. Gay men and lesbians often know when someone who is truly a homophobe is in their midst.

And women, like all of these other groups, know deeply when a man hates them for being women. They may not know it enough to articulate it, but they know it enough to keep their distance.

No amount of chivalry or good manners or “game” will perfume over the stink of that kind of misogyny. In this time when we hear a lot of talk about how accepted gay people are, or how “post racial” we are, or when we hear a gay man talk about how much he really loves trans people but doesn’t want his language policed, we might do well to remember what Elliot Rodger accidentally taught us: that it’s only in owning and dismantling these kinds of systemic, taught, culture-wide hatreds that we free ourselves of them.

Gender Troubles Mother’s Day

Posted by – May 11, 2014

Here’s an astonishing little piece about death, queerness, and re-reading Butler‘s Gender Trouble:

“Tell her you forgive her,” she says, “I promise you she will die.”

I hang up and go back into the bedroom. Back to the borscht-feeding. My mother, all 89 pounds of her, is swathed in diapers and is sickly white, her eyes following each spoonful of borscht as it approaches her mouth.

“Mom, I forgive you.” Her eyes track up to my face. “I forgive you, Mom, I forgive you. ” Either I am saying this repeatedly to make sure she hears me and thus dies swiftly or because it feels good to say. I touch her skeletal leg through the pilly blanket.

She kind of whisper-struggle-intonates, “This must be very hard for you,” and I lose it, raining tears into the borscht. “You are a better person than I am,” she says, then falls back into unconsciousness for another week, and dies.

Maybe I am rereading Gender Trouble as an escape from this, from the memory of this. I could be thinking about Gender Trouble so I don’t have to think about how thin her arms were at the end, how our arms have always resembled each other’s. And about how much I want to stick a needle full of testosterone in my ass and balloon into fleshliness to escape any lingering resemblance to this wraith.

But this is not why I reread Gender Trouble.

Really, really beautiful. Do read the whole of it, if not today, then eventually.

bell hooks @ SNC

Posted by – April 18, 2014

Well check this out! This is a video of a talk bell hooks just gave on Tuesday at St. Norbert College. I was there, & it was amazing. Watch & learn.

The Q&A is really the thing, and that starts about 40 minutes in.

“I Touch Myself” Becomes Breast Cancer PSA

Posted by – April 16, 2014

The Divynyls’ Chrissy Amphlett died of breast cancer last year and she wanted her best known song to do some good. The song of female desire is now a song of self-care:

= why women rock, pt. 8010.

Sports T

Posted by – April 12, 2014

All the boldface is my own.

The first evidence of this new policy in action was published last year in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Four female athletes, ages 18 to 21, all from developing countries, were investigated for high testosterone. Three were identified as having atypically high testosterone after undergoing universal doping tests. (They were not suspected of doping: Tests clearly distinguish between doping and naturally occurring testosterone.)

Sports officials (the report does not identify their governing-body affiliation) sent the young women to a medical center in France, where they were put through examinations that included blood tests, genital inspections, magnetic resonance imaging, X-rays and psychosexual history — many of the same invasive procedures Ms. Semenya endured. Since the athletes were all born as girls but also had internal testes that produce unusually high levels of testosterone for a woman, doctors proposed removing the women’s gonads and partially removing their clitorises. All four agreed to undergo both procedures; a year later, they were allowed to return to competition.

The doctors who performed the surgeries and wrote the report acknowledged that there was no medical reason for the procedures. Quite simply, these young female athletes were required to have drastic, unnecessary and irreversible medical interventions if they wished to continue in their sports.

I’m angry, frustrated, and even a little surprised. At this level of things, they couldn’t find anyone who knew anything about the relationship between T and clitorises? How does a large clitoris have anything to do with competitiveness?

As a friend just asked, are they seriously saying that having a larger clitoris makes women run faster? People use it to steer or catch the wind? What?

The whole article is here.

Sir Barbie

Posted by – March 17, 2014

Hello my geeky feminist readers – check this out:

It’s a kickstarter by my friend Jim Rodda, who is exactly the kind of guy you’d expect to create armor for Barbie.

So donate, & help Barbie kick some dragon ass. He’s at $2536 & I want to see him hit his goal of $5k before the week ends, so get the word out.

Why Hygiene is Education

Posted by – March 16, 2014

There’s an awesome article up at Jezebel called “What Life is Like When Getting Your Period Means Being Shunned” that goes into detail about the nature of “red tents” – that is, the practice of women removing themselves from the family home while they’re menstruating.

But then this line just screamed at me:

“They had struggled for years without toilets, but when they began to menstruate, it got too difficult. It was easier to drop out.”

Because this is one of those examples of why *just* providing girls with an education doesn’t always work. There is all the other stuff – expectations of them doing chores at home, concerns about chastity, desirability, finances, sexual harassment and violence, but over and above that, there is the simple issue of hygiene.

The quote in context:

The specific health impacts of poor menstrual hygiene have been little explored. Anecdotally, the use of unhygienic menstrual protection has been linked to reproductive tract infections such as bacterial vaginosis and vulvovaginal candidiasis, as well as secondary infertility, urinary tract infections and anaemia. Yet a 2013 survey of existing research literature found that evidence to support any link between poor menstrual hygiene and these conditions was “weak and contradictory”. “Raising awareness regarding menstruation and hygienic practices,” the authors wrote in their conclusion, “has remained largely a neglected area in terms of research, despite its increasing popularity amongst public health organisations.”

There are other costs. A PlanIndia study in 2010 found that 23 per cent of Indian girls dropped out of school permanently when they reached puberty, and that girls missed school for an average five days a month each for the lack of decent sanitation or menstrual products. Their schools had no toilets or disgusting ones, or there was no privacy. They had struggled for years without toilets, but when they began to menstruate, it got too difficult. It was easier to drop out.

We know already that better-educated girls are less likely to die in childbirth or of HIV/AIDS, are more likely to use contraception, are more likely to know about good child nutrition, and generally have a better chance of a healthy and productive life. As such, any sign that school dropouts are linked to menstrual hygiene should have government officials in education, development, empowerment and health rushing to build safe toilets and talk loudly and frankly about periods – if they weren’t as hampered by taboo as those women in their petticoats performing rituals to right imaginary fault.

I’ve been teaching feminist theory this past winter and so am always thinking about why it is that so many people seem to think feminism is now unnecessary or unneeded. And while I am astonished that anyone could say that kind of thing about women in the global north — especially with these misogynist politicians passing draconian rules and laws – but the global south still faces other issues.

A Real Doll

Posted by – March 7, 2014

Lammily’s a doll based on the average measurements of a 19 year old woman, taken from the CDC’s data.

Go help fund the making of this doll! Awesome.

Pussy Riot Assaulted

Posted by – February 19, 2014

Trans Inclusive Feminist Article

Posted by – February 18, 2014

Well done, Tina Vazquez. Well done, Bitch Media.

It has been said that feminism has failed the transgender community. It’s hard to disagree. Trans women have been weathering a storm of hate and abuse in the name of feminism for decades now and for the most part, cisgender feminists have failed to speak out about it or push against it.


Although some of us have, of course.
& Some of us have been here for quite a long while.

Pussy Riot

Posted by – February 7, 2014

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

AND they’re funny. The 2nd half is here.