Category: feminism

bell hooks + Janet Mock

Posted by – October 13, 2013

This makes me so, so happy.

American Women Dying Younger Than Their Moms?

Posted by – October 9, 2013

This is upsetting but important reading: American women are dying at younger ages than their mothers.

For some Americans, the reality is far worse than the national statistics suggest. In particular, growing health disadvantages have disproportionately impacted women over the past three decades, especially those without a high-school diploma or who live in the South or West. In March, a study published by the University of Wisconsin researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng found that in nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates actually increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period.

“I was shocked, actually,” Kindig said. “So we went back and did the numbers again, and it came back the same. It’s overwhelming.”

Kindig’s findings were echoed in a July report from University of Washington researcher Chris Murray, which found that inequality in women’s health outcomes steadily increased between 1985 and 2010, with female life expectancy stagnating or declining in 45 percent of U.S. counties. Taken together, the two studies underscore a disturbing trend: While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged U.S. life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before. The worst part is no one knows why.

No one knows why.

Worse yet is this:

Other researchers have pointed out the correlation between education rates and declining female health outcomes. The most shocking study, published in August 2012 by the journal Health Affairs, found that life expectancy for white female high-school dropouts has fallen dramatically over the past 18 years. These women are now expected to die five years earlier than the generation before them—a radical decline that is virtually unheard of in the world of modern medicine. In fact, the only parallel is the spike in Russian male mortality after the fall of the Soviet Union, which has primarily been attributed to rising alcohol consumption and accidental death rates.

“It’s unprecedented in American history to see a drop in life expectancy of such magnitude over such a short time period,” said Jay Olshansky, the lead author of the study. “I don’t know why it happened so rapidly among this subgroup. Something is different for the lives of poor people today that is worse than it was before.”

It’s horrifying that this is the case in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but yes, let’s shut down the government because poor women need pap smears.

The Wage Gap, 2013

Posted by – October 2, 2013

Do you really need more information than this to believe it’s still true? Check the article out, then.

This New Pope

Posted by – September 19, 2013

I’m liking him more & more every time he speaks or does an interview.

Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic Church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.
An Interview with Pope Francis

In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

And that’s after he was asked about gay priests and said “Who am I to judge?” Kind of mind-blowing, and a welcome change.

A Trans Inclusive Feminism.

Posted by – September 16, 2013

It was the principle of the thing.

I’ve been doing this work for more than a decade now, so if you’re indecisive, I’m going to say this: there are no doubt trans women who are jerks, misogynists, and who carry around a fuckton of male privilege. But they are NOT all trans women, and they are not jerks BECAUSE they are trans.

Cis women can be jerks, too, but we’d all rather not have people’s opinions and policies decided based on their behavior.

Anyway. I don’t think of what I do as fighting transphobia. What I think I do is practice an intersectional, trans inclusive feminism. & That is all.

There are many, many ways a woman arrives at “woman”. Trans is just one of many paths.

Your Own Ethics, or Someone Else’s

Posted by – September 11, 2013

The essential issue with a surgery that people get to eliminate or “westernize” the epicanthic fold in their eyelid isn’t dissimilar from too many other arguments about similar surgeries: do you get bigger breasts to fit in, to feel happier, to get ahead? Then what’s wrong with it? If a trans woman gets Facial Feminization Surgery again, so she can fit in, and not to “as trans” as she might otherwise, then what’s wrong with it?

Long ago I decided that unless I were in a similar situation, I couldn’t judge and won’t judge. People make what decisions they do for themselves.

The financial argument – the ‘how dare someone spend that kind of money on vanity?’ kind of critique – also strikes me as a moot point. Every single day people in the industrialized nations spend money on stuff when other people need malaria netting for their beds and clean water.

So where do you end up? I don’t know whether to focus this issue on the marginalization and orientalism that contribute to the kind of discrimination Leo experienced or on the aesthetics and our absurd beauty standards:

The truth is more complicated, if you ask Jiang: “There is a difference between looking more like a white person and looking less like your race,” he believes. “At the highest echelons of beauty, the categories all begin to look the same. We’re all trying to achieve racial transformation, but in a homogenized center ground. My personal view is that there is a white, idealized version of beauty associated more with Western beauty ideals. The argument is whether it’s coincidental or constructed.”

There are two major ways of thinking about it, for feminists: on the one hand, that no one who lives in a culture with all of these intersected oppressions can possibly make a choice out of their own free will (and that a feminist, in rejecting these oppressions, will reject any decision that compromises her ability to resist patriarchy/beauty standards/sexism/etc, OR, that every individual has to make choices based on personal agency and the ability to recognize systemic oppressions and choose to do something to circumvent or resist them.

So which is it? Is he grabbing the bull by the horns or being gored by it?

Personally, I find the epicanthic fold beautiful, and always have.

How To Look At Women

Posted by – September 7, 2013

I thought this was great – one dad’s planned conversation with his son the first time he sees his son look at a woman sexually.

There are two views regarding a woman’s dress code that you will be pressured to buy into.  One view will say that women need to dress to get the attention of men.  The other view will say women need to dress to protect men from themselves.  Son, you are better than both of these.  A woman, or any human being, should not have to dress to get your attention.  You should give them the full attention they deserve simply because they are a fellow human being.  On the other side, a woman should not have to feel like she needs to protect you from you.  You need to be in control of you.
Also, this:
Let’s be clear: a woman’s body is not dangerous to you.  Her body will not cause you harm.  It will not make you do stupid things.  If you do stupid things it is because you chose to do stupid things.
Good, no?

#notsoblurredlines

Posted by – September 3, 2013

I admit that I think the unrated version of the original is kinda hot. There, I’ve said it. Not all of it – there is way too much objectification of women in it, of course – really, a mini stop sign on her butt? – but naked women + clothed men, in my opinion, isn’t necessarily sexist. The lyrics are problematic, too, although there are no actual threats or even suggestions of assault. Theoretically, the narrator could hate “blurred lines” exactly because he’s respecting what the woman is saying when she’s saying no. BUT: I find it sexy because all the women are gorgeous and all the men are handsome, dress well, and can dance. There are parts that are playful and almost sweet.

My finding it personally sexy, in parts, doesn’t mean it’s not sexist bullshit, too. Just that sometimes politics & sexuality create blurred lines all their own.

Anyway, I love this, too, & it’s equally hot, in my opinion:

Also, this.

Impressive.

Posted by – September 1, 2013

More Slut Shaming

Posted by – August 31, 2013

A judge said a 14 year old girl who consented to sex with a 49 year old man who was also her teacher was “older than her chronological years” and “as much in control” as the man was.

The man has to serve 30 days.

The girl took her own life. According to her mother, she committed suicide largely because of this relationship.

Moveon.org has a petition that calls for the judge to resign for his poor judgement, victim blaming, and slut shaming.

Which reminds me to define slut shaming: slut shaming is a cultural practice whereby people think a woman “deserves” whatever negative thing happens to her because she has a sexuality or even just a body that she dresses in a way that seems – to someone – as “asking for it”. Slut shaming is when a girl is raped at a party by four boys and the photo of her being raped is passed around and no one reports the boys. Slut shaming is when a journalist reports the slut shaming being done by others of a 12 year told girl who was raped by multiple men. Slut shaming is when a woman who agrees to sex with a guy at a party is mocked and made fun of and nothing happens to the guy. Slut shaming is when a girl who gives a guy a blowjob at a concert and is called a slut while the guy is applauded. Slut shaming is when a woman is considered dangerous or suspect purely because she has an apparent sexuality and is/has been known to have sex with men (or women) she is not married or committed to. Slut shaming is what bisexuals get a lot because they’re assumed to sleep with anyone, anywhere, any time.

Slut shaming is what makes that judge’s ruling possible; it plays into the myths that women are always temptresses, femme fatales, or lolitas, that their expression of their sexuality is always a conscious choice and that any disregard for traditional social morays and expectations will and should be punished.

The word “slut” doesn’t have to be used for slut shaming to occur, and a woman does not have to have had sex with a lot of men in order to be accused of being a slut. That is, slut shaming is a cultural phenomenon that attempts to define and control women’s sexualities and punish anyone whose appearance or practices are not in line with that culture’s standards.

Women & Math

Posted by – August 30, 2013

Mirror Images

Posted by – August 16, 2013

My friend Miriam Hall recently wrote about her experience seeing herself in a mirror when she wasn’t expecting to. She didn’t like what she saw:

The mirror showed me my body—stout, short and plump. But what the mirror really showed me is something far deeper. It showed me how much I try and pretend that I don’t look like I do. The mirror showed me I am not who I think I am.

The whole article she’s written for Elephant – a guide to mindful life, as it calls itself – is, to my mind, more about seeing than feeling, seeing what is and not with a critical eye, just with a seeing one.

It made me think even more about my boobs post the other day and the ways we contextualize our own naked selves in ways that make us not right, less attractive, less whole.

There is a problem here, but it’s greater than the commodification of women’s bodies, or bodies in general. It’s more than seeing skinniness as health (when it often isn’t, at all, & is so often the opposite). It’s more than equating fatness to unhealthiness.

It’s more about the way we want to see bodies as objects, as things outside ourselves, not at the vessels we carry our souls in. I saw a few naked photos of myself, taken recently, and like Miriam, actually saw something I was pretending wasn’t there – all of the sadness of the past few years, the losses you all know about, & some you don’t, reflected in my posture and my body – in my everything, in my gestalt, for lack of a better word. And like a woman who might see her post pregnancy belly and post nursing breasts as what they are – vastly perfect because of what they’ve been and done and not because of how they look – I saw a body that had eaten so much emotion I couldn’t otherwise express.

So look at yourself, at your body. Not in the mirror, to see what needs fixing. Just glance at yourself in a mirror, in a shop window’s reflection, to see what’s there that you’re pretending isn’t. We only ever distract ourselves with weight loss and gain, muscle tone and beauty. There is so much more a body is and says than the stupidly limited vocabulary we choose for it.

 

Boobs.

Posted by – August 15, 2013

The other day I was poking around the internet for the answer to a particular question: whether or not wearing a bra at night keeps boobs safe from the forces of gravity. I started doing that very thing a few years ago with my older bras that are a little stretched out & so pretty comfy to sleep in.

The answer: the jury is out. There are very strong opinions on both sides. Some say bras in general are bad for boobs & actually cause them to sag. Others that bras are vital. Breastfeeding has been viewed as a culprit. It’s not. It’s actually the thickening and then thinning of milk ducts that causes women who have been pregnant and/or nursed to have less “bouncy” breasts. Weight loss and gain isn’t good for them either, if you needed yet another reason not to yo-yo diet.

So it’s pretty much surgery if you want higher boobs post pregnancy or weight loss/gain or just because you do. Of course you can and should work out your pecs, stand up straight, get fitted for the right bra (if you don’t believe the pervy French researcher) and – get this – squeeze your own breasts to potentially prevent both sagging and breast cancer.

But in the meantime, look at these breasts of regular people. I have to say that I looked at these photos more than once while I kept thinking about the breasts I am used to seeing – say the absurdly perfect rack of the brunette in the Robin Thicke video, for instance – and wondered about how often ANY of us see regular breasts.

Nudists do. Kinky folks in play spaces. Doctors. But most of us don’t really see the breasts of regular women on a day to day basis ,& that fact blew me away. Theoretically, it’s entirely possible for young women never to see anything but (1) their own breasts and (2) “famous” breasts (of movie stars, porn stars, etc.) That’s kinda fucked up.

Moreso, read what the women themselves say about their breasts: one woman with a really lovely pair wants them to face forward more. Another wishes she didn’t have stretch marks. Women with small breasts want bigger ones; women with larger breasts worry about sag. Asymmetry seems pretty routine. I kind of love that this one young woman lists everything that is “wrong” with them but still loves her own:

“I’m eighteen and have never been pregnant, but I come fully equipped with real flesh-and-blood breasts – my right is larger than my left, I have one inverted nipple, visible veins, stretchmarks from rapid adolescent development, even light downy fuzz covering the entire breasts. Whatever. I love them. They don’t belong to men, they don’t belong to society: they belong to me.” (bold added by me)

So the next time you think yours are imperfect, go look at some real women’s breasts – these are ones of women who have been pregnant – and remind yourself once again that we are, in fact, an uptight prudish culture – which means we don’t see other people naked casually – and that commodifies women’s bodies in ways that suck – which means we only see breasts that are selling products or entertainment.

WTF? Texas Sucks (Trigger Warning)

Posted by – August 5, 2013

Two women get stopped for throwing cigarette butts out a car window while driving.

Texas cops then proceed to probe them both, both anally & vaginally. As Alternet notes, “Gloves were not changed between anal and vaginal probes, nor were they changed between women.” Yes, they used the same gloves on both women and on both cavities. Surely that is a health code violation of some kind – Daily Kos says it was illegal and points out that it happened on a public road where anyone driving by might see.

What the fuck is this?

The whole thing is on video. I didn’t think I’d even believe this happened, but there it is, clearly taking place. The video isn’t even at a distance. The cop puts on her gloves about 3 minutes in.

Can we just get rid of Texas already?

I am completely freaked out by this. Anyone else?

Dustin Hoffman: Tootsie Was Never a Comedy For Me

Posted by – July 11, 2013

If you haven’t seen this by now, you’re living under a bigger rock than I do. Still, this is astonishing. He cries. You will too. I did.

“Sorry, that’s as good as it gets. That’s as beautiful as we can get you.”

Here is an interesting response by Alexandra Petri:


I am not sure this video of Dustin Hoffman crying about female beauty standards is as good as everyone says it is. Is he crying about the fact that he’s missed out on a lot of interesting people because he had been brainwashed to not talk to them? If so, he can fix this so, so easily. All he has to do is walk over and start talking. Or is he crying because this– this brainwashing idea that the way you look determines your inherent interest, this is real, and it won’t occur to everyone to walk over?

That’s quite powerful.

But I’m not sure I understand what her point is, other than that Hoffman is right: women are judged unfairly on their looks first before anyone even wonders if they’re interesting. She doesn’t seem to disagree with Hoffman – just clarifying how we dismiss women until or unless they are attractive – which is sadly the truth.

There are times I wonder if women know that women are people. Most days I don’t even hope men know as much, to be honest.

He gives me hope that maybe, maybe occasionally, there are men who can see women’s humanity.

Class + Trans*

Posted by – June 30, 2013

Here’s a nice piece about economics and class, specifically in the US, when it comes to trans people and transition. It’s written by a woman whose sister is transitioning to female.

She ends the piece:

In a perfect world, an individual’s trans*ition would be marked by celebration, dedicated to their instinctive disconnection from their bodies and/or the societal binaries that surround us, and without cost (or, at least, fully-funded). But this isn’t a perfect world.

Ours is a species dominated by cost. And so far, I don’t see any feasible way around it. So, what does that mean? It means either biting the bullet and paying through the nose for procedures that would (hopefully) mean harmony of mind and body, or going without.

What is more difficult is that many trans people cannot get to the point they want without significant medical intervention, and if they always register as trans, will deal with untold amounts of discrimination. It’s frustrating, but true.

Moreso, even if someone can find a way to scrape up the money to have genital surgery and the like, that may mean they are sacrificing something else – going back to school, having kids, buying a home, or whatever other things most people would do with upwards of $20k. Which means that trans people, as a class, are bound to be poorer than their peers — much like women often are.

The Night a Feminist Army…

Posted by – June 27, 2013

… of loud angry bitches beat the GOP, is the full title. I absolutely love this article about what happened in Texas the night of the 25th. I stayed up and watched it as the midnight hour drew near and passed; I was watching when the time stamp was changed on the vote; I was watching when the “At what point?” question was asked – which should, imho, go down in history as AT LEAST as significant as the “Have you, at long last, no decency?” that was asked during HUAC).

It was an insane thing to see but a proud, proud thing to watch.

A feminist army of loud angry bitches. We need more of them.

Filibuster In Progress: Texas

Posted by – June 25, 2013

Ann Richards would be proud.

Evon Young’s Killers

Posted by – June 8, 2013

Trigger warning: this death was horrific and brutal and cold blooded, in my opinion. The description is journalistic and, as a result, very upsetting.

Evon Young’s killers are pleading guilty to various charges which is a good thing that will help his family and the other communities he was a part of find closure in his death.

I don’t really understand any of it. I have been reading reports of these up close and personal, brutal, immolating murders for a decade now, and no part of it ever makes any sense to me. Who are these people and why do we even consider them human, still? I really don’t know. But I’m always newly horrified at how coldly, how brutally, these things can happen.

There are days when you cry, and days when you spit nails, but none of it makes any sense of this kind of crime. I don’t think I’m ever going to understand.

But I will say: this is why the world needs to get past their fear of trans people. It’s why all of us need to stop thinking of trans people’s birth genders as their “real” gender. It’s why denying trans women as women – whether that’s coming from a fundamentalist Christian or a radical feminist – isn’t ever just theoretical or political. These are the lives that are lost when we deny the truth of trans people’s experiences and reports of their own genders.

I am losing any tolerance I once had of any kind of transphobic “theories” of gender that deny a person’s humanity and their gender and Evon Young is why.

Naked Trans Women

Posted by – June 5, 2013

It’s embarrassing to hear that my fellow feminists are shaming trans women for their bodies. It breaks my heart, really. I’ve probably seen more trans women naked than the average person, and there’s nothing scary about their bodies.

They’re beautiful bodies, like all women’s bodies are.

But when Red Durkin writes this:

Specifically speaking to the issue of sexual assault survivors: Especially in a queer/lesbian space, I find it incredibly dangerous to equate penises with sexual violence. This erases MUCH of the assault/abuse/violence that happens within lesbian communities. It also erases the women who experience that violence. As I mentioned in my initial reply, I am a sexual assault survivor myself. I feel completely ignored/unseen when trans women and sexual assault survivors are spoken of as though they’re mutually exclusive. I am the cross section of those identities. So, so, SO many trans women are. Do we not deserve healing?

How much more violence can we really do to trans women’s bodies at this point? Recognizing the deep ways we shame and blame trans women does not erase or eliminate anyone’s concern for women’s bodies.