Monday, December 24, 2007

In which I eat crow...

I've caused a lot of anger and resentment about this post, and my responses to the criticisms people had about it. Blackamazon, in particular, had a lot of important things to say about it, over at Having Read the Fine Print, and irn had a really insightful response in the comments, too.

The criticism about my getting the pronoun wrong was something that I wanted to immediately fix, but I also wanted to step back and take some time to think about the rest. Because... honestly? It's really hard to read something like that and not feel ridiculously defensive and frustrated and angry and about two inches tall, and, and, and... well, basically, to try to justify why I'm Right and All Of My Critics Are Being Unfair and I Didn't Do Anything Wrong and I'm Doing My Best.

Which, obviously, doesn't actually do anything good for anyone but me and my bruised feelings.

I don't like pissing the people I respect off, and it's troubling to see people that I know are doing good work, and that I know are living and breathing this, and that I know are smart as hell about these issues looking over and thinking "What the fuck are you doing?" Because, well... it suggests that, you know, maybe I'm doing something really wrong.

So, I realized that what I really needed was to step back and think about the situation, and really think about what was being said to and about me and my post before I opened my mouth again. Because, yeah, my first instinct was to react- to respond. Instead, I turned off the computer and walked away. I think it was the right call.

Because, after obsessing over it for most of the weekend- running it around my head, going back and rereading Blackamazon's posts, rereading the comments on my and other sites, I have to admit that I was being an asshole. Ignoring, for a second, my failure to properly cite Blackamazon's site (which was also egregiously stupid and rightly criticized, and for which there is no excuse), I still really dropped the ball here, and I want to take a moment to apologize and recognize what is being said.

It's not remotely fair to expect other people to see the proposal with the same eyes that I do, or to have the same feelings that I do. And the fact is, Blackamazon is absolutely right, my stake in all of this is significantly different, and it does let me "blithely pullout resumes as predictors and say at worst were no better off." Because, yeah, I'm no worse off... that doesn't mean that nobody is. That I come to this from a place where the stakes are low if it's not handled properly doesn't mean that there aren't a whole lot of people who have very good reasons for being really concerned about what happens.

Which is to say that it's ridiculously shitty of me to accuse other people of coming in bad faith because they're coming to and looking at all of this from a place that I will never experience. It was a shit move, and did nothing to engage with the very real criticisms and concerns that a lot of people were having. It doesn't answer their concerns- it ignores them and, worse, silences them by distracting from what people are really trying to talk about.

And whether or not I agree with all of the criticisms of the proposal or not, I should be able to understand that it does come from a place of genuine concern, legitimate frustration, and a history of really fucked up shit. Not least of which: the open dismissing of critics out of hand, or the implying/outright stating that they're insane or unreasonable for having the concerns and criticisms that they have. Both of which I did, and which are... well... "disturbingly common shit".

I am sorry that I couldn't and didn't disagree without being ignorant and offensive about it, and without recognizing that my place of privilege was giving me a significantly different read on things, and blinding me to the really significant concerns of other people. I don't want to offer any excuses. As irn pointed out, intentions are secondary to consequences. Right now, I can admit that I was wrong, offer my apology, and acknowledging that I've got a long way to go, and a lot of work to do.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A tip: Assaulting people is not a joke.

Via Feministing:

Some people think assault is funny stuff.

Two men held down a woman and tried to cut her underwear off with a pocketknife.

The story:

A woman enters the bar and sees two men that she considered friends at the bar. She walks up to them, and they begin to talk. At some point, the men begin joking about her underwear, and asking her what kind she was wearing. When she told them it was none of their business, one of them "joked" that he was going to cut off her underwear. She apparently replied that he wasn't "man enough" to do that.

Then, one of the men held her down against the bar, as she screamed for help, while the other man reached down her pants, and cut each side of her underwear. The bartender refused to help because they'd "make things worse" for him. She finally managed to get away from them, but lost her shoes in the process. They offered to return her shows in exchange for the underwear, which she did so that she could go and get help.

When the police questioned the men, one of them said that they were just joking around, and that it was time for her "to take one for the team". What the fuck does that even mean? The other man claims to have done similar things in the past, and that everyone else in the bar was watching and laughing.

He conveniently forgets that she was in the bar. And that she was apparently not laughing. In fact, she was yelling for help.

He claims that he tried to apologize, but that she wouldn't talk to him.

Gee... I can't imagine why not. I mean, it's not like you held her down and tried to cut off her underwear in a bar full of men who apparently found this hill-are-ee-us, while one of them poked her breasts and suggested you cut off her bra next, and then refused to return her shoes until she gave you her underwear, or anything.

Oh, wait, no. That's exactly what you did.

That someone should have to explain to these assholes that it's not okay to hold people down and cut off their underwear makes me sort of ill.

The First Day of Freedom for a nation?

h/t Sara, at Sara Speaking.

Today is a very special day.
It's a day that I am both excited, and terrified by.

Today is the first full day of the Lakota nation's independence.

The Lakota Sioux have officially, and permanently withdrawn their nation from all previously signed treaties with the United States government on the grounds that the United States has historically ignored and continues to ignore the conditions of those treaties. Like many Native American tribes, the Lakota sought, repeatedly, to gain the respect and fair treatment they deserve through treaties and by following the orders of the United States government... but to no success. They signed these treaties in good faith with the government, and the government has consistently refused to honor those agreements, So, they've decided to take a stand:

After 150 years of colonial enforcement, when you back people into a corner there is only one alternative... the only alternative is to bring freedom into its existence by taking it back to the love of freedom, to our lifeway.

We are the freedom loving Lakota from the Sioux Indian reservations of Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana who have traveled to Washington DC to withdraw from the constitutionally mandated treaties to become a free and independent country. We are alerting the Family of Nations we have now reassumed our freedom and independence with the backing of Natural, International, and United States law.

The Lakota are pretty explicit about why they've taken this step:

For far too long our people have suffered at the hands of the colonial apartheid system imposed on the Lakota Sioux. Our treaties with the United States government are nothing more than worthless words on worthless paper - repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life.

The devastation this has wrought is clear:
Lakota men have a life expectancy of less than 44 years, lowest of any country in the World (excluding AIDS) including Haiti.
The Lakota infant mortality rate is 5x the U.S. Average.
The Tuberculosis rate on Lakota reservations is approx 800% higher than the U.S national average.
97% of our Lakota people live below the poverty line.
Unemployment rates on our reservations are approximately 85%.
Teenage suicide rate is 150% higher than the U.S national average for this group.
Our Lakota language is an Endangered Language, on the verge of extinction.

On the one hand, I'm tremendously excited, because I want to see the Lakota succeed- the treatment of the Lakota at the hands of our government has been, to put it simply, horrific, and it's wonderful to see them pushing back, holding the United States responsible for failing ot honor their treaties, and becoming a part of the international community (they've been meeting with representatives from a number of other nations, including Bolivia and Venezuela).

And, to be honest, part of my excitement comes from a really selfish place. I have Native American ancestors, and I don't know anything about them, except very generally what tribes they were probably from, because all of the records of their lives have long since been destroyed, often by the orders of the government, but also by the desire and need to "fit in" with a society that devalued the lives and experiences of "savage" natives. So, it brings my heart great joy to see a tribe taking a stand.

On the other hand, it's also scary.

Mostly, it's scary wondering what the official reaction of the government will be. This is not a government known for its level-headedness. I honestly can't even begin to think of what kind of reaction to expect. A shrug? A refusal to accept the withdrawal? A show of force? The complete destruction of all treaties with all tribes? The "taking back" of all reservation lands, basically forcing all Native Americans off of their land again?

It's scary not to know what to expect from the government. And, honestly, I don't even know what to expect from the general public. How many people are going to see this as threatening? There's already tremendous misinformation spread about what Native American reservations are like- they're generally not very pretty, and they don't usually have lots of casinos and money floating around- and I can imagine that there are a lot of people who still think of Native populations as being savages living backwards lives. Even now, people continue to have this image of tribal nations as being completely without electricity, full of uneducated people drinking away their lives. Very little effort is taken to see what any of the tribal nations are really like.

Many of the comments I've seen on various sites about this have been supportive, but there are still comments like this one, from Suhlig, at USAToday:

I understand the frustration of the Lakota nation, but this is all part of our HISTORY.. what happened to the Native American all over the country (not just the Lakota,) is a horrible part of our nations past.. lets leave it there..we should not forget but we should also not dwell on it. If the indian people are having a hard time on the reservations, maybe they should get of the res. and join the real world. It is not the rest of the countries fault that some of the Lakota people cannot seem to function in society. I have had opportunities to be around many Lakota people and they are smart, funny likeable and honest.. I think maybe you need to find someone other than Mr. Means to lead you to success..

If you really understand the frustrations of the Lakota, you wouldn't think that this is all just a part of history. Yes, it's a part of history- but it's a part of an ongoing history. What happened is definitely horrible- but it's not over. The suggestion that the Lakota shouldn't "dwell on it" is insulting, but only marginally as insulting as suggesting that they should get off of the reservation and join "the real world". Because, what? Life is only real if you're working to become like middle-class America? But, of course, it's because the Lakota "cannot seem to function in society." And that's not our fault. It's not like our government has done everything possible to see them fail for 150+ years.

I sincerely hope that this turns out for the best. It sounds like the Lakota are working with other nations to build an infrastructure- they're apparently building alternative energy sources: "Energy independence using solar, wind, geothermal, and sugar beets enables Lakota to protect our freedom and provide electricity and heating to our people." And they're going to start issuing their own passports and driver's licenses. Unemployment, and lack of resources for education and health care have been significant problems for the Lakota, but I haven't seen anything yet that discusses what plans are in place for dealing with those issues.

I'm going to be following this story very closely.

If you're interested in learning more: Lakota Freedom

You can see the Declaration of Continuing Independence by the First International Indian Treaty Council at Standing Rock Indian Country June 1974 here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yes Means Yes...

Let it be noted: I make no claims to being bias free in this post. I try, and I think I did okay, but I don't promise it.

So, as you may be aware, Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti are working on book. I've seen a variety of responses to the project- some people are really excited about it, some people are a bit on the fence, and some people are pretty upset. There's been some criticism to the call- even the post, some people have remarked that they're unhappy with the wording:

One quibble: Yes Means Yes! will fly in the face of the conventional feminist wisdom that rape has nothing to do with sex.
I dislike the implication of this claim to "fly in the face of conventional feminist wisdom," because it seems to me, paradoxically, to score a point for this new feminist project at the expense of existing feminism(s) and feminists.

Which is, you know, fair. A more thorough criticism of that point was also made by Andrea Rubenstein, over at Shrub. Andrea's point is a good one: Language is important, and we have to particularly careful about how we use it, because it can actually do harm to our cause if we don't. She points out that lines like that one create an oppositional framework with different types of feminists on each side, when it isn't necessary to do so. Ultimately, all of us want to end rape, so why set up strawfeminists and, in the process, alienate our allies? It's a very good post and I think Andrea is very fair.

I'm not the only one, either- there's a really interesting discussion happening there right now, including a comment from Friedman, who agrees with Andrea's criticism:

Thanks for a great post. As a co-editor of the anthology (and, of course, the call) I don't think it's picking nits -- you're not the first person to point out the unintentional oppositionality in our phrasing, and I regret it. We in no way want to create or re-inscribe false divisions between feminists. What we more meant is that the concept of "sex has nothing to do with rape" has gotten twisted to the point where it's difficult in some quarters of rape prevention to talk about changing the sexual culture as a means to eradicate rape culture, and we're seeking to take that silence on in this anthology.

This post, by imfallingup, I'm less impressed with.

I like righteous indignation as much as anyone else, but while I think that Andrea's comments were fair and justified, I find this post really vitriolic. A lot of the criticisms strike as particularly unfair. I don't know whether it's accidental, or intentional, but many of the points seem like serious misreadings of what the proposal is suggesting.

The title, my god. I read the title and was thinking, where have I seen that before? No, not this book of the same name, which I haven't read but seems to be going off in the same direction; maybe the editors of this one would be wise to read Albury's book and see what exactly they're doing. However, wasn't there a Doonesbury strip somewhere in the early seventies about men insisting something to the effect of 'liberated women say yes'? (I'm pretty sure it was that era and that it was Doonesbury, but I'm not finding the strip at the moment.) (Edited past my bedtime 12/15/07: same era, but it was Nicole Hollander's Silvia I was remembering, although for aforementioned reasons I don't have time at the second to pull up the strip. Trudeau may have done one in this vein too though and I just read it much longer ago, hence the forgetting.) Anyway: this is nothing new, folks. Feminism goes in ripples as well as waves, as does the backlash, and the backlash constantly comes with men saying to women (and sometimes men, but I'll get to that later) "No may mean no, but yes means yes, so let's do it. What are you, a prude?"

In other words, the author thinks that the title is suggesting "If only women would consent more, they wouldn't get raped." Really? I'm sorry, but how, exactly, is that the most obvious reading of the title? Look, we all know and understand that "no means no", right? Yes? The "problem" with "no means no" is that there are a lot of people who have taken that to mean that "only no means no." In other words, if someone doesn't say no, it means yes. The title of the book is an attempt to reframe that. In other words: Lack of "no" doesn't mean yes- only "Yes Means Yes".

And empowering female sexual pleasure equals dismantling rape culture? NO NO NO NO NO. Don't get me wrong: empowering female sexual pleasure? Do it. It's great to have a dynamic by which women can engage in sex that is pleasurable. So: where is consent in all of this? Is it possible for sex to be physically pleasurable while not consensual? Because, you know, just because half the men on earth don't know a clitoris from a clavicle doesn't mean that every rapist is the archetypical shove-cock-in-gooshy-part-of-sex-object. And if all you're doing is teaching women to have pleasurable sex during some shove-cock-in-gooshy-part-of-sex-object type action that was going to happen anyway, the only people you're empowering is men. Have we all forgotten the word 'consent'?

Again, I don't understand how someone can honestly read that proposal and think that this is what Friedman and Valenti are suggesting. The key isn't just getting women to enjoy sex (although, yeah, that's a great goal, too), the point here is that we, as a society, devalue women's sexuality. In a society where women's sexual experiences are devalued, where sex is thought of as a commodity, and where women are punished for wanting or enjoying sex, we end up with a lot of people who have really screwed up visions of sex and rape that allow them to justify why what they did wasn't really rape. I can't be the only person who went through college and saw some of these disturbing attitudes firsthand. It's only in a world where women's sexuality is so completely devalued that you can have, for example, some frat guy rape a passed out woman at a party and say, with a straight face, that it wasn't rape because "she didn't say 'no'".

Is that all rape?

Obviously not. But those sorts of cases are disturbingly common, and, at least as I understand it, they're a pretty big part of the things we're talking about when we talk about rape culture. Do I think that reframing our understanding of consent will actually end rape? Well, no, obviously not. But, then, I also recognize that it's a book and a book proposal, which means that it's going to be worded more strongly than it ought to be. Is it fair to criticize the strength of the wording? Absolutely. Even if you criticize it for being worded too strongly, I don't think it's fair to pretend that it's saying things that it's not, though.

What has also been important accross history? Women fighting back, not by saying 'yes!' but with fists and feet. Women's self defense classes have been a small but building force in the last few decades; why is this effort not being put towards increasing that? Many brilliant minds are analyzing masculinity (Rebecca Walker's What Makes a Man comes to mind, even if it does ave the disastrous bit from Michael Moore); why not put more work into making sure these ideas are getting to every school, to every town, make sure that every boy growing up has a wide range of people to grow up into and knows ways to treat women with respect that isn't just misogyny masked with a smile?

Again, the point of the book isn't that victims should be saying yes. That's just not an honest reading at all. Quite frankly, it strikes me as the reading of someone with an axe to grind. I'm certainly aware of the anger and resentment that came about after Valenti's last book, so I can absolutely understand being apprehensive and cautious about other books that she's involved with- but I don't think that excuses or justifies intentionally misrepresenting what this project is about. And you know, it's true, women's self defense classes have been a small but building force in the last few decades... and, as I recall, Friedman, in fact, endorsed that... Oh, that's right. She did:

And yet it's true; women and girls can keep themselves safe using our very own bodies. No pepper spray. No whistles. Even women who don't work out, or are "overweight" or are physically impaired...

...Regardless of this resistance, we must all learn how to defend ourselves and insist that our schools and other public institutions teach all girls and women the same skills and not just for our own safety. Because the most practical way to reduce the risk of rape for all women is to create a culture in which the rapist has to worry that he'll get hurt.

And the bit about masculinity and raising boys properly? You mean, for example, by making sure that they understand that lack of resistance isn't the same as consent? You mean by making it clear to them that a woman who isn't giving active consent should be understood to be saying 'no'? By, making it clear that only yes means yes?

And, honestly, I get really tired of reading the "why isn't more effort being put into X, Y, or Z?" Because, you know, there are a lot of us, and there's plenty of work to go around. This book, however problematic the wording of the proposal was, sounds like it does want to address issues around how boys are raised to understand women's sexuality, and how we view rape and sex in our society. That's an important message and I think that it is an important part of battling rape culture. I don't think that it's the only part, but it's an important part none-the-less.

You don't fight rape by enjoying sex more, just as you don't fight eating disorders by enjoying starving, binging, or vomiting (or even eating in and of itself) more. They're both symptoms of other problems, and the solution here proposed is not only so far from incomplete as to be a joke in its phrasing, it borders on the insulting to the many people who have already worked hard at empowering female sexuality and been rejected by the mainstream feminists. Why reinvent the wheel? Well, if it was invented by a bunch of queer women of color and of all sorts of sizes and shapes, you can bet Feministing will find some flat-stomached white women can 'invent' their own, Jen Sincero style.

Okay, time out.

I've seen a couple of other people mention this kind of thing, too- that this is a "feministing project." Or talking about "Jessica's new book." Now, the last time I checked, which was... um... just now, the editors of this book are "Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti." Jessica Valenti is from feministing. Jaclyn Friedman is not. This author mentions Jessica's name and feministing a few times, and seems to think that Friedman and Valenti are the same person... they're not. Jaclyn Friedman is the program director at the Center For New Words, and a member of Big Moves. She's the driving force behind the annual WAM! conference- which, you know, seems to be trying really hard to help bring less mainstream feminist's concerns up so that they get more attention and to help all women's voices be heard. Are she and Valenti working on this together? Absolutely. But it doesn't mean that every complaint about Valenti's past work, or about feministing in general, is fair to levy against this book. Before going off about how they're going to ignore "queer women of color and of all sorts of sizes and shapes" it might behoove the author to make sure that, you know, that's actually the case. Because, as it turns out, Friedman does, and continues to do, work with queer women of color and of all sorts of sizes and shapes.

In other words: This isn't a "feministing" project, and continuing to refer to it as one, and continuing to talk about it as though it's the exclusive property of Valenti ignores the fact that there are two names associated with the book, and that, in fact, Friedman's name comes first. So, maybe it might be a good idea not to pretend that she doesn't exist and that her input into the book isn't important or worth examining?

And, you know, nowhere did I see the suggestion that enjoying sex more is the solution. What I saw was the suggestion that getting society to understand that women already do enjoy sex, and that sex isn't a commodity that women have that men must get through any means is important. Is there already work being done on this? Absolutely. But, as the author notes, the message isn't getting out. And you know, on a personal level, can I just point out that dismissing Friedman and Valenti as "flat-stomached white women" isn't a criticism of the book. Also: Factually inaccurate. But, let's conveniently ignore that Friedman also does work on size issues with Big Moves, because that'd make it hard to dismiss the effort as being one from a flat-stomached white woman, wouldn't it?

The author then goes on to attack, one by one, the list of "potential essay subjects".

* The new backlash against rape survivors (i.e., media obsession with drinking, Girls Gone Wild culture being to blame for assault)

AND THIS BOOK ISN'T BACKLASH AGAINST RAPE SURVIVORS? "If you'd just said yes, you wouldn't have been raped! It would have been consensual!" I know their intent is good, but the title alone is a problematic framework that recycles a male supremacist argument against women's consent being relevant to sex, and everything is downhill from there.

And if that was even remotely what Friedman and Valenti were suggesting, I'd totally agree. But, honestly, I just don't see how anyone can honestly believe that either of them are seriously suggesting "you know, if you'd have just said yes, you wouldn't have been raped." The insanity of that statement alone should suggest "You know, that's probably not what they're saying." So, in short, no, I don't think that this book is a backlash against rape survivors. I'd point out that one of the authors has already written about her experiences as a rape survivor, but, you know, whatever.

* Thoughts on “enthusiastic consent”

The term makes me violent, or violently ill, I'm not sure which. How does 'enthusiastic consent' a) exist as a measure of progress we haven't reached yet (because, you know, all women ever in history have just 'lay back and taken it') and b) fight rape culture? Wait, where's the most common place we see enthusiastic consent nowadays? Oh, yeah, in nearly every single movie coming out of Hollywood where the lead character is a male (in other words, nearly every movie coming out of Hollywood). "Enthusiastic consent" is what is assumed of women outside of rape, when consent is actually being considered. "Ladies' man"? "Women love me"? "Of course she'll want me"?

Put simply:
a)It's a measure of progress not yet reached, because it's not the standard view of consent. We don't, in our society, generally view sexual consent as a positive action (that is, we don't see it as something that people do, not that we don't see it as a good thing), rather, it's seen as a lack of something else. Consent isn't a thing unto itself- it's the absence of rejection. And, even then, it's often portrayed as the lack of strong rejection, not just rejection.
b)The quotes given by the author are exactly the sorts of things that they're talking about- those attitudes "of course she'll want me" aren't enthusiastic consent. They're, in fact, the opposite. If you're going into the bedroom with that attitude, you're not looking for enthusiastic consent, you're assuming you've already got consent, and nothing short of a serious rejection is going to convince you otherwise. The point is to make people understand that anything less than enthusiastic consent from the other person should give you pause and make you think "Maybe the other person isn't into this".

* Taking Back the Porn: How changing the pornography industry can stop rape

See what I said before on feminist porn being nothing new but it being, like many other things, ignored by mainstream feminism as too gay/dirty/body-friendly/giving feminism a bad face. Also, apparently rape was invented after the creation of porn. I mean wait…

Seriously? Seriously, changing the porn industry will stop rape? The way punk music stopped capitalism in its tracks?

Yes, feminist porn is nothing new. And, yes, like many other things, it has largely been ignored by the mainstream. How, then, does it make sense to criticize Friedman and Valenti for proposing it as a topic help bring the conversation into the mainstream? They haven't suggested that this is something new- they've suggested it as a topic that people might be interested in writing and reading about. If you think that this is an important topic, I'm not sure I understand the value in criticizing them for pointing it out. And, yeah, again, it's worded too strongly. No, changing the the industry won't, by itself, stop rape. I also don't think that recycling is actually going to end global warming, either- but I certainly think it's an important part of it, and I recognize when I see commercials that say things like "Save the Earth: Recycle" that they're using hyperbole.



Rape doesn't happen solely to deprive women of pleasure. It happens to remind women who gets the final say. How many years of activism pushing the importance of consent are being completely squashed and forgotten in the interest of giving fighting rape a Cosmo face?

Again, where do Friedman or Valenti say that rape is about denying women pleasure? The point was that a society that values women's pleasure wouldn't push the idea that a lack of "no" is the same thing as consent. It wouldn't tolerate or accept the really common attitude that "if I get her drunk enough, she can't say no" isn't rape. Because, if society actually valued women's pleasure and their sexuality, then people wouldn't act in ways that seem specifically to work against it.

And because I've been avoiding tackling it: this concept that women can fight rape by self-empowerment through pleasure sends a really clear message

The author would have done well to continue avoiding it, because it's not a concept that anyone else is promoting. Nobody is seriously suggesting that if women would just start enjoying sex, we wouldn't have rape anymore. Again, that idea is so clearly insane that I don't understand why the author would jump to that conclusion. I really don't.

the problem of rape can be solved by changing women's response to sex. It's the fault of the victim, right? YOU DON'T NEED TO EMPOWER WOMEN TO SAY YES! Is shame an issue? Sure, for some folks. Does rape happen any less to women who don't have shame around sex? Does that question really need to be answered? For the sake of the glassy-eyed that are reading: Rape creates shame. Shame may have been there already, but it'll pretty sure mcome in afterwards. Guess what? "She was asking for it" isn't the line usually put on women who are visibly ashamed of and cloaking their bodies who are subsequently raped. Ending shame to end rape is like casting broken bones to stop bones from getting broken in the first place.

And, see, that's exactly why reading it that way is so clearly wrong. If you've got the choice between reading the suggestion as "If women would just say 'yes' more often, there'd be less rape" (which is, again, fucking insane), and "if society valued women's sexuality more, there'd be less rape" (which is, at the very least arguably true), why would you go with the insane reading? I just don't get that.

* Rethinking sexual interaction as a private joint performance, as opposed to as an exchange of a commodity or service

As someone who's had a mess of great sex that was neither private nor (assuming they mean only two) joint, as well as someone who's engaged in sex as an exchange of services (and when done in the interest fof mutual pleasure, isn't that an exchange of services as well?) I'm rather uninclined to shove sex back into the marriage bed where it never needed to be restricted to (and never successfully was, anyway). Sexual interaction comes in more flavors than jellybeans. It comes in more colors than your bright shiny book covers. If you personally don't enjoy them that doesn't make them rape. It just means you shouldn't give consent to engage in them yourself. Sweet christ on a crouton.

I can sort of agree with the author about the phrase “private joint performance” in so far as I’m uncomfortable with the word “private” there, but I think, again, that he's the author is giving a really unfair reading to what is being suggested and said- nowhere do Friedman or Valenti suggest that sex should be shoved back into the marriage bed- the suggestion is that society's view of sex should shift away from sex as a commodity (sex is something that women have that men must barter/lie/cheat/steal to get from them), to sex as a performance (something that people engage in together- something akin to dancing, for example). I think that a performance model of sex is healthier than the current model, which is, in our society, very much commodity.

They undercut and render unimportant and invisible past action to combat male supremacy; suggest that women are responsible for rape throughout society if they do not personally make efforts to enjoy their own sex, and and and… -fumes-

I know, I'm a broken record, but... seriously, they're not suggesting that women are responsible for rape throughout society if they don't personally make efforts to enjoy their own sex!

Again: That. Is. Insane.

Think whatever you want about FFF and of Friedman and Valenti, but I've never been under the impression that either of them are victim blamers, and I've certainly never gotten the impression that either of them was insane. So, I'm not inclined to jump to the worst possible reading of their words when there are other, less blatantly bad readings.

And you know, I get where a lot of the above is coming from, I think. Because, yeah, there's a lot of ugly history around mainstream feminists ignoring certain issues, and, yeah, the blowup around FFF has created a lot of bad blood. And, yeah, there are some legitimate concerns to be had- and I think that it's wrong for someone to pretend that the issues of white, middle-class women are the only issues that women face or the only issues that feminists should be concerned with. But I also think it's really wrong and harmful to misrepresent what is actually being proposed in an effort to discredit the works of those feminists you don't personally like.

There are lots and lots of people that I find personally unpleasant or with whom I have serious issues. I don't think that excuses or justifies misrepresenting their words, though. I'm totally for criticizing the actual content of the proposal, but, just like I don't see the value in attacking the strawfeminist of "conventional feminist wisdom" (which, as Andrea points out, plays directly into divisiveness of the sex-pos/anti-porn debate) when they could be reaching out to all feminists, I don't see the value in taking a personal grudge to the extreme by deliberately misreading and misrepresenting the work that's being attempted here.

Is all of it new? Of course not. The reality is that most feminist discourse isn't new- feminists have been busting their asses for, you know, a long time now, and they've done a lot of work, so, yeah, a lot of this stuff is stuff that's probably been said in some form or another. Does that mean that nobody else can write about it, now? The fact that it's been said before doesn't stop people from still talking about it again, and if the message hasn't reached the mainstream yet, maybe there's some value in collecting some of these ideas in one place, and trying again?

I'm just not sure what the value is in tearing down this project like this. Justified criticism of some of the wording aside, I don't understand trying to tear the project down. I don't understand the vitriol being offered here. Do any of us really believe that female sexuality and pleasure is valued by our society? Do any of us think that we'd be worse off if it was? No?


At worst, you might believe that we'd be no better off if people believed that only yes means yes. If that's the case, don't offer support, or offer that criticism. But, there's plenty of room for differing opinions on that without suggesting that this book is somehow going to set us back and OMG! It's going to BLAME THE VICTIMS! Because, right, it's not.

You don't have to like the editors or agree with their premises to treat their proposal fairly.

And that post doesn't.

Edited - Saturday Dec. 22

It has been brought to my attention that "the He your quoting in all your desperate need to be fair and show how nuanced you are

is a TRANSPERSON ( but way to set up the kind of underhanded privileged male picking on women jab yeah you EXCEPT NO)"

I used the pronoun "he" here: "I can sort of agree with the author about the phrase “private joint performance” in so far as I’m uncomfortable with the word “private” there, but I think, again, that he's giving a really unfair reading to what is being suggested and said"

If anybody else interpreted that as an example of a privileged male picking on women jab, or my attempting to suggest that it was such, that was not, in fact, my intention, and I'm sorry that it came across that way.

While I was aware of the fact that imfallingup identifies as a transperson (the , the profile from the LJ page indicates "I'm a radical queer with a body that tends to be read as male-to-female-that-needs-to-learn-to-shave and an actual history slightly more complex than that (ftm is relevant but for now I'm just calling myself tranny)." I used the pronoun "he" based on the "ftm" comment, but if "he" is inaccurate, I sincerely apologize. Based on the main page, which makes it pretty clear that imfallingup identifies as trans, I made sure to check the profile, to see how sie identifies, and I'm sincerely sorry for my misunderstanding and getting it wrong. I've striked out the pronoun, to correct the error, but have not removed it since there are other comments that reference my mistake.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I want my dick to be neither sick nor dangerous, thanks...

I was cleaning out the ol' spam folder on my e-mail, and amid the normal mess of "male enhancement" spam was one with a title that made me do an actual double-take.

"Make your dick sick and dangerous!"

We apparently live in a world where that seems like a good promotional tactic to someone. I'm not sure which is more disturbing: the person who thinks that's good ad copy, or the person who reads that and thinks "Why, yes. Yes I would like to make my dick sick and dangerous!"

Monday, December 17, 2007

Commercials make me laugh and cry...

I've been watching more television since I moved a few months back (the curse of having cable television again is that my love of crime drama and cartoons can be fed more regularly. Curse you CSI, and your intriguing characters and stylistic who-done-its!). One of the drawbacks of watching of television over movies is that, well... there are commercials. Most commercials are just stupid or annoying, and a few are kind of funny or interesting.

One commercial that I've seen a number of times, now, that's been really getting on my nerves is the commercial for Mirena. You can watch the ad there, too. Mirena is an IUD, is 99.9% effective, and lasts for up to 5 years. It's also, apparently, for women who "have had a child" and "are in a stable relationship". When you click on the "Who can use Mirena?" under their FAQ, it tells you:
Mirena is appropriate for women who:
    Have had at least one child

    Are looking for an effective, reversible form of birth control that's easy to use

    Are in a mutually monogamous relationship

Now, my initial reaction was to be annoyed by this. It's the same problem that women who want to get surgically sterlized face- they're basically being told that, if you don't have kids yet, you're not the right person for longterm or permanent birth control. Still, I thought, there might be a reason... after all, pregnancy does alter your body, so maybe there was a reason?

So, I checked the World Health Organization's Medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use: Intrauterine devices page. A little research, and I learned that Mirena is classified as LNG-IUD. So, we take a look at the Parity section- that is, have you had children or not- and what do we find? If you're parous, you're rated at 1. That's good. It means that you are very eligible. If you're nulliparous- have not had children- you're rated a 2. Which is still very good, especially when you read the evidence note:

Evidence: There are conflicting data regarding whether IUD use is associated with infertility among nulliparous women, although recent, well-conducted studies suggest no increased risk.

(Also: They have a section for Romacing the Bedroom? Ugh)

So, yeah, I still find it annoying. But, I'm willing to admit that I'm coming to this with limited understanding of all of the medical stuff. Is there legitimate reason why a woman having multiple partners shouldn't use an IUD?

Moving on: Burger King has a new ad where they show what happened when they had one of their locations stop serving the Whopper. To quote the commercial- people freaked. It was "Whopper Freakout". Which is fine, if stupid. After all, if McDonalds stopped serving the Big Mac or Happy Meals, you'd likely get a lot of people saying things like "This is stupid. That's crazy." etc.

Near the end of the video, they give people the wrong burgers and act like it's the customer's fault. Which, of course, pisses them off. They see this as evidence that people just have to have the Whopper. I see it as evidence that customers don't like to be treated like idiots and want to receive the things that they paid for. I suspect if I went to McDonalds and served a Whopper instead of a Big Mac, people would get pissed, too. But, whatever.

You can see the part that really has me annoyed and confused at 4:30.

"If Burger King doesn't have the Whopper, they might as well call themselves Burger Queen."

I mean... what does that even really mean? Burger Queen? Like, what, if Dairy Queen started serving a shitty burger covered in Thousand Island dressing they'd become Dairy King, but since they don't, they're just a Queen? It's obviously meant as an insult, but I just don't understand what the insult is supposed to imply- Whoppers are manly and if you don't have them you're a girl?

I guess it's convenient that I think Burger King is shite anyway.

A commercial I did like, though, was the Mr. T spot for World of Warcraft. No feminist analysis, it's just him talking about his Night Elf's mowhawk or something like that. And when the devs try to tell him that there aren't mowhawks, Mr. T yells at them. I bet he pities the fools. It made me laugh. *shrug*

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mangina? Is that supposed to be clever?

I just wanted to share some of the ol' mailbag. On my post about the anti-Semites beating someone up for saying "Happy Hanukkah" an anonymous poster replied:

hey Mr Mangina, so what was it that made you become such a misandrist? don't blame all men for uncle bob making you touch his wee wee all those times.

I've deleted the comment, but I wanted to share. I deleted the comment because:
1. It was completely off topic. The topic of the post was about religious intolerence and Christmas.
2. It was nothing but a personal insult.

If you've got something on-topic and of substance to say, by all means, tell me what you disagree with me about. But, if your only intent is to personally insult me, do it on your own space, not mine. I don't blame all men for anything. I do blame assholes for being assholes, though.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"The War _____ Christmas": Fill in the blank.

While certain conservatives would have you believe the correct choice there is "on", I'm really thinking that it's looking more like "of".

I almost feel like I should apologize for the Christmascentric posting this week, but, seriously, the hits, they just keep on coming. Today's "Are you fucking kidding me?!" moment comes court-a-see of Pandagon, who made me aware of this story about a Jewish man attacked on the subway.

His crime? Responding to a "Merry Christmas" with a "Happy Hanukkah." On the last day of Hanukkah. Two weeks before Christmas.


So, basically, the story goes like this: A group of Jewish twenty-somethings are on the Q train to Brooklyn, when someone offers a "Merry Christmas". One of the men, let us call him Walter Adler (since that's his name) replies back with "Happy Hanukkah". Which, to reiterate, makes sense, given that it was, in fact, Hanukkah. And not Christmas. And he's Jewish. Not Christian. In a sane and rational world, the story would end there, or maybe with someone responding back "Happy New Year" or "Merry Kwanzaa" or whatever. In a musical, they'd all end up singing "Jingle Bells". Sadly, we live in neither a sane and rational world, nor a musical.

Instead, we live in a world where some twit... well, twelve twits, in fact... think that the appropriate response to being wished a happy Hanukkah is "Oh, Hanukkah. That's the day that the Jews killed Jesus" and to hurl anti-Semitic insults at the group of men.

Oh, and to beat them up.

That's the Christmas spirit, alright. If there's one thing worth celebrating at Christmas, it's Jesus' love of senseless violence and cultural/religious intolerance. I know Jesus, and he'd totally want us to beat people up, break their noses, and give them stitches for well wishing. He'd certainly want us to confuse the festival of lights- a holiday that celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by Antiochus IV sometime around 160 or 170 BCE- with the celebration of his death. Which, in fact, the Jewish don't celebrate.

But many Christians do. It's called GOOD FRIDAY, people. For the love of... well, Christ... Good Friday is the holiday marking Jesus' death, not Hanukkah!


It gets better, though. One of the attackers, Joseph Jirovec, has already been convicted of an earlier bias attack against four black men in Gerritsen Beach, and, gods help us, claims that he's "trying to stay out of trouble" because he wants to "straighten out everything" in his life. Oh, and he wants to join the military after he serves his jail time.

Here's a clue, JJ: Staying out of trouble would involve not jumping people on the Q train. In fact, it would preclude beating people up, regardless of where they are. Ass.

Now he's claiming that the attack wasn't anti-Semitic, or religiously motivated. After all, his mother is Jewish, so he can't be an anti-Semite. Also, he wants everyone to know that he's a member of the Bloods, and most of his friends are black, so he can't be a racist, either.

There are photographs of Jirovec and three of the other attackers over at The Moderate Voice, if you want to see the face of this brain trust. The pictures really are worth a thousand words. To say that they glorify violence and a disturbing attitude towards women is an understatement.

Still, there's a bit of a silver lining to the story: A good Samaritan, in the form of Hassan Askari, jumped in to help the victims, and gave Adler a chance to pull the emergency stop cord. Askari came away with two black eyes, and some cuts and bruises, but his intervention probably saved Adler and his friends from more serious injuries. Several releases have noted that Askari is Muslim, and that there's some significance to the story about a group of Jewish youths being assaulted by a mob of Christians, but saved by the intervention of a Muslim. I have no idea exactly how to read that, but I think it's amazing that one guy decided to stand up to the mob and try to help these people, by himself.

When I'm thinking of what the Christmas spirit ought to be about, I'm going to be thinking of people like Askari.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday shopping...

I'm sure that at least a few of you are probably like me, and wait until the last minute to get your shopping done. You might be looking for that perfect gift, or maybe you're just a procrastinator. Either way, it's tough. You want to find something super cool for the awesome feminists in your life, or you want to support small businesses, or you want to get gifts that are unique, or, or, or...

Whatever your reasons for waiting, I'm here for you, looking out for you, and generally stuck in the same boat by virtue of my being: a. particularly picky about what I buy people (most of the time), and b. a bit of a procrastinator.

So, I thought I'd share some great links that I've found or that people (thanks Jaclyn!) have sent to me, in order to help you (and me) find the perfect gift.

The Big Moves 2008 Calendar makes an awesome gift. Big Moves is a great, great organization, and this high quality, full color, 13 month calendar lets you show support for their mission (proving that people of all sizes can get into dance studio and up on stage) while you give a beautiful calendar to someone you know. Or, you know, to yourself- because who can't use a little size-acceptence in their day to day life? You've got to hurry, though- you've only got two days to ensure delivery by Christmas.

Also: Sticks and Stones Clothing offers some great in-your-face t-shirts to subvert the hurtful words that are too often used against women who make waves in this world. If you've ever been accused of being a "lying, man-hating whore" or of "hating freedom" or of being a "hairy-legged lesbian" by people who didn't like your views, or you know someone who has, these shirts are for you.

But, let's say you're looking for something a little less political, but you want to support artists who still make things by hand- what do you do? You shop Etsy, of course! Etsy is a really great site featuring tons and tons of handmade items from candles, to clothing, to soaps, to sculptures. There are tons of great artists and crafters(?... craftists? craftsmen and craftswomen? What is the term for one who makes crafts?) selling all kinds of different things on there. You could easily do all of your holiday shopping on Etsy, and find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, all while supporting the "little guys".

Speaking of supporting the underdogs- if you're looking to pick up some books this holiday season, check out In Other Words, a great feminist bookstore that runs on a non-profit basis. From their website:

In Other Words Women's Books and Resources is the last surviving non-profit feminist bookstore in the United States. For the last 14 years we have offered a comprehensive and diverse collection of books, magazines, and zines with a wide variety of subjects, including: feminist & queer studies, erotica, sex & sexuality, trans studies, spirituality, herbs, and non-sexist children's books, to name a few.
In addition to books, we sell eco-friendly menstrual products, cards, stickers, buttons, and a variety of locally made crafts for all your activist and gifting needs.
They've got an excellent selection (including awesome graphic novels!), and they're part of a dying breed- the independent bookstore. If you're going to be giving books- and they're a great gift- I definitely urge you to consider buying from an independent, local bookstore, or from on an idie store online if you don't have that option. As the little stores die and close up shop, we also lose the little publishers. Big box stores want to sell proven titles, and are less willing to reach out to niche markets the way indie stores were. That means fewer titles being published, and that means less choice.

Another option is to consider the gift that keeps on giving... like a subscription to Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. You get four issues of one of the best magazines on the stands today, delivered at no extra cost. They've also got an assortment of other products to consider, as well (the links appear to be broken right now, unfortunately).

If you're looking to give the gift of charity, consider investing in Charity gift certificates. This is the perfect gift for the person who has everything- you put up the money, and that person picks the charity that they want to donate to. Considering how many organizations could really use money this time of year, this is a pretty awesome investment.

And, lest I forget the children: there's the always awesome anti-coloring book series. Susan Striker created these as a way of helping encourage creativity in children, by having them color outside the lines. They're very, very cool.

That's a good start- feel free to add more to the list.

Ho, ho, ho! Santa just keeps on laughing...

Since I mentioned it in my last post (in an edit posted this morning), I thought I'd go ahead and make a post about it.

I'm sure that most of us read the stories coming out last month about how Santas in Australia have been banned from saying "ho ho ho", right? And, of course, this was seen by many as being a huge sign of the PC monster. Look around the web and you'll see tons of websites, forums, and blogs decrying the move as just one more example of how PC people are ruining it for everyone.

Of course, you'll see very few people who actually admit that they were wrong, and that the entire story was bunk/a hoax/sour grapes from a fired Santa.

Anyway, I know that I've complained about it before, but, seriously, I'm so very tired of seeing people whine and complain about the horrors of "political correctness". Particularly when most of the examples seem to be fabrications or, at the very least, serious misrepresentations of the facts.

I'm thinking I should start compiling lists of all the things that are supposedly PC garbage that's ruining people's fun, to see how many of them actually stand up to scrutiny, or how many of them are total bunk. Anybody care to contribute their favorite/least favorite example of someone shouting "you're just being PC!" about something?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Go Fish: It's called "Shut up" with a capital "S"

Let the record show: I love Christmas.

I love Christmas for all kinds of reasons. I think it's fun. I love giving and getting gifts. I love decorating the tree and seeing it lit up with pretty lights and ornaments. I love wrapping presents for people that I care about. I love having a big feast with my family, and silly specials on television, and baking cookies and all that stuff. I love that there's this celebration of happiness and giving that happens every year during what is otherwise the darkest, coldest, grayest part of the year in Michigan. I love that it's a holiday about a magical fat man in a red suit who goes around the world in a sleigh pulled by flying deer, giving away toys to children. I love all the sappy and funny and happy holiday songs.

Except this one.

Well, there are actually quite a few holiday songs that I hate, but this is the newest addition to the list, and it's certainly the most egregiously bad. The band "Go Fish" released this, and it's called, for those of you who can't see YouTube, "It's Called Christmas, With a Capital C".

If there's one thing that I hate about this time of year, this song exemplifies it. Every freakin' year they come crawling out of the woodwork. Those people who are obsessed with making sure that Christmas stays sacred. They're the people who rant about how "Jesus is the reason for the season!" They're the people who get angry that someone says "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". In fact, that stupid song starts off and has clips from some "comedian" (and I use the term loosely) going off on just such a rant:

I remember when people used to say things like "Merry Christmas" to each other. Everybody said "Merry Christmas"! "Hey, Merry Christmas to you Mr. Longstein" You know why? Cause it wasn't about your religion, it was about something as a culture we thought was so valuable that we'd all do it together, even if I disagreed with the religion behind it, because it was good for all of us instead of just me. But what do people say now? "Happy Holidays". "See, I just say 'Happy Holidays' because I don't want to say Christmas because you don't believe in Christmas because I don't want to offend you" *blabbering noise"... ...Oh yes, we want to say "Happy Holidays" because we don't want to leave anybody out. Really? How come there's a ton of holidays in February, nobody every says "Happy Holidays" in February, do they? They say what it is, "Happy Valentine's... oooh, do you believe in love?" But nobody wants to say Christmas! Everything else but Christmas. Why? I know why. You do too. It's because it's got Christ in it, and after 2,000 years, he's still intimidating people. You see, when a religious person says "I am the way", people don't want to hear it! They don't! I say you've got to say Merry Christmas, because it is! You don't believe in it? Fine! But I,I,I have a flash for you: Christianity happens to be the religious heritage of my country whether you like it or not... ...So if you're not a Christian, or you don't like it, and you don't want Christmas celebrated, God bless you! But let me tell you something, if you think you're going to stop me from saying it because it offends you, hey I've got a flash for you: put a helmet on! It's my country too!

The lyrics to the song aren't any better. The chorus pretty much sums it up:

It’s called Christmas, what more can I say?
It’s about the birth of Christ
and you can’t take that away.
You can call it something else,
but that’s not what it will be.
It’s called Christmas with a capital "C."

Where to start?

Well, first of all, who are these people that they're talking about? Every bloody year, I hear a certain kind of Christian crying about how "they're trying to take the Christ out of Christmas!" Who in the hell is this all powerful "they" that these Christians are talking about? Where is this huge movement to get rid of Christmas? Because, honestly, I've never seen it. I've never seen some subversive atheist/secular movement to get rid of Santa Claus at the mall. I've never heard of mobs of angry Jews gathering at public tree lighting events to protest. I've never heard of legions of agnostics sitting on public fences decrying a store that exhibits Christmas decorations or has clerks that say "Merry Christmas". So, what "they" is out there trying to take Christmas away and pushing this mythical "Happy Holidays" movement?

Second of all, screw you Go Fish. If you're going to write a song about a made up movement to abolish Christmas, let's get a few facts straight first, okay? Because, as it stands, you, and whatever comedian it is that you've got soundbites of, sound like a bunch of morons. Let's start with, as noted above, NOBODY IS TAKING CHRISTMAS AWAY FROM YOU.

Ignoring the reality that not everyone is Christian, and, you know, not everyone celebrates Christmas- either of which is actually a fine reason to prefer "Happy holidays" over "Merry Christmas"- there's the little issue of what, exactly, Christmas is about. Nobody gives a rat's ass if you celebrate Christmas because of Christ. Bully for you if you do. That's great. But, I've got a "flash" for you:

"Christmas" is older than Jesus.

You can call it Christmas,
but that’s not what it will be.
It’s called Saturnalia/Festivus/Dies Natalis Solis Invicti/ with a capital... okay, well, that part doesn't work so well, does it? The point is the same, though: what Christians have renamed "Christmas" is really an amalgamation of a number of other pagan celebrations. The Church renamed the festivities in an effort to win converts- it's easier to get people to adopt your faith if you can tell them "Hey, you get to keep the same parties!"

It's not people like me who are trying to kill Christmas, it's idiots like the comedian this band pulled clips from. Most non-Christians don't care either way if you want to celebrate Christmas. Why should they? If you want to go around wishing people a Merry Christmas, power to you. But, this kind of obnoxious belligerence really pisses people off. As a culture, we're in no danger of not celebrating Christmas, okay? Seriously, the decorations were out in stores before Halloween this year. The bell ringers are still out in force. I see tons of houses with lights and tree farms all over the place. Every time I turn on the tv, there's another Christmas special on. Christmas hasn't gone anywhere.

But to hear songs like this, or people like them, you'd think that there were armies of angry non-believers marching around just looking for people saying "Merry Christmas" so they could gag them. Has someone gone up to him and told him "Hey, you can't say Merry Christmas anymore!"? No? Then what the hell is he complaining about?

It's a totally manufactured outrage.

Oh, and the bit about our religious heritage... That's fucking rich. You know what? The founding fathers weren't Christians in any way recognizable by today's standards, for the most part. They were deists, and they'd have probably found modern Christmas celebrations offensive and obnoxious. Most of our nation's founding members would have fainted at the sight of what a gaudy commercial affair Christmas has become. Do these jackasses really think that puritans or the Quakers would be cool with all of the hoopla surrounding Christmas these days? I'd bet a dollar that these flakes are Catholic, and I can promise you that our nation is not a Catholic nation, so you don't get to claim our nation's "heritage" like that.

Most of this is probably incoherent, but that song just made me so angry, that I wanted to spit. It's assholes like these guys that ruin Christmas for the rest of us. They're the main reason why people end up not liking Christmas. Well, that, and the whole commercialized, crammed down your throats starting in October aspect of it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go listen to good Christmas music, and wrap presents.

Edited: Thursday, Dec13th, 8:50 AM

I'm number one! Kidding. Sort of. If you're looking for the lyrics, I linked to them above. They're not very good, though. The more I think about it, the more surprised I am that they didn't complain about "X-Mas" (which has been common since the sixteenth century) or repeat the claim that stores prohibited the use of Christmas by employees or continue to spread the rumor about Santas being prohibited from saying 'Ho ho ho!'

Also: The song still sucks.

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's like Swift making an Irish roast...

I started to write a post on the article from Pyschology Today that Kevin wrote about here, but I just couldn't do it. His post is great, and I left a comment about the hair color thing, and if you want to annoy yourself, you can read the original article.

Instead, I want to talk about baby221's post about the unborn baby ornaments. You can see the original ad for the ornament on

Baby221 originally didn't realize that the item was intended as satire when she wrote the first half of her post. Later, she updated once she realized the intent, but raised an interesting question about our readings of various texts. Basically, she wonders whether knowing that this was intended as satire excuses it:

does “knowing” that it’s satire make it any better? I mean, it makes me feel loads better if a bit stupid, but what kind of interpretation can we be expected to make without context? i.e., if you went into someone’s house and saw it on the mantle, or on the tree?

And what kind of contribution does this make on the representation, the “life” of the fetus as we know it? Is it as subversive as it thinks it is, or does it play into the hands of pro-lifers by working within their frames?

I kinda get the idea that if I left these at my mother’s parish they’d be taken home and displayed quite proudly, without a hint of irony. Maybe this is just me trying to save face, but it seems too easy to strip them from their ironic intent; all you have to do is take it out of the box, away from its website and the rest of its context. And then all you’ve got left is this disturbing image of a little man in space (Petchesky’s Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction — read her, if you haven’t) … with a gun.

I have a response there, too, but I'm going to expand on it, here.

My general feeling is that this item should be pretty easily read as satire, in the same way that "A Modest Proposal" is. If you're a reasonable person, the sight of a fetus carrying a submachinegun or a rifle ought to strike you as, at the very least, odd. I'd go a bit further, and say that it should probably creep you out, make you laugh, or disturb you, depending on the context that you're seeing it.

I think that baby221 raises a good point, though- as it currently stands, a lot of people "missed the joke" as it were. As much as it distresses me, a lot of people read this item as "real", in the sense that it was read as not being a "joke" item (as opposed to it being fictional, or not actually for sale, which would be untrue).

The distressing thing to me isn't the item itself, though, it's what the item says about the current state of our world. If you can see a fetus carrying a rifle and wearing a military backpack, trapped in a plastic bubble, and think that it's actually intended as a piece of pro-life "culture of life" pride, it says a lot about the state of the debate. If we can read that as serious, it suggests to me that some of the arguments that are actually intended as serious must be really outlandish.

In order for us to read this item as "real", it must have seemed plausible that pro-lifers would actually do something like this- that they'd see this as an appropriate way of expressing the "culture of life." If we can read the description- "Protect our troops - from the womb to the war. What if the fetus you were going to abort would grow up to be a soldier bringing democracy to a godless dictatorship" and "If only a womb were this safe, attractive, and reasonably priced... that you support the 'culture of life' by buying and proudly displaying one of these patriotic unborn Americans" without realizing that it's a joke/satire, then I think that maybe we need to consider how screwed up the actual arguments we're dealing with must be.

Baby221 goes so far as to point out that members of her mother's parish would probably display these proudly, stripped of the context of the joke. I think that is troubling. If we've reached the point where pro-lifers think that a fetus carrying a gun is anything but a joke or disturbing, then I think we're reaching a point of absurdity that I'm not sure what to do about.

It's tantamount to people nodding their heads and saying "You know, he's right. I bet an Irish kid would be pretty tasty with some gravy and mashed potatoes."


The more I look at the picture of the ornament, the more I realize that I could probably make those. The "fetus" and the weapons are both available at the local dollar stores. The only thing would figuring out how to get them inside of the bubble. my guess is that the bubble is actually just a clamshell style bulb that you seal with transparent glue, but I don't see a seam in the picture, so I can't be sure.

Thinking Green... Eco-friendly design can be exciting.

There's a really interesting series of posts developing over at Gems Sty, about green design. The author of the blog, KK, is an industrial designer in Singapore. He's had a number of other really interesting posts, and thinks of his site as a collection of gems he's found on the internet. Not a bad way of thinking about it, I say.

Anyway, so far he has three posts up about the GreenHouse Effect, which is a study/exploration of green/sustainable design for the home. One of the things that makes this project so interesting, to me, is that they've recognized and abandoned a lot of the traditional approaches to eco-friendly design:

1. Guilt - "Guilt is often a primary psychological emotion to exhort the consumers into alternative actions"
2. Stats - "Statistics may be quite illuminating when analyzing macrotrends - but they seldom connect intimately with the user."
3. Sacrifice - "the argument in this is that if everyone does some green thing, the world can be saved. The person is thus persuaded to make some personal, noble sacrifices for the greater good of humanity. But sacrifices are what they are: sacrifices."
4. Technology - "Important as it is, technological and material eco-innovations are seldom visible or directly appealing to the user."
5. Recyclability - "recycling is just a small component of the whole picture of sustainability. It’s often exacerbated by the fact that ‘green-as-recyclebility’ often turns up in many frivolous products, as much to assuage guilt while encouraging consumption."

As KK points out, these are all important factors to green design, but, from a design standpoint, they're not all there is. Several of them rely on scarying or coercing the consumer to use them, which, in the long run, is not a particularly successful method. You might get people to adopt the design out of guilt, but people generally don't like to feel guilty or to use products that make them feel like they're being punished or are sacrificing.

So, instead of pursuing a traditional line of thinking, their team decided to create products that are "appealing to the users not simply because they are green, but because they are inherently superior (and green too!)". It's a simple concept: Create a better product, and the fact that it's green will become a bonus, rather than the sole selling point. People want to buy the best product they can, and if you give them the best product and it's ecofriendly, all the better.

Part one shows three of their product designs (one of which, I admit that I've never heard of, but which he points out may require some understanding of Singaporean culture). I really like the table design, with the built-in trash-bin. While I think you'd still have some trouble convincing the average American to purchase a table like that, I can see something like that installed in countertops, craft tables, or lunchroom tables in schools.

Even more interesting is the WaxPod- a refillable hair wax container. The interesting thing here isn't just that it's refillable- refillable containers for things like toothpaste have beeen around for years. The interesting thing, to me, is that the bottom of the WaxPod doubles as a refillable air-freshener. As KK points out, people frequently install air-fresheners in their bathrooms. Which is, of course, where they usually keep hair wax. Why not combine, or at least allow for the combining of two products that are frequently used in the same place?

Part two also contains three products, and I'll admit that I'm actually more impressed with these. Not being a hair wax user, and not being the market for a table, I'd be unlikely to purchase the products in part 1, but I'd absolutely buy the products in this part. The first design is something so astoundingly obvious, having seen it, that I'm really surprised nobody actually markets something like this.

The design is for a product called the Black Out Lamp. It's a seemingly ordinary directional desk lamp. The cool thing about the Black Out Lamp is that, during a power failure, you can detach the head of the lamp from the base and the cord, and with the flip of a switch, the head of the lamp can be made to run on an internal battery, and function as a flashlight.

As KK points out, there's no reason to purchase two products for the same purpose- illumination- if one will work. Not only do you purchase fewer products, but you also make it easier to find. I can't count the number of times I've lost flashlights. Plus, depending on how the lamp is designed, it could easily be such that you don't have to purchase new batteries, as plugging the lamp in might automatically keep the batteries fully charged and ready for use.

The other design that I think is really neat is the Post-It Notepad. Again, this is a case of combining two products into one to reduce consumption. Since people usually only write on one side of a piece of a notebook, and only on one side of a post-it note, it makes sense to combine these products. One side is lined like notebook paper. You write in it like a standard notebook. If you need a post-it note, simply turn over the notebook, write on the opposite side of the paper, and pull it off.

Anyway, those were the designs I was most interested in, but there are a couple of others that you might find it worth looking at. This is a great example of how green design can actually be consumer friendly, and how it can get your customers/users excited about your products, even as they happen to be eco-friendly.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The 49th Carnival of Feminists is up!

Just a quick shout out to Days in a Wannabe Punk's Life, host of the 49th Carnival of Feminists. As always, there's great stuff there, including a number of posts by bloggers I love. There're the Iron Man post from Living Between Wednesdays I linked, and then there's The Curvature, Feminist Gamers, Mind the Gap, The F Word, and Feminist Allies.

So, yeah, check it out! Great stuff!

WAM! Registration has begun! I'll be there, and so should you!

The Women, Action & the Media conference is fast approaching, and it's time to consider registering. This is a great chance to see some totally ass kicking presentations by a variety of feminists on a ton of interesting topics. This is a rare opportunity to get a chance to see sessions by, meet, and network with some really amazing people, on a variety of really important subjects. But, you have to register.

But, before you do, I know you've got a question, right?

"Who is going to be there?"

I'm glad you asked! This year's keynote speakers are none other than Helen Thomas and Haifa Zangana.

Helen Thomas, the first woman officer of the National Press club and first woman member and president of the White House Correspondents Association, is a noted author and presidential correspondent. She's been covering presidents since JFK, and has been raising conservative ire with her criticisms about the current administration, and the War in Iraq. Helen Thomas is, as Jill's post suggests, awesome.

Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi artist and author, and a former prisoner of Saddam Hussein's Baath regime. She escaped execution, and eventually ended up working with the PLO in Damascus, Syria, before moving to London in 1975. She's also a cofounder of Act Together: Women Action for Iraq, one of the founding members of the International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies, and is the chair of the Iraqi Patriots in Media and Culture. She's a contributor to such publications as The Guardian and Red Pepper.

As if getting a chance to see these two amazing women speak wasn't enough, there's a fantastic bunch of feminists putting together some really interesting sessions. Feminists like Brownfemipower, Ann Friedman, Lisa Jervis, Audacia Ray, Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, and and dozens more.

And they'll be giving sessions on topics like "Battling Backlash: Strategies for Fighting Back, Rising Above, and Making Progress", and "Dying for Your Entertainment: Gender Bias in News Coverage of Britney, Lindsay, Courtney & Owen". Or "Gender, Justice and the Future of Media - Building Our Long-Range Plan" and "Immigration in the U.S.: The Women's Rights Crisis Feminists Aren't Talking About". And more!

And, as a dubious bonus*: I'm going to be there! I have the extreme pleasure of being able to present with Naomi Clark. Our session is on video games and gaming culture, and is called "Feminism and Video Games: Expanding the Discussion of Sexism in Gaming Culture".

In order to attend, though, you're going to need to get registered, -OR- volunteer!

The regular registration fee is $145 for the entire event. That includes access to both keynote speakers, all of the workshops and panels, as well as breakfast and lunch on Saturday, the Saturday evening party, and a Sunday brunch. To put it mildly, it's a hell of a deal. But, I know that a lot of you are students, right? Well, WAM! has you covered- if you're a student of any kind, you pay only $45. For the whole event. Food, panels, party- the whole nine yars. That's a hundred dollar savings. And, if you volunteer as little as six hours of your time to the event, you get all of the above for free.

Of course, you'll need to get to the conference, and you'll need a place to stay, right? WAM! has you covered, there, too. The amazing women at CNW have put up a discussion board to facilitate car-pooling, and another board for finding room arrangements. The Cambridge Marriott is offering a special rate at $199 a night, and the HI-Boston Hostel offers dorm-style accomidations for as little as $40, which includes breakfast and WiFi, and is located right by the subway system.

Some of you have already been looking, I know, and, in fact, I've been told that the very first person to register mentioned my blog as being how he found out about the conference! A hearty thanks to Derek! Hooray!

The point is, it's going to be an amazing conference, and I'm hoping to see as many of you there as possible. It's not just a chance to net-work with and meet some of the amazing feminists that you read about all the time, it's also a chance to actually make a difference- it's a chance to find out what other people are doing to make a difference, and to learn what you can do to help. I really do hope to see you there.

* Bonus only available if you actually like me and want to say hello. In which case the bonus constitutes "will be glad to see you and say hello".

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Jennifer Love Hewitt's ass doesn't need your crane...

Zu-zu, over at feministe, posted about Jennifer Love Hewitt's response to a magazine that complained about how "fat" she's become. From the article: "The newly engaged Hewitt was snapped in her black two-piece swimsuit last week as she enjoyed a dip in the sea — but the “Ghost Whisperer” star’s larger-than-usual bottom soon became the subject of ridicule on many celebrity blogs."

You can read all about the dust-up The F Word, and see JLH's response at Feministe.

I'm sort of impressed- it took until almost comment 40 before someone started in with the fat shaming.

Thank you, Mike at 39, for these sage words of wisdom:

In other words, when someone on the fat positive side says “fat is beautiful,” they could mean one or both of two things. 1) Fat people are beautiful, or 2) Shut the fuck up and stop telling me how to live my life to please your eyes.

I’m totally down with (2), but (1) depends on something that just isn’t true. Fat isn’t beautiful, and let’s all admit something here — we all date people of attractiveness that is comparable to our own. If you’re a 7, you commonly date 6s, 7s and 8s. If you’re a 10, you date 9s and 10s.

This is a slightly different, and more honest, tactic than traditional fat-shaming, which tends to run more "but fat is unhealthy!" Mike's point is pretty explicit- he doesn't think that fat is beautiful. While I sort of appreciate the honesty involved there, there's the problem of universalizing our opinions. It's fine if Mike doesn't find fat beautiful, because nobody is trying to force him to. If he doesn't want to date someone that weighs over a certain number, that's his business. It's not his business to start gerneralizing about other people's feelings, though.

The point of the "fat is beautiful" movement isn't to try to convince people like Mike that they're wrong, it's to try to fight the overwhelming social message that tells us that even the slightest bit of weight ruins your attractiveness. That carrying some weight drops you from a 10 to a 7 (or lower). It's about recognizing that, even if you don't find a particular person attractive, other people might, and it's not your place to tear that person down.

Of course, a few comments later we get the typical fat-scaring technique in action: I know someone that works in health care, and it happens all the time! People come in that are morbidly obese! They weigh over 400 lbs!. They had to install a crane! *GASP!*


The response, when told to stop, was almost amusing:

sorry to hear you writing off the people my husband treats every day on the plea that it is beneath you to think about how they might be helped, or what about our society is creating this problem, which is likely a species of the same thing creating anorexia, which we normally get the horrors about around here.

The thread was about Jennifer Love Hewitt's criticism of a tabloid journal for talking about her "fat" ass, not about morbid obesity. I know that it's difficult for some people to understand, but not every post that mentions the word "fat" needs to turn into a discussion of "OMG! FAT PEOPLE ARE IN DANGER!"

The new way to end rape...

Define it out of existence.

If you're "motherly", you can't be raped.
From the article: "I understand her reaction. I did not fall into the stereotype of rape victims. I did not look like a whore. I appeared motherly."


If you actually are a sex-worker, you can't be raped.

From the article: "She consented and she didn't get paid . . . I thought it was a robbery."

I know you can't actually draw a pattern from two points, but, wow.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Regarding Criticism of Feminism...

There's a site called Feminist Critics that, a few months back, linked to an article I wrote. I found the discussion that followed really interesting. While the authors of the site and I disagree about some pretty major things, the conversation between myself, Bari, TS, and Infra was one of the few I've had with people who were openly critical of feminism that didn't devolve into name-calling (not that there wasn't any of that coming from other sources). Still, I found myself disinclined to return, for a variety of reasons. It's been a couple of months, though, and browsing through the archives has piqued my interest.

It's not infrequently said (including by me) that men shouldn't distract from or highjack threads on feminist spaces. This is usually said in response to someone who tries to divert a thread about FGM into a conversation about male circumcision, for example. Instead, we say, if men have issues about the ways that men are treated in our society, we men should create our own spaces to talk about those things. Feminist Critics would seem to be, in part, that kind of space. The primary authors are ballgame, Daran, HughRistik, RenegadeEvolution, and TS. They are "a single issue, narrow viewpoint blog. The issue is gender and gender politics. The viewpoint is what we call “Feminist Critical”, that is to say we look at feminism and other positions and belief systems about gender from a critical point of view."

You'll notice that one of their missions, stated explicitly, is:

We believe that ideas and belief-systems benefit from critical and in some cases adversarial discussion. That includes ours, so we want to encourage intelligent, courteous, evidence-based discussion and debate in the comments from a variety of viewpoint. In particular, we wish to attract feminists to defend their position. And if we’re unable to persuade each other of the error of our respective ways, we want to feel that we have gained from the experience anyway, and for them to feel that they have gained from it.

They also make it explicit that they will not tolerate or accept ignorant behavior, and that "this applies to all viewpoints including, in fact especially. to antifeminist and feminist critical viewpoints. We are not interested in opinions based on ignorance, faith, stupidity, or value systems which don’t respect human life. We want the discussions to be courteous and respectful."

I'm not one to shy away from debate or criticism, as long as it's made in good faith. It's clear that I disagree with a number of things that I've read there, but it's also true that I disagree with things that I read on feminist blogs sometimes, too. Despite my disagreement, my current impression is that the authors at FC appear to be genuinely interested in engaging with feminists about the issues they're having.

One of my last comments in that thread:

Regarding the interaction between feminists and feminist critics/men's rights activists, I think that part of the problem is that there's a lot of assumption of bad faith on both sides (again, speaking generally).

There are absolutely feminists who will decry your efforts to, for example, get better representation in court when it comes to custody battles, or whatever. That can't feel good. On the other hand, feminists have been dealing with people trying to reinforce inequality for a long time, too. They deal with men writing articles about how feminists and women are responsible for everything from educational problems, to divorce rates, to bad economy, to STDs, to... well, just about anything. I think that it makes sense (the lack of trust between the two sides), but it's not helpful. Both sides assume the worst going in- I mean, in this very thread, during which I think we've been mostly civil and I think we've been pretty honest about our feelings, there are comments to the effect of: feminists are a bunch of idiots who are best compared to cultists and conspiracy theorists, and all they care about is blaming men for stuff, not actually solving problems.

Afterwards, I was told that feminists are a group of bigots who hate and oppress men, and that we belong in jail.

I'm not sure if there's really a way to bridge the gap that exists. After all, I don't agree that feminists, as a group, engage in abject discrimination against men. If I believed that, I wouldn't consider myself a feminist. Of course, I don't believe that all men are out to oppress women, either.

A good point was raised, though; Feminism isn't monolith, and it's difficult- maybe impossible- to determine what the "average" feminist is, which does make a discussion like this difficult. It also means that any input I can give is limited in scope- I can tell you about my experiences as a male feminist, but that's not going to really be representative of feminism in general, for any number of reasons.

I stand by this. I'm not really sure how to overcome the assumption of bad faith on the parts of feminists and men who are doing advocacy for the issues that men face, except to be aware of it, and try to make sure that I'm engaging with what is actually being said, and not my assumptions of meaning. And just like I know that feminism isn't a monolith, and that the opinions of any particular feminist blogger may or may not line up with mine, I remind myself that the bloggers at Feminist Critics aren't part of a monolith, either- the fact that there are PUAs or MRAs that troll blogs I read doesn't mean that the criticisms at FC are without substance, or that the authors aren't interested in having real discussions.

Right now, they've been having some discussions about why more feminists don't read and comment on the site. I think that there are a number of reasons why feminists aren't lining up to comment, and certainly part of it is probably, in some cases, related to the assumption of bad faith. And, part of it is probably related to not having the energy or inclination to get into debates about the fundamentals of feminism or in what, in some cases, will end up being a debate where neither side ever budges. Still, it occurs to me that part of it might be that some of you have no idea that the site even exists.

So, I'm posting this because I know a lot of really intelligent people, and I thought that some of you might find the discussions happening over there interesting. Given that all of the authors have been particularly respectful, even if some of the commenters have not, I'd like to request that anyone going there via my link extend them the same courtesy.