Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
But when it comes to subjects sensitive like race, Carmen Van Kerckhove (New Demographic/Racialicious) , Latoya Peterson (freelancer), and Wendy Muse (The Coup Magazine) had really great advice about how many layers to think and write about this issue. They advised against getting into the weeds of "oppression Olympics," be conscious of your own biases, and don't be afraid to be wrong and learn more once the dialogue opens up.
It was a great panel, even if I was initially put off by the title.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
One of the most useful parts of this panel is that the women on this panel (Emily Douglas of RH Reality Check, Aimée R. Thorne-Thomse from the Pro-Choice Public Education Project, Cristina Page of Birth Control Watch, and Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon) are young and contemporary, but they've also lived though the journey from the pro- and anti-choice framework to reproductive justice. A lot of the national messaging in the 1990s was around privacy and coathangers, but that messaging was largely ineffective to young women, especially young women of color. The pro-choice movement still struggles to encompass the social and reproductive justice aspect of where the debate is now. By framing reproductive rights around health care access, reproductive technology, and environmental justice, the pro-choice movement can blow the pro-lifers out of the water. The problem is that so much of the institutional framework is still focused on Roe v. Wade -- a name that few young women these days really identify with.
Page brought up the history behind the op-ed she co-authored with a pro-lifer from Michigan called "The Right to Agree." She thought the facts were on the side of the pro-choice movement and not on the side of the pro-life movement. (Page noted that she differentiates between people in America that are pro-life and the pro-life movement that is largely made up of radicals.)
Changing the framework around reproductive rights and reproductive justice. Page pointed out that the mainstream media is uncomfortable with conversation around abortion. (Jon Stewart refused to have Page on his show when she wrote her book How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America because "abortion just isn't funny.") And, as Amanda pointed out, it's hard to drive the fight when you constantly have to respond to attacks by the pro-life movement like the whole "abortion hurts women" framework.
Sear the shanks before putting them in the oven.
Saute the veggies.
And this is what it looks like before you put it in the oven. Looks petty yummy, right?
One of the real tragedies, she says, is the Iraqi refugees that have been displaced by the war. Refugees are dealing with poverty and forced prostitution. Unemployment in Iraq is as high as 60-70 percent among men and 90 percent among women, despite the fact that there are 1 million widows in Iraq today, Zangana said. Women have suffered greatly because of the Iraq war. Before the 2003 invasion, women had a lot of legal protections including equal employment laws, required maternity leave, and nurseries attached to factories. Zangana said she would have never believed that things could be worse for women than under Saddam's regime, but they are.
Sectarian violence has been inflamed by the Iraq invasion. What they are creating in Iraq, she says, is armed terrorist groups. Politically we have a "puppet government." Outside the Green Zone, she says, the government doesn't have much respect or power. On the streets, democracy is a joke. Mothers will say, '"Shut up, or I'll call democracy.' That's all that's left of democracy."
One particular story Zangana told was of a hospital -- desperately needed in Iraq -- has gone unfinished for years. Finally, last year, the American contractors called work on the hospital finished, despite the fact that the building is nowhere near complete. This is eerily representative of the state of Iraq today. There seems to be no clear way to "complete" the work that Bush started on Iraq. If we cannot even successfully build hospitals for the people of Iraq, how can we possibly hope to build a functioning democracy?
Friday, March 28, 2008
Helen Thomas (introduced by Ann!) gave the keynote speech here at the Women, Action & Media! conference. Thomas has been a dogged criticizer of the Bush administration, but tonight I perhaps will have to offer up a critique of her as well. She noted that the treatment of Hillary Clinton has been unfair in the press and that Barack Obama is "walking on water." I think we'll debate who is getting more favorable coverage in this primary season for years to come, but Thomas claimed "being racist is more verboten than being anti-woman." It's not surprising that Thomas is identifying the same argument that older feminists like Gloria Steinhem and Geraldine Ferraro advance.
It's certain that sexism is frustrating, especially to second wave feminists that thought true equality was in their grasp -- the "upward trajectory" I've heard so much about -- but could never quite break through. I'll defend women who want to vote for Clinton because they view her candidacy as too historic to ignore. What seems like bad policy is to attack female Obama supporters and call them anti-feminist (although I've definitely met female anti-feminist Obama supporters).
Thomas' inclination to to start comparing marginalization is incomprehensible to me. Not only is it a controversial exercise, but a useless one. I don't mind if older feminists are voting for Clinton because they view Clinton's candidacy as the utmost of historic importance, but what makes me upset is when they somehow suggest that Obama "has it easy" or that he's getting a "pass" as a black man while Clinton is deflecting bullets of criticism. Running for president is never easy, so let's not pretend that Obama has it any "easier" than Clinton.
Update: I uploaded the photo.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
A new study finds that women who describe themselves as feminists are more forgiving than other women when assessing the attractiveness of women who are either very underweight or very heavy.But:
Feminists and nonfeminists tended to agree on which woman was the most attractive. But that woman was described by the researchers as somewhat underweight, suggesting that even feminists cannot fully avoid societal pressures to be thin.Gee, you mean feminists are subject to the same social pressures that everyone else is? And sometimes they fall victim to the exact same stereotypes everyone else does? Wow, thanks for that hard-hitting science. Granted, it was published in the very focused Body Images journal. I think the real conclusion to take away from this is that it's really hard to overcome stereotypes about what the ideal body is. After all, we're bombarded with images of the stereotype of attractiveness all the time. But the one thing that seems to help is when women identify as feminists -- i.e. don't buy into some of the ideas about how women are "supposed" to look and act -- the perceptions get a little better.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Users are given missions, including securing plastic surgery at the game's clinic to give their dolls bigger breasts, and they have to keep her at her target weight with diet pills, which cost 100 bimbo dollars.
Breast implants sell at 11,500 bimbo dollars and net the buyer 2,000 bimbo attitudes, making her more popular on the site.
And bagging a billionaire boyfriend is the most desirable way to earn the all important "mula" or bimbo dollars. ...
The site says: "Bimbo dollars is 'the cabbage,' 'bread,' the 'mula' you'll need to buy nice things and to get by in bimbo world. To earn some bimbo cash you will have to (gasp) work or find a boyfriend to be your sugar daddy and hook you up with a phat expense account!"
The advice on feeding the dolls is even more spurious, encouraging them to feed the dolls "every now and then" even though they want to keep their Bimbos "waif thin."
Although there are a number of parental activists that oppose the game (obviously), I tend to think the influence of the game is overrated. I think this might be feed into fears a young girl already has about her body image or sexuality, but if you're a normal, balanced girl, you'd understand the game is just a game. It's comparable to the argument about violent video games. Video games don't cause violence, but they sure can feed into tendencies that are already there.
Meanwhile, though, I'm not rushing to visit missbimbo.com, and I'm fairly certain the company created it knowing it would be perceived as controversial. Therefore, parents would ban it and therefore girls would want to play it more. But don't you love it when misogynistic sites feed into the fears of young girls and try to reinforce terrible stereotypes?
Even accounting for the environmental impact of shipping to the recycling plant, [one clothing recycling outlet] reports a 76 percent decrease in energy use and a 71 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions compared to using virgin materials.The article has more details about specific ways to recycle, but there seems to be a void to fill here. Many of the clothing companies recycle only their own clothing, or only one type of clothing (like jeans). Meanwhile, when I clean out my closet I end up with a mix of dresses, pants, shoes, shirts, and various, um, underitems. While it seems that Goodwill, when it partnered with Banana Republic, worked to recycle items, most of the time you're left with an assortment of goods. Maybe there should be a nonprofit that specializes in collecting all used clothing items and finding ways to recycle them. Meanwhile, I'll go back to cleaning out my closet and drop a bunch of stuff off at Goodwill.
Monday, March 24, 2008
I've been on the fence about the effectiveness of protest, which I tend to gauge about as effective as the civic duty of voting -- that is, when examined on an individual level, not particularly effective. But I'll defend the notion of the right to protest all the way to the end. There's no reason why protesters shouldn't be allowed to march to the Republican National Convention. In fact, by lobbying for a convention -- particularly the Republican one -- to be held in Minneapolis, they should have expected it.
The Anti-War Committee, a local group, applied for a permit to march more than a year ago, but was turned down because city officials said that city ordinances bar applications for demonstrations more than six months in advance.
On March 1, police granted protesters a "conditional alternative permit," but it provided no march route. The city attorney's office said a parade route would be approved no later than May 31, the lawsuit says.
Social psychologists Philip Mazzocco and Mahzarin Banaji once asked white volunteers how much money would cover the "costs" of being born black instead of white. The volunteers guessed that about $5,000 ought to cover the lifetime disadvantages of being an average black person rather than an average white person, in the United States. By contrast, when asked how much they wanted to go without television, the volunteers demanded a million dollars.This is indicative of how whites in America tend to judge race as rather inconsequential. There's a weird optimism among whites -- especially white men -- in America. These are the same guys that get angry about affirmative action and the "unfair" advantage women and minorities get from such policies. They tend to think everyone pretty much starts on a level playing field, even if that couldn't be further from the truth.
Mazzocco and Banaji were taken aback: The average black person in America is 447 percent more likely to be imprisoned than the average white person, and 521 percent more likely to be murdered. Blacks earn 60 cents to the dollar compared with whites who have the same education levels and marital status. The black poverty rate is nearly twice the white poverty rate. Blacks tend to die five years earlier than whites; the infant mortality rate among black babies is nearly 1 1/2 times the rate among white babies. And because of long-standing patterns of inheritance, blacks and whites begin life with substantial disparities in family wealth.
"The point we were making is, whatever the cost of being black might be, whites are vastly underestimating it," said Mazzocco, of Ohio State University at Mansfield. "You throw in the 5-to-1 wealth gap . . . if you wanted to put a dollar-and-cents value on the difference, you would come up with a number much larger than $5,000."
To me the consequence isn't the lost lifetime earnings, it's more about a lack of perception about how pervasive racism still is in America today. It's not just about the moment of hiring or college admissions, it has to do with compounded circumstances that put young black men in prison rather than in college. It is sometimes helpful, though, for those white guys to think about it in terms of dollars to get a perception of just how unequal opportunities in America are.
In a speech last week, Obama similarly argued that his former pastor had failed to acknowledge how America had changed for the better. But Wright's critics, Obama added, were also wrong -- because true equality is still remote.This is because of the "varying yardsticks" Shankar talks about. Whites tend to measure the status of blacks today in comparison to the past -- slavery -- while blacks tend to measure their status to a future equality. By any measure, blacks are definitely better off than they were at the time of our country's inception, but so are whites. But they are still facing inequality at any number of levels that often get overlooked. Most recently, when Bush cut funding for historically black colleges and universities, it was a clear signal in economic terms of how valuable the opportunities outlined especially for blacks are to Bush's budget.
Update: I forgot to link to the column.
Update II: Case in point: Pat Buchanan thinks America is the best country on Earth for "black folks."
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
As someone who couldn't sleep after watching Nicholas Cage's 16mm, I have my doubts about "feminist horror." The very idea behind the horror genre, which Rachel Corbett points out has a dismal record on female directors, is set up around the idea of manipulating and exposing our basest fears. It's a conservative genre by nature. We don't have enough time to get to know the characters -- and that usually wrecks the suspense anyway -- and the plots center on gender and age stereotypes. The women are always flat and easily frightened. And usually scantily clad.
Horror plots are so tired I stopped watching the genre years ago. I actually laughed my way through most of The Exorcist. Maybe I'm being too harsh, and Roth's films will feature strong feminist characters that don't run in fear at a shadow, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) of "DC Madame" fame, plans to amend the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to reinsert the 33 percent abstinence-only earmark.As I wrote before, this kind of legislation is disastrous and often ineffective at preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS. Furthermore, the fact that Vitter is putting women's lives at risk by preaching them to "be faithful" when he himself is suspected of not doing so (in an illegal paying-for-sex way, no less) is infuriating.
Sen. Vitter, not exactly a model for abstinence, or being faithful, has the audacity to put his hypocritical ideology ahead of evidence-based public health strategies that tell us abstinence-only should be removed from PEPFAR. He puts ideology ahead of his own reality in the ultimate paternalistic perversion of "do as I say, not as I do."
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Luckily, Brad Plumer has a history of thinking about this in the practical policy sense, and he has some great information.
[T]here's at least some basis for hesitation. In 2003, the Scottish government, looking to revamp its own prostitution laws, did a massive report on policies in different countries around the world, and discovered that legalization-plus-regulation comes with its own set of problems.
The study found that legalization often led to a dramatic expansion of the sex industry: In
, brothels proliferated to the point where they overwhelmed the state's ability to regulate them, and they became mired in organized crime and corruption. In many countries, child prostitution and the trafficking of foreign women also increased dramatically. Meanwhile, surveys found that many sex workers still felt coerced and unsafe even after decriminalization. In the Australia —often held up as a model—a survey done in 2000 found that 79 percent of prostitutes were in the sex business "due to some degree of force." Back home, I'm not sure how well Nevada's legalization scheme has worked. Here's a study showing that women in regulated brothels face significantly lower levels of violence, although here's evidence that conditions are still horrific. Netherlands
I used to think the most promising approach was
's. There, prostitution is considered "an aspect of male violence against women and children" and treated as such. Legislation, passed in 1999 as part of a broader "violence against women" bill, partly decriminalized the selling of sex while making the buying of sex illegal (pimping was already outlawed). On the other hand, prostitutes are still punished in various ways—known sex workers can lose custody of her kids, for one. And although the bill provided funds for helping prostitutes who wanted to get out of the business, many sex workers say the assistance is inadequate. Worse, because prostitution is not supposed to exist, there are now fewer drop-in health centers available for sex workers. Sweden
The actual effects of the law are still murky. Prosecutions of male buyers and johns went up dramatically, and street prostitution in
has dropped by two-thirds since 1999. But it's unclear whether the sex trade was simply pushed underground, as was originally feared. Stockholm
Monday, March 10, 2008
Monica Bejar, 37, lived in fear for over a decade. She came to the U.S. from Mexico illegally in 1989, and shortly thereafter married a permanent resident who turned violent and started drinking heavily during their first year of marriage. Over the years, her husband would offer to set her immigration papers straight, only to rip up the forms during bouts of rage.This is largely the result of xenophobic anti-immigration rhetoric. The discussion has moved from a more technical discussion about the vast number of illegal immigrants and what kind of services we're willing to give them to more of a vicious attempt to demonize, dehumanize, and push out these people who have been labeled on the right (and sometimes on the left) as anything from leeches to freeloaders.
"He would betray me all the time so I was afraid, not so much to go back to Mexico because I have family there, but to lose my children," Bejar recalled. "I was always afraid that because he was legal here that he would take them away from me." Finally in 2004, Bejar began petitioning for lawful immigration status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and was approved. She now owns her own business, and her three daughters feel more secure knowing their mother will always be nearby.
But in the future, women with Bejar's experience might not be able to seek the same relief under VAWA.
What Lee is talking about here is the basic human right to live in safety. Somehow, by applying the citizenship requirement to VAWA, we're willing to say that these women should be forced to live in fear and be prisoners of their own domestic situations because they don't hold citizenship. To me, that's horrifying. I'm willing concede that some people may want to put restrictions on the benefits you can access if you're not a legal immigrant, but some basic rights like protection against domestic violence, is something we shouldn't card check. We shouldn't even think about it.
Friday, March 7, 2008
[A]midst a much-grumbled-about season, I feel like I haven't seen sufficient grumbling about the politics subplot. Given everything we've seen portrayed about the state of Baltimore under Tommy Carcetti, why on earth would he be considered a viable gubernatorial candidate? Two years as mayor seems like a thin resume in general, and they've hardly been wildly successful, popularity-inducing years. The plot mechanics both require the Carcetti administration to be a huge mess and him to have a serious shot at going to Annapolis, but in the real world the political system's not quite that screwed up -- to get ahead you need at least superficial successes at lower levels.Read on.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Jess McCabe of Britain's F-Word has a piece in The Guardian today about women and online gaming. It seems that due to online harassment (which includes demands to have women post photographs of their breasts or "get the fuck off"), women who play online games like Second Life or World of Warcraft choose to portray themselves as male characters 70 percent of the time.
When Second Life millionaire Ailin Graef appeared on a chat show in the virtual world to discuss her success on the platform - which is more 3D chatroom than game - her character was swarmed by flying pink penises (the attack was arranged by "griefers" - users who spend all their time harassing others).
It seems that the anonymity of (male) users gives them the power to say and do things in a virtual world they might not otherwise do. As McCabe said in her post linking to the article, you could write a whole book on the psychology of harassment. But as far as I can tell, such books and studies don't exist. This is partially due to the "newness" of online communities, but as any female blogger knows, trolls (anonymous harassers) are common. It's strange that in a new world of communication, such old misogynist paradigms still exist.
Monday, March 3, 2008
In the NYT magazine piece, author Elizabeth Weil profiles Dr. Leonard Sax, a family doctor from Washington, D.C.'s Maryland suburbs and a leading advocate of gender-based schooling. She also describes 3 different public schools implementing single-sex education--an all-male and an all-female New York City charter school, as well as a coed district school in Alabama teaching children in sex seggregated classrooms. And she does a decent job in laying out some of the key critiques of Sax's work. Sax and Gurian exaggerate the neuroscience and get some of it flat-out wrong. Much of the science they do cite is primarily descriptive--it's not adequate to serve as a guide to making decisions about teaching or policy. And they ignore the fact that variation among both males and females often far exceeds average differences between the genders.
But, since the critiques don't appear until roughly halfway through a very long article--the first part of which reads like a puff piece on Dr. Sax--many readers may miss them. Moreover, while Weil's airing of critiques gives the article an appearance of balance, she glosses over a bigger issue: There wouldn't be a "controversy" over gender-based public education at all if Sax and Gurian weren't aggressively marketing their idiosyncratic--and flawed--notion of gender-based education.
I thought a less sophisticated version of this as I read the article. There's no problem with noticing that boys and girls do things differently, but the trouble comes in when you start pretending that that's the only variable in education and making broad generalizations about how all girls or all boys are alike. What's next, girls learn better in pink classrooms and boys learn better in blue ones?
Saturday, March 1, 2008
While the hearing promised to be just another boilerplate Capitol Hill event, things got exciting when a handful of self-identified abstinence educators swept into the room. As Legal Momentum Staff Attorney Julie Kay read a litany of reasons why abstinence-only education is inefficient, harmful, and inaccurate as means for educating young people about sex, preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and preventing unwanted pregnancies, one man stood up and shouted, "Who here can admit that if you don't have sex you won't get an STD?"Read on.