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Thursday, November 18, 2010

TSA + new scanners & "enhanced" pat downs = sexual assault

So, in case somehow you've managed NOT to hear about the TSA body scanners fiasco, allow me to inform you. On October 29th, new security protocols were approved by TSA to include newfangled body scanners that allow technicians to completely see underneath a passenger's clothing; for those who opt out of the full-body scans, they are to receive "enhanced" pat downs, which are like regular pat downs except that someone gets to grab your genitals and other sensitive areas on your body. WTF!!!! How on earth can TSA consider this a choice? Either let me see you naked (which is, technically, sexual assault) or I will grab your privates without your consent (also sexual assault). Apparently, even children aren't immune to the choice-that-isn't-really-a-choice-you-TSA-fuckwads. I've said it before (like out loud, not here on this blog), and I'll say it again: procedures like these do not keep us safe! In fact, they make it so none of us are safe, especially sexual assault survivors who have the misfortune of flying out of one of the airports listed here that are currently using the new scanners. Also, did I mention that these scanners are literally dangerous? This is outrageous, and I hope someone organizes a massive demonstration of passenger civil disobedience ASAP (the kind where you refuse anything but a regular pat down. who the fuck decided we should opt out and get fondled?? nu uh, not me); or at the very least, sues the bejeezus out of TSA and Homeland Security. Maybe if those departments go bankrupt they will have to stop making ridiculous infringements on the rights of regular, ticket-buying non-criminals! I'm sick of this shit, enough already!

I'd like to end with a quote from a brave man, John Tyner, who refused the scanner AND the grope at a San Diego airport, and ended up having to miss his flight:

"I don't understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying," Tyner said at one point.

"This is not considered a sexual assault," responded an unidentified airport security official.

"It would be if you weren't the government," Tyner snapped back.

So true, John, so true.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Burlesque and Aerialists at The Savoy in SB

So, I went to my very first burlesque show over the weekend for a friend's birthday. The show was pretty impressive considering I got there early and there wasn't a cover charge, tickets or anything. The performers (all white, slender women, of course) would do a 5-10 minute performance every half hour or so, alternating between burlesque, aerial stunts, and contortionism (?). Having never seen ANY such performances live before, I was in awe at their skill and bravery. The bar where they perform has been totally remodeled with beautiful leather booths and a swanky aesthetic that fits with the retro-cabaret vibe. The only part we (myself and the birthday guests) didn't like was the damn MC! He was supposed to provide the comic backdrop to the uber-sexiness of the performers, in his mime face paint and spandex pants, complete with a grating faux french accent. The worst thing about him, though, was the fact that he would sexually harass audience and performer alike in the name of a laugh; gotta love shameless objectification! Here I was thinking that burlesque was about strong women expressing sexuality and agency, but I suppose the people in charge couldn't resist throwing in some sexism, you know to appeal to "ALL"* their bar patrons. And of course, there was the whole male-sexuality-is-funny / female-sexuality-is-sexy dynamic going on.

We all decided that perhaps a female MC would have been better, maybe somehow made the whole show more feminist... but I could easily see a female MC pandering to the straight men in the audience, perhaps even trying to rival the guys in objectifying the female performers. It wouldn't be the first time... I think that a butch woman or a transwoman might balance things out, or maybe a gay man who ISN'T a sexist asshole (jury is out on the sexual orientation of the current MC). Too bad, because a club like that could REALLY tap into the queer/feminist community of SB, we need a space of our own now more than ever. I don't know if I'll ever patronize The Savoy again, is the performance worth putting up with a heavy dose of sexism every 30 minutes?

*conveniently forgetting that straight men aren't actually the only people who frequent this bar

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm an absentee blogger

Ok, I know last time I promised I'd be back and at 'em soon, but to be honest, life has just NOT STOPPED COMING yet. Work has become, strangely, my new main preoccupation. It's amazing how doing a job you love, as opposed to one you do for mere survival, changes you. And then the important business of making new connections here in my new home, putting down roots, settling in. If that weren't enough, my family has been going through some pretty massive changes, so I wasn't kidding when I said life has not stopped coming at me yet. Someday soon, I'll sit down and write an obnoxiously opinionated post, cross my heart and hope to die. Until then...

Oh yeah! And for those of you with the privilege, you best be voting today!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quick hits on current events

I feel like I need to ease back into writing here because I've been gone so long. Life has been chaotic and exciting and exhausting lately, so that's my excuse. Anyways, I just wanted to weigh in on a few things that I've seen around the interwebs so here goes...

On the "controversy" over validating birth rape as well, real rape: this has been showing up on all sorts of big feminist blogs for the last couple weeks, and really I'm bothered by the idea that people wouldn't see survivor's experiences as reason enough to call birth rape a serious issue and another instance of violence against women in our culture. I mean, have you witnessed a hospital birth lately?? The way doctors and nurses patronize and/or outright walk all over pregnant women in labor is just infuriating. Yes, they may have a baby trying to come out of their vagina (which could arguably be traumatic enough in its own right) but that does NOT justify some asshole doctor shoving his hands or an instrument up women's vaginas without consent. Cara over at the Curvature has the lowdown on this one.

Sarah Shourd, a U.S. hiker who was imprisoned in Iran for accidentally crossing over the country's unmarked border, has finally been released and is on her way home. Apparently, the nation of Oman posted bail for her because she was having gynecological issues... So, if you're ever in a fundamentalist Islamic prison, just bring up your ladyparts and they'll release you posthaste (?). Strange. Unfortunately the other two hikers with her, a friend and her fiance, will stay in prison at least another two months until their trial. Here's wishing them the best and that their release will be as soon as possible.

The governor of Virginia declined to pardon deathrow inmate Teresa Lewis, who will be the first woman to be executed in the U.S. in over five years. David Grimes, Commonwealth's Attorney for Pittsylvania County, claimed that Lewis was "as evil a person as I've ever met," reminding us once again that the worst thing a Southern woman can do is kill her husband. I'm not saying that Lewis should be let off the hook completely here, but her two male accomplices aren't the ones sitting on deathrow, and they were the ones who actually pulled the trigger. It would be interesting to know if the tables had been turned, if Lewis' husband had killed her instead, if Grimes would have considered him "as evil a person" he's ever met. Somehow I doubt it. Amnesty International is among those asking for leniency on Lewis' behalf.

And finally, can we all stop ragging on the appearances of Lady Gaga and Ke$ha already?? They are singers/performers!! Not models! (And even if they were...) I am sick of female artists being judged solely on appearance and how fuckable they are as opposed to their work. TO ALL MALE RADIO DJS: no one gives a fuck if you think they are ugly women!! Do your goddamn job and play the music already. Besides, I'm positive neither of those ladies would EVER for a second consider sleeping with any of you. There, I said it.

Hopefully I'll be back soon with a coherent post ready. Toodles!

Monday, September 6, 2010

I'm alive!!

I'm here, alive and well, believe it or not. Just going through some transitions lately, and haven't had time to post. Seriously. Not that you were worried or anything. *smirk* I will be back to my irregularly-scheduled posting at some point in the future. I haven't forgotten about you, little ol' blog of mine!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pregnancy and me [possibly] being a bad feminist

So I'm not a huge fan of my older sister's in-laws and their extended family. Let's just put that out there. And recently my sister's sister-in-law, Ashley*, dramatically announced that after one year of trying to get preggers, she and her hubby finally succeeded. I wasn't there for the nauseating announcement, but reportedly the family cried. THEY CRIED. Because she was their little baby girl and she was finally having her dreams fulfilled as an unemployed wife and soon-to-be-mother. To be frank, this woman isn't exceptional, she's actually rather ordinary with a sketchy sense of personal responsibility (no time to get into that right now). She's not curing cancer or becoming the first female president of the U.S. She's merely doing what women have done, and been expected to do, since forever: get married, birth babies. I know that my contempt for her is tied up in the fact that I feel forced to compete with her for my sister's and nieces' attention, and that I have absolutely zero respect for her as a person, but all of a sudden I had the ammunition I needed to TRULY hate her. She was a breeder! Not only did she not have a college degree or a career, she was resigning herself to motherhood in her early 20s. She was giving up.

Except, I have to begrudgingly give her props: she is one of the very few people I know who deliberately got pregnant because she (and her husband) wanted a child. They weren't trying to save a failing marriage, they weren't letting God/nature/fate take the wheel, they weren't fucking irresponsibly. They were expressly trying to get pregnant in order to become parents. So for that, for being deliberate and knowing that they wanted to have unprotected sex to create a child, I have to respect them.

Did you know that 49% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned? This number astounds me. Meaning that somehow, along the way, LOTS of women just aren't getting what they need to be able to prevent unplanned pregnancy. I know that this is related to a lot of factors (inadequate sex ed, availability and access to contraceptives, like-minded sexual partners, sexual assault, etc), but I also know from experience that society discourages women from taking an active role in preventing unwanted pregnancy and planning desired pregnancy. Sure, women are expected to bear the burden for preventing pregnancy, we're also expected to be the "gatekeepers" of sex and only allow access to the "right" guy at the "right" time (after marriage, of course), so isn't it kind of contradictory to say that society also expects women to avoid planned pregnancy altogether? True! But thanks to sexism, the miracle of contradictory societal expectations for women abound.

One incredibly obvious reason I can think of for why women are expected to avoid actively planning pregnancy is that OMG women aren't supposed to be initiating sex in the first place!! THOSE SLUTS! Women are supposed to be desirable but chaste, with no sexual desires of their own, so when a lady tells her guy that she'd like to get it on for the sake of procreation... well that's just unladylike. Slut-shaming is an effective way to keep women from being able to discuss sex and reproduction openly and honestly with their partners, support networks, and physicians. If you can't bring up the topic of pregnancy without being/expecting to be shamed for being sexual, that's a very real obstacle to taking an active role in planning your pregnancy.

Another barrier preventing women from planning pregnancy is the notion that God/Fate/Nature will take its course and that "if it's supposed to happen, it will happen." The miracle of life cannot be controlled by mere mortals! How dare we lowly women try to intervene for the sake of our own selfish desires to avoid and/or ensure pregnancy! I see this all the time with married couples who want kids someday but aren't quite ready for them now; this usually involves half-assed attempts at preventing pregnancy that result in an oops! pregnancy. But they're married, so no one really cares that this couple was essentially having irresponsible sex, letting chance make the decision. (Sorry, but irresponsible sex is irresponsible sex, marriage or no marriage.) The idea that some external, omniscient force is in control of whether or not women get pregnant is perpetuated by all kinds of well-meaning people and institutions, but it is harmful. It further distances women from having agency in their own pregnancies.**

Obviously not all unwanted pregnancies result in babies; a good portion of these pregnancies are aborted. But for those that are carried to term, what is the impact on the children born from these unions? Is it fair to have to be your parents' "accident"? How many of these babies are resented? Given up for adoption? Abused? How does these couples fair after giving birth to an unplanned baby? What are the true repercussions of women not being allowed to actively plan/prevent pregnancy? I don't have the answers to these questions, but I sure wish somebody would get on that already.

Sexism regularly prevents women from taking an active role in planning their own pregnancies, and unfortunately that is not going away any time soon. But I'd like to reiterate the idea that trusting women to do what's best for them, to make the hard decisions despite overwhelming social pressure, is one solution. I don't know if it's feasible to expect that 49% statistic to shrink, to expect that every pregnancy be a desired pregnancy. That's the ideal, but in the meantime trusting women, providing access to contraception and abortion, being supportive and validating their decisions to keep or terminate an unwanted pregnancy, is crucial. I have to commend Ashley for giving the finger to society and purposely getting pregnant because she wanted to; it's an all too rare occurrence.

*Obviously, this is not her real name, suckers.
**This is not a criticism of women who are infertile and therefore cannot have "agency" over their own pregnancies. In fact, I think that women who seek treatment for fertility fall squarely into the taking-matters-into-their-own-hands-and-telling-society-to-shove-it camp.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The girl with the strong opinions about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I just finished reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and... well... I had quite a few reactions to it. It took awhile for the pace of the book to pick up (at least a couple hundred pages in), and the author's constant fawning over Apple products (ipods, macbooks, etc) was fairly distracting, but the story was compelling. I L O V E D Lisbeth Salander's character, aka Wasp, who was truly a refreshing heroine: strong, intelligent, feisty, and definitely not a typical beauty. Not to spoil too much, but she manages to save the day more than once throughout the novel. But... I gotta say that's basically where the adoration ends.

The other characters are horribly predictable, to the point of being utter stereotypes. The rich, scandalous family and the working-class (ha! hardly) journalist with a strong case of Personal Ethics. Especially heinous is the middle-aged Mikael's absolutely astounding ability with the ladies, which I believe reflects more on the author himself than it does on the character. Much of the focus on economics and technology I assume are either too boring for the average person or too basic for those who actually know economics and technology.

My real issue with the book, which extends to a lot of literature I guess, is the way in which sexual assault is portrayed. The author actually does an incredibly decent job of acknowledging rape culture, even citing statistics on violence against women in Sweden at the beginning of every new chapter. He makes an effort to put shit in context. But then... he decides to include incredibly graphic (read: triggering) sexual assaults against the protagonist which are perpetrated by a sadist (major BDSM fail). I mean, really?? The level of violence in the assaults is actually pretty UNcharacteristic of reality, and the average rapist is NOT actually a BDSM practioner; just a regular ol' Joe (Johann?). But, you say, this is fiction! It's interesting and stuff! Well, it just seems to me that all of his grounding-sexual-violence-against-women-in-reality is completely undone when Larsson creates one of the more outlandish rapists I've read in fiction. Why? Why would he go to such great lengths to create a fictional world that mirrors our own only to basically delegitimize the experiences of most rape survivors out there?

Also, it must be mentioned that I, a human being who actually works with rape survivors for a living, did cringe while reading the assault scenes. They're not pretty, or the least bit entertaining. In fact, I question the need to have those scenes in there at all. Who is Larsson catering to?? Besides, if sexual assault is as common as he says it is (it is) shouldn't he expect a good portion of his audience to actually be triggered by those parts of the book? What is the author's responsibility there, if any?

Finally, I take issue with the way Lisbeth Salander is written to respond to her being assaulted by 1) eschewing any and all options to take care of herself and 2) exacting violent revenge on her assailant. Again, what is the responsibility of the author in this case? He's creating a character who is horribly assaulted, traumatized, but he writes her in such a way that she just happens to not want any sort of counseling, hell she doesn't even need help at all. She's independent, dammit! Not once, anywhere in the narrative, does she express a need to actually deal with her heinous assault. While I'm sure that there are individuals out there who may identify with Salander, they are most likely in the minority. While this unrealistic portrayal of trauma is bad, worse is how Salander's response (attacking and literally marking her rapist) is supposed to be applauded by the reader. It's supposed to be justice in the purest form. I hate to say it, but it's so typical that a man would write such a ridiculous and completely awful revenge scene through the perspective of a female character.

I just don't get what Larsson is trying to accomplish here; was he merely using rape culture as a plot device? Was he actually trying to create some very flawed commentary on the experience of being a survivor in the modern world? Why create a fictional world based on facts only to have your characters go through something so statistically inaccurate that their only choice is to behave like vengeful robots? Why Larsson, why?! *Sigh* Still, I really do like Lisbeth Salander, and I think, for better or worse, I'm probably going to have to read the rest of the series to see if Larsson sees the light in the end.

UPDATE: Melissa Silverstein's take on Lisbeth Salander as "The Girl Who Started a Feminist Franchise."

Monday, June 21, 2010

South African doctor uholds rape myths with "rape-fighting" condom

Ok peeps, this is seriously HORRIBLE. On the one hand, I have to hand it to Dr. Sonnet Ehler's for deliberately taking action against rape in South Africa, which is commendable; on the other hand I want to slap her upside the head for perpetuating the stranger rape scenario! The only way this would effectively prevent (let's be honest, it doesn't technically prevent ANYTHING) rape is if women walked around 24/7 with one of these babies up their vaginas. WTF! Once again, here's a solution from a well-meaning individual who hasn't taken the time to educate themselves on the facts of sexual assault. It's like college administrators who put up more lighting outside after the number of reported rapes increases in their Cleary Report: it assumes that the rapes are committed by someone the survivor doesn't know and/or already trust. 80% of all rapes are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows!! On that point alone, this "rape-fighting" condom is basically proven to be worthless.

In addition, this device limits the definition of rape to penile penetration of a vagina. This is incredibly problematic because it doesn't recognize all the other ways a person can be raped (digitally, anally, etc). Also, it only allows cis-women to be victims and cis-men to be perpetrators, which is just plain inaccurate. What about transgendered women who may not have vaginas? What about women perpetrators? You do not have to have a penis to be a rapist (god I hope that's the last time I ever have to write that sentence...).

The only good thing about this invention is that it is IMPOSSIBLE (or so they say) to remove the condom without a doctor's assistance, so if a cis-woman is wearing it and is raped vaginally by a cis-man, THEN it is a pretty good piece of evidence to have if a survivor files a police report against the perp (no word on whether or not it would even be admissible as evidence in a court of law). Too bad that she would STILL HAVE TO BE RAPED, and suffer the physical/psychological/social consequences, in order for this "rape-fighting" condom to even be useful. Not cool.

Nice try Dr. Sonnet Ehlers, but no gadget will substitute for good old-fashioned education and targeted rape prevention campaigns. In summation, "rape-fighting" condom: probably not very good at fighting rape.

UPDATE: Feministing's original and follow-up posts on Rape-aXe. Apparently it had made the rounds in the media years ago, wonder why it's coming up again?

Friday, June 18, 2010

On being in public

A few days ago I decided to stop in at a local grocery store on my way home from work and deposit my paycheck at the ATM there. Spur of the moment, but whatevs, I live on the edge ok?? So I park, walk into the grocery store and there's a middle-aged white guy using the ATM. I wait awkwardly (there isn't much space to just hang out, the ATM is located RIGHT at the entrance to the grocery store and I had to keep moving to get out of people's way as they entered/left), and the guy tries to engage me. He says something like "I'll only be a few more minutes, I swear." I was texting on my phone by this time, so I just kinda murmured in agreement, not really paying attention or even caring. I obviously wasn't interested in any witty banter with this dude, and I thought I made myself clear. Then a few seconds later, he says something to the effect of "See?? All done!" at which point was my cue to ... chuckle? give him a cookie? reward him for his ability to accurately predict how long his ATM transactions take? I gave him a painful wince and refused to make eye contact as he walked away. This was a relatively minor incident, nothing horrendous was said, no one was hurt, but it sure is annoying as fuck. What I don't get is, why when I (and most women) are in public, is it expected that our autonomy/personal space/right to zone out can be violated just... because? No reason at all, he just thought that I should engage with him, because I'm a nice girl and nice girls always give a smile when a guy engages them. But... I didn't really want to have anything to do with him, it wasn't anything personal (honestly, I hate going out in public alone, and I hate having to interact with people I don't know. It's stressful for me ok?!) but he just HAD to go and test that boundary anyway. It wasn't enough to just let me wait and text in peace; he had to talk to me and WOOHOO let me know that he was there. OMG a white man is standing right in front of you!! You should be paying attention young lady!!

Ugh. This is an everyday thing for me, to be honest. Just walking around my place of work results in all kinds of awkward intrusions on my private ruminations by men (it's a college campus! I'm not even on the street!*) And it's so fucking normalized that I'm the rude one for not responding to them bothering me. I think men don't understand what it's like to just BE in public and have people constantly try to talk to you or stare at you or compare your body to those of your companions or to have your ass loudly remarked upon in a crowd of people as if you can't even hear the fucker right behind you. It's harassment, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of feeling like "Shit, I don't want to go to the [insert public location here] alone, I'm gonna end up in some awkward sitch again and I'm going to feel responsible for it." I'm just trying to go about my day, people! Why can't I buy groceries or take a walk to the park or lay out on the beach without some asswipe insisting on making conversation with me? Am I so irresistible?? Am I REALLY that interesting?? Or is it because I look like I couldn't seriously be LESS excited about you following me to my car and repeatedly asking me for a date that you decided to do just that. People like this, people with no respect for boundaries, people who feel the need to assert themselves on others in public, people who MUST BE PAID ATTENTION TO DAMNIT, they are a glaring example of rape culture. No one has the right to another person's smile or conversation in public. No one has the right to bother or harass another person, to elicit a reaction, to make themselves feel better by forcing a stranger to engage with them in conversation. And I, for one, will continue to thwart these douches and their attempts to intrude on my public space by being as bitchy and unfriendly as possible :D

*I'm not trying to imply that "The Street" is any more dangerous, but that generally people have perceptions that this kind of stuff does not happen on private christian college campuses. This is a widespread myth that only perpetuates rape culture further, and prevents us from seeing it and addressing it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Getting back on track

Ok, so it's been awhile since I've written anything around here. Mostly because my life has been all over the place as of late! I had family visiting and I've been working a LOT and I've had job interviews up the wazoo and I've been wasting plenty o' time with this guy who I have no clue how he feels about me. Essentially, I've been busy.

One of the things that has kept me occupied has been watching re-runs of My So-Called Life on Hulu. It's way before my time (I was what... 9 years old?? too young for that shit) but at the same time I totally feel nostalgia for the clothes and the music and the iunno ISSUES of the 90s. Also, since not only have I never actually watched the show, it turns out I'm glad I didn't because there is some heavy stuff going on! I'm only on epi 3 of season 1 and already... 2 sexual assaults, several other assaults, underage drinking, talks about sex and sexuality... phew! I would have been in way over my head and most likely, I would have been Judgy McJudgerson on all the characters. I'm kind of surprised about how much Claire Danes' character, Angela Chase, is put through. It's almost like the writers wanted to torture a 15 year-old girl... almost. I think I'll probably write more about My So-Called Life as I watch the later epis, lots of stuff to deconstruct AND it's entertainment! Bonus.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On being pursued

ok! so, it seems that what a woman wants out of a relationship (sexual, friends, lovers, partners, spouses) is truly secondary to the desires and most importantly TIMING of men. GAHHH!! why is it that when I like a guy, they avoid the subject or play coy (and lemme tell ya, I'm pretty straight-forward, aka NOT HARD TO FIGURE OUT)?? why is it that when I like said guy, it's the wrong time or he likes somebody else or blah blah blah. there was a CONNECTION! but no... now that i've spent YEARS getting over said guy? and also suffered a pretty awful witnessing-him-making-out-with-girl-who-is-not-me event, he magically LIKES ME?! is this some kind of sick joke, Universe? because I don't get it!!

I do not like this individual LIKE THAT anymore. it's over, and there's no going back. once i lose the hots for a person, my libido refuses to go back in time and try again; it's like my sex drive's way of ensuring that i don't repeat the same mistakeerrrrr... guy over and over again. it's kinda nice, the way my sex drive has my back like that. because GUYS??? they suck. they like to hem and haw when the lady is putting it all out there! but as soon as she's turned her back... he pursues. and it's horrible and awkward and melodramatic. ugh. and really?? i'm not the kind of person who likes to be pursued. hell i'd rather be the person doing the pursuing! but really, what about reciprocity? what about two (or more?) people taking turns reaching out to each other, taking little steps toward each other, and it's mutual. that's what i want. so guys? cut this shit out. treat me like a human, and if i LIKE you, trust me you'll notice. RANT OVER.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A pro-sex approach to The Talk

First of all I'd like to say that D A M N I love sex :D Like, a lot. And right now I have the perfect sex partner (it's a long story...) who just totally rocks my world. And, I feel like this is something that everyone who wants to experience sex should be able to experience: consensual, sweaty, mind-blowing sex. Yummmmm.

I've been dwelling on the idea of sex, specifically sex ed, a lot lately because I plan on having The Talk with my younger sister this weekend. My parents only really got as far as menstruation (and lemme tell ya the details were sketchy at best) with my older sister and I, and I feel this did us both a great disservice. And as if that wasn't bad enough, they pressured us to opt out of taking sex ed in middle school (sigh, yes my family is Baptist). For me, this left a gaping dearth of information that was promptly filled with the worst that the media, my friends, and my imagination could dream up. Not cool. I'm a firm believer that education empowers youth to make smarter, healthier, better-informed decisions... or at the very least gives them the opportunity to do so. My intention is to sit her down and give her the facts as best I can, try to create a dialogue where she feels comfortable asking questions, and give her some resources that she can utilize when I'm not around. I'm going to attempt to cover as much as I can, including but not limited to: puberty, sex in all its various forms, reproduction, consent, and sexual assault. It's probably gonna be awkward, but I do NOT want my younger siblings falling into the same traps that I did when I started experimenting with sex! Not understanding how my body, or my partner's body, worked. Feelings of shame about being "slutty." Feeling pressured or unable to say "no." Getting fucked over by "hook-up culture" when I really just want a relationship. The list goes on...

In case you're wondering, YES I have been prodding my mom to have the sex talk with my sis for months now, however she's absolutely convinced that 1. my sister isn't curious about sex or puberty yet (couldn't be farther from the truth! little sis has been skirting around the issue with me for a year now), and 2. that it will just put naughty ideas in her head. I beg to differ. I haven't decided whether or not this is crossing some sort of parental line by giving my sis the basic information she needs to take care of herself sexually, but here goes nothing... TO BE CONTINUED!!! *dramatic music*

UPDATE: Ok so things didn't go quite as planned, I was pretty exhausted from caring for the kids all day and by the time the little ones were in bed my sis and I just kind of zonked out in front of the TV. Besides my exhaustion, I realized that my parents' home just doesn't feel like a safe space to have The Talk. There's a lot of loaded history in that house, and besides there is always the risk that the little ones would barge in on our private convo (I'm not opposed to them overhearing about sex but I think my sis would have felt like "omg WHY are we having this talk in a shared space??!!" Because I sure felt that way.) It wasn't a total loss though, I turned on Will & Grace and we watched it together, which prompted her to ask all kinds of questions about the gay characters on the show. Also, a birth control ad came on and I was totally able to explain to her how it worked. I'm gonna try to use this as more proof that my mom should REALLY have the sex talk with her now, but if she still balks then I'll try again later.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

M.I.A.'s "Born Free" uses absurdity to create social commentary

So I think that even people hiding under rocks have seen M.I.A.'s new vid "Born Free" by now. Alex Vesey over at Bitch did a nice write-up of it here. I just wanted to add my 2 cents about some of the more obvious social commentary going on in the film (which, keep in mind, we're not sure how much of the film was strictly M.I.A.'s vs. Romain-Gavras's vision). First off, I think the timing of the vid being released on the web during the whole SB1070 fiasco in Arizona can't be ignored. The uniforms the guards/soldiers are wearing in the vid have american flags on them. I think this is supposed to be a direct reference to both American soldiers abroad as well as the border enforcement at home. The red-haired, white (mostly male?) people are rounded up like cattle, treated absolutely inhumanely. Sounds a lot like ICE to me, dontcha think? The absurdity of the video, is of course WHO is being rounded up and treated like shit due to a completely arbitrary feature: red hair. An allusion to the irrationality of racism, nativism, and the mindless violence necessary to keep the status quo. There's an especially interesting disconnect that happens when we see that the most brutal men in uniform torturing the Gingers are white, and arguably not all that different from their victims. I'm not sure exactly what M.I.A. is trying to communicate with this video, especially with the satirical (I assume) title of "Born Free," but it sure seems like she's reading the current political climate in the U.S. pretty damn well.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A white girl's response to Renee Martin

I’m a white girl. I am also a feminist. However, I am under no illusions that my experience with feminism, that it is representative of my personal experience as a woman, is widely-felt. I hear what Renee Martin is saying, and I have no “yeah, but…” response to her complaints. They are legitimate. Despite what white people may say… feminism can be hostile to women of color. Feminism, while striving to include all women (e.g. woc, trans, disabled, elders, youth, working class women, etc), is still a product of our flawed, society. You know, the one with all the systemic oppression in it. So it makes sense that other oppressions, like racism, would be present in most mainstream feminist spaces/theory. I personally believe that feminism is not really doing its job unless everyone is represented and welcomed to participate in this community. Intersectionality is a must, it is necessary, it is The Key to dismantling oppression and it is the only way any of us is gonna see true equality in our lifetime. Therefore, if our sisters feel the need to be a womanist or an un-feminist or something else because feminism is too restrictive and doesn’t account for their experiences of oppression, we white girls better listen up and maybe do something about it. How about stepping back, making room for those who don’t necessarily share our fair skin tone, maybe sharing the mic more often, maybe we need to get more involved with race issues in a direct way. Show support for issues and concerns that are all too often ignored by white feminists. We also need to acknowledge the vast contributions that women of color have made, and are still making, to feminism. Renee has aired her grievances about the status quo, now how is feminism going to respond? To be continued…

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown knows whats up

It's nice to see a fellow lady blogger telling a would-be ally (who not only REFUSES to acknowledge his privilege, but actually complains that the ladiez aren't paying enough attention to HIS OPPRESSION) where to shove it.

Oh, and also, male studies = crap that's just too easy to mock.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Where have all the curvy ladies gone??

Alright, now I'm not the kind of girl who likes to hate on skinny chicks, they have their issues too, however as a woman who is technically considered "plus size" (whatever the fuck THAT means lol) I feel like I need to express the collective woe we bigger girls feel when curvy female icons join weight loss programs. Being large does not necessarily mean you are unhealthy, it may mean you eat more or it may just be your particular biology or any other number of things. But, I for example, just had a full physical with labs done and my doctor said I am INCREDIBLY healthy. That's right folks, this size 12-14 body is running like a well-oiled machine!! So what is up with actresses like Sarah Rue (who I loved back in the day on that show Popular) suddenly becoming a Jenny Craig spokesperson? And soulful songstress Jennifer Hudson similarly becoming a Weight Watchers spokesperson? Not cool!!! These women were beautiful, incredibly talented, and busted stereotypes left and right. I get that there is immense pressure for women in the media to conform to a certain image (read: dress size) but these women BEGAN their careers as fantastically curvaceous! They've already succeeded! Why the sudden need to slim down?

On a similar note, I'm downright annoyed at Gwyneth Paltrow for being an ignorant ass and complaining about how she "let herself go" during her last movie shoot. Really Gwen? Really?? Naturally slender women like you who fit every classic beauty trait to a T and STILL complain about their bodies are giving the rest of us a complex. Why not let yourself eat, dear god, fried food once in awhile and see how it actually WON'T kill you. Then maybe one day you could be a halfway decent role model for other women. I don't like hating on other women, honestly I don't, but I just can't stand it when one woman feels the urge to portray her low self-esteem and poor body image as concern for her (and by extension, our) health. So thanks, Gwen, for reinforcing the message that no woman is good enough unless she meets some impossibly high standard of beauty that is constructed to leave most of us out.

Also, can I say that this is just downright disturbing? A whole page on a tabloid website devoted to literally watching female celebrities' bodies?? What a shitfest of objectification of women and fat-shaming, while glorifying leanness at all costs. People definitely went for its demographic's jugular with this one.

To combat all this body negativity, I am prescribing some feel-good entertainment. Get yourself your favorite savory and/or sweet snack (mine is ice cream!) and pop in Real Women Have Curves. America Ferrera is fantastic and completely inspiring in this film about her struggle to assert her own identity even though her family, particularly su madre, has other ideas. A film with a curvy woman of color as the main character that passes the Bechdel test? Yes please.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Oblivious Allies Pt. 2

In my last post about allies I mainly vented about how my slightly more privileged (via class and gender) friend tends to complain a lot to me about his life even though the same things in MY life are a bit more difficult due to being a woman from a lower-middle class background. I found fleshing out my issue with this highly cathartic, but today my poor oblivious friend made what I consider to be a truly grave ally blunder: assuming that since he's "with it" when it comes to social justice issues, he thought he could make insider critiques about a group he is not a member of. This was accomplished by 1. ridiculing the content of rom-coms as not worthy of viewing, and 2. making a rape joke. Jesus Christ.

To be fair, I loathe romantic comedies, so I don't blame him for not liking them all that much either, but I think he tends to see them as crap story telling and leaves it at that. I, on the other hand, hate them because they are crap story telling that is specifically marketed to women and packaged in a neat, heteronormative, mostly white, happily-ever-after, traditional-gender-role-enforcing plot. I have no problem with movies that feature female leads and talk about women and their lives, I DO however take issue with the fact that ladies are apparently supposed to settle for rom-coms as the only medium that does this in the mainstream movie business. Yuck. So when I bag on a Nicholas Sparks film, versus my male friend doing the same, it doesn't carry all the weight of insinuating that chick flicks, by definition, aren't good because they are made to be consumed by women.

2. however, was just plain fucked up. Rape jokes are not funny because rape is not funny. It is a topic that is rarely taken seriously in society, especially when the sexual assault doesn't follow the stranger rape script. There are very VERY rare instances in which it is permissible to crack wise about rape (e.g. to be subversive and turn a stereotype on its head), but this was not one of those times and he is not the person who should say it. ESPECIALLY to a female friend who has experienced several forms of sexual assault in her life.

The lesson here, if you're an ally to a group of people, do not for a SECOND think that because you've experienced pain in your life, you therefore understand the pain of that group's oppression. If you're an ally, never assume that it is ok to make light of serious issues that affect a targeted group simply because you are more familiar with this type of oppression or that you understand it better than society does. It is not your place to point out internalized oppression in targeted groups, and it is not ok to assume that because you are progressive or liberal, that you get a free pass when it comes to saying shit that you have no business saying at all. If you're an ally, your role consists of supporting the targeted group and advocating on behalf of those groups with other privileged people. There, I said it. Rant over.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health care reform! Finally!

So it's official, we have healthcare reform. I have admittedly mixed feelings about it. No public option, no single payer option, no coverage for undocumented people, oh and that little bit about drastically reducing access to abortion for women (particularly those women who ALREADY have a difficult time gaining access). But... we won, right..?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oblivious allies

So I've been dwelling a LOT lately on the allies in my life, how they do/don't support me and others that are targeted by oppression. I have an incredibly difficult time identifying with targeted peoples, I was raised to work hard and keep your chin up, don't complain and whine about things you can't change, good people get what they deserve in life, we are not of this world anyways right, yadda-yadda, etc. Basically, these are fucking excuses for internalized oppression (for targeted people) and internalized superiority (for privileged people). I'm a woman from a rural area that largely consists of middle-to-lower class people, the vast majority of which are blue-collar workers. It's strange to be partially targeted and partially privileged according to which aspect of my identity one is referring to. I'm a woman, but I'm white. I'm from a lower-middle class home but I'm straight and cis-gendered. This leaves me dual roles as both ally and targeted person. And I bet you can guess which one I feel most comfortable identifying with...

I am not the BEST at acknowledging my privileges in life, I'm much better at it than I used to be, but it's a constant struggle to keep that shit in perspective. It's important that as an ally to women (and men) of color, lgbtq peeps, working class folks, etc, that I respect the different forms of oppression they face that I am completely exempt from. Yes, some allies do get flak for standing up for targeted peoples, BUT that is NOT oppression. That is the price allies occasionally pay for going against systemic oppression, whereas targeted people pretty much always deal with that crap.

I have a friend who is a white straight cis- male from a middle/upper-middle class background (he claims his parents don't make that much money, but I've seen their giant house and both of them have college degrees, and have invested money in his name... sooo ya). As one of the few male friends I have right now, and one of the ONLY close friends I have who is a card-carrying hard-lefty liberal, we often end up talking about 'isms. Or I just tend to bring them up around him a lot. Anyways, most of the time he at least pays me enough lip service to make me think "well he's got it! a straight white guy who isn't a douche!" But then he'll say some COMPLETELY colorblind, sexist ridiculousness that just makes me want to scream. I've talked to him a lot about the role of an ally, and in no uncertain terms have said that I expect him to behave like one, that he shouldn't just assume that we're on the same page and that if he SAYS something offensive I will take it at face value rather than waiting for the punchline. He knows all this, and yet he still complains to me about how hard it will be for him (a white male with a master's degree) to find a job when I (a white female with a bachelor's) have been working a dead-end job for the past two years, sending out resumes and praying for a chance to get into the my field of choice. I realize that there is definitely privilege in both of these positions, but for some reason, he doesn't notice the inherent differences between them. It also fails to register that all the jobs open to him pay about $20,000 more per year than the jobs available to me. I could probably list several hundred more small advantages this guy has had over me that result in a higher probability for success and freedom in life than I will ever achieve, but my point here is to say that allies should be aware of this stuff, that I shouldn't have to remind him at every step of the way that he has a leg up on me and thusly, shouldn't complain to me about the trivial struggles he faces. It's completely insensitive and smacks of ignorance.

The worst part of all of this, is when I confront him with his un-allyish behavior, and he gets defensive. I really don't do it that often, although he may disagree, but I'm a firm believer in picking your battles. I am careful to distinguish between his words and actions, and try to specifically point out what I found problematic and why. I refrain at all costs from calling him, the individual, sexist/racist/adultist/etc. I try to remain calm, rational. Still, calling him out puts me in such a vulnerable position, I don't want to lose my ally, and I don't want to be misunderstood as perpetuating some killjoy femi-nazi stereotype.

The difficult part is, that he is still my friend. I DO want to be a good, supportive friend and "be there" for him. I want to be able to listen to his woes like he (usually) does mine and feel empathy for him. It makes me wonder if other people I'm an ally to feel this way about me; that if only I'd quit talking about how hard it is to be [insert privileged identity here] I'd be a decent friend to have around. I'm gonna keep trying with this guy, there's potential, and if I don't show him how to be a good ally, who will?

A little about me...

So I think that a little background on who I am is in order. First of all, to clear up any potential confusion, I'm a white cisgendered heterosexual woman. I'm in my mid-20s, I'm originally from northern California (or "norcal" as we affectionately call it), and I'm currently residing in Santa Barbara. I have a bachelor's degree in sociology, and I have two jobs: during the week I'm a cataloging assistant at a local library, and I'm a rape crisis counselor on the weekends. I'm a feminist and a recovering evangelical Christian. I have a big family that is an endless source of stress, entertainment and love to me (I'm sure I'll write more about them later!). I grew up in a rural area, in a very small town that generally doesn't show up on most maps; as a result I'm used to driving inordinately long distances just to do normal things like go to Target or see a movie or go bowling. I didn't start to connect everyday injustices to systems of oppression until my second year of college, and it would take another couple years before I began to get into social justice work and (gasp!) even become a little political. What can I say, I was a late bloomer.

Right now, I think I'm still struggling to find my footing in the social justice world. I feel like there is so much more I need to learn about and experience and understand before I could really accomplish anything. Also, I'm very very aware of my privileged identities, how they make navigating the world so much easier for me but also make landing a job doing social justice work quite difficult. However, I do understand the tendency for allies of marginalized communities to take over movements and play savior, or for movements to exclude communities or those with identities that just don't seem to fit. I get all that, and I understand why a social justice agency would hire a bilingual woman of color for a position instead of me. Not only do her personal life experiences give her such a better understanding of oppression, but she would be able to connect with targeted communities much better than I ever could. Not to mention that women of color still earn much less than even white women do here in the U.S.; I think that one of the ways social justice movements combat economic inequality is to provide jobs with benefits to women of color. It's a win-win. My ego, however, still gets butthurt over it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

For starters

Well! This is my first official post on this blog, my new blog "A Perfect Vagina"... not so sure about the name yet, but I suppose I was inspired by the recent vajazzling craze... or maybe it was all this stuff about labiaplasty in the media... iunno. One day, we will look back at these trends and hopefully cringe and laugh awkwardly, until the deafening silence takes over and we go back to reclining in our individualized hovering pods (our inevitable future I suppose). I would like to say that my lady parts are NOT at this moment vajazzled. Neither have my labia been ... plastied (?). I am au naturale, except that I pay a lady $40 a month to wax my pubes off. So, probably not au naturale in the sense of my pubes still being ON my pubis mons...

I think my vision for this blog is hopefully humor, and probably some feministy/socially just stuff as well, sandwiched between healthy doses of cynicism and random tangents. Good? Good! My first topic of Ever is going to be the female condom, because I have been reading about it EVERYWHERE in the BLOGOSPHERE lately.

First of all, I would like to say that I have never used this contraption, and that I definitely think something should be done to encourage people to cover their naughty bits during sex; I am staunchly pro-safe sex. However, I have issues with pushing this responsibility onto the receptive (as opposed to the insertive) partner. The female condom is being marketed as the option for the individual who is saddled with a partner who just refuses to wear a regular condom. WOW!!! That sounds like a borderline rape apology! It reminded me a lot of rape survivors I know who want to go on birth control "just in case someone rapes me again." I think the fact that this is supposed to be a major selling point of the female condom speaks dysfunctional volumes about the product. How can something that you use because your quasi-abusive dick of a partner prefers to bareback it rather than take your safety into consideration ever really be empowering and/or freeing? From this perspective, it's essentially a method self-defense against douchebags. Wonderful.

The other thing that bothers me about the female condom is that it seems to fall in line with the continued medicalization of women's bodies that we see all the friggin time. It's bad enough that women are expected to take hormones that fuck up our body chemistry to prevent unwanted pregnancy (and if, heaven-forbid, a pregnancy should occur... that's right, it's the woman's responsibility to deal with it). Now we're supposed to be responsible for barrier methods as well? Why is it that only the female bodies in the relationship must carry the onus for sex? Most of the sexually active women I know already purchase/carry male condoms with them. We do our part. But I guess that's not enough, because unless my partner's penis is able to feel a gentle moonlit breeze sans latex, his experience with me will just never be complete.

In conclusion, it's hard (hehe, sex pun!) to talk about the female and male condoms without putting it into context. There's this pesky thing called sexism around and it tends to penalize women and trans folks all the damn time. All I'm asking, is that men wear the condoms. Because they don't have to get pelvic exams or have periods or possibly push a baby through their crotches one day. I think that's a good compromise.