Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"That is SO gay!"

Guest post via Dave:

If you've been around enough people, at some point you will most likely hear someone use "gay" as the equivalent of "bad". I worked as a music teacher for a year at a school, and nearly every piece of music I played was either "gay", "so gay", "so (expletive) gay", or "not bad". Not that I'm complaining about the next generation's lack of appreciation for good taste in music (they'll love the blues someday...maybe), but rather the terms used to define bad.

The American culture has certainly undergone leaps in the right direction as it accepts more lifestyles outside the man/woman dichotomy, but the danger is not recognizing the more subversive elements of intolerance. I accept that I am not part of the traditional stereotype known as "the guy". But wait, you'd say, this isn't the 1950's anymore; there isn't some Marlboro man riding off into the sunset who can save the townsfolk by smoking, watching sports, flexing muscles, and making demands that no one can ignore. I totally agree, but as a casual observer of culture, I look to the big media for example of what is commonly defining "maleness".

If these stereotypes are part of the social compact that we all live by, then someone is in charge of defining what makes maleness and its corresponding stereotypes. Our post-modern culture is created and sustained through language and images, meaning that we define our national character of gender through what we see and read. What do we see, anyway? What do men do for a living on TV, for example? The examples I can easily think of are: doctor, lawyer, policeman, hero, game show host, sports icon, and politician; positions defined, in large part, through power, influence, strength, and money. If you traveled back in time to 1950, what jobs do you think a young boy would want to have? We talk the talk of change and how far we have come since those dark and sexist days, but have men really made any substantial transition? Are men able to exist in non-traditional roles?

Go to PsychINFO if you have access and search for men in non-traditional roles. I read one paper on men who work as elementary school teachers. They were often accused of being pedophiles or unable to connect emotionally with their students. Many assumptions like this still exist. I also think back to the big "metrosexual" craze of a few years ago when it was culturally acceptable to care a little more about one's appearance (a masculine taboo). Metrosexuals were quickly replaced by what was termed "retrosexuals". A system in power will always exert influence to return to a status of power, and our culture made that obvious shift when it went "retro". Looking at magazines for men gives the same impression. Men like red meat, sex, sports, boobs, gadgets, cars, being muscly, fast cars, boobs, and boobs. I'm not saying that is the situation for all men, but rather the impression being doled out through the channels that have the largest audience. What if you're a man and you don't like sports? I know I am. Almost all my friends know that about me as well, and I make no bones about how boring I think sports are in general. What bothers me is that my gender, and thus a large part of my identity, is put into question when I make the choice to go against the norm.

Like I stated before, norms are created in a social compact, and the norm for masculinity still linked to the same qualities. What happens when a man takes on "queer" attributes, like enjoying clothes or musical theatre? If I went to the sports bar down the street and started singing the greatest hits of Sondheim, I'd probably leave with (best case) lots of name calling or (worst case) little to no teeth. Masculinity is linked to power, and because masculinity is linked to gender attributes, then denying those attributes is akin to denying one's status. My denial of status throws the whole power structure into question and makes other men feel uncomfortable, because why should I actively lower my status?

The current dichotomy of gay=bad/not gay=good is the same as saying as not manly=bad/manly=good, or female=bad/male=good. Here's another example: remember the beer commercial where the guys get forced to go to the opera? They bring beer and it breaks because the soprano sings the high note. Hilarious, except the implied message is: "A man can only be forced to attend opera, because if he wants to go then there is something wrong". Or how about the churches that have recently started to create men's groups to counteract the non-manliness happening around the country (here for more info about how to beat a man with his own torn and bloody arm). What does all this mean, and why does it matter anyway? Our national identity is underscored by the overly simplistic male/female dichotomy, and moving away from that structure puts the whole power scheme into a tailspin. Maleness shouldn't obviously equate to power and status, and femaleness shouldn't obviously equate to emotion and caring.

Attributes of behavior should have no link to gender, and gender itself should have no place in determining status (considering that gender is all made up anyway). Stop making apologies for who you are, what/who you love, and what you do with your life because no one has the right or authority to take that away from you. There is no "guy" or "girl" behavior, only what the majority unknowingly and implicitly agrees upon, and therefore doesn't really exist. I think I've said enough at this point, and The View just came on, so I should probably go for now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Is Gay Activity to Blame for the Earthquakes in Israel?

Shas MK Shlomo Benizri seems to believe it is... (no, seriously, i'm not even kidding here...)

Benizri thinks that the Israeli government should pass less legislation that "encourages homosexuality" rather than reinforce buildings as a preventative measure for earthquakes.

Benizri adds: "A cost-effective way of averting earthquake damage would be to stop passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the State of Israel, which anyways causes earthquakes."

A rep from Israeli's Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Association responded with a bit of humor to Benizri's ridiculous statement: "On one hand, it is said that a religious MK doesn't believe that earthquakes are caused by God, on the other hand, it is flattering that he attributes supernatural powers to us."

Really Israel? I'm disappointed...

Via Haaretz.com

*Please don't take offense that i used the "humor" label on this, but seriously, i couldn't read this story in any other way because the notion that gay activity causes earthquakes is just plain ridiculous.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I’m not sure if Peggy McIntosh is considered outdated in feminist and WS circles by now but when I started studying feminist theory, she was the first exposure I had to privilege. I couldn’t believe how privileged I was just because I am white and I was even more shocked to find just how privileged my white (especially straight) guy friends were for having the added bonus of being male.

Privilege isn’t something people normally think about because it’s easy to ignore something you take for granted day to day. I don’t think that privileged individuals walk around and intentionally use privilege to their betterment. I do think that people tend not to notice they are privileged because they have spent their lives living in a way they are comfortable with and not confronted by. Once privilege is brought to someone’s attention, s/he is challenged by the concept that s/he can work less hard than others for some of the things that others do not have.

Frankly, this is a concept that blew my mind because after I learned about it, I couldn’t believe how few people considered the theory at all. Since privileged people are generally (consciously or not) unaware, once challenged they have two choices:

1. Do nothing. Continue living their lives just how they are, privileged and all.
2. Recognize their privilege and use it to help others.

Many people, even once challenged, live in denial of their privilege: “Why should I give up what I’ve earned?” or “No one helped ME get to where I am, why should I help others?” These common reactions are actually misconceptions. For one, you may have “earned” what you have with the help of being privileged (in whatever way privilege applies to you). And although no actual person or people may have helped you get to where you are, an institutionalized system of privilege, classism, and racism set up society to aid in your success.

Moving on to the good stuff. How are we actually privileged? Again, though outdated, Peggy McIntosh’s (1988) White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack provides great examples of white privilege that are often overlooked:

  • I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
  • When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
  • Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
  • I can chose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.*
  • I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
  • I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
  • My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership
  • I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my race.

Although Ms. McIntosh enlightened me in college, since then I have admittedly given very little thought to privilege. Yes I try to live my life acknowledging and recognizing what I have and what others don’t (and how to equal out the world) but I haven’t thought about it in an academic way in quite some time. That is, until recently. One of my fav feminist blogs, A Feminist Response to Pop Culture posted about privilege based on Racialicious’s recent series of posts on whether class has trumped race. The items of privilege they discuss are mostly in terms of class which I think is very current and especially important. Class based privilege is all about access to resources. Education and access to education is a huge part of that.

Here is a list they posted, anything in bold makes me privileged:

If your father went to college
If your father finished college
If your mother went to college
If your mother finished college

If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
If you were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
If you had a computer at home
If you had your own computer at home
If you had more than 50 books at home (but they were mostly in Russian)
If you had more than 500 books at home
If were read children's books by a parent
If you ever had lessons of any kind (piano - free, & flute - $20/half hour)
If you had more than two kinds of lessons
If the people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
If you had a credit card with your name on it (once i got to college)
If you have less than $5000 in student loans
If you have no student loans
If you went to a private high school
If you went to summer camp (Jewish Community Center)
If you had a private tutor (For about 1 month, for math)
If you have been to Europe (Born in Russia, should that count?)
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels
If all of your clothing has been new and bought at the mall
If your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
If there was original art in your house
If you had a phone in your room
If you lived in a single family house (a condo...)
If your parents own their own house or apartment
If you had your own room
If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in High School (Only senior year)
If you had your own TV in your room in High School
If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
If you ever went on a cruise with your family
If your parents took you to museums and art galleries
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

Check out Racialicious’s terrific post (part 3 of her series) on acknowledging class privilege.

Also, feel free to comment on privilege or even post your own bolded list.

*I realize that since Peggy Mc compiled her list "flesh-colored" makeup has expanded to include all shades of flesh, but at the time, this was a relevant example.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Soccer Moms and Methadone

First a question to my fellow bloggers: When you're away for some time do you get the "nothing is good enough" feeling when you are ready to get back into writing? After blogging almost everyday for a few months I took a much needed break but when i was ready to get back into it, i couldn't seem to click "publish post" to anything i put up on the screen... what a weird phenomenon...

But thanks to The Smirking Cat I realized today, and this post, was as a good a time/post as any to get back into the blogasphere :) Thanks for wondering where i've been :)

What has feministgal been up to in the past two weeks? Well ya'll will be happy to know that she had a grad school interview! Very psyched for the experience, not so psyched for the actual clinical psych program... it was at best, mediocre... Maybe i'll love it if i get admitted (wink) but for now, this gal is not impressed...

On to today's post: Soccer Moms & Methadone...

Thanks Brandi for passing this along: News Channel 8 (local news in CT) recently did a story on "soccer moms" being perscribed mathadone. I work in a methadone clinic and after Anna Nicole Smith's death everyone became more nervous about drug interactions (and rightfully so although it shouldn't have taken the death of a celebrity to start thinking about contraindicated medication...) Although the newscast shed some light on the miss-use and effects of not regularly monitoring patients on methadone, it also perpetuated a few stereotypes that i'd like to address. First off, the segment made it seem as though drug users neatly fit into some social/racial/economic category that can be easily defined and identified. That is simply not the case. Drug abuse is a nondiscriminatory disease and the people walking through my door everyday differ in age, SES, race, education level, sexuality, etc.

The second vast stereotype that the news segment perpetuated is the term "soccer mom" that made Brandi and I both cringed. "Soccer mom" carries a materialistic, white, "Stepford wife" connotation of motherhood that i can't imagine many women actually identifying with. Most of the moms i know who drive their kids around to soccer games (and other sports, dance, girl/boy scouts, endless activities) are working mothers, trying to fit all their family and work activities into a not nearly long enough day. The outdated concept of a suburban, minivan driving, PTA going, dinner cooking, "soccer mom" is more of a dream than a reality for most of the mothers that i know... Most families can't afford to make it on a one person income and both parents are forced to work. Sometimes the "soccer mom" responsibilities still fall on the female parent of the family. Does that sound fair? Well no. But neither is this outdated concept of an over-prescribed Valium soccer mom.

But then again, one definition of third-wave feminism tells me that:

Third Wave feminism celebrates women’s multiple and sometimes contradictory identities in today’s world. Third Wave feminists are encouraged to build their own identities from the available buffet, and to not worry if the items on their plate are not served together traditionally. Women can unapologetically celebrate a plate full of entrĂ©e choices like soccer mom, career woman, lover, wife, lesbian, activist, consumer, girly girl, tomboy, sweetheart, bitch, good girl, princess, or sex symbol.

So maybe i'm over-reacting? ;)

Here's the news segment in case you're curious:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Poetry Slam Shazaam!

Last weekend D and I went to a poetry slam with some new friends. We had a really great time out. It was an awesome night for many reasons:

1.) Because making "adult friends" is tough enough, let alone finding people with similar interests

2.) Ever since we got Beans we've had absolutely no social life (it's hard only being out for under 6 hours at a time)

3.) Poetry slams are apparently very intense

4.) Jenna is a terrific judge, an honest and fair critic ;)

5.) The girl who wrote about gerbils creeped me out... but in a good way, and i really liked her poem

6.) The hours my college roommates and I spent honing our stalking skills came in handy when I really wanted to post my favorite poem of the night for ya'll here to enjoy:

By Tracy Caldwell AKA Mind Evolution (2006)

In the 60's they were burning their bras
In the 06 im burning my girdle
Because a girl should not be tortured like this
I'm sorry if you can't handle the fact that i'm fat
But everyone can't be a size 4
And i'm not taking it no more
No longer will I wear undergarments
That squeeze my rools into other places
And there are more than a few woman in here
Tying to keep straight faces
Wile their panties are cutting of circulation
Tying to please a nation that can never be pleased
Cuz it's obesity if you're too big
And if you're too small
It's the skinny woman's disease
Anorexia or bulimia
But believe me when I tell ya
I love my food to much to be throwing it up
And damn it I earned this gut
By giving birth to 2 boys and 2 girls
And there is at least one man in this world
That can't resist these childbearing hips
And he knows he has to come equipped if he wants to be spending time with all of this
Big girls if you feel me let me see you raise your fist
Gentlemen that agree
Let me see you do the same
Cause its a shame
More than half the female population is a size 12 or up
But its always a skinny person
Telling you, you need to shape up

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Have you been Super Tuesdayed enough?

I'm rootin' for Obama because he's damn sexy...

And for Clinton because I want to see Ann Coulter campaign for her come presidential elections :)

Either way, we can't lose... 2008 is going to kick ass, i'm so psyched!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Elect Environmental Change

To piggyback yesterday's post, here for info on which '08 candidates are "green."

Elect change during tomorrow's "Super Duper Tuesday" (who thought of that term? It sounds like a 5 year old that's excited about a making a poopy in the toilet...)

Most importantly, here to register to vote.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Story of Stuff and why you should care.

Thanks to Jenna for sending me The Story of Stuff. This video is the best presentation that i've seen to date of America's massive consumer problem.

You should absolutely watch the video, it's a great presentation of this enormous problem that needs a lot more attention. The video breaks up the process into 5 parts: extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. Here's my summary of why "stuff" is such a huge problem in our country:

Let's start with extraction. We use the planet's resources for everything that we need. Obviously some of the stuff made fulfills actual needs. We can't expect everyone to live like Thoreau, especially in contemporary America when having all the latest gadgets and designer "stuff" is crucial to survival (ok, a wee bit of sarcasm there but for real, we can't just expect people to give up consumer goods that they think make them happy). So what's the problem at the stage of extraction? 1. We're using too much stuff; 2. The way we're getting the stuff is damaging our planet; 3. America get's an F in kindergarten (aka: we're not sharing our stuff).

Next we move on to production. This is where we actually make the stuff that people think they need. Since this is all done in factories, with toxic chemicals, the problems at this stage are endless. For example, toxic chemicals = toxic products... what's that? toxic toys for your toddlers? Shit... that seems like an issue already. Not to mention the workers that are outsourced, underpaid, and treated unethically due to the harmful effects of these chemicals on humans and the environment. Oh and did i mention, the US realizes this is a health and environmental issue so we outsource this step to other countries. Yeay to globalization! We can bring out toxins into countries where we know there will be people willing to work for not enough money, in hazardous conditions, while we use up their natural resources... awesome.

That's too depressing. Let's talk about distribution, this is the part where we actually get our stuff. The goal here is to sell stuff quickly and cheaply. But at what expense? We pollute the environment by getting the stuff from these other countries to the US, use up natural resources faster than the planet can replenish them, and harm human beings. Basically, sure it's cool that the price tags on our stuff (think: WalMart) don't actually represent the cost of production (remember planet resources, people's health, our ozone), but is it all worth it? Personally, I don't think so. Sorry, i got ahead of myself...

I think that was along the lines of consumption. This whole cycle of trashing our planet to make cheap stuff doesn't seem very sustainable. That's because it's not. The crazy thing is (and I did not know this until watching "The Story of Stuff") that this whole cycle was engineered by a really smart man (I think named Victor Laboe, but if anyone can correct me on this i'd really like to know more about him) after WWII as a way to "ramp up the economy." He said the following:
President Eisenhower thought this was a great idea and that the US's main purpose should be to produce more goods... How is this possible? Well by making products that will be quickly discarded or replaced, this is called "planned obselensence." For example, my biggest pet peeve is the constant flow of coffee cups, water bottles, and plastic utensils that Americans go through daily. Is it really that difficult to bring in silverware to work and wash it after lunch? "Over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks, and wraps are used in the U.S. each year, and 1 trillion worldwide - over one million per minute! Billions of plastic bags end up as litter each year."

Still on consumption, there's also "perceived obsolescence." This is the idea that even your new or perfectly working stuff should be replaced. You know, to "keep up with the Joneses." IPods, laptops, cell-phones, TVs, even clothes are all examples. If you don't have the latest trend, everyone knows that you haven't contributed to the consumer market lately. Anyone watch The Real Housewives of Orange County? They're a perfect example. Is this still prevalent in politics now? Absolutely: After 9/11, Bush suggested for the American people to SHOP. I don't know about you but shopping doesn't seem like a healthy way to mourn. However, since "we have become a nation of consumers and it makes up our identity," this seemed to be Bush's main concern... well that and finding WMDs (but that's a different post altogether)...

Finally, disposal... First, an outrageous fact: "6 months after we (Americans) buy stuff, only 1% of it is still in use!" Another words, 99% is discarded. Talk about wasteful. Here's the problem, after extraction (using up natural resources to make the stuff we "need"), production (sending harmful chemicals and toxins into our atmosphere to make the stuff we "need), distribution (getting people the stuff they "need"), and consumption (people using up the stuff they "needed"), there's disposal. Disposal (well and extraction) is the part of this whole cycle that scares me most. Disposal is getting rid of all this stuff that people once "needed" and now used up... Where can we possibly put all this stuff that isn't necessarily recyclable? Do we bury it (thus filling up our earth with non-recyclable and possibly toxic stuff)? Do we burn it (thus sending even more chemicals - that are actually even more toxic than they were in the first place - into the air)? How do we dispose of all this stuff that we once "needed?"

Here in lies the problem - we, as a people, can't possibly recycle ALL the stuff that we consume and burying & burning our old stuff only creates more problems... the only solution is to use/purchase/own/want less stuff. Yes, regulating production so that it's cleaner and uses less natural resources is a great place to start. And yes, composting and recycling should be an expectation for everyone, but ultimately, this problem... of "stuff"... will remain a problem until people stop wanting, using, and "needing" so much.

Because, like always, it's all about activism, here is what YOU can do to change this cycle:

2. Host showings, talk about it, educate others - activism begins with education.
3. Change yourself and your "needs." Do you really need that new cell phone just because it has one upgrade or is your, perfectly working phone, sufficient?
4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It's really as easy as that.
5. Cloth shopping bags have been all the rage lately, jump on that bandwagon and i promise you'll find the cloth bags are not only earth saving but much more convenient (the strap is easier to carry and doesn't cut into your hand like plastic).
6. If you forget your cloth bags at home, carry your items (either by hand or take the cart to your car and unload without bags) if that's not an option for you, ask for paper bags.
7. Use tupperware instead of aluminum, styrofoam, or plastic wrap.
8. Reuse discarded paper for scrap, or print on both sides of the document.
10. Here to learn more about what you can do to take action and help stop this vicious cycle.

Please watch the video, and definitely leave feedback as well as other ways to stop this cycle. What do you do to live a more sustainable life? Leave tips for fellow readers! :)