Monday, March 31, 2008

Socializing Gender Through Toys

As any first year sociology student will tell you, gender is a social construct. And that is the context in which I’ve always thought about it. Until now that is. I am at that age where lots of women around me are either pregnant or starting to think about having children. Also, on a more personal and very exciting note, my brother and sister-in-law are pregnant! There hasn’t been a baby in my family since my younger cousin (who is now 22) so you can see that it’s been a while.

I’ve had quite a few conversations with my sister-in-law as well as with others that always end in “yes, we agree that gender stereotypes exist but no, we don’t agree that this is necessarily ‘bad’” Sometimes that’s enough for me (as a feminist I’ve learned to pick my battles) but usually it’s not. Now especially, since I’m going to be an auntie, it’s not enough.

Gender socialization begins the moment a child is born, and I’m not only referring to the color outfit s/he is placed in at the hospital. The way children are talked to, touched, and played with all establish norms and expectations, thus socializing children from day one. Parents will engage in more “rough play” with their boys while using more language with their girls. This is limiting for both. Boys learn to “be tough” while girls learn to emote and use their words. Both sexes need both sets of skills, which is why gender socialization is so limiting for everyone involved. Everyone including the parents who need to develop both sets of ways in which to relate and bond with their children.

In Jewish tradition (or rather superstition) you should not purchase gifts or items for an unborn child so to not draw the attention of dark spirits. However, my sis in law gave me the go ahead to buy (just not give) her baby gifts. So try to buy I did… as I wandered through Target’s baby section, I noticed some adorable bibs. There were two sets. One 4-piece bib set was blue and green and had the following saying written on the front: "Fireman" "Policman" "Astronaut" "Dinosaur." The other 4-piece bib set was in pink and purple and said "Lipstick" "pretty but messy" "I clean up cute" and something else as equally gross... In this case, as in many, it wasn’t the colors that bugged me (because I don’t see anything intrinsically wrong with a baby girl in pink or a baby boy in blue) but rather the message that the toy or clothing sends. The boys' bibs encouraged creativity and opportunities for the future (granted stereotypical jobs are pretty restrictive also) but the girls' bibs were very clearly appearance motivated. They are basically saying she had no chance of becoming an astronaut but she can certainly be just as successful as her male counterpart by taking care of her appearance and buying in to female gender norms.

It's not always as apparent as my bib example but obvious or not, the message remains the same. Engendering children limits their creativity and opportunities. The messages baby items (toys, clothes, games) convey are restrictive when they should instead develop a child’s imagination. One that sticks out most vividly in my mind was a commercial that aired not to long ago for Playskool’s Rose Petal Cottage The commercial used all sorts of clich├ęd messages about girlhood. There were two commercials – one directed at children (well girls rather) and one geared at parents. I posted them below because this is a “you gotta see it to believe it” type of thing. The kids’ jingle sings lines like “taking care of my home is a dream, dream, dream.” The commercial for parents says “now there’s a place where her dreams have room to grow... where she can decorate and entertain her imagination.” During that line of the commercial, the little girl is doing her laundry and actually says “do the laundry!” in her happy, petty, training to be a housewife, sort of way. Really Playskool? Encouraging girls to entertain their imaginations by doing laundry and taking care of the home? We have got to do better than that.

When I YouTubed this commercial, I found a fun reaction that someone made. This time the line “a place where she can entertain her imagination” is spoken behind a young girl in a chemistry lab. That is more like it.

Targeting Girls:

Targeting Parents:

This isn’t unique to Playskool either, Fisher-Price did it too (quite recently in fact). Some of you may have seen commercials for My Pretty Learning Purse “Keys, lipstick, money, music …this adorable purse has everything baby needs for learning and role play fun!” Please don’t argue with me about our society not being inundated with highly gendered toys until stuff like this is off the shelves. Girls have very few options in terms of toys and imagination: housekeeping, princesses, or dolls... all of which require them to develop their nurturing sides and wait patiently for a prince to rescue them from their castle (or Rose Petal Cottage). And don’t even get me started on Bratz dolls... at least the Powerpuff dolls had purpose and kicked some ass...

Boys don’t have it all that easy either. Gender norms are just as restrictive for boys. Don't we want our children to be creative and explore as much as possible? Boys playing dress up with heels and makeup are often reprimanded. But why? Shouldn't we let them be just as creative as we allow our girls to be? Why are we limiting our children's imaginations at all? Most toys geared at boys consist of trucks or cars, action figures, or violence. The famous Tonka Truck commercial for a toy that’s been on the market since the 80s exclaims, “boys... what can you say? They’re just built different.” We need to teach our boys communication, cooperation, and the use of words. By encouraging violence, confrontation, and competition we set our boys up for a future in which they are limited in their ability to resolve conflict. Excusing fighting and rough housing with the “boys will be boys” mentality only causes us to pass up important opportunities to have potentially life changing conversations with our children.

All that said, I am finding it extremely difficult to find gender neutral toys, clothes, and other items for my future nephew so if anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears. I suppose I’ll forever be the auntie that buys progressive or education toys, or even worse... dun dun dun... BOOKS, haha. In the past I’ve tried to buy music toys which are pretty gender neutral or art supplies. But I’d love to hear what you all, readers, have given as a gift (or received) that was your favorite gender neutral toy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008, Where Breast Implants are Only 11,500 Bimbo Dollars!

Thanks Jacks for the heads up on this one...

Imagine you were a 7 year old girl. Done? Good. Now imagine someone told you about this awesome game where you competed to become the "hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo." Done? Ok. Now imagine you could attain that by purchasing your "bimbo" boob jobs and by putting her on crash diets. Fan-fucking-tastic. You think i'm joking? I seriously couldn't make this stuff up if i tried.

A new website that launched last month in the UK encourages girls to compete against each other by earning "bimbo dollars" to purchase things like sexy outfits, plastic surgery, and diet pills. (Breast implants cost 11,500 bimbo dollars, diet pills cost 200 bimbo dollars). When new members register, they are provided with a naked virtual bimbo to "look after."

The aim is to become 'the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the whole world' and gamers must keep her at her the target weight through diet pills.

When they run out of virtual cash, contestants send texts costing £1.50 each or transfer funds to top up their accounts.

The creator of, Nicolas Jacquart, weighed in:

The 23-year-old Web designer from Tooting, south London, who created it was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: "It is not a bad influence for young children. They learn to take care of their bimbos. The missions and goals are morally sound and teach children about the real world."

He added: "The breast operations are just one part of the game and we are not encouraging young girls to have them, just reflecting real life."

My birthday is coming up - can someone gift wrap this fool for me so i can punch him in the face? Thanks.

This is just one step away from Real Doll (Enter at your own risk, graphic nudity)


(oh and not to mention "MISS" Bimbo... couldn't she have at least been a Ms?)

Is "Reuse, Reduce, Recycling" REALLY that difficult a concept?

Before D and I purchased our terrifically earth friendly grocery bags, we used paper bags. This in itself was a struggle. When you ask for paper in a crowded grocery store on a Sunday afternoon, they look at you like you have 4 heads and then give you a paper bag within a plastic bag. "No no!" we'd exclaim, trying to explain that we ONLY want PAPER, not PAPER + PLASTIC... Eventually we got tired of this weekly tradition and invested in kick-ass cloth bags that are actually much more convenient than paper AND/OR plastic (comfortable handles, fit more food, and are easier to carry). Why do some people consider thinking about the environment to be such a chore? And why do others not even give the environment a second thought? My college roommates dated a guy (2 roommates, 1 guy) who used to say, "what did the future generations ever do for me?" Although Andy was overly blunt about it, many Americans feel this way to a point, and it's devastating.

Yesterday i went to pick up a prescription at CVS. They always insist on giving me that plastic case to my prescription, each time, even though i don't need it. I only needed the plastic case the first time and now all i need is the refills of the medication but apparently this is incredibly difficult for them to understand. When i call to refill the prescription monthly there is no option to talk to an operator and indicate that i only need the med, not the case so each time i've had to go into CVS and try to explain it to them. Just the meds, not the plastic case. Most of the time this works out just fine, they understand what i mean, and we all move on... Not yesterday though. The woman helping me was so confused, which got me incredibly annoyed and confused as well.

This is how the conversation went:

Her: CVS card?
Me: Hi. Thanks. Yes, here you go... I only need the pills though, not the plastic case
Her: What do you mean?
Me: There is a plastic case in the prescription and i am hoping you can use that for someone else's prescription because i already have one at home and don't need another
Her: Well why don't you take it anyway, just in case?
Me: No thanks
Her: Are you sure?
Me: Yes.
Her: But your sticker is on it, with your name
Me: Can you take the sticker off?
Her (annoyed): Sure
*she takes the sticker off, looks at me confused, and THROWS THE PLASTIC CASE IN THE GARBAGE!*
Me (outraged & confused): NO NO NO NO NO! The whole point of me not taking the case was so that it could be used for another prescription, so we don't waste plastic, and so that i don't use more "stuff" than i need, so we recycle!
Her (Looking down into the trash bin): it's ok, i think we recycle here
Me (Pissed at this point): Can you please take it out of the garbage and please put it in my bag?
Her (As if she's won): So now you DO want it?
Me: Well if i knew you were going to throw it out i would have just taken it home in the first place
Her: Oh, so you want me to reuse it for someone else's prescription?
Me: YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Her: But we have TONS of them, we don't need this one
Me: That's not the point. Listen, forget it, i'll just take it home. (probably with tears in my eyes because i was so frustrated, confused, and exhausted after work and from this nonsense)
Her: No, that's ok, if it really means this much to you i'll walk over and put it back in the empty container box.
Her: Have a nice day
*As she hands me my prescription in a paper bag, within a plastic bag*
Me: You too - I'm just going to leave this plastic bag here and only take my prescription, ok? Thanks. Bye.

End Scene.

Oh Lawd Have Mercy...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Do Republicans Need a Course in History & Politics 101?

When i started this blog I promised myself that it wouldn't become an avenue for me to consistently bash Republicans - primarily because most of my family impenitently consider themselves Republican and i don't want to be disowned ;) But sometimes, i really just can't resist.
Two fun and disturbing (but oh-so-unfunny) stories from last week:

1. Bush administration spokesperson, Dana Perino, doesn't know the difference between missiles because she's just a perty lady - and, duh, men know about missiles through osmosis...

Some of the terms I just don’t know, I haven’t grown up knowing. The type of missiles that are out there: patriots and scuds and cruise missiles and tomahawk missiles. And I think that men just by osmosis understand all of these things, and they’re things that I really have to work at — to know the difference between a carrier and a destroyer, and what it means when one of those is being launched to a certain area.

Jezebel covered this well, even included a lesson for Ms. Perino to better understand missiles. With a shopper's guide soon to come (hopefully in pink, with feathers and lace maybe?)

We laugh (and it is certainly more than a bit ridiculous that the Administration's spokesperson is confused about her weapons of mass destruction) but I do get what she's talking about. She probably grew up playing with dolls and make-up while her male peers played "launch the missile." Although i realize this is an exaggeration, i think it definitely speaks to socialization and the damage caused by engendering our children from such a young age.

Apparently she also doesn't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis is?

2. Although i'm a bit late on this, it's rather important to include... McCain confuses Shiites (Iran) and Sunnis (al-Qaeda)

I would hope that the Republican presidential nominee (who is currently a senator and as such, has some legislative power), would know the difference between the two. Not to mention that McCain has made his knowledge and experience of the Iraq war a vital part of his campaign.

I can't decide whether this demonstrates lack of knowledge on his part (probably) or even worse, the attitude that "a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist," resulting in only one answer to terrorism: War. (Remember McCain's musical number "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran"?)

Jed asks, "when John McCain goes to war, would he do it against the right people?"

...Or maybe that's how we ended up fighting a war with Iraq in the first place?

But really though? REALLY?! These people are our elected officials. One is a spokesperson for the current administration and one may be our future president... People, we need to do better than this... we simply NEED TO.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good News/Bad News

There are lots of things i worry about when flying. Maybe the plane will crash? Maybe there will be bad turbulence? Maybe the food will give me a tummy ache? Maybe my sinus infection will cause my head to explode? (even) Maybe there's a terrorist on board?

But never, and i repeat NEVER, do i think "Maybe someone will gizz on my head while i'm sleeping?"

Next time i'll add this concern to my ever-growing list.

"Centava Dozier, 21, filed a $200,000 lawsuit against American Airlines, alleging that a passenger masturbated in the seat next to her and then ejaculated on her hair." Via Fox News.

The article says that when she asked for help from the flight attendants and asked that the man be taken back to his assigned seat, the staff did nothing. Really?! Not only would i think the staff would react but i'd also think other passengers would notice something this disturbing!! I mean, for all of us who have been on an airplane, we know how hard it is to be discreet about anything... let alone something like this! When you're on an airplane you pretty much know what's going on around you, simply because of such tight quarters. How can others have not seen this?

Or (even worse) did they see it and do nothing? Are we living in such a private culture that when we see something that isn't right (even something so utterly disgusting) we do nothing to intervene? I sure hope not. I'm going to continue believing that the other passengers just weren't paying attention because if i chose to believe they saw a man masturbating and ejaculating on a woman in an airplane and did nothing, i'm not sure how much faith i can continue to have for my fellow brothers and sisters...

The psychology nerd in me remembers the story of Kitty Genovese and values research since then done on the Bystander Effect. The humanist in me believes in the human condition and hopes to God that we are better than this...

Via the NYT, this is fantastic. If this isn't inspiration to be an activist for your entire life, i don't know what is!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Complete Persepolis: A Book Review

I didn't realize The Complete Persepolis was made into a movie (currently in theaters) until i was recommended the book. I would think seeing the movie would essentially be very similar to reading the book because the book is a graphic novel and the movie is subtitled (it's in French). At first i didn't think i'd get through this book for two reasons: 1. the only other graphic novel i've read is Maus (which I also loved) and 2. I'm not at all a "history buff." I usually avoid books on or mostly about history altogether. Persepolis was a very different story.

Persepolis is a coming of age story about Marjane, a young girl growing up in Tehran, Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It is actually a retelling of the author's childhood and as such, deeply moving. Granted not a story of the average Iranian girl, Marjane is the child of progressive activist parents who teach her early on about the value of freedom, education, and independent thought. The book chronicles her life as she grows up in a war-torn country. Marjane's struggle for freedom is beautifully and creatively illustrated in every challenge from the veil to wearing make-up and nail polish to showing an inch of skin (on her wrist!) Despite the heavy subject, Marjane Satrapi's sense of irreverent humor shines through - there were several points in the book that i couldn't help but laugh, despite the seriousness of the situation.

The history in Persepolis is also really important. I didn't know much about the Islamic Revolution, America's involvement with Iraq against Iran, or the fall of the Shah. Through Persepolis i was able to learn how the Iranian religious fundamentalists came to power and what that meant for the people (especially women) of Iran. I knew the oppression Iranian women suffered but this helped me understand how it all came about.

But for me, the most important topic in Persepolis is Marjane's struggle for independence within a religiously oppressive government and country. Through the text, we can't avoid the countless examples Marjane sights in which women are marginalized and oppressed. One example is from the character's college years where she went to art school and had to draw a woman who posed as a model for their class in traditional Iranian clothes, head to foot (literally). There was absolutely no way to make out her form or to even imagine what was underneath the drapes. Marji and some of her friends got together after school and posed for each other, minus the drapery, and handed in those drawings, which got high marks and later worked as an example of how creativity was not stifled through religious oppression (ha!)

Clothing and the veil were major topics throughout the book. By law, women had to wear clothes that covered their entire body and it had to hang loose so that the shape of their body was not seen. One example of Marji finding this law more than annoying was when she was running late for a doctor's appointment and had to sprint to catch the bus. In general she had a hard time moving around in the traditional clothes but she also got in trouble for running - because when she ran, her butt moved in an obscene way that caused men to look at her...

Marji spunk and outspoken nature were probably due to her parents political involvement. She even had family that were imprisoned, tortured, and killed for being anti-government. Persepolis is grim at times and provides explicit examples of what life was like during the war in Iran but it is also an uplifting and honest depiction of one girl's struggle to fit in. Marji's parents sent her, as a teenager, to Vienna during the war to keep her safe. In Vienna Marji navigated between staying true to herself and fitting in among new friends. When she returned to Iran Marji still had a hard time fitting in due to her more Western ideals and lifestyle (sleeping with her boyfriend, saying what she was thinking, not believing everything she was told, etc).

All in all, Persepolis is a phenomenal account of a young girl's struggle to find herself in general, let alone within religious oppression. Maji is a perfect example of a strong female character which we should see more of in books and movies. Check out this book, it's really worth the read.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

America's Next Top Model... Holy Cow!

Hi, my name is feministgal and I'm an ANTM-aholic.

Seriously. America's Next Top Model (for all you non-acronym folk) is currently and has been for quite some time (cough:10 seasons now:cough) my secret vice. I don't get enthralled in tabliods or have secret randevous with I just can't get over ANTM. Secretly, it's because I have a hardcore crush on Tyra and her fierce self. So i watch ANTM and rarely feel guilty doing it. That is, until this season. Usually one or two things each cycle push me over the edge enough to write a letter, bitch about it, or girlcott whatever "product" they were using in the photoshoot that week. This season however, is off to an especially brutal start. There have only been 4 episodes so far but Tyra has already managed to:

1. Pose the girls as homeless people in the streets of NY, among actual homeless people...

2. Cast a thin, very fit, not at all "plus size" model as her token plus size model of the cycle...

3. Pull off a photo shoot where the girls are dressed in raw meat, modeling among meat, and holding meat...

I'll focus on numero tres. The meat episode is troubling for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's really disgusting. Secondly, it's absolutely wasteful and inhumane. Thirdly, it acts as a methaphor for woman = piece of meat. What disturbs me most is the wastefulness.

The girls were sent to New York's meat packing district and dressed up in bras and panties made of beef. No joke. They were sewn together pieces of dead cow. Come on, tell me you aren't troubled by that. Even the biggest carnivore should gag a bit. They used meat hooks and swinging carcasses as props while they sat on buckets of raw beef. In light of America's current beef situation and waterboarding cows ANTM should be incredibly embarrassed for this episode. What did they do with all that beef after they were done with the shoot? Was it discarded? Probably... i mean, they used it as props. Were the sewn together pieces of raw meat given to soup kitchens? Probably not. They were probably tossed in the garbage. I won't even "get on my high horse" and talk about why eating mass produced meat is disgusting, inhumane, and unsustainable but I will absolutely point out how wasteful that episode was. I wish they had given all that food to NY's homeless population, whom they just posed with two episodes ago, instead of wasting it on costumes and accessories. Ew.

Last season i was impressed with ANTM's intentions and efforts to "Go Green" but they absolutely ruined it for me with this disgustingly wasteful and inhumane episode. Anyone else have a secret fetish for ANTM? Anyone else more than a bit skeeved?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vaginas and Triathlons

Can you tell that coming up with blog titles is not one of my strengths?

Over the weekend, Jenna and I went to see the Vagina Monologues. We thought they were pretty good minus the crowd participation (cunt monologue) and creepy old guy listening to us talk about sex (actual event rather than a monologue.) My favorites were The Moaner and My Angry Vagina. Jenna made a great observation about the Angry Vagina performance - she noticed that the woman performing was wearing a tie. Although it looked damn cool, we couldn't help but see the tie as a symbol of masculinity, thus power. This monologue was intended to be the most "in your face," bold, and forceful; so why did she need the symbol of masculinity to achieve that? Could she have gotten the same message and attitude across in a dress? Masculinity and symbols of masculinity represent power and control to this day. Suits, ties, sports cars, swords, anything remotely phallic are all examples. Even "successful" and "powerful" women are those things in masculine terms (think Hillary Clinton and her pant suits...) So... Although her vagina was angry and her monologue was powerful and bold, i wish her vagina could have been angry in a frilly pink dress with lace.

Beans and I just got back from a 4-mile trail run, It was terrific :)
Now that the weather is warming up here in CT and i have two training partners (Jenna and Beans,) I don't have any more excuses for not completing a triathlon. I'm aiming for either July or Sept, depending on the tri we pick... My first race of the season is this weekend; Jenna and I are running the O'Niantic 5K in honor of St. Patty's Day :)

Sports, exercise, and staying active are incredibly important, especially for women and girls. Sports have been shown to help girls develop self-esteem and positive body image. I think it's crucial for girls to learn at a young age that their body is an entity of power and strength rather than sexuality and aesthetics. Yes, part of everyone's identity should absolutely be sexuality but girls and women are constantly hypersexualized in the media and when girls are bombarded with stereotypical images and nothing else, it's difficult to establish a balance. This is where staying active and participating in team sports comes in: teaches girls collaboration, competition, strength in their bodies, winning/losing, positive attitudes, etc. Smirking Cat posted about the benefits of sports for girls a while back, referencing the Women's Sports Foundation. Did you play sports as a kid? If so, how did they benefit you? How does staying active benefit you now, as an adult? ;)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

International Women's Day!

I realize most people have no idea that annually, March 8th is recognized as International Women's Day. However, since i grew up in Russia, this holiday has very special sentimental value to me. Growing up, the 8th of March would be reserved for me to wait patiently until my dad came home with flowers for my mom and a board game or toy for me. I especially loved this holiday because my bratty self got to parade around the house and tease my brother with my special gift. I loved being daddy's little girl.

Valentine's Day wasn't celebrated in Russia but even now as i've become Americanized with hearts, roses, chocolates, and flowers throughout February, Women's Day remains special. Women's Day isn't necessarily a celebration for lovers. It's a day to celebrate all the women in our lives, young and old, married and single, related and not. It's a day to recognize the achievements women have made throughout history and the contributions special women in our lives make to us everyday.

So today as you continue to work for women's rights, tell a special woman in your life "thank you" and that you love her. What better day to recognize her than International Women's Day?!

International Women's Day in the USSR was initially intended to celebrate the achievements of women workers, and would include state ceremonies declaring the government's achievements in improving the status of women... On Moscow's subway system, congratulatory messages to women will be broadcast throughout the day on the Metro's public address system. In the Urals city of Perm, thousands of couples will gather in an attempt to break the world kissing record.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hepatitis C Scare At Las Vegas Clinics

"Six Already Infected, 40,000 To Be Tested; Unsafe Injection Practices Likely Culprit"

How in the world did this not get more coverage?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Blog Awards; Paying it Forward

In the month of February I received three blog awards, for which I am very grateful. I was awarded the "Blogging with a Purpose" and "Excellent Blog Award" by The Smirking Cat and the "Nice Matters Award" by Lindsay from Country Girl City Living.

Thank you so much for these, ladies, and I will pay it forward by bestowing these awards to a scattering of blogs i read regularly.

The Blogging with a Purpose Award goes to:

A Feminist Response to Pop Culture: Written by a grad student in Chicago, this feminist blog challenges our notions of what's acceptable in pop culture and holds the media accountable for the messages they send. Another reason I love this blog is because she is always examining her own beliefs and asking herself as well as the readers important questions to consider.

Hello Confrontation: Jenna is one of the few "blog friends" that I know in real life. From the day I met her, Jenna has been teaching, inspiring, and challenging me. In the first conversation we had she explained about the sustainable food movement and I have been eating sustainably ever since :) Jenna's blog is a laid back mixture of environmental issues, food, crafts, and personal goals. Jenna is also my new triathlon training buddy and now that I've written that up here, I can't back out ;)

Lots of Thinking: I've only started reading Kandee's blog recently but absolutely love all the topics she brings to light. Kandee is a mom living in Canada who blogs about race issues. She explores racism in the context of our current social and political climate. Kandee also addresses pop culture and examines discrimination from a feminist perspective.

Good As You: This gay and lesbian activism blog uses humor rather than anger and protest to disarm and educate others about the discrimination surrounding us everyday. They put it best by saying, "Our tone is light, but our message is firm: We will not sit back and be led to a society that favors discrimination over diversity."

What I Think: GottabeMe writes lots of wonderful posts about reproductive rights, women's access to birth control, and her right to be happily, and voluntarily, child-free. She also absolutely hates Huckabee and loves Colbert + Stuart which are all pluses in my book ;)

Smirking Cat: This fun, sarcastic, and witty blog uses a "cast of characters" to write about her own life as well as social issues. Smirking Cat often discusses the struggles and the importance in the relationships that exist between parents and their kids. I have yet to read something on her blog that i don't agree with and enjoy learning more about a variety of topics ranging from divorce, to feminism, to cyber-stalking.

The Excellent Blog Award goes to:

Everyone Needs Therapy: This social work blog is written by a Jewish professional counselor who discusses what she's learned from experiences and interactions with clients. Her examples are made up (never disclosing actual client/counselor sessions) but ring true and are beautifully written. Her posts are a great resource on anything mental health related, especially relationships, depression, seeking therapy, addiction, and the media. Check out therapydoc for a "dose of self help" as she says, or just some great resources and links on her site.

Country Girl City Living: Lindsay is a graduate student, a wonderful wife, a terrific sister-in-law, a teacher, a mommy-to-be, a really really good cook, and an excellent writer. Her food comes alive in the words she uses to express tastes, colors, and textures on her delicious food blog. She teaches us how to cook seasonally and shop locally for the best flavors. Oh and the pictures she puts up of her food creations will make you drool! :)

Crucial Minutiae: This blog is written by a group of friends who attempt to make sense of the world by putting together the pieces of everything that takes place around us. They look at culture and society as a large puzzle and the experiences we have pieces to that puzzle, waiting to be placed in their appropriate homes. These experiences are translated into beautiful posts. I must admit, I read Crucial Minutiae because of Courtney Martin (one of the authors) who I have a tremendous (totally platonic and envious) crush on. Courtney writes about gender, race, politics, and the media and has published a book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body.

Enjoy checking out some of these blogs and feel free to leave ones that you especially like in the comments section!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I'm Done Apologizing, Part II

Brief recap of yesterday's post:
- I am sick of people telling me why I am or am not a feminist
- I am sick of apologizing for who I am and what I believe
- Not agreeing with one feminist notion does not disqualify someone from being feminist
- The Guerrilla Girls pissed me off by dictating who is and who isn't feminist based on what they believe and who they vote for...

Now, onto the good stuff:
The second thing the Guerrilla Girls said that pissed me off was when they told me to vote for Clinton because she is a woman. No thanks. I chose to vote for a candidate based on their policy, not based on what's in between their legs, their skin color, their sexual orientation, their religion, etc. As cool as it would be to have a black, lesbian, Jew in the white house if along with those things she is also pro-war, anti-choice, anti-same sex marriage, anti-immigration, anti-environment, she will mostly likely not get my vote. Get it? With the Guerrilla Girls' logic, we might as well elect Condi or Ann Coulter...

The Guerrilla Girls aren't the first ones to tell me that if i don't vote Clinton then i am not a feminist. I have heard this a handful of times over the past few months and it really pisses me off. As much as i wanted to avoid disclosing who i voted for on my blog i think you can probably guess. Even though i have spent more blog space and effort supporting Clinton and reacting to the sexist shit she's gone through over the course of her campaign, politically, i support Obama. Before you chew my head off, let me explain. As soon as i tell people, especially those who know me well, that i voted for Obama i am instantly put on the defensive having to justify my vote. So fine, i'll do it here as well. I voted for Obama, I did not vote against women. So seriously, if one more person tells me that i'm not the feminist they thought i was because i didn't vote for a woman i will (WILL) punch them in the face. Seriously, next time you see me, try me ;)

Either candidate will make an outstanding president and I will wholeheartedly support whoever is chosen as the Democratic nominee. I am so very glad to see such strong candidates up there and am even more glad that we will have either a black man or a white woman as president. But my vote is not based on the demographic they represent. Let's rewind to the Guerrilla Girls for a second. They did a beautiful segment on peace and how we must (MUST) vote pro-peace from now on and anti-war. About 5 minutes later they told us all to vote for Clinton because she is a woman. Politically, Clinton and Obama have VERY similar views and ideas. And i even think that if elected, they will both surround themselves with equally as qualified and intelligent people. I think both candidates will do great things for our country and for change. But let's get one thing straight, Obama's platform is MUCH more pro-peace than Clinton's. This is why voting for someone based on their sex vs their politics is stupid. I'm not even talking about her 2002 pro-war vote because that is, like, so two months ago. I am talking about comments like this one from her campaign website that seem like a slippery slope and make me exceedingly nervous: "She would devote the resources we need to fight terrorism and will order specialized units to engage in narrow and targeted operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region."

Compare that to Obama's anti-war stance and you'll understand where i'm coming from:
"I will end the war in Iraq... I will close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus. I will finish the fight against Al Qaeda... And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, 'You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.'" — Barack Obama, Des Moines, Iowa, November 10, 2007

Here is some more info on Obama's anti-war platform:

  • In 2002, he voted against the war in Iraq
  • In 2003 and 2004, he spoke out against the war on the campaign trail
  • In 2005, he called for a phased withdrawal of our troops
  • In 2006, he called for a timetable to remove our troops, a political solution within Iraq, and aggressive diplomacy with all of Iraq's neighbors
  • In January 2007, he introduced legislation in the Senate to remove all of our combat troops from Iraq by March 2008
  • In September 2007, he laid out a detailed plan for how he will end the war as president.
Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.

There are two reasons i voted for Obama: one political and one socio-political. Policy wise, Obama is more pro-peace than Clinton. I am ready for a president that values diplomacy, collaboration, and peace. Socio-politically it's all in the numbers for me. I firmly believe that Obama will get more underrepresented voters to the polls. If Clinton receives the Democratic nomination, I am afraid that the voters who would have gone out to vote for Obama will not vote for Clinton (I fear that they simply won't vote at all.) Whereas i'm pretty sure that Clinton's supporters will vote for Obama if he is elected the Democratic nominee. Numbers wise, it's smarter to elect Obama so that come presidential elections, we (the democrats) will win.

I DO believe it's time for a female president. I also believe it's time for a black president. So what?! To elect a president simply because she is female is just as sexist as electing a president because he is male. I will vote for the candidate that makes the most sense to me, not because of the demographic they represent. And once again, all together now: VOTING FOR A MALE OVER A FEMALE DOES NOT MAKE ME ANY LESS OF A FEMINIST!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Guerrilla Girls on Tour in CT...

Ok so tonight I’m finally pissed. I am entirely sick of people telling me why I am or am not a feminist. Please refer to a previous post I wrote about why someone would or would not identify with feminism and the importance that identity has on activism and collective action. Tonight D and I went to see the Guerrilla Girls, which I have been incredibly psyched about and looking forward to for weeks! Unfortunately, we both left disappointed. There were a number of comments and assumptions made that totally pissed me off, let alone the dreadful performance.

I first learned about the Guerrilla Girls in a women’s studies class, Feminism and the Arts. I couldn’t believe how unique, creative, compelling, pertinent, and hilarious they were. The Guerrilla Girls use humor to disarm and educate people of sexism in the arts. Equally cool is that they take on the names of deceased kick-ass women and wear masks to conceal their own identities. They do this to keep the focus on issues rather than on themselves. The images in this post are some of their more famous posters.

So, now you understand why I was very excited to see the Guerrilla Girls tonight. Here are just two of the many things they said that pissed me off:

1. They did a segment in their performance that responded to letters they’ve received. One letter was written by a woman clearly struggling with feminist identity. She wrote that, especially seeing the Guerrilla Girls perform at her school, she really wanted to identify with feminism. Her only concern was that she doesn’t support abortion due to the "negative consequences" it has on women. She wanted to know: can she still be a feminist? The Guerrilla Girls’ response was a straightforward and unapologetic: “NO.” Period. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I think this issue is SO much more complicated than that so I brought it up to them after the show.

I asked if they could expand on their response because being pro or anti abortion does not a feminist make and there are so many other facets of feminism that need to be taken into account. Obviously this woman, struggling with her own feminist identity, was looking for a genuine response from the Guerrilla Girls, not a simple “no.” The Girls’ response when I brought this up was to lecture me (read: preach to the choir) on the importance of reproductive rights to the feminist movement. Yes, I AGREE and I get it, trust me. I am pro-choice, I am pro-reproductive rights and freedom, I am pro-women (especially pro women making decisions about their own bodies.) That wasn’t at all, in the least bit, my point. My point was that if this women did not agree with abortion, or even if she (OMG I’m gonna say it) was anti-choice, she could still be a feminist. There is not just one strict way to identify with feminism and to isolate those who do not assert the same feminist beliefs as us seems closed-minded and does not better the movement in the least bit. What if this woman worked daily against rape and domestic violence? What if she volunteered as a big sister and mentor to young girls with body image issues? What if she headed a committee at work for the advancement of women in her profession and equal pay for equal work? What if she spent hours campaigning for women to get elected to our male dominated government? What, fucking, if? Not agreeing with one feminist notion does not disqualify someone from being feminist. Yes, reproductive freedom is incredibly important to me and I find it difficult to see how someone anti-choice can consider herself a feminist but if she does, who the hell am I to stop her?

2. I almost forgot I wanted to talk about a second thing. I hate when my entries get too long because then I fear you’ll get bored and not continue reading. I’ll post the second thing the Guerrilla Girls said to piss me off tomorrow. Primarily because I am tired but also because it has a lot do to with the primaries and I’ll wait until all the results are in before I vent. It also has a lot to do with me finally putting an end to apologizing for who I am. I mean this very clearly: in my personal life, in my political opinions, in my relationships, and in my identity as a feminist.

To be continued... :)

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Message we Send by Bashing Hillary Clinton

If you read only one thing today, please let it be this.

All i can say to Schultz's article is: "YES YES YES YES YES!"

Obama: The First Woman President

Although I agree with most of what the article says, I must admit that my instinctual reaction to Newsweek's story was anger. I was outraged at two things:

1. Even with a female in the race, the MALE receives credit for being the "first woman president."

2. Just because Obama expresses optimism, modesty, collaboration, etc. these values somehow make him automatically "feminine." We as a nation have to realize that these qualities make us strong and possessing them, especially in combination with "masculine" values, is what will make a strong leader: male OR female.

Check out the article, it's interesting. Frankly, this line sums it up: "Elections aren't about leadership. They are about winning"If Clinton used Obama's tactics she would not have made it past the first caucus. Likewise, Obama's more "feminine" approach is congruent with his platform of "change" (it is a big change for a male candidate to express some of the qualities and values that Obama expresses). Is Clinton really as cold and authoritarian as she makes us believe? Is Obama really as warm and fuzzy? I doubt it. But these are the roles they both play in order to get elected.

Does Obama's platform of conversation and collaboration make him "the first woman president" (similar to Bill Clinton being the first black president)? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Fat Rant

A friend sent me this video, i thought it was fantastic!

Check it out, definitely worth the 7 minutes :)

Joy's ultimate message: "Stop putting life on hold." This rings true for all of us. She talks about a phenomenon that i've seen way too often. Friends will talk excitedly to me about these amazing plans they have for when they drop X amount of pounds. They plan to find their soul mate, get better jobs, go on a tropical vacation (in bikinis!), start going out more, buying "cute" clothes, whatever. As if the only thing stopping them from doing those things is their weight. No. If you want to do all those things and more, do them NOW. Go swimming NOW, start dating again NOW, look for a new job NOW, buy that kick ass dress you've been scoping out NOW; not when you lose X number of pounds but NOW. Seriously. What are you waiting for?!

The reason it is so important to stop waiting and start living is two-fold:

1. Waiting for life to start when you drop the weight sets you up for failure. It leads you to believe that the only thing that can possibly be "wrong" with you is how you look and once you look a certain way things are going to magically fall into place. This is very much not the case. Thin people have issues too, lots of issues actually. Weight should SO not be the "issue" that stops you from living life. Life's too short and there are way too many other things out there to worry about. Being thin doesn't miraculously rid you of stuff you've been putting off because you thought your biggest problem was "fat." Also, being thin won't magically solve all your other problems. There's this crazy misconception that thin = happy. I know many unhappy thin people. Being thin won't solve the problems you've been avoiding because you thought they'd go away as soon as you shed those pounds... which brings me to my next point...

2. In the video Joy talks about people using "fat" as a constant ingrained excuse. I think she's right on and explains it much better than i could:

They're not gonna hire me, i'm fat. He'd never ask me out, i'm fat... As if that is the only thing that could possibly be wrong with me! How about i'm late all the time? How about i'm mean to people? I have this automatic excuse. I never have to work on any other aspects of my personality. The only thing that anyone could possibly have a problem with is the fact that i'm fat.

Joy goes on to say, "FAT is a descriptive physical characteristic. It's not an insult, or an obscenity, or a death sentence." And she's right. So stop putting life on hold. I don't care if you're fat, thin, whatever - stop using weight as an excuse, get out there and start living!