Thursday, June 26, 2008

Michigan Sunset

I hate to do this again but posting will be slow (as in nonexistent) over the next week. Same with comment moderation. This time i'll be on vacation in Michigan. My partner's family does an annual reunion and this will be my 4th year joining them :)

They have a no TV, no internet rule.

I'm a stickler for rules... I'll miss you all :)

But the sunset there sure is gorgeous...

Boobies Earn Police Officer a Promotion*

Not sure what to make of this story. In China, some are protesting a police officer's promotion. Why was she promoted you ask? Because she breastfed nine (yes, NINE) orphaned victims after the earthquake. Protesters say, "an official position should not be used to promote a moral model." Huh?

Why are people really protesting this promotion? Maybe because boobies make some people uncomfortable... Maybe because this officer went above and beyond her call of duty and did something that no man could have. And something that although some women may have been able to, chose not to. I think that certainly does merit a promotion.

My only hesitation with this story is that since men are physically unable to breastfeed, is it fair to promote a woman for something that men cannot physiologically do? Not sure. In this case, i think yes because this officer saw a need that she could fill and went above and beyond to fill it. I think that shows altruism, compassion, and her ability to complete "tasks" outside those on her job description. Because of this, it warrants a promotion.

What are your thoughts?

Story found via Feministe where a commenter wrote:

The fact that she pulled out her breasts and not a gun should not lessen the value of her work for the community.
Haha, so true.

*please forgive me for the title, i was trying to be ironic and think of the most ridiculous headline that newspapers would write for this story :0)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is there Activism After College?

Professor What If and I got to talking a few weeks back about activism in and after college. Her being a college professor and me hoping to get there one day but for now being a struggling ph.d. applicant and recent college grad (haha… if only it weren't so dramatic…) we thought we'd pair up and collaborate on an activism image, in/after college post.

I graduated college a few years ago. While there, I had the opportunity to be involved in lots of activism. I participated in Take Back the Night, body image forums and speak-outs, a multitude of activities at the Rainbow Center, was trained as an advocate for individuals who had been sexually assaulted, wrote a thesis examining feminist identity and body taught a peer counseling course that focused on diversity, and many many other incredible experiences. College was jam-packed with activism. Not only did my feminist identity develop 10-fold in the time I was there, but the collegiate atmosphere gave me a chance to use my newly found voice, to participate, to engage, to wax philosophical, to really feel like I mattered and my message was clear (I didn't, and it wasn't, not really at least). But clear, loud, focused, and united is how I felt. "Sisterhood," I thought, "what a fucking awesome concept." When you sit in a women's studies classroom there isn't much you think can't be done, and you get excited to change the world. That collective action, that empowerment, was not only life changing but also a perfect example of privilege. Not all feminists come to be through academia and many people can't go to college for a multitude of reasons. For my experience and my undergraduate opportunities, I am incredibly grateful and thankful.

Fast forward to graduation. My diploma read: Double major in Psychology and Women's Health, Minor in Women's Studies. Now what? What was I going to do with all those specializations? I knew I wanted to change the world and settling for a 9-5 sedentary office job was just not on my radar. So I traveled. (Again, I realize, my privilege is showing…) But this trip was more of an eye-opening experience than a "vacation" per se. My partner, D, and I backpacked through Europe staying in youth hostels, train stations, and the occasional random person we met at the pub's apartment… (that's an entirely different story). Needless to say, it was amazing. And life changing. And to get a chance to see the world with my beshert*, that was remarkable. We also saw first hand people's opinions of Americans. We quickly began identifying as Canadians while abroad. We watched news coverage of American politics. It wasn't the same news coverage we saw in America… until then I never really thought much about US censorship.

Once I got a job, moved out of my parent's house, and got busy with life, I realize I was lacking something substantial. All that time spent working towards equality in college was now being spend working. And socializing. And starting a family. Don't get me wrong, it was all very fulfilling but I was missing a huge part of myself without the activism I became so engrossed in throughout college. I did what any other bored individual who sits in front of a computer at work all day would do, I started a blog :)

I started blogging to fill a void that i'd been feeling. It was easy to stay involved in activism on a university campus but took a lot more effort and time post graduation. Once I discovered blogging and online activism I became excited and captivated by the opportunities for change, empowerment, and social action. I found progressive and comprehensive websites and organization that allowed individuals to make a difference. I finally got the chance to "be the change I wanted to see in the world" and saw feminist blogging as a way to achieve that. I quickly fell in love with the whole experience and community. Blogging gives me that outlet and I was missing. It's our generation's venue for change. No we don't picket as much as our parents may have but we sure do blog! The internet seems to be the 21st century's tool for collective action and I am excited, empowered, captivated, and enlightened by the opportunity to participate every day.

You can find Dr. W's post here :)

*beshert = soul mate

Monday, June 23, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I guess the blogosphere doesn't stop while i'm away... Damn... the world doesn't revolve around me after all... haha

I have SO many amazing posts to catch up on. Lots has been written this past week and i can't wait to get to it all. Please feel free to link in comments to your favorite thing written last week (by you or others), this will give me some sort of structure :)

Me? I had an amazing time at CPDD! I learned tons and felt incredibly privileged all week for the opportunity to go to this conference and get to meet ridiculously brilliant researchers doing terrific work in the field of substance abuse.

For now, i'll leave you with a photo of my favorite pastime from last week - while i was on break from conference meetings, of course ;)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

White Privilege?

I wasn't going to write anymore before CPDD but something happened last night that i wanted to touch on here before i left.

D and I went to see John Stewart last night, who by the way was absolutely hilarious and really really smart. I won the tickets from a radio station (crazy, right?! I didn't think people actually win that stuff either...)

Anyway, after the show we stopped by a local diner for pie (yum...pie). The place was fairly empty with only 4 other booths occupied. In the booth next to us was an African American man, sitting alone drinking coffee. The rest of the patrons were white. This is important because of what happened next. The server came over to us and asked what we'd like to drink (water) and eat (we didn't know yet). Next she brought over the waters and was ready to take our order. At this point the black man became outraged that she was taking our order first and he'd been siting there for 10 minutes. He got up, yelled at her, and walked out. We sat there dumbfounded because we weren't sure what had actually happened. Quickly we tried to assess the scene. He was there first. He was already drinking coffee which means someone must have asked him what he wanted at least once. Was he asked to order before we came in? We don't know. Probably not according to his reaction but he did have a coffee and a water... Now he, absolutely, without a doubt, thought that we were being served "first" because we were persons of white privilege and became rightfully outraged. D and I had no idea what to make of this. If we were certain this was an example of racism and white privilege we would have without a doubt got up and left ourselves. We don't want to eat in a racist establishment and we would have absolutely made a scene also to help illustrate the point that this behavior is unacceptable. However, we weren't sure if this was an example of racism and white privilege, we don't know if he was asked to order before us, if he had the opportunity to order his food along with his coffee like we had, we had no idea. We spent the rest of the night trying to figure out what really happened and whether we should have left. Thinking back to the moment, we probably should have left. Because whether or not the situation could have been justified as not an example of white privilege, it still probably was.

D had another question: was it racist for us to assume that he was angry about not being served first because of his race? Maybe there was no racial motivation to his anger? Maybe he was just hungry, or angry about being there first and having to wait? He could have been white and had the same reaction, then it wouldn't have been racially charged. But he wasn't white. So was it racist for us to assume that he correlated the situation to racism and white privilege and was outraged by this specifically? Maybe his anger had nothing to do with that, maybe he didn't think the server was racist, maybe he just wanted to order his food like everyone else and didn't associate having to wait with his race? But we did. Because to us, if in fact he was made to wait and we were asked to order first, it was a clear example of white privilege. SO... is it racist that we associated his outrage instantly to thinking he was outraged specifically about racism and not something else?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Feel Good: Dad's Rights & Same Sex Marriage

I know this is cheating but i'm going to have to link to The Feminist Underground for today's Friday Feel Good :)

Since this installation is supposed to be happy news only, focus on Habladora's first two stories :)

1. In light of Father's Day this weekend, happy daddy news: Massachusetts's State Maternity Act is now going to apply to fathers as well as mothers! :) What does this mean? It means that Massachusetts' employers will now be offering both mothers and fathers 8 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. This is great great news, hopefully we can change that to paid leave in the near future!

2. As we learned last month, California's State Supreme Court ruled to allow same sex marriage, the ruling takes effect this weekend! :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quick Apology

Sorry about the posting drought... but unfortunately it will continue for a bit longer because i'm going to The College on Problems of Drug Dependence conference from Sunday to Thursday. Needless to say, i have tons of work to get done before i leave and will be even more busy while i'm there... i'm psyched though because the conference is in Puerto Rico this year! :)

Which leads me to my next question: Do i have any readers in Puerto Rico? If so, any chance you want to show me around San Juan Sunday? :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eye on Russia: Eating Disorder Treatment

A few months ago my cousin, Mark, sent me an article: Anorexia takes toll on Russian women.

I started writing this post back in March but couldn't get myself to click "publish." There was just so much going on in this article i didn't know where to start - Obviously the piece itself is saddening, it's terrible and damaging that so many young women in Russia are dealing with eating disorders, especially on their own without adequate professional support. But the tone and message of the article troubled me almost as much as the issue. And the "professional support" quoted seemed to miss the mark entirely.

The only doctor they interview for the piece said, “it’s a paranoia and an obsession. Some of those girls have never even been plump, but they get the idea that they have to lose weight and become perfect. So we use all the means to cure it.”

1. I'd be really interested to see what she meant by eating disorders are a "paranoia," that's a new one to me... definitely not sure i agree.
2. Being "plump" as the doctor describes it should not at all be the focus here. Firstly, even "plump" women can have life-threatening eating disorders. Weight isn't the only determinant of how sick someone is or whether or not someone needs help dealing with an eating disorder.
3. The wording: "they get the idea that they have to lose weight and become perfect." The "and" really stands out to me there. I wouldn't have given it a second thought if she said, "they get the idea that they have to lose weight to become perfect." But she says "and" and she's supposed to be the professional. The way she says it associates weight with becoming perfect (the thinner one is, the better, or closer to "perfection one is.) The "to" rather than "and" illustrates to me that the doctor understands the person dealing with the eating disorder believes that thinness and perfection are linked but the professional does not see it this way herself. It troubles me that she used "and" because it makes me believe she thinks there is a link between weight and perfection.

I wonder if this article was originally published in Russian? If so, I'd really like to read it because quotes like that make me wonder if there is something lost in translation.

The other shocking thing about the article was it said there is only ONE clinic in all of Russia specializing in eating disorders?! And the clinic only has 7 beds?! Wha Wha WHAT?! That seems incredibly hard for me to believe, especially with all the dancers and figure skaters in the country (not to stereotype, but comeon...) If this is the case, Russia has more of a problem than I ever realized.

Another troubling quote came from a woman who works for Maxim magazine and describes women's eating disorders as an "investment in their future."

“In Russia women aren’t that financially independent. They’re not equally paid and not interested in getting a job. The girls dream is to get the right guy, who will pay rent at least, or marry her or take care of her and the kids.”

Wow, talk about sexism in a huge way. It seems that eating disorders in Russia are closely intertwined with the systematic problem of women unable to be financial independent, which by the way should be at the forefront here. The quote though? I don't buy that woman's solution for a number of reasons.

1. Looking a certain way does not guarantee snagging a man, or a woman...
2. Snagging that perfect, rich, sig o should not be the solution for a systematic problem.
3. Russia's focus should be on equalizing pay and providing women opportunities to become financially independent.
3. I refuse to believe that all these women suffer from eating disorders as a result of trying to snag a guy, that's simply insulting and she's definitely missing something big here...
4. She says "[Russian women] are not interested in getting a job." I find that hard to believe. Mostly because i am a Russian woman, i was raised by Russian women (and men) and i grew up surrounded by a magnitude of strong, independent, forward thinking, and intelligent Russian women. These women valued hard work and did not sit around a wait for a man to save them. Saying comments like hers is insulting and demonstrates that inequality and sexism isn't always straight forward.

Criticism aside, Russia needs far better profession support for individuals dealing with eating disorders than the doctor highlighted in the article.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sexist or Sexually Empowering?

This started as a response to comments on the Just Do It post but ended up way too long for the comment box so i thought i'd make an entry out of it.

The postcard text reads: "When I jog by men I breathe heavily and moan, so they imagine fucking me as I trot past"

I gave this postcard a lot of thought before putting it up, especially in regards to Female Desire Week, but decided that it made the cut, here's why:

Although i agree it's difficult to separate agency from systemization we also (unfortunately) can't go back and ask the author of the post card to explain what s/he meant.* I am going to imagine the person who wrote this was female (it may very well have been a male) and analyze it from a female sexuality perspective.

To me, the postcard represents a woman having the power to manipulate other's wants and thoughts based on her choice of action. She is taking the control and power of her sexuality to make him imagine her in the way she wants to be imagined and wants to be seen. And if this turns her on, by all means...

I realize a lot of people have a hard time with women claiming power through sexuality because, way too often, sexual power is the only type of power women are said to have. However, i also think it's empowering for this particular woman to have chosen to take back her power in this way and reclaim the power of her own sexuality. She is making a conscious choice, outside of the stereotypical norms set for sexuality, especially female sexuality.

In that respect, this IS celebrating female agency because it's not socially acceptable for women to assert themselves in that sort of sexual way and by doing so they are taking that power back. In contemporary society it is acceptable for women to act subtly sexual and it is expected that their sexuality is elusive and non-apparent. In this case acting overtly sexual by complete choice is acting as an agent outside of the system in place.

Also, thinking through norms of sexuality, women are taught from a young age to use their sexuality as their main asset, especially for personal gain (example: the DQ commercial i wrote about a while back - little girl acting sexy to get ice cream). However, to act this way completely for themselves and not to acquire something, to me, is totally different. If causing a guy to imagine that he is fucking her turns this girl on and the knowledge of that is what she is "getting" out of the situation, i do not see anything wrong with that. Female sexuality that isn't of the social norm (such as purposefully breathing heavily and moaning), as in almost "deviant" sexual behavior, that is decisively deviant and made freely - outside the norm of sexuality, outside the system, and outside female expectations of sexuality - is empowering. To me, this reclaims female power and agency and is a perfect example of female desire and female sexual freedom.

Also, i'm incredibly new to thinking about sexuality and female power through sexuality from a feminist perspective so i would love the feedback of sex-positive bloggers who know their stuff much more so than i currently do :)

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

*If you are the author of this postcard and somehow happened to come upon this blog, PLEASE chime in, we'd love to hear from your perspective! :)

Friday Feel Good: China's Carbon Footprint

A tip of the hat to China who banned free plastic bags at shops and grocery stores, effective June 1st.

The Chinese use up to 3 billion plastic shopping bags a day.

Often, the flimsy bags are used once and discarded, adding to waste in a country grappling with air and water pollution as a result of rapid economic transformation, officials said.

'Our country consumes a large amount of plastic bags. While convenient for consumers, the bags also lead to a severe waste of resources and environmental pollution because of their excessive use and low rate of recycling,' the statement at the Web site said. 'The ultra-thin bags are the main source of 'white' pollution as they can easily get broken and end up as litter.'

The government statement added, 'We should encourage people to return to carrying cloth bags, using baskets for their vegetables.'

More durable plastic bags still will be allowed for sale by markets and shops, The Associated Press reported.

Could the US be next? Connecticut legislators are also considering baning plastic bags:

A bill before the General Assembly would prohibit retails from using or distributing nonbiodegradable plastic bags on or after Jan. 1, 2010. Retailers could face fines ranging from $200 to $1,000.

But this bill has mixed reviews:

Martin Mador, of the Sierra Club, said he worries the Connecticut bill will drive people back to using paper bags, which have their own environmental issues. Instead, his organization is recommending the state charge shoppers 5 cents for every paper or plastic bag they use.

Four cents could be used to pay for recycling programs, while a penny would be returned to the retailer. Also, Mador said the fee would likely discourage shoppers from using the bags, dramatically reducing their numbers.

'Why does this work? Because everybody wins,' Mador said. 'Let the public use the plastic bags if they like, but charge them for it ... Use the economic engine to solve the problem for you.'

The bill awaits action by the Environment Committee.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Just Do It...

In honor of Female Desire Week: This postcard via

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A New Sense of Patriotism

Quote of the day goes to Melissa from Shakesville:

[Obama's race] matters.

In a big fucking way.

Not just to people of color who are vulnerable, who were targeted or abandoned by the Bush administration, but to all people of color, the daughters and sons of wealth who are told they can be anything they want but have known it's not quite true. It matters to them. And it matters to white racists (though they don't know it yet, or care), and it matters to white allies of people of color, all of whom need and want to see a person of color leading this diverse nation at long last.

(emphasis mine)

I finally feel patriotic. And that is a really big deal to me.

I wasn't born in America. My family immigrated here from Russia as soon as the transitioning Russian government opened it's doors to Jews. We needed to get the hell out of there, asap. So we came here, to the land of opportunity. And until i knew better, that is exactly how I, a 7 year old foreign kid standing in Walmart surrounded by aisles of Barbies and Tonka Trucks, saw America. My parents are Republicans. My father listens to, and quotes daily, Right-Wing Radio. I was indoctrinated with "what America means" and the "opportunity i have been given" ever since i came to this country. I am not ungrateful. I realized then and realize now how lucky my brother and i were to grow up in America. But i also quickly realized what that actually meant as soon as i went to college. I stopped kidding myself about being a Republican, took up Women's Studies, and snapped out of the idealistic notion of a country i quickly realized was a sham.

Don't call me ungrateful. Just listen.

I finally saw America for what is was: racist, homophobic, classist, materialistic, wasteful, hateful, ageist, ableist, and unjust. Lead by "elected" official after elected official who looked exactly the same (and quite frankly, made the exact same decisions that were as progressive as my pinky toe.) They didn't represent me and didn't represent the America i grew to know, study, and slowly understand.

Fine, call me jaded. Call me an Anarchist, a radical, a communist, whatever. I am only being realistic in what i saw once i opened my eyes and finally started critically thinking about this land of opportunity that my parents brought me up to appreciate. If my dad reads this he'll probably disown me, or roll his eyes like he does on a regular basis when these topics come up.

Here's the truth: America was and is an incredible opportunity for my brother and me. We're white. We're Jewish. We had a strong support network as soon as we stepped foot in JFK Airport. Not all immigrants are that privileged. My dad will say, "if they just worked as hard as we did," "if they just stopped being lazy," "if they just get off well fare and find jobs," "if they, if they, if they." No. Stop. There is no fucking they. There is us and we are all one nation. My family was incredibly privileged. Many people are not as lucky as we were/are. Yes, what my parents did was amazing and i'm not downplaying their achievements (they just bought their first house last year!) all i'm saying is they did it with a lot of support, privilege, and opportunity that not everyone is granted.

So this long introduction brings me to my post:

Thanks to Obama, I finally feel patriotic. I finally feel hopeful. I finally identify with the America i always thought it could be. The America i saw before i learned to see it with a critical eye. The America i am hopeful it will slowly but surely become.

I'm finally patriotic because there will be a president soon that is representative of our nation. One whose platform is based on issues that I care about. One who works towards peace, justice, and equality. One who values collaboration. One who is progressive and a forward thinker. One who realizes the importance of comprehensive sex education. One who values diversity. One who understands class issues and America's impact on the global economy. One who supports Roe v. Wade. One who won't leave a child behind and is committed -truly committed- to education. One who believes love makes a family. One who understands the need for energy independence. One who's ethical. One who's unafraid to tackle serious issues like health care and immigration. One who stands strong with Israel. One who has a plan to bring our troops home from Iraq. One who's been a "lifelong advocate for the poor." And especially, i'll repeat, one who represents our nation. Not just because he is a person of color or mixed race (though I can't deny that his skin has a lot to do with it) but also because of all the hope, change, and opportunity that he represents.

When Obama is elected president i will finally no longer be embarrassed to let people know i am an American when i travel.

So thanks, Obama, for instilling a new sense of patriotism and hope in me.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

E is for Excellent

I received an award some time back from Sarah J and thought it was long overdue to give out some more of my own awards :)

To Dirty Rotten Feminist. Aside from Kacie's excellent posts on all things feminist, her Sunday night questions are something i look forward to weekly.

To CoffeeYogurt. Specifically for her two insightful posts on sex and blog stalking (which was very timely for me.

To Womanist Musings. Renee wrote an amazing commentary discussing her experiences with feminist identity and race identity, and why she chooses to identify as a womanist. Truly one of the best posts on this subject that i've ever read.

To The Debate Link. Dave does a kick-ass job articulating all the things i want to know and be able to say about Israel.

To Seasons of the Bitch. Specifically for her Slut post, but really, all her stuff is fantastic.

To Viva La Feminista. She does a lot of great work surrounding motherhood as well as excellent reviews of books.

To Female Impersonator. This is a blog that started from a feminist radio show (how cool is that?!) All the authors have a unique voice but Amelia's posts are the ones that especially stand out to me.

To Feminocracy. I regularly enjoy their feminist critique. I very much enjoyed the post about booby products :)

To Everyone Needs Therapy. Just read this, this or this and you'll understand why.

To This is What a Feminist Blog Looks Like. Earlgreyrooibos started her blog to explore the feminist ideas that she's always identified with and put words to some of those feelings and beliefs. This is a new blog and i look forward to seeing what she does with it :)

To The Feminist Underground. These ladies tackle all issues dealing with what it means to be a woman. They focus on feminist identity, race, sexuality, and always have great work linked for further education.

To Feminism/Popular Culture. I would have never thought of Kurt Cobain as a feminist before but her post makes me love him even more than i already did growing up (and i didn't think this was possible). I'm looking forward to Cortney writing more as the summer unfolds :)

To The Smirking Cat. If you like your blogs filled with honestly, real life stories, felines, a dash of politics, and some hockey then The Smirking Cat is for you. She's going through some personal stuff right now and i hope the blogosphere continues to support her in anyway we can.

To Postlapsaria. I saw Judy on MTV's True Life. Judy suffers from social anxiety disorder but doesn't let that define who she is. She also self-identifies as, "politically liberal, feminist, sex-positive, pro-choice, mental health activist..." Her blog is definitely worth checking out.

What are some great blogs you're reading or great things you're writing these days? Feel free to link in comments.