Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Holla Back CT

HollaBackCT is now up and running!

Submit stories and/or pictures to HollaBackCT@gmail.com

What is HollaBack?
HollaBack is a collective comprised of women and men who believe in building communities where everyone is comfortable, safe, and respected. Many people are unaware of the frequency and severity of disrespect and intimidation that numerous folks, especially women and other marginalized groups, experience in public spaces on a daily basis. HollaBack aims to expose and combat street harassment as well as provide an empowering forum in this struggle. HollaBackCT is a watch-dog blog that serves to call out all forms of street harassment that occurs specifically in Connecticut.

What is street harassment?

Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core, street harassment is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life.
At HollaBackNYC, they believe that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it, and HollaBackCT agrees. While there is always the classic, “Hey baby, nice tits” there are so many other forms that go unnoted. If you feel like you have been harassed in any way, HOLLA BACK!

What does racism have to do with street harassment?
Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper holla back. Due in part to prevalent stereotypes of men of color as sexual predators or predisposed to violence, HollaBackCT asks that contributors do not discuss the race of harassers or include other racialized commentary. If you feel that race is important to your story, please make sure its relevance is explained clearly and constructively in your post.

Aren't you just dismissing and belittling another person’s culture with your definition of street harassment?
Street harassers occupy the full spectrum of class, race, and ethnicity. Sexual harassment, and street harassment specifically, is resisted around the world. To condense another’s culture into vague assumptions about who and what they are is to generalize dangerously about a wide range of experiences and perspectives.

Confronting street harassers can be dangerous. What about safety issues?
While everyone is vulnerable to stranger rape and sexual assault, studies show that those who are aware of their surroundings, walk with confidence and, if harassed, respond assertively, are less vulnerable. Nevertheless, direct confrontations with street harassers may prove extremely dangerous, particularly alone or in unpopulated spaces. While it is each individual’s right to decide when, how, and if to Holla Back, do keep issues of safety in mind. Upon deciding to photograph a harasser, you may consider doing so substantially after the initial encounter and from a distance, ensuring the harasser is unaware of your actions.

Does my Holla Back have to be about an incident in Connecticut?
Well no, of course not :) The site's focus will be primarily CT but we will accept stories about any location. However, if your incident is about an experience in another city that has a Holla Back site, please feel free to email them (see other Holla Back site's linked on the HollaBackCT main page).

Don't women like the attention they get? Why else would they dress like that? Also heard as "If you show off your boobage, shouldn’t you expect some compliments?"
Sure, expect them, but don’t accept them! Just because it happens doesn’t mean it’s okay. A compliment is not a compliment if it makes the recipient feel uncomfortable.
How a woman (or man) is dressed is never an invitation for street harassment, offensive conversation, flirting, groping, or any sort of unsolicited attention.

Questions and answers
are adapted from HollaBackNYC

Monday, July 28, 2008

Eye on Russia: Eating Disorders Treatment (again...)

It makes me really sad to see that when people do a google search for "eating disorder clinic moscow russia" my post on Russia's lack of eating disorders treatment comes up as the second link...

Not resources for individuals struggling with eating disorders, not addresses and phone numbers of available programs, not websites offering help and services...

That's a real shame...

It also forces me to reiterate Russia's need for treatment centers and adequate professional support.

The article I originally wrote about in the post discussed Russia's one and ONLY clinic specializing in eating disorders... a clinic with only 7 beds.

Update: I did a few more google searches hoping for info on treatment in Russia. I looked up "anorexia treatment Russia" and "bulimia treatment Russia," both searches landed my post as the first link :(

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Beauty Privilege

Why do we hate tall, thin, curvy (but not too curvy!) women with perky tits? I think it has a lot less to do with the fact they "support patriarchy" and a lot more with privilege.

I knew i wasn't done the other day. Especially in regards to my first question: Is feminist and conventionally pretty compatible? I was quick with a YES! But there is a lot more to it than that. People are pissed off about this right now and i don't blame them. I think the reason there is such a divide in this topic is because some think fitting a status quo set by patriarchy, is "antifeminist." Others think it's antifeminist to call people out for their looks, conventional or otherwise. I certainly stand by my previous agreement with the latter argument, except for one other thing: privilege.

Much like white-privilege, male-privilege, hetero-privilege, and cis-privilege, there is an absolute amount of privilege that goes along with being conventionally attractive. This may be why there is such a divide within this conversation. Without putting words to it, are we all talking about the "what is beautiful is good" phenomenon?

The physical-attractiveness stereotype (AKA "what is beautiful is good") is the presumption that physically attractive people possess other socially desirable traits as well. This is based solely on their appearance.

How does physical appearance and attractiveness tie into privilege? Research shows that, "in our society people who are good-looking are assumed and expected to be better than the rest of the population. According to Kenealy, Frude, and Shaw (2001), research indicates that an individual’s physical attractiveness is an important social cue used by others as a basis for social evaluation. This leads one to believe that physical attractiveness affects how society views people and also how people can be misinterpreted based on their looks. Since many people stereotype physically attractive people as being more socially acceptable, it becomes harder for average or unattractive people to be perceived as having positive traits."

In numerous studies photos of people that were stereotypically attractive were rated more favorably by participants than photos of people not conventionally attractive. Physical appearance had many implications for those rating the photos on impressions of personality. The "beauty is good" stereotype existed in many studies where participants made biased decisions based on physical attractiveness in everyday situations. "Understanding the types of inaccurate perceptions we hold can help us to explore social stereotypes by limiting biased judgments. More specifically, this area is important to the field of social psychology such that stereotypes involving physical attractiveness and social perceptions have always been a major occurrence."
(I realize the photo is laughable but i just wanted to give ya'll an idea of the types of images they use. Even the one that is supposed to be "not attractive" has gorgeous blond hair, perfect cheek bones, big eyes, etc.)

As early as 1972 researchers found support for the "what is beautiful is good" phenomenon in a study that concluded, "stereotyping based on physical (specifically, facial) attractiveness does occur. Physically attractive individuals were rated as having more socially desirable personalities and were expected to have greater personal success on most of the life outcome dimensions." LIFE OUT DIMENSIONS! In most everything in life, just being attractive gives one an upper hand, or at least research shows that Americans believe it does?! This is how much weight we place on physical appearance!

The physical attractiveness bias exists in our professional lives, such as in hiring practices, as well:
Attractiveness biases have been demonstrated in such different areas as teacher judgments of students (Clifford & Walster, 1973), voter preferences for political candidates (Efran & Patterson, 1974) and jury judgments in simulated trials (Efran, 1974). Recently, Smith, McIntosh and Bazzini (1999) investigated the “beauty is goodness” stereotype in U.S. films and found that attractive characters were portrayed more favorably than unattractive characters on multiple dimensions across a random sample drawn from five decades of topgrossing films. There is
considerable empirical evidence that physical attractiveness impacts employment decision making, with the result that the more attractive an individual, the greater the likelihood that that person will be hired (Watkins & Johnston, 2000).

Ok so the physical attractiveness stereotype exists. How does it tie into the currently ongoing feminist conflict of appearance? I think it has a lot to do with privilege. "Beauty privilege" to be exact. Race is socially constructed, yet white privilege exists. Gender is socially constructed, yet male privilege exists. Social status is socially constructed, yet class privilege exists. I think these same rules apply to beauty privilege. For something to be socially constructed it would not have a meaning (ie a biological meaning) without a social representation that is constructed specifically to give it value. Beauty, for example, would just be a state of appearance, no negative or positive connotation to it, except for there is a socially constructed meaning for beauty that creates bias and privilege.

To look at beauty privilege in already accepted and understood terms i will turn to white privilege. The definition i put together below was adapted from Kendall Clark's definition of white privilege.

Beauty Privilege can be defined by:

1. a. A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by conventionally attractive people beyond the common advantage of all others
b. A special advantage or benefit of conventionally attractive people
2. A privileged position; the possession of advantage a conventionally attractive person enjoys over those not conventionally attractive people.
3. a. The special right or immunity attaching to conventionally attractive people as a social relation
b. display of beauty privilege, a social expression of a conventionally attractive people demanding to be treated as members of the socially privileged class.
4. a. To grant conventionally attractive people a particular right or immunity; to benefit or favor specially conventionally attractive people
b. To avail oneself of a privilege owing to one as a conventionally attractive person.
5. To authorize or license of conventionally attractive people what is forbidden or wrong for those not conventionally attractive; to justify, excuse.
6. To give to conventionally attractive people special freedom or immunity from some liability or burden to which non conventionally attractive people are subject; to exempt.

I realize that definition is unnecessarily long but it covers privilege extraordinarily well. Advantages of beauty privilege goes beyond financial benefits such as making more money in tips as a server or not having to pay for drinks at the bar. Research shows that the physical attractiveness phenomenon (thus beauty privilege) affects being hired for employment, called on in the classroom, sentenced for a crime, selected for a position of power, etc. Being able to actively or passively fit into the contemporary standard of beauty offers a set of privileges that go well beyond getting out of a speeding ticket.

The Happy Feminist wrote about beauty as privilege a few years back:
When I was in my 20s, I constantly got pulled over for speeding without ever once getting a ticket. I have frequently been told that the cops probably didn’t ticket me because I was young and cute (and white, but that’s not the issue here). Was I glad to not get a ticket? Sure! But the power in these situations was always in the hands of the male cops who pulled me over. They got to decide whether they deemed me attractive enough to exercise their power and discretion to let me off the hook for speeding.

Although I agree with her to a point i don't think this can be used as an argument against beauty privilege for two reasons.
1. The same argument could be made for the other forms of privilege, but we'd know it's crap. For example a statement like "POC aren't racially profiled, the power to determine who to arrest is in the hands of those doing the arresting" is faulty because we operate within a system of institutionalized racism in which the power isn't solely in the hands of a person but a response to the culture that the person exists in.
2. Even if Happy Feminist's argument is taken into account there is still an element of privilege that goes along with beauty because those who fit into the conventionally attractive category are at least given some element of power which, those who do not fit into the status quo, are not. For example, if a conventionally attractive woman is pulled over, she may or may not get a ticket. If a non-conventionally attractive woman is pulled over, she doesn't have that chance. (I use "non-conventionally attractive" because i think all women are beautiful, we are just talking about beauty in societal terms here).

This is closely linked to feminism because feminists work to educate others about privilege as well as give up our own (be it hetero, white, able-bodied, thin, cis, wealthy, etc) to live in a more just world. Could this be why some radical feminists are up in arms about others reclaiming conventional beauty?

If it is, i wish they would be more intelligent about it and lay off the personal, and unjustified, attacks.

I hate to do it but here's a gem that you'd think was written by a troll, but no, it's someone who claims to be a feminist:
"Jill Fillipovic is the original Fake Pretty Feminist. [Fame within the feminist blogosphere] is all based on looks it's all vapid it has nothing to do with women's liberation. UNTIL WOMEN ARE NO LONGER SEXED UP THEY WON'T BE SEEN AS HUMAN BEINGS BY MEN. Actually these are the women who will never see THEMSELVES as human beings. They'll be too busy buffing their nails and deodorizing their vaginas, ha!." (emphasis hers)

Wow. Way to discredit all the amazing work someone has done just because of the way she looks. How is this any better than telling a woman who is not conventionally attractive her work is meaningless because she is "ugly"? It's not.

I think all this women hate is just as much crap as beauty privilege merely because neither will get us anywhere. As far as beauty privilege goes, "beauty" itself is a socially constructed term that determines which physical appearance is better than another. Years back a heavier, pale woman was considered beautiful. It represented her wealth and abundance. Now, women starve and pay for cancer boxes (tanning beds) to achieve just the opposite look because it's what is now socially desirable. Why are we hatin on each other when we should be hatin on the system that tells women they should starve and get cancer to fit a socially desirable appearance? Beauty privilege needs to be recognized in the same way as the other privileges are. We don't tell white people they are useless or hetero women that they can't be feminists. No, we just expect them to understand their privilege and use it for good and not for evil... you know what i mean...

We can't start excluding women from the feminist movement for (intentionally or otherwise) fitting into a standard of beauty that we should be fighting against. If a woman is naturally thin we can't go around saying she must be anorexic and that being thin is unfeminist. No, she is just naturally thin and that's perfectly fine. Saying the opposite is just as much bullshit as if we were to call fat women unfeminist. In the same regard being conventionally beautiful isn't unfeminist, but it does provide an element of privilege that needs to be recognize. As feminists, we can't attack the women who fit this (almost unattainable) standard of beauty but rather we must question the standard and expand it to fit all women, hell, not just women, everyone. Ren says it best, "why are we blaming the woman with the perky tits rather than the society, which says perky tits are the best?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Is it Possible to be a 'Passive' Feminist?"

This started as a response to a comment on yesterday's I'm a feminist, and... post.

Anonymous said...
The gap between I'm a feminist but and I'm a feminist and...I think the hardest part for me right now is the issue of activism, and am looking for your thoughts on the necessity of activism (mostly in the verbal/written format) within the feminist identity. Looking through your "quiz" on the I'm a feminist but post, there is no way that I cannot consider myself a feminist. But, yet, I dont. Feminism made the life I lead possible, and I fully accept that fact. However, I do not identify as a feminist because I do not actively deal with feminist issues. I dont try to educate others and I try not to get too offended when people make stupid comments. I try to promote female strength and intelligence through my actions, but that's about it. I think my more or less acceptance of the status quo negates the answers to the above mentioned quiz as identifying as a feminist. So my question to you is, is it possible to be a "passive" feminist?

I bitched at Twisty yesterday for acting like the feminism police so i'm sure as hell not going to tell Anonymous what's possible and not within feminism ;)

Activism doesn't have to come in a form of standing in front of government buildings with signs, it can (and should) be things we do every day. Anonymous mentioned realizing feminism made his/her life possible as well as valuing and promoting female agency. Those are already forms of activism that Anonymous is engaging in without even recognizing it as such.

However, I do think activism is crucial to the women's movement. In fact, i think collective action is essential to any political movement because with out it all we have is a theoretical framework which is great, but not nearly enough. Activism doesn't have to be overwhelming, especially for someone just starting to view themselves as a social/political identity.

As far as whether or not it's possible to be a "passive" feminist? Sure anything is possible... but as your feminist identity develops you won't be able to hold back your outrage as you go about your life. Daily, you will encounter things, people, situations, media, etc that will piss you off beyond belief and it will become more and more difficult to remain passive. Outrage is one of the first steps in the development of feminist consciousness and once you develop a feminist lens with which to view the world it will be easy to become outraged, on a regular basis. It's what you do with that outrage that's important. My suggestion - act on it. There are many ways to do so and they are all the ways in which to engage in collective action. This will empower you, strengthen the movement, and support a goal of justice and equality. Also, research shows that feminist self-identity directly and significantly relates to collective action so although being a "passive" feminist may be an option, the more your feminist consciousness develops, the harder it will be to resist taking action.

Activism comes in many forms, here are some everyday things you can do:
  • Call people out for what they say, explain that their words may be hurtful and/or oppressive
  • Write letters
  • Recognize your white/cis/thin/able bodied/hetero/male/etc privilege and explain it to others
  • Support legislation that you believe in
  • Don't shop at stores with unethical practices (like failing to promote minorities or not allowing workers to unionize... coughwalmartcough...)
  • Stop engaging in "fat talk" or other talk that cuts you (or others) down
  • Take part in everyday life with a critical/feminist lens
  • Educate yourself and others
  • Set an example
  • Don't laugh at racist/homophobic/sexist/etc jokes
  • Sign petitions for causes you believe in
  • Engage other people in conversations about the importance of the women's movement
  • Give money to causes you support
  • Start a feminist book club
  • Think before you speak (don't use oppressive language like "that quiz raped me!" or "that is SO gay" or even "you guys")
  • Promote and celebrate diversity
  • Support feminist arts
  • Think outside the US to women in other countries
  • Support candidates that promote affordable and accessible birth control
Other ways to take action here

What are some other forms of activism that i may have missed? Feel free to link to sites that encourage others to take action.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm a feminist, and...

I'm a feminist, and I like to get dolled up from time to time...

I guess this post can be read as a follow up to "I'm not a feminist, but" where i addressed why some people, even though endorsing feminist values, may not embrace the feminist identity. This post, on the other hand, looks at those of us who do identify as feminists and are no more or less feminist because we look, act, dress, think, fuck, write, a certain way. Still with me? Good.

When i first learned about the women's movement i was enlightening, outraged, empowered. I wanted to stand on the rooftop and shout "DOWN WITH PATRIARCHY!" I also became incredibly conflicted. Was i supporting patriarchy by looking the way i did? With the clothes i wore? With my new found love for bare minerals make up? With my adorable string bikini? Was i supporting a system of patriarchy by flirting? By being sexual, by letting guys buy me drinks, by loving to dance at bars? By wearing lipstick? By being 5'9 and rocking high heels? By occasionally obsessing over my weight? By liking Madonna? Was the very essence of me and all the things i enjoyed a direct result of this system and therefore meaningless, trite, cliché? Even worse, were they (therefore, I) not only existing in, but supporting, oppression, patriarchy, and inequality? My brain almost exploded. Everything i stood for got flipped on its head at which point i cut my hair 12 inches shorter, donated a my more skanky* clothes, and stopped shaving my legs (it was winter anyway ;) ... "Fuck patriarchy!" I thought "and fuck this system that expects me to look, act, think a certain way!" It was my sole intention to do everything opposite than what i was "supposed to" as a woman.

But you know what? I wasn't happy. At all. In fact, not getting to wear my stilettos and flirt made me miserable. I didn't feel any more empowered, just depressed. I needed a different feminism because the one i created for myself didn't work for me at all. The problem was that i didn't realize i was "allowed" to still be me and a feminist.

It took me a while to understand that as long as i thought through where my likes, dislikes, attitudes, beliefs, etc. came from, i was certainly entitled to them. Let me try to explain this.

Is feminist and conventionally pretty compatible? Yes. As long as you realize that your preference for looking this way may have been influenced by media and years of socialization. You recognize that and still want to look the way you do? More power to you. I think Sarah said it best, "My lipstick doesn’t negate my brain cells." Telling me i'm not a feminist because of the way i look is bullshit. You're judging me based on appearance - how is that any better than what patriarchy does in the first place? "The anger that some women are treated differently by society than others based on their looks is a valid anger, but why the hell are feminists directing it at the women who happen to fit the preferred look rather than the system that insists on ranking all of us?" You know what's even more annoying? A main reason this blog is semi-anonymous is because I don't want anyone to know what i look like. I've mentioned before that what i look like isn't the point but now it just annoys me. Would people take me more seriously or less seriously based on my appearance? Would other feminist bloggers respect what i say any more/less based on the way i look? If so, that's bullshit. And as much as i want to share pictures of me from time to time (for example, post my sexy tattooed back), this is exactly why i won't post a photo of me on the blog and that's just annoying, and distracting, because who the fuck cares? But apparently a lot of people do...

Is feminist and sex work compatible? Yes. As long as it empowers you. And you know what pisses me off? When people i respect are renouncing the feminist label because of others who tell them they are "antifeminist." (Who made you the fucking feminism police anyway?)

Is feminist and Obama supporter compatible? Yes. As long as you value what the idea of Hilary Clinton means for women. It isn't any less sexist to support a candidate because she is a woman than it is not to support her because she is one.

Is feminist and stay-at-home mom compatible? Yes. As long as it's a choice you make that works for your family and you made that decision without being pressured or forced.

Is feminist and male compatible? Yes. As long as you don't try to take over the movement ;) Many of my favorite men identify as feminists. Men have a lot to gain through the goals of the women's movement. For one, gender roles negatively impact men as well as women and the rules of masculinity are arguably just as rigid as those of femininity.

Is being a female feminist who is romantically involved with a man compatible? Yes. So is female feminist who is romantically involved with a woman, so is feminist and single... Whoever you're attracted to is cool, and you aren't any more or less feminist for finding men sexy**. Oh and marriage doesn't make you any less of a feminist either.

Is feminist and activism regarding other forms of discrimination compatible? Um... yes? Isn't that the point? Isn't feminism about equality? I didn't really understand how anyone could have thought that writing about Sean Bell distracted from feminism. Fuck that. Racism is absolutely a feminist issue, "just like poverty, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and much more are feminist issues, simply because these are factors that oppress women on a daily basis and prevent them from living lives freely, safely and to their full potential."

Is feminist and the opposite of all the things above compatible? Yes... with (IMO) the exception of the last because i really think feminism is about equality and needs to focus on all aspects of oppression. Other than that: you can still be feminist and not conventionally beautiful. You can be feminist and not shave your legs. You can be a short feminists, a tall feminist, a skinny feminist, a fat feminist, a no make up feminist, a combat-boot wearing feminist (i feel like a fucking Dr. Seuss book...) My appearance does not determine my level of feminist commitment. Neither do my choices to or not to marry or my sexual orientation. Or whether or not i like porn. Guess what? I can vote for whoever the fuck I want and still identify as a feminist. Whatever.

Moral of the story is stop fucking shaming me for being who i am just because i don't fit into your picture perfect notion of feminism. We need to stop hatin' on each other because that is what's distracting.

And i can already see the "you must not understand intersectionality" bullshit comments i am bound to get (esp. in regards to the conventional beauty piece of all this). I do understand intersectionality. I think about it, talk about it, blog about it and understand how much intersectionality effects all of us. That's just it. All of this bullshit is part of the problem. We, as feminists, need to stop targeting each other and work together towards a common goal. PS, that goal's equality, or at least I always thought it was. So why the fuck are we wasting our time fighting with each other? Wouldn't it be extremely liberating to embrace who we are, not feel guilty for it any longer, work together, and get shit done?

I'll include MY feminism here. Because i've written it out before but it seems even more relevant now: I identify with feminism because of its commitment to social, political, and economic equality for all people. Regarding women specifically, my feminism allows me to: be independent, while depending on those I love; be flirty and "girly" whenever I want, without it compromising how people view my intelligence or sexual freedom; exercise, for me, for my body, for my health and strength, not to fit into conventional beauty; stand firm for what I believe in, and not be called too masculine or bitchy. My feminism does not discount the differences between men and women, but strongly believes that these differences are either a product of, or exaggerated by, socialization. My feminism values men because it values equality. My feminism is anti oppression. It seeks to end the discrimination of people on the basis of sex, age, race, social class, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Oh, and my feminism is always changing, because like the waves of change flow through society and politics, feminism needs to be fluid to reflect the needs of the world.

Ever been told you aren't feminism enough for whatever reason? Get snarky about that bullshit in the comment section ;)

*a word i used then, wouldn't use now
**Update 7/22: Oh no!!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Feel Good: Lost and Found Puppies

A friend in college used to say that a whole section of my brain is devoted to dogs. She's probably right... that's why today's feel good story celebrates Rocco! Rocco is (was) a lost beagle that was found 5 years and 850 miles later! :)

Natalie Villacis (now 11) is in the picture with Rocco. "The family was shocked to get a call last week from a shelter in Hinesville, Ga., informing them that their long-lost pup had been found after half a decade. Thanks to a microchip implanted in the dog, an effective form of permanent identification, Natalie’s greatest hopes had been realized."

I'm also going to use this post to shamelessly promote Beans, our beagle/plott hound mix because i'm absolutely obsessed with his adorable muzzle and floppy ears :) The picture below is on our way to the dog park, his absolute favorite place in the world (well next to going swimming, of course).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Teen Pregnancy, Sex Ed, and the American Media

On the way into work i got stuck in traffic like i frequently do. The radio station i usually listen to was discussing the "increased rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S. and how the media is to blame." A woman called in and emphatically discussed something along the lines of "girls nowadays are sluts who get preggers because Juno romanticized sex and teen pregnancy." Wow. That's a bold statement to make at 7 in the morning... I hoped the DJs would dispute her but instead they agreed. They declared that pop-culture like Juno, the Gloucester High pregnancy pact (how is this pop-culture? don't ask me,) and Jamie Lynn Spears are to blame for teenage pregnancy.

Really? Because I thought the U.S.'s affinity for abstinence-only sex education is to blame.

Oh wait, it is.

In fact, "abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs [have] positive outcomes including teenagers delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use."

So much research is coming out showing us that abstinence-only education is completely ineffective, a total waste of money, and carried on exclusively by the Bush administration. Still, here are some of the abstinence-only lessons that take place in classrooms around the country everyday:

"A peppermint patty is unwrapped and passed around the class. Once returned, the teacher asks if a student would like to eat it. The teacher is instructed to ask, 'Why is this patty no longer appealing?' The answer they give is 'No one wants food that has been passed around. Neither would you want your future husband or wife to have been passed around."

"Men sexually are like microwaves and women sexually are like crockpots… a woman is stimulated more by touch and romantic words. She is far more attracted by a man’s personality while a man is stimulated by sight. A man is usually less discriminating about those to whom he is physically attracted.”
Wow... way to generalize, take part in heteronormative language, and not give men any credit or freedom of thought...

“Girls need to be aware they may be able to tell when a kiss is leading to something else. The girl may need to put the brakes on first in order to help the boy.”

“A guy who wants to respect girls is distracted by sexy clothes and remembers her for one thing. Is it fair that guys are turned on by their senses and women by their hearts?”
Holy crap... I really don't even know what to say about this one...

“One thing that sex education and the media fail to communicate is the power of sex. Spies, who are trained not to give away government secrets, even lose their sensibilities and give in to the power of sex, often because of what a woman is wearing.”
haha... nice... what about ninjas though? ;)

“Each time a sexually active person gives that most personal part of himself or herself away, that person can lose a sense of personal value and worth. It all comes down to self-respect.”
What is with the self-respect/self-esteem bit!? Ugh! I absolutely agree that a developed sense of self-esteem is incredibly important to adolescents and teens, especially girls, but threatening that they will have low self-esteem if they engage in sexual behavior is not the way to increase self-worth.

But I digress... the radio show i was listening to got into a discussion of ABC Family's new tween series The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which i'll admit i watched last week and yesterday... They said this show, too, will contribute to an increase of teen pregnancy because the main character, Amy, becomes pregnant after the first time she has sex (at band camp nonetheless...) Truth is I absolutely love Degrassi: The Next Generation and hoped that The Secret Life would be an American counterpart to the progressive, smart, and educational Canadian show. It isn't. In fact, it's not like Degrassi at all. After looking into The Secret Life a bit more i learned that it is written by Brenda Hampton from who i have learned to expect nothing other than faith based "family values" bullshit. Brenda is most famously known for writing 7th Heaven. After 11 seasons of that god awful show (no pun intended) hasn't Hampton shoved enough conservative propaganda down America's throats?!

I was disappointed after i realized The Secret Life would be nothing like Degrassi because with the lack of comprehensive sex education in the U.S. i was really looking forward to a show unafraid to tackle serious issues like Degrassi did. Degrassi too examined teen pregnancy - from two sides actually. Manny's pregnancy ended with an abortion. Liberty also got pregnant in the series and gave the baby up for adoption. They also had episodes in two different seasons on eating disorders, one where Emma suffers from anorexia so badly that she is hospitalized and another where Toby attempts to "make weight" for wresting by using laxatives. Degrassi tackled rape, cutting, stalking, plastic surgery, coming out, mental health, relationship violence, ableism, drug use, guns at school, and so many other relevant and important issues. Good for Canada, i'm really glad there's a show like Degrassi out there to hopefully balance out the crap like The Secret Life of an American Teenager.

(in the above Degrassi banner alone the scenes are a same sex couple kissing, Manny finding out she's pregnant, Ellie cutting herself, and a drug overdose...whoa! Bet you'll start watching the show now too!)

The other interesting thing i learned while looking up fun Degrassi facts was that although the show was picked up by The-N, certain episodes and scenes were cut and not allowed to air in America. The network aired Liberty's pregnancy (she's the one that kept the baby and gave it up for adoption) but refused to air the episode where Manny has an abortion. The episode was finally shown two and a half years later in a "Degrassi Marathon" in the middle of the night... yea...

In the very first episode of The Secret Life of an American Teenager, Amy, the quiet, shy, inexperienced, band girl, has sex for her first time, gets pregnant, and explores her "options" with her two best girl friends: "Her friends tell her she has options, but abortion is apparently not one of them; that choice is dismissed right away in horrified tones. The despairing Amy does not even know the baby’s father well enough to tell him, and he probably wouldn’t care; he’s a cad in the high school band who sleeps with as many girls as he can because, viewers quickly learn, he has low self-esteem."

To me all this is just so cliche. Obviously, you can get pregnant the first time you have sex... but this scenario as a plot is just getting a bit old. It would be nice to see a character get knocked up because the condom breaks or because she's on antibiotics and doesn't realize that they decrease the efficiency of her birth control pill. I mean really, aren't writers supposed to be a bit more creative? Unless this show is purely written to scare teens out of having sex. Oh wait, it is...

Want a summary of the show? Ok, here it is, pay close attention:
Sex is bad. Sex will make you pregnant. Sex will cause low low low self-esteem.

Scarring children away from having sex by teaching them that the first time they have it they will become pregnant, immediately have low self-esteem, and will become terrible people is inadequate sex education.

The only exciting thing about this show: the school "bad boy stud" is in the marching band! word :)

A post I really wanted to link but didn't know how to tie it in here: "Too Young, Too Pregnant"

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sexism Masked as Tradition

I realize i haven't touched much on politics over the past week but i've encountered some outrages people and have been a part of several shocking conversations that need to be highlighted here. Frankly, personal is political so these "real life" situations are just as if not more valuable than writing reactions to the news and society. Right? Right! :)

I had a hard time deciding whether or not to write this post because of the high likelihood that it would be read by the person it is about. After reading a couple of hollywoodenflames' posts i realized that i have the freedom to write about people in my life and they should understand that whatever they say to me is fair game ;) Is that a bit cold? Maybe. But honestly, if everyday sexism and inequality occurs in everyday conversations with family, friends, and co-workers i not only have the right to write about it but would be doing a disservice not writing about it. Real life *isms* need to be addressed. They exist, they oppress, they silence. And left unsaid they perpetuate the status quo.

Thursday afternoon i had a ridiculous conversation with a 22 year old male coworker. I think age is relevant here because i haven't encountered this type of sexism from young men in a long time (since i was in college, really). Usually i have a harder time explaining discrimination and the importance of feminism to older men which i chalk up to them being "stuck in their ways" and turning it into a "generational thing." That's why this particular situation stung more than others.

Anyway, i was siting in my office as a counselor talked to the receptionist across the hall about the disappointment he felt because he was having a baby girl. He said he really wanted a boy so that he can raise him to be a "manly man" like his dad. I get that lots of guys want little boys, that's not what bothered me. What bothered me was how he talked about his future daughter. Mostly because he was already disappointed in her, before she was even born. My sister-in-law is 8+ months pregnant. We were so unbelievably grateful that this is a healthy baby, boy or girl was irrelevant. IMO, everyone should hope for a healthy, happy, child, not be disappointed in the sex; boy, girl, trans, it's your future child you're talking about. Thinking about this a little further, being "disappointed" with baby girls is not a new concept.

For example, China's preference for male babies is ingrained in both culture and politics. The Chinese government set into place a one-child-only policy as an attempt to target overpopulation which significantly increased the number of female infanticides. The Communist Party took power in 1949 and outlawed this practice. However, in the 1980's the Chinese government census continued to show hundreds of thousands of missing baby girls each year. The practice of female infanticide in China is most prevalent in rural areas where boys are valued for their ability to help with the land and take care of their parents later on in life. Girls, however, traditionally move in with their in-laws and cannot further help their birth family. Baby girls are often "abandoned, suffocated, or drowned soon after birth." Aside from being an inhuman, unethical, and sexist practice, female infanticide effects the Chinese culture in many ways, "in 1997 the London Telegraph quoted ...a Chinese journal... which warned the male-to-female ratio in China has become so unbalanced that there will soon be an 'army of bachelors' in China - an estimated 90 million Chinese men in search of a spouse."

Female infanticide is an old practice dating back to 200 B.C. in Greece. It still exists today mostly cited in China and India.

Tying this back to overhearing my coworker being disappointed and "pissed" about having a girl: Was he hoping for a boy to have extra hands on the farm? No. Was he hoping for a boy to take care of him when he's old? Probably not. Was he hoping for a boy because he was only allowed one child by the government? No. As he walked by i congratulated him on the great news of an addition to his family and asked why he was disappointed to have a girl. He told me he was hoping for a boy to carry on his family name. He was hoping for a boy to raise as a "manly man like his daddy." He was "disappointed in having a girl because girls are nothing but trouble." I tried to get into to it further with him. I told him that if it's the family name that meant so much to him lots of women keep their name. This turned into an incredibly heteronormative and sexist conversation.

Firstly, he assumed his future daughter would be attracted to men and when i suggested the alternative he because outraged. Secondly, he said that she will not keep her own name because it is tradition that women take their husband's name. I said that if it's important to her to keep her name, she should be with a person that values equality and respects her decision. He disagreed and very clearly explained that "tradition is much more important than equality." This is a 22 year old. I was so so sad.

We talked some more about his unborn daughter's future husband (ugh) and how she will not be with a man that would "allow" her to keep her name. This poor girl. Not only will she be controlled by her dad but then once she finds a partner (who am i kidding, a man) that is just like her dad, she will then be controlled by him. I asked him if he hopes for her to be in a loving, equal relationship rather than a controlling one and he said again, "tradition is more important than equality." Ouch. He then tried to argue that he was in an equal relationship. Now i have no idea whether or not he is. I don't know his wife, i don't know their relationship. All i know is what he's saying to me at that point. So i asked him a few question:

Me: "How is your relationship based on equality?"
Him: "I love and respect her"
Me: "That's really good, i think love and respect are very important in strong relationships. What if she wanted to keep her own last name?"
Him: "I would say no"
Me: "So you usually have the final word on things?"
Him: "Yea, i'm the man in the relationship"
Me: "Doesn't that mean that you have more power and thus you are dominant?"
Him: "Yea, men should be"
Me: "So your relationship is not equal then, right?"

I don't think that keeping/taking a last name is really the important part of that conversation. What IS significant is why a last name was so important to him. He kept referring to tradition and i kept explaining about control and power. A girl has her dad's name, then her husband's. She's first her dad's property, then her husband's. This concept appealed to my coworker, it doesn't appeal to me. If someone chooses to take a last name based on family, personal choice, or even preference for the name itself, good for them. If they have no choice and are forced to take a name based on "tradition," power, or control, that is not okay by me. "Tradition" is drenched in patriarchy, inequality, and oppression. Tradition is never a good answer in my book.

Once he realized he was being more than a bit hypocritical trying to explain he was in an equal and respectful relationship but valued male dominance and "tradition" he backed off and left. The story is not over, however. He stopped by again on his way out to say, "Bye Miss Chauvinist, have a nice afternoon." Here is the conversation that followed that comment:

Me: "I think you are mistaken, a chauvinist is someone who is unreasonably bias towards a group to which s/he belongs, this particularly refers to men who believe they are superior to women."
Him: "What should i call you them?"
Me: "Um, Galina. Or if you need a social term, a feminist. I value and work towards equality."
Him: "Haha, a feminist! You need to broaden your horizons!"
Me: "Um, i think you do...?" (i was so confused...)
Him: "No."
Me: "Ok..."
Silence... cricket, cricket...
Me: "You're a substance abuse counselor, don't you think equality is important?!"
Him: "Not as important as maintaining tradition"
Then he laughs and says: "What if your boyfriend wanted to stay home and raise the kids?"
Me: "Firstly, why do you assume i'm straight? Secondly, why do you assume i even want kids? Thirdly, if my partner wanted to stay home to raise the kids and we didn't need a second income i would be absolutely fine with that arrangement. I think if it's important to the couple that one parent stays home with the children, it should be the one who makes less money, regardless of their sex."
Him: "WHAT? What type of family were you raised in?"
Me: "Actually, a very traditional and conservative one. But once i learned to make my own decisions and think for myself i realized that the 'traditional' lifestyle is actually incredibly oppressive, patriarchal, and only beneficial if you're a white man, which i'm not."

The conversation went on like that for a while, i won't type it all out because it's a bit boring and i'm sure we've heard it all before. Except for that i haven't! I mean, on TV, yes, in jokes, yes, in radio, in stereotypes, etc. But to actually have a conversation like this with a substance abuse counselor who is supposed to be open minded and forward thinking? No.

I wrote down the name of my blog on a post-it for him. I said if he reads it i'm sure he'll disagree with 90% of what i write. Then i contemplated whether or not to put this conversation up. In the end, i think i did the right thing by publishing it because of how shocked i was/am that this degree of sexism (masked as "tradition") still exists, especially in my peers... I'm several years older than him, but not too too many. I thought our generation was better than that...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Feel Good: Biking to Work

Today was my first attempt at biking to work. On Fridays i work at a different clinic which happens to be about 8 miles from home. This gives me a great opportunity to kill a few birds with one cycling stone. I can get in my biking hours for my tri training, save on gas/money, and be environmentally friendly. Here are the things i learned today:

1. I need a bell
2. Although i'm sure bugs are protein-full, they aren't very tasty...
3. People are not careful drivers and don't like to share the road with bikes
4. My hybrid (that i bitched and bitched about not being fast enough) is perfect for biking to work, had i been on a road bike i would probably have been dead because New Haven roads are in terrible condition.
5. Bringing a change of clothes is key if I want to remain likable at work :)
6. If i thought getting cat-called while running was annoying i knew nothing until today... holy crap
7. It only takes me 10 more minutes to bike to/from work than drive!

I think that's all... if you're gonna bike this weekend, have fun and be careful! :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

1930's Advertising

I got an email from my cousin today with several interesting ads from the 1930's. I thought ya'll would enjoy them as much as i did:

All the ads are excellent but the one above is my favorite! Want to stay thin? Do it with tape worms! They're "sanitized" and "easy to swallow!" Also, "No ill effects!" (Except the fact that you have a tape worm... riiiiiiight)

Here are some others :)

Above ad text reads:
Day after heartbreaking day i was held in an unyielding web... a web spun by my husband's indifference, i couldn't reach him any more! Was the fault mine? Well... thinking you know about feminine hygiene, yet trusting to now-and-then care, can make all the difference in married happiness, as my doctor pointed out. He said never to run such careless risks... prescribed "Lysol" brand disinfectant for douching-always.


Oh, the joy of finding Tom's love and close companionship once more! Believe me, I follow to the letter my doctor's advice on feminine hygiene... always use "Lysol" for douching. I wouldn't be satisfied now with salt, soda or other homemade solutions! Not with "Lysol," a proved germ-killer that cleanses so gently yet so thoroughly. It's easy to use, too, and economical. The very best part is - "Lysol" really works!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Trader Joe's Egg "Policy"

On our way back home yesterday, after driving 15 hours from Michigan, through Canada, having our car chosen for a "random search," and picking up Beans from my terrifically sweet friend/coworker, we stopped at Trader Joe's realizing there was absolutely no food at home. Little is worse than coming home to an empty fridge after eating nothing but snacks and junk food on a 2 day road trip... So we stopped by the store to pick up a few things. I went in while D waited in the car with Beans. I got the essentials, baby spinach, salmon, milk, crumbled goat cheese, ice cream, frozen lunches for work, and eggs. Oh the eggs.. We eat cage free eggs, from free-range chickens. They're a bit more pricey money wise but way worth it in the whole sustainable farming scope of things, that's a different post altogether. Anyway, i pick up a carton and check the eggs at the register. I discover one is cracked. Not totally broken as in leaking all over the place, just a bit cracked on top. I ask the sales associate if he wouldn't mind waiting just one second so i can go swap an egg.

He says, "no need," takes the carton and tosses it in the garbage behind him. I stare at him blankly. He says, "don't worry, i'll send someone to get you a new carton."

I say, "but only 1 egg was cracked."

He says, "it's store policy." My eyes tear up. Trust me, i don't usually get emotional over eggs but you've got to remember that i walked into this store directly following a 15 hour road trip. I'm tired, i'm smelly, i'm irritable, i'm in desperate need of food that does not come out of a plastic bag in the shape of a chip, i want my fucking eggs.

"Wasting 11 perfectly good eggs because 1 is cracked is terrible protocol, if you ask me" I say.

He smiles and has the audacity to answer me, laughing, "yea, lots of costumers get upset about this, we usually wait to throw out the product until they leave." WHAT?!

"I want those eggs that you just threw out, i'll buy the damaged carton, i'll buy all 12 eggs, including the cracked one, i don't want to be responsible for you throwing away 11 eggs, i will buy all 12."

He gets stern with me, "No. I can't sell you those, they're damaged. And i can't give them to you at a discount either" At this point i'm pissed. I want those eggs. I don't want a discount, i just want THOSE eggs.

"I would like to speak to your manager please," I insisted. He reluctantly rings the bell which gets the manager to whom i explained how incredibly wasteful it is to throw away 11 perfectly good eggs just because 1 is cracked.

The manager reiterated the whole "store policy" thing. I told him i was tired, i wanted to get home, i just wanted to buy those eggs in the garbage for the full price. I couldn't believe they were refusing to make a profit out of this. Finally, after a few more minutes of this, and probably after the manager could see that i was not budging (literally or in my argument) he sold me the eggs, at a discount.

D and I both couldn't believe that this was their policy. We loved Trader Joe's. We were still upset about it this morning. D called their corporate office to file a formal complaint. The costumer service rep D spoke with was very friendly and assured D that this was not their policy. Rather, what they are supposed to do is donate their "damaged" products. We liked this policy a lot more. I next called my local Trader Joe's to let them know what happened and that i called corporate to complain. The person i spoke with said he'd address the cashiers. I'm not sure if he will but a gal can hope :)

P.S. My vacation was wonderful. Lots of sun, sand, s'mores, and friends :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Guest Posting

I know i'm not supposed to be blogging but i snuck on just for a minute just to let ya'll know that there is a guest post by me over at The Feminist Underground for their "feminists on feminism" series. Check it out, and check out their blog in the process :)