March 12, 2009
Wa-Po blogger Cillizza implies Obama’s Council on Women and Girls is not for addressing gender issues
In an odd phrasing, Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza seems to imply that Obama’s call for a Council on Women and Girls, is not primarily a result of his recognition that we need policies and solutions to social problems that adequately address how they impact women and families (for whom women are still overwhelmingly responsible for the care of). In other words, Obama is forming this council out of the recognition that appropriate solutions to social problems must take both men’s and women’s experiences into consideration.
Obama has both personal — his wife and two daughters — and political reasons to make this sort of high profile move to ensure that women’s needs are being addressed by his administration.
In 2008, 53 percent of the electorate was female and Obama carried that group 56 percent to 44 percent over Arizona Sen. John McCain.
So Obama’s “personal” reasons for putting the council into place are that he has a wife and daughters. Yawn. How insulting to think that men are only concerned about women’s issues and the male-centric models of citizenship and public policy because they have daughters. I would hope that there might too be fathers of boys who are concerned about gender issues so their sons could have the socially-supported ability to be at-home dads if they choose, without their masculinity being denigrated and without threat to family finances because their female partner’s career is being stymied by gender discrimination (by pay or “mommy tracking”) or sexual harassment in the workplace.
And the “political” reasons Obama is putting this into place is…to keep the allegiance of his female voters (?). So Obama is doing this to keep women happy, not because it’s good policy?
Reading between the lines, much?
Oh and let us not forget, this council is in no way (expected to be) substantial: “Expect then more symbolic moves like the establishment of the Council to demonstrate Obama’s commitment to women and women’s issues.” Because all women voters expect are empty gestures without results. Because women usually applaud style over substance. Because women don’t want to be taken seriously, just acknowledged. Because women are above all, fans of [political] superficiality.
(I think you have us confused with lad-mag apologists.)
And I think you underestimate women as political actors who demand accountability, as well as our new President, who has demonstrated at least an understanding that there are structural barriers to success that equal rights legislation did not address.
September 19, 2008
According to Thursday’s New York Times, a woman who was upskirt-photographed in a NY subway station (and was able to capture her assailant’s identity on her camera!) has successfully filed criminal charges against him:
Mr. Olivieri was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday on misdemeanor charges of unlawful surveillance, attempted sexual abuse and harassment, a criminal complaint said.
That he was arraigned is surely excellent news, since in many other jurisdictions, women bodies are public property, with no expectation of personal privacy in public. Even more, it was the taking of photos that brought the criminal charges, not their distributing. In some conversations on this blog around this pet peeve issue of mine, some have suggested that posting the images should be wrong, but that the taking of them in public is and ought to be completely legal.
This NY case indicates that the “wrong” done is in the violation of the photographing; “unauthorized surveillance” seems to indicate that a woman’s body, regardless of its location, is always a zone of privacy. And to that I say an emphatic “yes”!
September 4, 2008
Everything I want to say about the hypocrisy around the rhetoric about Palin, and especially the Republicans’ vomit-inducing use of gender rhetoric can be summed up by this brilliant analysis by the “fake news” reporter, Jon Stewart, on the September 3, 2008 The Daily Show:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
In Canada, watch it on clip 2 here.
And in more The Daily Show-induced commentary….typically, I take the position that families and spouses/ partners are “off-limits” with regards to politics. But Stewart, in his interview with Newt Gingrich, makes an excellent point, which I think can help us forge a distinction between personal attacks on Palin’s daughter (i.e. “what an irresponsible slut!”) and dissonances between individual actions and beliefs and political positions. “The personal is political.”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
(Here in Canada)
Isn’t it sad when politicians and pundits seem to get called on their bullshit more often by “fake news” shows than the “real” ones?
August 14, 2008
I had this same criticism a month or so back, the last time I saw a newspaper headline about female bombers, but I didn’t write about it then. Today, in reading the New York Times, I read: “Female Suicide Bomber Kills 2 in Iraqi Province.”
Now, it’s not that I don’t understand the significance of female suicide-bombers in particular. While this story doesn’t address it, past articles with similar headlines have at least mentioned,
Fifteen other women have carried out suicide bomb attacks in Diyala Province, according to General Rubaie. Islamic rules prevent men, including security officers conducting searches, from touching women. Compounding the predicament is a scarcity of female Iraqi police and soldiers who might otherwise fill the gap.
While I am somewhat annoyed when stories, such as today’s, mention a female bomber in the headline, but don’t discuss why that’s significant in the story, I take issue more with the persistent selective gender-naming. Male suicide bombers are reported in headlines as “suicide bombers”; female suicide bombers are “named” as such. I have blogged on this in the past in discussing ex-nomination, and Ashley guest blogging over at Feministe interestingly argues that women’s gender is specified when they perpetrate acts of violence to detract from the reality that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violent acts. The repetition of women’s gender in such reports works to mask violence as a gender-neutral activity. My issue is at a more basic linguistic level. Previously I wrote:
In conversation (your own and others’), watch how people are described. Typically, we use “identity” descriptors only with reference to women, gay men, lesbians, people of color, non-Western ethnicities, (and also non-Christian religions)…in other words, the default category for a “person” is a white, hetero, male. A person is only someone “other” than that when specified.
This is what’s referred to as “ex-nomination” (coined by the semiotician Roland Bathes)-being ‘unnamed’. What is unnamed is what is seen as a ‘natural’ commonsensical category. Those of us who are not white heterosexual men become those with “marked bodies”-bodies who must be named to be identified. In other words, people who are women, or black are designated as such (as if identifying them according to said label adds particular meaning to who they are as a person), while white hetero men are simply “people,” and are thus permitted to establish meaningful identities in ways not shaped by said societal identity labels.
These headlines bother me for that reason: that it perpetuates the assumption that an individual is a (white, hetero) male unless specified otherwise.
It’s true that we also specify male for characteristics that are deemed “female” (a.k.a. “male nurse”), which could in part account for its usage in headlines–because we assume suicide bombers to be male. But Western assumptions are no excuse for the persistent usage of gendered terms by journalists. Would it really be so hard to say “suicide bomber” in the headline and then to discuss the gender and its implications, if necessary, in the body of the story? Or since gender is in fact an issue, use male and female descriptors in the headlines? Otherwise, we reinforce the notion of male as default.
UPDATE 8/15: Funny that this is a trend I have been seeing, and as soon as I write about it, the NYT changes its pattern: see today’s “Bomber Kills 18 on Shiite Pilgrimage in Iraq.” The “bomber” is actually a female! Now that’s a first! I think I have some sort of “special powers” regarding the NYT, because I also recently wrote about how they consistently place stories about women in Fashion and Style (I also sent the editor a displeased e-mail), a few weeks later I see a story that is actually in the appropriate section! Hmmm…are they reading my blog?!
July 28, 2008
Yea for The New York Times reporting on BlogHer’s annual conference.
It’s pretty pathetic that I should be so thrilled that the recent news about gender-parity in math scores was actually reported by the Times in the U.S./Education section. Yes, it’s awfully nice that the Times was actually able to put a story about females in its proper place in their paper. But actually doing their job doesn’t get them any cookies.
So, dear readers, I write letters:
Dear New York Times Editors:
Overall, I appreciate the quality of your paper and it is one of my primary sources for obtaining news. However, your history of inappropriately filing news items that involve women is obscene and, quite frankly, is unacceptable, especially for a new source of your report.
The most recent example is the coverage of the 2008 BlogHer conference, printed July 27, 2008 in the Fashion and Style section. Other articles about bloggers and blogging are printed in more substantial sections like the Technology or U.S. Politics sections. I understand that your placement often relates blogging to another topic (i.e. business, the election) but the “default” category for blogging (or any topic) women is not Fashion and Style. And since the article specifically addressed women blogging as a political act, it does not belong in the Fashion and Style section.
On July 13, 2008, you also ran the joint review of books by feminist author and blogger Jessia Valenti and journalist Kathleen Parker, which adressed contemporary gender-based political issues. It belongs in the Books section, not the Fashion and Style section.
Other female bloggers have written about your story misplacement when it comes to stories about women. May 13, 2008’s story about the lack of gender diversity in the sciences (obviously) belongs in the Science section, not the Fashion and Style section. And the list goes on.
It’s great that you’re writing about gender issues, exciting studies debunking harmful gender myths, feminist writers, and women’s activism. But putting these stories in Fashion and Style, rather than where they’d be put if they were about men, is nothing short of insulting and condescending, as if issues facing and addressed by women are somehow frivolous and irrelevent to society as a whole.
Issues and news related to women do not by default belong in the Fashion and Style section of your paper. Fashion and Style is not inherently a “female” topic and gender analyses are not periperal, light, fluffy, innocent, and inconsequential. Do not insult us and degrade us by treating women who are active in politics, do science, are participating in technology, and the like, as mere “style.”
And I encourage you all to do the same. No copyrights on my letter, either: steal away!
July 23, 2008
You know, I’m really starting to get sick of all the “news” stories about rising gas prices and how that’s affecting family summer vacations. Several times a week I hear, read, or see some sort of report about how people are “coping” with having to cancel vacations and instead are creating their travel experience at home (i.e. having a luau in your backyard because you can’t afford to go to Hawaii). There’s even a cute name for them: Stay-cations.
This is by and large the hot gas-related story of the summer. The gist of the story? Woe is me, gas is so expensive that we can’t afford to take our family vacation, we’re sooo stressed out over it, we’re handling this stressful and tragic situation the best we can by having a pretend glamorous vacation at home.
Ahem, privilege, anyone? Honestly, I really don’t feel all that bad for the families who are so economically privileged that they can actually afford to take off of work (or are privileged enough to have paid vacation time) and can go on a family vacation. Why should I?
I’d say I was solid lower-middle to middle class growing up. We went on a vacation every year: a week at my grandparents’ condo in the Southern Tier of New York, less than 3 hours from home. Why? Because it was free. A few summers we didn’t go; those years we visited my aunts, uncles, and cousins in New England. Besides the travel costs of my parents’ station wagon? Also, for the most part, free.
We never went on what you might call a family vacation. And up until now, I didn’t realize that going on some wonderful elaborate trip was some sort of innate American right such that we ought to spend valuable news time lamenting that middle class families this year can’t afford to drive halfway across the country and stay in a resort for a week. Heaven forbid for a summer you actually spend that week doing activities–gasp!–in your own general region. Or that you might now have to vacation–shock!–every other summer. Or, that you–horror!–spend time socializing with friends and neighbors. In an age where we hardly know our neighbors, and where most people are unfamiliar with the gems and resources in their own town, is it really all that huge a loss that the privileged Americans have a Staycation?
Why are middle and upper-middle class families and their precious Disney vacations the face of the rising cost of gasoline and not the working class families who lived month to month as it was before the exponential price increases…who maybe have to skimp on food or medical services, and for whom a Myrtle Beach trip isn’t even on their radar? Instead of moping about being stuck at home, maybe some of these families should spend part of their summer volunteering for charities who help those who will only ever hear about DisneyWorld in the stories told by other more fortunate kids.
July 12, 2008
This week the name Kyle Payne spread like wildfire over the feminist blogosphere. The short story is that he’s a radical male feminist who also happens to be a total asshat and has plead guilty to the sexual assault of unconscious women. No joke. Read the news article here. And he even “worked” for victims of sexual assault!
Brilliant reprimand has ensued on lots and lots of blogs, and quite honestly, I don’t have anything brilliant to add. But Renegade Evolution has compile a list of blog posts across the blogosphere about this story and I wanted to provide the link to them here on my blog. They’re on the sidebar of her blog, (blog probably NSFW) under the heading “Exposing Kyle Payne.”
July 9, 2008
This kind of bullshit phrasing happens all the time.
She’s not just a woman; she is was a stripper!
a) Does it really matter? Is cheating with a stripper somehow “worse” than with a “regular woman” (because see, strippers aren’t just regular women who have a job to pay the bills, they’re some sort of non-human exotic sex-being!) Would a headline similarly read “Accountant Claims Affair with A-Rod”? I think not.
b) She was a stripper. She is no longer. Why must women who are sex workers always and forever be accompanied with the adjective “ex-[insert sex industry job here]”?
Of course I know the answers to my own questions. It’s still utter bullshit.
(And this comes from our ever-“progressive” news source Huff-Po…ya know, the ones who recently celebrated Independence Day with a pictorial of women and men in flag-inspired bathing suits “hottie” female celebs in flag-printed bikinis.)
Not to mention that A-Rod’s marriage is none of our damn business and is nowhere near newsworthy.
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)
July 7, 2008
From The Daily Mail:
A woman claims her life has been ruined by someone who set up a Facebook website page in her name describing her as a vice girl.
Kerry Harvey, 23, says she received obscene pictures on her mobile phone and unsolicited calls from would-be ‘punters’.
The forged profile featured her photograph, correct date of birth, middle name and mobile number, listing her job as ‘prostitute’.
The Facebook page is down now, but this is especially disheartening:
She also reported the abuse to police but was told it would cost too much to track the culprit.
Not to mention this classic blame-the-victim:
‘Generally, people can try and avoid false profile pages by posting as little personal information as possible – not just on social networking sites but anywhere on the net.’
This is nearly impossible. A Google search of your name gets you your address very easily. And if you’ve ever done anything interesting enough to be reported in a newspaper, then be damned! We must not live too publicly, we must pretty much live in a hole and not interact outside of face-to-face contact. Not that that would be a bad thing, especially in today’s society. But I’m really sick of this attitude that it’s our responsibility to have our lives completely offline to avoid this kind of thing…all too much like the “her clothing meant she was asking for it” rape apology. Theft is still theft even if your house is unlocked.
It is far to easy to use the internet as revenge and exploitation. The article lists several examples of online fraud. Add to these the high profile case of the Myspace hoax created by a mother-and-daughter that negligently caused the suicide of a young girl, the all-too-often posting of sexual photos and videos of ex-partners without any consent (and I’ve personally only ever seen women’s likenesses posted), and as I’ve written about previously, we clearly have a social problem. It seems that teens and young adults are hurt more than anyone, and that women are disproportionately affected. We need a solution that takes into account the realities of 21st century life and technology. And we need it before more (women’s) lives are ruined.
And gee, it wouldn’t hurt if women’s identities and reputations weren’t so problematically inseparable from their identity as a human being. That would be nice too.
(cross-posted to The Reaction)
June 6, 2008
from CNN.com (not to mention a slew of radio talk shows!):
Lesbian kisses at game ignite Seattle debate
The usher, Guerrero said, told them he had received a complaint from a woman nearby who said that there were kids in the crowd of nearly 36,000 and that parents would have to explain why two women were kissing […] The code of conduct — announced before each game — specifically mentions public displays of affection that are “not appropriate in a public, family setting.” Hale said those standards are based on what a “reasonable person” would find inappropriate […] “I would be uncomfortable” seeing public displays of affection between lesbians or gay men, said Jim Ridneour, a 54-year-old taxi driver. “I don’t think it’s right seeing women kissing in public. If I had my family there, I’d have to explain what’s going on.”
This is the very definition of heteronormativity. This is the kind of thing Queer Nation used its performances/demonstrations to point out. This kind of thing is not just a double standard but it’s evidence that “acceptance” of queer people does not mean social equality and does not mean that we have by any means had any sort of self-reflexive pondering of what sexuality means and about assumptions about sex, gender, and sexuality.
Why do we have to “explain” queer sexuality? Shouldn’t we need to “explain” any sexuality? Is it really time to pull out the Heterosexual Questionnaire to point out the lunacy of Jim Ridneour’s statement? Read the rest of this entry »
May 20, 2008
This post has been a long time coming, but this recent news put me over the edge: Remember back in March when I wrote about the Oklahoma Peeping Tom? He took cel phone photos up a minor’s skirt while shopping at Target; the charges were dropped because their Peeping Tom law only applies to situations where privacy is expected, and according to the ruling, privacy cannot be expected in public.
The key in these cases is “a reasonable expectation of privacy.” We ladies should be getting the message loud and clear now: we cannot expect bodily privacy in public. We cannot merely exist in public. In public, our bodies are subject to public ownership. We can only expect privacy in our homes. And in a marriage situation, some people don’t even think we should have that.
Twice now in the courts, and resonant with a culture that sees catcalling as a compliment or that thinks women like Uma Thurman should be flattered at stalking and unwanted sexual advances (because I s’ppose we should be thankful we’re oh so irresistable?!), it is becoming more and more clear that women appearing in public are open for the business of sexual consumption via harassment and now even more violations of physical privacy and integrity. The assumption is that any woman who is attractive or dresses sexy desires ogling…otherwise she wouldn’t dress that way, or wear a skirt short enough to photograph up it. (Gee, isn’t this all starting to sound an awful lot like most rape apologists?) And that women who dare to exist in public or online or anywhere where they can be viewed by someone are fair game for subsequent sexual remarks, objectification, physical criticism, circulation of images…
- all women are heterosexual (since they dress “like that” for male attention)
- all women dress themselves according to how and when they want their physical appearance to be evaluated
- all women’s public existence is primarily and ultimately for the benefit of men
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, mostly regarding how people seem to lose all personal privacy upon public existence. In a culture like ours that sees women primarily as sexual objects, that any woman becomes subject to harsh criticism or objectification regarding their appearance (regardless of its relevance), this is becoming a huge problem for women. Pragmatically, we seem to have very little expectation of consent to our images being taken, and also taken out of context.
For example, if a woman signs a model release for nude artistic photography, she is consenting to a particular context of the images. The images cannot then be sold as pornography, or she would have grounds to sue. This type of consent does not seem to operate in the real world in the age of the internet. And if it does, considering the vastness of the internet, it seems hard to keep tabs on.
Let me provide some actual examples that have gotten me pissed off: Read the rest of this entry »
May 15, 2008
“I’m calling to apologize on two fronts. One was you didn’t get your question answered and I apologize. […] Second apology is for using the word ‘sweetie.’ That’s a bad habit of mine. I do it sometimes with all kinds of people. I mean no disrespect and so I am duly chastened on that front. Feel free to call me back. I expect that my press team will be happy to try to make it up to you whenever we are in Detroit next.” (emphasis mine)
First, I really appreciate and respect that he admitted to being wrong. Though it’s awfully pathetic that I’m actually impressed by this; unfortunately, this is the kind of incident that in our culture would typically elicit the “I’m sorry you’re oversensitive and took it the wrong way” kind of apology. But it seems to me that Obama made a genuine apology and owning up to his “bad habit” using a type of language that perpetuate inequality. Unfortunately, though, this isn’t the first time this “bad habit” has come up.
Second, I like his swift response. I think he had already apologized by the time I had even read about the incident. Which makes him seem more genuine to me–he knew he was wrong and took care it it in a timely manner. He didn’t need to read the public response to his comment to ‘realize’ it.
Third, I have to say that he doesn’t do it with “all kinds of people”…namely, he doesn’t do it with grown, professional men. While I appreciate that he is trying to say he didn’t mean it personally, it isn’t quite accurate to say he says it for anybody. To say “all kinds of people” dismisses the specifically gendered use of the term, which while it may be used as a term of endearment for loved ones, is wholly condescending to use, especially for a professional woman. And as I said above, it’s certainly not the first time Obama has used it to refer to women he doesn’t know. And as it turns out, this woman never got her interview (insult to injury).
I like Obama. I was truly disappointed to hear him refer to a woman in this way. And I can’t ethically loathe the media’s sexism against Clinton without pointing out sexism if Obama does it (and especially with how much I blog about language). But I think his apology was genuine, that he understands he did wrong (rather than that it was merely “taken to wrong way”), and that he desires to do right by people. I just wish that he could have also realized that it wasn’t a generic “bad habit”. And especially with NARAL’s recent endorsement, I do hope to see him recognize the need for our culture to take women seriously.
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)
May 14, 2008
Um, yeah…this is annoying.
I posted yesterday about the excellent Huff-Po article about phallocentric masculinity in politics and one of the points was the feminization of Obama. Calling a professional reporter ‘sweetie’? Chalk one up for Obama’s masculinity!
(cross-posted to The Reaction)
May 12, 2008
This is unbelievable.
In 2003, 21 year-old Ramona Moore – a student at Hunter College in New York – told her mother she was going to Burger King down the street and would be right back. She never came home.
Moore was held in a basement a few blocks away where she was raped and tortured for four days before her captors beat her to death. The police, who Moore’s mother begged for help, did nothing to find her.
Also, be sure to check out Black and Missing, but Not Forgotten, a blog that tracks cases of missing black victims.
May 9, 2008
This makes me sad. Sue Johanson is calling her show quits. I always loved Sue Johanson’s “Talk Sex.” She is blunt and humorous, she encourages callers and viewers to not buy into representations and stereotypes around sex and encourages sexual communication among lovers. She speaks loud about the importance of safer sex practices and calls bullshit in callers’ unrealistic porn-and-media influenced expectations about sex. One of my favorites was when she called a caller out on the real reason he demands (yes, demands!) that his partner shaves her ladyparts. And she’s Canadian! All coming from a 77 year old awesome lady.
I first saw her when I was an undergrad at the University of Toronto 8 years ago, when I had no clue who she was. After that experience, I adored her! But alas, she’s retiring.
“I’m going to miss it terribly,” Johanson told The Associated Press. “It’s been part of my life and I just love it. I’m going to miss writing scripts. I’m going to miss having to read books. I’m going to miss playing with sex toys.”
Her final show will count down the year’s top 10 sex toys.
Check her site out on my blogroll.
May 5, 2008
Mildred Loving, whose court battle resulted in making interracial marriage legal has died.
From her statement, made a year ago on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision:
I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.
Via Alas, a Blog
RIP, Mildred Loving.
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)
May 1, 2008
Opinions among feminist about sex work vary widely, but I think we probably all agree about one thing: no just system would make things worse for the women that do the sex work, than for the men who act as customers. Yet, this blog has covered before, in this case, the johns were spared public humiliation, but the sex workers were dragged up on the stand and asked painfully invasive questions. This is not the first suicide in the case; according to the story, one of the women who worked for the service previously killed herself. A culture that puts women in a position of doing sex work and then so shames them and persecutes them for it that they take their own lives is deeply sick.