March 12, 2009

Wa-Po blogger Cillizza implies Obama’s Council on Women and Girls is not for addressing gender issues

Posted in gender, male feminists, mass media, news, politics, sexual politics, U.S. politics at 4:30 pm by LB

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.

Cillizza seems to imply otherwise:

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.

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December 9, 2008

Subtle sexism: analyzing The Witcher

Posted in entertainment, entitlement, gaming, gender, heteronormative, objectification, phallocentrism, representation, sexism, sexual politics at 8:00 pm by LB

This post is about the PC game The Witcher, which someone I know has just started playing. But this post is less about the game and more about cultural representations and assumptions about gender and sexuality. He and I had a conversation around it today, which got me thinking a lot about female sexuality, male entitlement, and homophobia in our culture. So please bear through my discussion of the game to get the “big picture” analysis.

In browsing around the internets and reading people’s discussions around gender and sexuality in the game, I very often read these reasons for why the game isn’t “that bad” vis-a-vis women and (women’s) sexuality: the sex scenes are well done (they are in fact pretty tasteful) and the women aren’t represented as all dumb bimbos (as if commodifying women’s sexuality is only sexist if the women are represented as idiots.) My friend mentioned that in reading reviews, many women said the sex in the game wasn’t “that bad.” But in the game, it’s not really the sex that’s the problem.

At first, I thought that gender and sexuality in the game wasn’t so bad, but the more I was told the more troubled I became. Originally, I thought the sex in the game was just optional, with no reward attached, and the sex scenes aren’t gratuitous or very objectifying. Point one for the game?

Well, that’s not exactly it. Read the rest of this entry »

November 21, 2008

Two standards of “sexy”

Posted in beauty culture, Celebritocracy, double standards, gender, hot lists, objectification, representation, sexual politics, sexy at 9:10 pm by LB

From the world of “top lists”:

via Yahoo!’s OMG! department, that gives me pop culture news when I’m trying to access my e-mail via the Yahoo! homepage that I’d really rather not know about, comes 2 male “hot lists” that I find rather interesting.  First, People magazine name Hugh Jackman the sexiest man alive.  Nothing new here: People’s “sexiest man” regularly is permitted to be and look much older than “sexiest women” are (the last 3 were Damon @ 37, Clooney @ 45, and McConaughey @ 36; Maxim’s ’08 “Hot 100” #1 is 30, and the last 3 were 21, 31, and 30).  

No, what I found interesting was the accompanying pictorial on the sexiest fathers in Hollywood.  

  1. The photos used were shots of the fathers in action, playing with their kids.  So lovely and sweet, but not quite the MILF-esque treatment given to editorials about “sexy moms.”  Sidenote: I do think that “sexy parent” editorials are horrible:  I’d rather read about good parents period, sexy or not.  To me, that makes as much logical sense as having a pictorial about the best brunette parents–hair color has about as much to do with being a parent as being sexy does.  But if they’re going to have the them at all, they should focus both kinds of editorials on their parenting creds (since all it takes is a personal trainer, a stylist, and a decent photographer to be sexy in Hollywood).  But even still, if they’re going to take the MILF angle (ugh, I shudder each time I even type that), can we at least evaluate the dads and the moms in the same sexified manner?  FILFs, anyone?  
  2. It seems that what counts as being a sexy mother is having the expendable time, money, and energy to put the work into getting your body back to a pre-pregnancy state, tasks that become so much easier with hired help–nannies, personal trainers, stylists, makeup artists, post-pregnancy photo shoots with favorable lighting, etc.  But what counts for being a sexy dad is in spending time with your kids, which I suppose is either an expected given for mothers or is irrelevant to their sexiness.  Hmmm…women judged on how they look, men judged on what they do…where have I heard that before??

 So the second thing I saw was again from OMG! breaking news about the 25 Hottest Hunks in Hollywood.  Again, we see the age discrepancy here, with is nothing new to celebrity men’s and women’s hot and sexy status.  Looking at the photos, I just want to know: why do they have so much clothes on?  How can we call them “hot” when men’s clothing gives us little indication of what’s underneath?  There seems to not be enough information to evaluate these men by…. yes, I’m joking but also not.  I’d say, if we saw a Hot list of women with so much clothing on, I think there’d be rioting in the streets.

September 19, 2008

It appears that women may actually have a right to their bodies in NY

Posted in gender roles, news, privacy, sexual politics at 7:25 pm by LB

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”!

More past posts on bodily privacy

August 29, 2008

“A woman is a sex object when she wants to be”

Posted in empowerment, entitlement, objectification, sexual politics at 12:57 am by LB

So, again, I haven’t been writing like I’d like to.  Classes start next week and I am very busy prepping for those.  I hope to start posting more than once a week within the next month.  I was browsing through the new edited book Men Speak Out, and I came across this provocative snippet from one of the articles that is quite pertinent to the themes of this blog, so I thought I’d share.  From “Trying To Be Sexy and Anti-Sexist….At Exactly the Same Time” by Andrew Boyd:

And that seems to be the basic rule: A woman is a sex object when she wants to be.  Not when I want her to be one, not when the culture wants her to be one, but when she wants to be one.  When she chooses to be a sex object, she is deliberately adopting a limited part of who she is.  She’s playing a role and she’s looking for someone to play with.

That seems pretty in-line with much of what I write here.  It’s so simply, and so obvious, yet so opposed to our cultural ideology of women’s sexuality.  This is the response to those who don’t get it when they say, “well, what’s so wrong with appreciating sexy women?” when they watch they watch beach volleyball at the Olympics to check out the ladies’ butts, or by consistently recognizing first the desirability of businesswomen and female politicians.  This is what’s so troubling about Playboy drawing attention to the female bloggers they deem to be “sexy” as worth reading, or offering them cash to pose nude (since I guess they’re not truly useful to modern men until/unless they’re nekkid, since the next logical thing after discovering an interesting and intelligent woman who’s decent looking is to request–and expect–to see her naked).  This is what’s so wrong with photographing a woman’s body in public, sexualizing it, and distributing it all over the internets.

It’s not that there’s something inherently “wrong” with seeing women’s physical sexiness as desirable and beautiful.  But denying her agency by imposing it on her when she wishes to be a whole human being, or even more, when she’s “deliberately adopting”, as Boyd phrases it, another part of her person that is not her sexuality (say, in politics, acting, art, sport, etc.), is where the “wrong” lies.  Part of what’s so fucked up is that sexuality has become synonymous with female personhood and value that we–as people and as a culture–seem utterly incapable of separating them.  Indeed, often we as women cannot separate them either, or many times even when we can, we know that it is to our social advantage not to.  The recent Olympics is simply an obvious case-in-point.

August 20, 2008

Theorizing privacy and copyright: addressing “fair use”

Posted in activism, empowerment, entitlement, ideology, objectification, representation, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, victim-blaming at 12:00 pm by LB

For those of you who have missed it, I blog fast and furiously on women’s privacy in public places and online, and am very concerned with the lack of control women have over the use of their images. Of course, women don’t have any less control than men do, but in my previous posting, I have stated why I think this is more of a problem for women–including that in a culture that has historically deemed women’s bodies as for public consumption, there is much less respect for a woman’s privacy period, much less if she dresses/acts in a “certain way” or appears in a “certain place”.

The crux of my concern is: How can we really experience sexual liberation (that I maintain has not been accomplished yet) if we, as women, cannot control the terms by which we are turned into public sexual objects?

The most recent example of this is, of course, is with Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone. Several others have posted very nicely on this, and I was a bit bust this weekend, so please read their excellent posts. Let’s hope there’s no repeating last summer’s experience of a track athlete.

One issue I have had is, aside from changing cultural attitudes–the ultimate problem-solver–how do we go about making any practical change? Until I started reading online more this past fall, I honestly had no clue that guys would peruse Myspace and Flickr pages, looking for women to ogle, objectify, call names, produce fantasies of, etc. on their own sites, denying these women the right to just live their life. As a reasonable human being, it never dawned on me that someone would feel so entitled to photographs of a birthday night-out with friends that I needed to protect myself. And it’s not like I exactly live under a rock–I have done Myspace and Facebook, use Youtube sometimes (usually to find something specific, not to check out the most recent and ridiculous videos). But I haven’t altered my life all that much around the internet, so it is more of a resource for me, and not where I live my life. And since I don’t do Google searches for “sexist asshats displaying male entitlement to women’s sexuality,” I hadn’t stumbled on this phenomenon until I began reading more and more online in the past 9 months or so. And now that I see this happen regularly, each time breaking my heart, this is something I can’t not comment on, and something I’m determined to work on in activism.

So getting to the point of this post: I was on the Creative Commons website, and I noticed that you can copyright your images and prevent downloads on a site like Flickr, a perhaps little-know fact which is blog-worthy all in itself. So I did a little more digging.

From The Creative Commons website:

Creative Commons licenses give you the ability to dictate how others may exercise your copyright rights—such as the right of others to copy your work, make derivative works or adaptations of your work, to distribute your work and/or make money from your work. They do not give you the ability to restrict anything that is otherwise permitted by exceptions or limitations to copyright—including, importantly, fair use or fair dealing—nor do they give you the ability to control anything that is not protected by copyright law, such as facts and ideas.

Creative Commons licenses attach to the work and authorize everyone who comes in contact with the work to use it consistent with the license.

If such photos were subject to “fair use” by these asshats, their being under copyright makes me think their source would need to be cited. Would it really be so hard to have web software require to link to a source in order to upload photos? (which would only mean your own photos would have to be hosted on a photo sharing site first). I use WordPress for my blog, and whenever someone links to me, it shows up in part of the admin functions. Would it really be that hard to require photo-sharing services such as Flikr, Picasa, etc. to offer that feature as well? With requiring links and providing notification of linking back (“trackbacks”), this would at least give people the power to know where their images are showing up and help stop their unauthorized usage, even if it can’t be prevented.

But what is “fair use” even? From the U.S. Copyright Office: Read the rest of this entry »

August 15, 2008

Must-read posts about Olympic uniforms and photography

Posted in double standards, sexual politics, sports, television at 12:00 pm by LB

Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town has a superb post about Olympic uniforms, with side by side comparisons of male and female uniforms, showing the stark differences for which there is no rational justification except that more and more women are only worthy of attention when they’re sexualized too. Now I feel like I don’t need to write one myself!

Tigtog said it before, but I’ll say it again: minute increases in performance cannot account for this difference, otherwise the men would be in skintight clothing also.

No. It’s not about faster, higher, stronger. Women in sports are promoted as sexualised bodies for ogling; men are promoted as performers.

And don’t miss this post from AfterEllen about gratuitous women’s butt shots. Another excellent side-by-side photo comparison.

Women were overwhelmingly more likely to be cropped so they were rendered faceless and in many cases totally headless. I’ve posted all these photos, un-manipulated (other than sizing) and framed as the photographer submitted them, to show how aesthetic dismemberment is commonplace when it comes to women […]

But when looking for comparable headless shots of male players I came up with only three, yes, three: two of hands and one of feet.

July 31, 2008

Review of a Mama Mia! review: In which being sexual and sexy are conflated

Posted in feminism, film, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, sexy at 12:00 pm by LB

GRRRRRR

This is a pet peeve of mine: where a woman’s sexuality and her sex appeal are conflated. Sure, sex appeal or a woman performing what we think of as “sexy” could be part of a woman’s sexuality or her being a sexual person, but all too often they are horribly conflated, hence misrepresenting women-as-sexual-beings. In the end, my ire is with the idea that sexual display, performance, or one’s being sexually pleasing to another is what defines or indicates that a woman is being a sexual agent. It’s the classic “women are defined as sexually liberated in that they can prance around naked.”

So this is what make my stomach turn. Jessica at Jezebel reviews Mama Mia! and says the following:

Well, I saw Mamma Mia! on Friday night, and though it’s admirable that the trio of 50 to 60-something women (Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) are shown as sexual, something irked me about the portrayal of their sexuality — the movie made them into caricatures […] it bugged me that Streep, Baranski and Walters were all given choreography that involved grabbing their breasts and crotches repeatedly. It seemed to be mocking their lustiness rather than celebrating it.

Did you catch that sleight of hand? The women are shown as sexual (they has sex and experienced pleasure and from it), but the “problematic” portrayal of their sexuality is in the caricatured performance of it. Why is mocking the male-centric manner of “performing” sexiness a refusal of their sexuality? In order for that to be true, being “sexual” would have to be necessarily equivalent to representing one’s sexuality in a way that identifies with hetero male pleasure.

Isn’t this was feminism criticizes-that being validated by that male-centric sex culture does not define a woman’s sexual agency and is not what give a woman license to be sexual

(disclaimer: I didn’t see the movie, so my critique is on their commentary, not on the film)

July 29, 2008

Transgressing sex and gender

Posted in body politics, gender, heteronormative, identity, phallocentrism, queer, sexual politics at 2:00 pm by LB

This is an provocative post at Jezebel about Buck Angel, a popular adult film actor who is a transman who hasn’t had, and doesn’t want, genital surgery. Author Megan argues that he is a feminist hero, and I find her discussion compelling.

But this comment was the best:

I want to understand. Really, I do. Brain is just not computing “man who doesn’t want a penis”.

The idea of a person who feels they’re a man but does not feel that a male identity depends on having a penis is extremely transgressive and threatening. Our society conceives of sexuality and attraction/desire in terms of genitals. Thus desiring men=desiring penises. In terms the cultural construction of male sexual activity, penises are absolutely crucial. Many feel that technically, no “sex” takes place without penile penetration

I’ve never really outlined this on my blog, but my personal ideas about sexuality and desire are along the lines of sexuality as fluid (not a permanent identity), that there are “a thousand tiny sexes” (not just binary male/female and gay/straight/bi), that sex acts are not definitive of sexuality, and that homophobia is a big part of heteronormative masculinity…and more.

Sure, I think sexual parts are important. To a degree. But I have also had discussion with people who say they are more attracted to x people (personalities) but to y bodies. Yet in mainstream notions about sexuality (same-sex or hetero), these ought to align. But why should they? And why can’t personality or physical attraction play different roles or emphases in our intimate relationships? I would argue that they already do…but not across gender lines.

For all we talk about transgression, seeing the response to Buck Angel made me realize that perhaps only transgression within certain boundaries can really be tolerated, by hetero and LGBT communities alike. If that’s the case, how transgressive are those actions really?

So I’m really intrigued about the impossibility of comprehending why a (“real”) man wouldn’t want a penis…in our culture, what does that make him? And what does this anxiety say about our own phobias about sexuality?

July 25, 2008

I kissed a girl…but don’t worry, I’m not gay

Posted in heteronormative, lesbian, music, queer, representation, sexual politics at 12:00 pm by LB

Ever since I heard Katy Perry’s song, I’ve been critical and annoyed. I intended to write about it but so many others have already done so, and their views pretty much align with mine, so I thought I’d make a few comments and link to other awesome posts critiquing the song.

I, like many others, see this song as a representation of the casual, non-threatening, “girl-on-girl” performative play that dominates the representations of women’s same-sex attraction or desire. It plays on the exact stereotypes about bi or same-sex female desire that I discussed in my recent post about Tequila’s Shot at Love. The song’s message is that after a little alcohol, I can make out with another female; I may have liked it for a woman’s softness, scent, and feel, but don’t worry, I don’t plan on dating one. Kissing a girl is something “fun” to do, not anything serious that my boyfriend would be worried about–it’s all fun and games and something to do when you’re drunk at the bar.

On many blogs people ask if this is a remake of Jill Sobule’s song from the 90’s, that was very transgressive at the time. It’s not–it’s nowhere near close. Consider:

Sobule:

I kissed a girl, won’t change the world
But I’m so glad I kissed a girl

And we laughed at the world
They can have their diamonds
And we’ll have our pearls
I kissed a girl

For the first time
I kissed a girl
And I may do it again

Perry:

Us girls we are so magical
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
Hard to resist so touchable
Too good to deny it
Ain’t no big deal, it’s innocent

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don’t mean I’m in love tonight

I’m pretty frustrated that this song is so popular. Its message is not at all daring, and really isn’t at all queer-positive, but instead actually reinforces the status quo vis-a-vis female sexuality (performing as lesbian for male desire, that it’s “hot” for women to casually play around with chicks, but don’t worry, they’ll always come back for a Man), and it is actually a dangerous co-opting and erasure of queer female sexuality.

I was even more annoyed that this song was played at Saturday’s Gay Pride celebration here in Rochester, NY. One interesting thing: almost all the people I saw singing along were…men.

Other Smart posts about this song:

Fatemeh @ Feministe

landslide1 @ feministing community

Cortney @ Feminism/Popular Culture

Laura @ The F Word

…7/29: I just stumbled on this one I had bookmarked a while ago from show me your wits!

July 18, 2008

Women’s bodies are not public domain: how many times does this need to be said?

Posted in assholes, body politics, entitlement, objectification, privacy, sexual politics, victim-blaming at 12:00 pm by LB

A really great post at Hoyden About Town on a recent incident of a man photographing an “upskirt” shot in public, and posting it online. The comments she lists in the post are really great…the first set makes you smile and the second makes you pissed.

But reading these particular comments from the skeevy guy’s post got me thinking:

  • “He photographed in public a nice pair of legs and he added the photo onto he’s [sic] PERSONAL blog”

I read a lot people justifying various breeches of privacy with the excuse of “well, she’s in public.” What is it about public space that means anything goes? “Public” space only means anyone can be there–no one can be refused to be in public space. How does “anyone can be there” translate to “anyone can be there and should understand that at any minute they could be photographed or videotaped doing whatever they are doing and wearing whatever they are wearing and can be distributed in any context for free and by entering public space people are consenting to this.”

You know honestly, I don’t care whether some dude videotapes a woman bending over to pick up something she dropped or a person eating their lunch on a bench, both are wrong. Both are invasions. Why do people feel the right to photograph people they don’t know and post them online? Photos of any content, displayed in any context. Why does anybody think this is ok? And why does being in public mean you cede the right to own your body? I’m starting to get really irritated with the arrogance and entitlement of these justifiers.

And it’s not as if people can help being in public. You can’t feasibly survive without leaving your house.

  • “Nicu didn’t try to photograph anything that the girl wanted to keep hidden.”

For the nth time, since when is allowing to be visible for fleeting glances the same as allowing to be visible for photographic capture and display online? This would be like saying that all women who go to the beach are consenting to or want to or wouldn’t mind photos of them in said suit posted online. All together ladies: “HELL, NO!” How asinine is this reasoning?

I mean geez, how hard is it to just leave people alone? Live and let be? Seriously?!

Addendum:

So I had scheduled the above post for Friday. On Thursday, I checked back on the Hoyden thread’s discussion, and sure enough a douchebag had entered the discussion, reeking with male privilege. I really couldn’t let his fallacious comments go unaddressed, so I commented on the thread, and wanted to post what I wrote here as well, since this is a topic I am very passionate about and I write about often.

So again, from Hoyden About Town (and I encourage you to check out the thread and the blog, it’s good reading):

Anders FederNo Gravatar

Pete:
Apart from the lameness, there is absolutely nothing wrong in posting a picture of an unidentifiable person’s legs.

Suggesting that I am a ‘fellow sociopath-wannabe’ for standing up for reasonable freedoms of expression, on the other hand, is highly questionable.

Oh, and by the way: I demand that you all ask for my permission before responding to this post directly or indirectly. Anything else will offend me.

My response: Read the rest of this entry »

July 17, 2008

The Bush administration is its own expert on reproduction, economy

Posted in gender, reproductive rights, sexual politics, U.S. politics, WTF at 12:00 pm by LB

I don’t write much (really, at all) on policy issues…there are so many blogs and organizations that do it much better than I ever could.  But I wrote this piece for The Reaction, where I co-blog (see my sidebar), so I thought I’d post it here too even though it’s not relevant to the “theme” of my blog.  Also, be sure to check out The Reaction, for smart commentary on U.S. politics and current events, with a smattering of global issues as well, and of course, I cross-post many of my feminist cultural studies pieces there too.

According to its report released Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to change the definition of “abortion” used to determine which services can be provided or referred at a facility receiving federal funds. As RH Reality Check reports, there are two commonly used understandings of when a pregnancy begins: conception (fertilization of the egg by the sperm) and implantation (of the fertilized egg into the uterine lining).

The report states:

A 2001 Zogby International American Values poll revealed that 49% of Americans believe that human life begins at conception […] Both definitions of pregnancy inform medical practice. Some medical authorities, like the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association, have defined the term “established pregnancy” as occurring after implantation. Other medical authorities present different definitions. Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, for example, defines pregnancy as “[t]he state of a female after conception and until the termination of the gestation.”

The HHS report is suggesting that the definition of pregnancy be changed from the definition established by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to one defined by…I’m not quite sure. RH Reality Check suggests that this change is being determined by polling data, but unless some of the sample said they didn’t know, or they have some creative ideas about when pregnancy begins, 49% is not a majority. In any case, HHS is proposing that we change the definition of pregnancy from what has been established by medical bodies of experts to another definition established by…the Bush administration.

This new definition is highly problematic. Pregnancy would now be defined as occurring upon fertilization, and with no test for fertilization, women who utilize federally-funded health facilities can be turned away for contraceptive services on a whim. And as feministingnotes, the women who will be the most affected are low-income and uninsured women. Not to mention that claims that certain contraceptives prevent implantation after fertilization are scientifically unproven. From RH Reality Check:

There is no scientific evidence that hormonal methods of birth control can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. This argument is the basis upon which the religious right hopes to include the 40% of the birth control methods Americans use, such as the pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, the IUD, and emergency contraception, under the classification “abortion.”

What happens then is that the decision of whether or not something counts as an abortifacient is up to the individual…doctor or nurse (of courseit’s not up to the individual woman!). And since the proposal also includes mandating that doctors and nurses who are “conscientious objectors” not be “discriminated” against in hiring practices by facilities receiving federal funds, we have a recipe for disaster for women’s reproductive rights.

So we have an HHS report that refutes the definition of pregnancy made by medical experts, uses unscientifically proven claims about how contraception functions vis-a-visfertilization and implantation in order to redefine the contraceptive methods that 40% of women use as abortifacients, and enables federally-funded medical facilities to deny the most economically vulnerable women basic contraceptive services. And this from the “family values” administration who seems to loathe single women receiving social welfare, considering their perspective on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Familiesprogram.

This also comes from our President who chastises reporters for using the term “recession” in discussing the state of our economy, since reporters aren’t economic “experts.” As we see here, what the experts say doesn’t mean all that much to Bush when it comes to reproductive rights and pandering to the religious right’s agenda.

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

July 16, 2008

Fleshbot: where men are for ‘gays,’ lesbians are for ‘straights,’ and the viewer is MALE

Posted in double standards, heteronormative, phallocentrism, pornography, representation, sexual politics at 12:00 pm by LB

I was reading a post on Violet Blue’s blog (NSFW) and she mentioned that Fleshbot (Gawker’s Sex and Porn blog) was doing a series on requests for sexual material that the readers want to see. I thought “cool” and checked it out, only to disappointedly discover the series has only been of women bodies. Sure, they had redheads or small-breasted women, but considering how hard impossible it is to find decent quality free pics of het guys for het women, I would have expected some of that.

But, as I would soon find out, my expectations were based on faulty assumptions. Because curiously, the tabs at the top of the main page say “gay” and “straight.” Guess what images are in the “gay” section? Naked men. And to their credit, just glancing down the 1st few archived pages, it seems like most of them are either actually gay or at least do gay male porn. The images in the “straight” section? Glancing at the first few archived pages, all women. One het couple, that was clearly focusing on the woman’s dirty bits. And several female couples or groups.

Silly me. Why should I have expected that “reader requests” would include het men on a site where gay=male viewer and straight=male viewer, and where lesbian imagery is classified as straight, not gay, just like the malestream Adult Video Awards. If my math is right, when men are shown in the “gay” section and women are shown in the “straight” section, that means that the assumed Fleshbot viewer=male, even thought their tagline, “Since 2003: where sex, porn, and the web collide,” doesn’t specify: mostly for if you’re a dude or a chick who only likes mainstream porn made for dudes. I mean, kudos (I suppose) for having a site with both gay and straight porn; if only your definitions of gay and straight weren’t so, well, male-centered.

I’m so f-ing sick of the blatant ignorance and erasure of female desire (het or queer) when it doesn’t comply with the “liberated girls [sic] take off their clothes!” and “liberated het chicks [sic] think other chicks are hot!” bullshit. Not that those aren’t/can’t be true. But there’s much more to women’s sexuality than what appeals to het men’s sexuality. And I find the refusal to allow het guys for het women to mingle in the “straight” section with all the stuff made for men, lest the het men might get threatened, or even worse, turned on! Heaven forbid a guy might actually have to look at a sexualized man’s body, or find out he might actually admire another guy’s sexuality. Or have to deal with his female significant other looking at porn focused on or equally focused on guy parts and not just lady parts. Cuz I guess it’s hot when your het girlfriend recognizes a woman as sexy but gross! gay! if a het guy does. Oh the double standards! Oh the repressive legacy of a half-assed sexual revolution that masquerades as “liberated”!

How about this radical idea, Fleshbot? How about divide your categories by content, i.e. solo male, solo female, group male, group female, and not by subject position, then viewers of whatever gender or sexuality can decide what content suits their desires instead of you heteronormatively and sexistly (yeah, I made that word up) deciding it for them, K?

July 9, 2008

Once a stripper, always a stripper

Posted in news, representation, sex work, sexual politics at 3:42 am by LB

This kind of bullshit phrasing happens all the time.

Headline:

“Ex-Stripper Claims Affair With Alex Rodriguez, Calls Cindy ‘Smart'”

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 4, 2008

More sports and sexism

Posted in body politics, gender, objectification, privacy, sexism, sexual politics, sports at 12:00 pm by LB

I’m starting to wonder if sports has become the “it” terrain for blatant sexism and creating a hostile climate for women.

In the last year…

Sexual Harassment of female fans by male fans at Jets’ games: nothing like a good ol “you don’t belong here until you have something you can give me, like the view of your tits that I’m clearly entitled to due to my possession of a penis.”

The blowup doll incident in the Chicago White Sox locker room welcoming objectification, violence, and sexual violence, while being rather inhospitable to female, and non-sexist male, journalists wanting to do their job. Not to mention any conscionable player being upset by it would have a hard time speaking up, lest he be accused of being gay, as is often the case in locker-room situations: just see the comments on sports columnist Mike Wise’s article against the display (see also Michael Messner‘s excellent work on masculinity, homophobia and sport). The doll and the accompanying baseball bat strategically placed in a certain orifice with the sign “You’ve got to Push” and all its encompassing sexism was intended to “encourage” the team. Great.

Now this…

via Feminocracy

The Morning Joe show on MSNBC this morning retold the story of a man who got a signed baseball for throwing nude pictures of his ex-wife into the bull pen. The pictures got the man a ball signed by everyone in the dugout courtesy of Johnathan Papelbon of the Boston Red Sox […] Nothing is more classy than giving out nude pictures you obtained during the course of a relationship and spreading them around once the relationship is over. Likewise, its very classy to accept random nudes from fans–lovely.

This is absolutely deplorable behavior, on the part of the guy and the players. The Bo-Sox dugout should be ashamed for accepting these images that were made in the context of an intimate relationships that this guy is exploiting for this own profit and without the consent of the woman in the photos. How is this not illegal? Is this not the “sale” of pornography without the consent of the model? Code 2257 anyone?

Combined with the way female athletes are written about in the media, the sports industry is telling me loud and clear where I as a female belong: on the sidelines, displaying my tits.

(cross-posted to The Reaction)

June 16, 2008

Other people’s posts

Posted in gender, recommended reading, sexual politics at 12:00 pm by LB

I read 2 really great posts today that stood out to me.  I think that they also relate to each other, although I’m not entirely sure why.

Hoyden About Town (and Feminism 101) on problematizing “choice.” This is something that I wish everyone would understand, and not only as it relates to feminism. Time and again, people tell me that I can’t criticize representations of women in film, or that participating in “posing culture” is practically “do or die” for female celebrities, or about critiquing the sexism of/discrimination in the porn industry, etc etc because  well, women “choose” to do these things.  You’ve heard it: “well don’t be an actress then if the roles for women suck ass,” and the like. Or, “she’s choosing to pose naked, so why critique the industry? Women should just stop doing it if the industry is so male-biased”…etc, etc. This is something that I will definitely blog about in the future, but this post is a great start.

And from the F-Word, about women-hating-women. This part was particularly interesting:

Stepping outside of the designated box of what it means to be female in a patriarchal society has long been threatening, not only for the women who decide they must step out in order to be authentic, but also for the women around them. Competition and jealousy are natural reactions when women are set up to survive in a culture where they are not equal to men. Sometimes the misogynist behaviour between women can be explained (but not excused) as an act of benevolence where women teach each other the rules of survival because they don’t want them to face the consequences of breaking the rules. Mothers teach their daughters how to survive. For example, a mother may encourage her daughter to marry a man who earns a good wage and has a respected job even though he is emotionally unavailable. Or worse, a mother may not encourage her daughter to leave her abusive husband because of her own fears of survival without a man. But before we judge mothers too harshly, we need to ask where would they have been taught to expect anything different? What choices did they have to make for their own survival? After all, this is how misogyny works. By limiting women’s choices and silencing their voices, many women do not know anything different than how to survive in a patriarchal world.

(This really hits home with me especially about sexuality.  A lot of why I am so critical about women’s participation in/collusion with sex culture is that the cultural context is still so fucked up.  I want women to be able to express their sexuality in a variety of ways; I want quality non-sexist sexual entertainment for men and women and queer folk and heteros; I want men to be more sexually open and to not feel like their masculinity is tied up in sexism and homophobia; I want sexual entertainment that does not rely on power differentials and consolidating privilege…but I don’t want women to do these things because of internalized sexism.  I don’t want to embrace sexual power because I accept that it’s the only power women have.  I want it to be a real choice.)

Check them out…any thoughts?

June 13, 2008

Owning our bodies’ representation

Posted in body politics, double standards, exnomination, objectification, phallocentrism, privacy, representation, sexual politics at 12:00 pm by LB

This post from Ms. Naughty (blog NSFW) got me thinking. She wrote a post about the Topfree Equal Rights Association, and their argument that it should be legal for women to bare their breasts in public since men can: that not being able to amounts to discrimination since it’s the “same” body part. Ms. Naughty quotes this bit from Topfree’s website, which struck me:

“This is a rebellion against a woman’s body being considered everywhere and always a sex object. As women we want the right for ourselves to decide when our breasts are sexual. That isn’t going to be in a swimming facility, and therefore they must not have to be covered. We want permission to bathe topfree, as men do.”

I’m really seduced by the idea of women being able to assert when our bodies are and are not sexual. This is something that has bothered me for some time, and was a large part of what I have written previously: that representations of women’s bodies are usurped and posited as sexual/sex objects despite what the woman herself desires. Women’s bodies seem to be by default sexual. They are subject to sexualization and sexual (or “beauty”) evaluation simply by existing. So I really like the theoretical argument presented here about women being able to own the sexualization of their body.

But while the argument is seductive, I’m not sure that it’s practical. Because the cultural reality is that women don’t own our sexualization. We are constantly evaluated and sexualized. We are catcalled; we are told to put clothes on. Celebrity women are subject to Hot Lists and 25 Unsexiest Women Lists. We do not exist publicly as people, but rather as women. And I don’t think that women baring their breasts publicly will radically change the way that our culture perceives women and their bodies.

I’m actually afraid it might do the opposite. Read the rest of this entry »

June 6, 2008

A lesson in heteronormativity

Posted in double standards, heteronormative, lesbian, news, queer, representation, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources at 1:00 pm by LB

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 »

June 5, 2008

Sometimes Cosmo readers say interesting things

Posted in double standards, objectification, pornography, sex work, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources at 1:00 pm by LB

The problem this Cosmo reader encountered is one that I have always been irked by.

From a semi-related post on Female Impersonator:

This attitude was shown in one of the “Cosmo Confessions” featured monthly in Cosmopolitan magazine:

“Once a month, my boyfriend has a guy’s night out with his buddies. Normally, they shoot poll or go to a ball game. But last month, I overheard him making plans to go to a strip club. It really upset me that he didn’t bother asking how I felt about his sticking dollar bills in other women’s G-strings. Instead of confronting him, I did some investigating and found out that the night he was planning to go to the club happened to be amateur night, which meant that any girl could get on stage and dance. So I called a few girlfriends, and we headed to the club. After a few drinks, I surprised my guy as one of the novice strippers. He was so shocked that he just froze–until I started undressing. Then he jumped on the stage and begged me to come down, promising me he’d never go to a nudie bar again.”

I think it’s great that the male partner in this story realized how his female partner must feel about his being there by how he felt seeing her up there. I wish more men could have the visceral experience this one did. Many men say that they should be able to go to strip clubs, but wouldn’t want their girlfriend to strip. They justify this by saying that they themselves would not strip, and that they wouldn’t care if their girlfriend saw a male strip show. This is not a equivalent comparison to me, and I’m going to try to elaborate a little on why I think this. Read the rest of this entry »

May 23, 2008

Want a bunch of reasons why Cosmo is anti-feminist?

Posted in mass media, misc, sexual politics at 12:00 pm by LB

…check out the comments on this post @ Jezebel. They did all the work for me! Feel free to add your own in the comments here.

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