September 28, 2008
An update to my blogroll has been waaaay overdue, but I finally took the time to do it today. Please be sure to check out some of the new blogs and organizations I have been checking out!
September 26, 2008
I just heard on CNN that Louisiana’s Rep. John LaBruzzo (R) is looking into a plan to pay poor women to have their tubes tied. This is based on his concern that poor people reproduce at a higher rate than more economically privileged people do, who pay more in taxes. Folks, this is his guess–he has no data to this effect. Mark Waller from The Times-Picayune reports on nola.com that “He said he is gathering statistics now.”
Hmmm…so instead of looking at the actual range of factors that affect poverty and aiming to solve those, he’s going to racistly assume that it’s because they’re voluntarily having “too many” children “they can’t afford,” and if they can’t afford them, we should encourage, not free contraception and education, but sterilization, so he’s then going to try to find data to support this?
It also could include tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income people to have more children, he said.
Now we’re at the meat-and-potatoes. It’s not really about “helping” people to avoid welfare (as if having kids is the prime reason people are on welfare in the first place), but also ensuring that the “right” kind of people reproduce–those who are wealthy and educated.
The idea here is that poor citizens receive social welfare and therefore do not have the “right” to have families. This is bullshit in and of itself. On top of that, LaBruzzo is essentially hoping for the “extinction” of the poor on account of his faulty logic that that would reduce or eliminate poverty, as if poverty were a function of people, not of societies and economic systems. Even more, well-educated, wealthier people should have even more children to make more educated, wealthy people! Who knew economic privilege was genetic!
OK, I know he’s not saying that. But if he really thought about the implications of poverty begetting poverty, he might realize that helping people out of poverty is not at all accomplished by telling them not to have children (and since when should we coerce the poor with money to do invasive, irreversible, medical procedures on their bodies?–and for the record, he’s sure not suggesting that we pay for or demand that poor women have abortions), but to help change the environmental circumstances and social structures that perpetuate economic inequality.
And never mind that the rhetoric that children and families are the “foundation” of our society that justifies a slew of tax advantages given to middle and upper class families. Forget the college tuition credits given, and deductions for homeowners’ mortgages that partially subsidize the middle-class American life. The right consistently talks about tax breaks to help families out, but those breaks are for people who owe taxes to begin with: they are tax breaks for the middle class, not the poor. But folks like Rep. LaBruzzo seem appalled that folks on welfare would dare to be free citizens and have children, who allegedly are the reason for their poverty. Meanwhile, middle and upper class families benefit from their own share of social welfare in the form of tax deductions and government-guaranteed education (as well as partially taxpayer-funded state universities), and this welfare is completely invisible to them. I don’t have kids and I am forced, through taxation, to pay for the education of other people’s children.
In one way or another, aren’t most of us social welfare recipients?
September 22, 2008
That’s the September 11, 2008 headline of an article about Jaime Nared, the 12 year-old basketball phenom who, back in May, was curiously kicked off of a previously mixed-gender basketball team (the league citing old rules barring coed teams) after she clearly demonstrated she was “too good” to be on the team–she makes the boys look “bad.”
Scary? The article is about how good she is, what potentiaal she has, and how she struggles to find appropriate peers to play with and against. How about describe her as “amazing”? “Phenomenal”? “Incredible” Why “scary”?
Scary she’s so good…because she’s female? Scary that her talent and physical blessings (she’s 6’1″) threaten a male-dominated sport, that women are rapidly becoming more visible in? How about scary that she seems expected to apologize for her talent, her drive, her interest, her skill, her motivation…
Scary that “female” and “exceptional athleticism” still are assumed to be contradictory terms.
September 19, 2008
As I just wrote about this very topic, I stumbled on an opportunity to voice your experiences and opinions about street harassment for a new book on the topic. Please take a few minutes to participate!
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 16, 2008
Check out this great article over at The American Prospect:
“Progress is slow and often nonexistent,” [Joss, of Buffy fame] Whedon said. “There’s plenty of cool comics with female characters. … But all it takes is one Catwoman to set the cause back a decade.”
He was bemoaning failed superheroine movies that slathered on high camp and special effects while dumbing down their characters. Both 2004’s Catwoman (starring Halle Berry) and 2005’s Elektra (starring Jennifer Garner) were critical and commercial flops because they didn’t embrace the fact that their characters are complicated anti-heroes; neither movie dares to make its heroine really bad or really good and neither movie ends up being very interesting.
Movie studios put out female-led superhero films with poor character writing (and in bad calendar timing, as the article goes on to say), then says there’s no market.
Reminds me of the crappy games put out for women that don’t have much playership, or noting that women don’t want to buy the sexist action games, then saying there’s no female market.
Someone needs to read the Halthor Legacy.
Related previous post: Entertainment and ‘Choice’
I want a female superheroine. I just hope she’s wearing clothes and cool, sensible shoes.
September 13, 2008
The recent article from the New York Times, “As Barriers Disappear, Some Gender Gaps Widen”
discusses a scientific study that I find highly questionable. Apparently, the same-old gendered personalities keep resurfacing in personality tests. Psychologists disagree on the origin of the differences: evolutionary vs. socialization. The article asserts that the latter believes that
personality differences will shrink as women spend less time nurturing children and more time in jobs outside the home.
So the effect of “traditional gender roles” will be eradicated when women are in the workforce more and do child care less? That seems overly optimistic at best, naieve and ignorant about the pervasiveness of gender socialization at worst. But that’s not my real critique.
Several research groups have been studying personality tests sorted by gender on a global basis, and have found that the gender gap in personality tests is smaller in countries that have “more traditional” cultures. What I think they mean by poorly-worded and undefined “traditional” is less industrialized and perhaps more institutionally religious. Because the U.S. sure has a kind of “traditional culture” too–of capitalism and consumerism. What their designation really refers to, in my view, is cultures that are more obviously and directly patriarchal, since the article says,
A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France.
But again, not my main point.
Since this seems counterintuitive to researchers–surely, our more “advanced” societies, full of legal equality and post-post-industrial economies and wealth coming out of our asses should have less gender disparity in individual personalities. So after another study, looking at 40,000 people, on researcher has concluded that
as wealthy modern societies level external barriers between women and men, some ancient internal differences are being revived.
(I think he meant to say “less external legal barriers.”)
The very next statement in the Times article completely contradicts the researcher’s own conclusion, if you actually think about it:
The biggest changes recorded by the researchers involve the personalities of men, not women. Men in traditional agricultural societies and poorer countries seem more cautious and anxious, less assertive and less competitive than men in the most progressive and rich countries of Europe and North America.
Gee, assertiveness, competitive, lack of concern….surely the presence of these qualities has nothing to do with, for one, western constructions of masculinity?! And what is the implication then, that non-western, less industrialized male populations are too “feminine”? I thought the anti-feminist work of Kathleen Parker already told us that feminism has emasculated American men?! The study itself says the following:
masculinity–femininity describes the extent of emphasis on work goals (earnings, advancement, and assertiveness) as opposed to interpersonal goals (friendly atmosphere, getting along with the boss) and nurturance (higher masculinity–femininity scores reflect masculinity)
Interestingly, but not unsurprisingly, a very Western definition of gender. No wonder “traditional” cultures, that may not make the gendered public/private divide the same way it has been made in industrial and post-industrial American culture, seem to have less gendered personalities. The researchers used a cultural definition of gender as a neutral “fact” of “sex” and then applied them to other nations and cultures whose notions of gender are likely different, and not because they are “less than.” (see p. 172 of the study for more equally problematic indicators of gender equality). I’ll come back to this ethnocentrism. Read the rest of this entry »
September 12, 2008
Quote of the day…unfortunately, it was from a somewhat offensive and bullshit post at Huff-Po. But the end is excellent:
Stop voting for people you want to have a beer with. Stop voting for folksy. Stop voting for people who remind you of your neighbor. Stop voting for the ideologically intransigent, the staggeringly ignorant, and the blazingly incompetent.
Vote for someone smarter than you. Vote for someone who inspires you. Vote for someone who has not only traveled the world but who has also shown a deep understanding and compassion for it. The stakes are real and they’re terrifyingly high. This election matters. It matters. It really matters. Let me say that one more time. This. Really. Matters.
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?
September 3, 2008
Just saw this on someone’s blazer during Palin’s speech tonight (still in progress).
How fucked up is this? Democrat or Republican, whatever and whoever, a woman’s (or man’s, for that matter) appearance is completely irrelevant to her political capabilities or qualifications.
Politics is not the Maxim “Hot 100.”
August 29, 2008
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 21, 2008
As I’ve been watching the Olympics, I have had two feelings about bodies:
- How irritating it is that regardless of basically everything, women are perpetually sexualized, and often sexualized first and foremost.
- How unused to seeing exposed young, fit, male bodies (particularly in snug attire) on a regular and public basis I am. This is something hetero men are exposed to multiple times every day, and hetero women are only every four years!
I have also made these observations:
- I regularly overhear female Olympic athletes sex appeal at least in equal proportion (if not more) to their athletic skill (though it’s usually in spite of their athletic skill). Hetero men seem to be unable to comment on female athletes skill without also commenting on their physical appearance, both body and beauty. Women do comment on the attractiveness of the female athletes sometimes as well (like women are more open to doing about other women anyway, whether peers or celebrities, and regardless of sexual attraction).
- I hear much fewer comments about the appearance of the male athletes, and never from hetero men (cuz that would be gay, ya know).
August 20, 2008
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.
August 15, 2008
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.
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?!
Not that they deserve a congratulations for doing their freaking jobs right, but I’m taking notice.
I’m just going back to putting a feed of my delicious links on my sidebar, since I can’t seem to figure out why they stopped posting for no reason. The most recent 10 links will be up on the sidebar. You can also subscribe to my recommended reading links in an RSS reader for more convenience, also available under “subscriptions” in my sidebar.
I am so disgusted at the McDonald’s commercials that use pseudo-Olympic athletes (athletes dressed up to look like Olympic athletes, complete with a Shawn Johnson-ish gymnast and several “non-American” appearing people for authenticity) to sell their Southern Chicken Sandwich. It’s not up on YouTube yet, but these uber-buff actors ooh and ahh over the sandwich, at the end calling it “gold.”
Guess what? That little sandwich has 400 calories, 150 of which are from fat, and 17g of fat, which is 26% of your daily allowance of a 2,000 calorie diet (which is higher than many adults’ recommended caloric intake). The sodium content is 1030g, 43% of your 2,000-cal daily allowance.
At first I was so disappointed because I thought Olympic athletes were advertising this unhealthy sandwich for McDonalds, but I guess they’re not Olympians–they just look like them (although from what I understand, Olympic athletes are in other McDonalds commercials). Which just makes McDonalds’ advertising completely misleading and irresponsible.
August 12, 2008
Just read a great post at the Halthor Legacy that connected so well to an earlier post of mine, where I wrote
Bottom line: what we “choose” is not always what we want. It’s just what we have to choose from. And what we want for the most part comes from somewhere-it is shaped by what’s available.
Halthor Legacy writes
The reason why big shots would fear people finding out that “nobody knows anything” is simple: financiers pour millions into every movie that gets made […] Investors like to hear what sounds like convincing evidence a movie they’re backing will make them money.
The age-old example here is the original Star Wars. It wasn’t supposed to make more than a modest profit (and that, only because it was so low budget). Fox thought it was crap. To their amazement, it lined people up around the block on the first day […] All because – despite being a rip-off of any number of artistically superior movies – it wasn’t quite like anything anyone had seen before.
Lucas had made a movie people didn’t know they wanted to see. If you’d polled them, they wouldn’t have promised to see it. (emphasis mine)
[…] Everybody knows at the end of the day no stock expert can guarantee you the right investments – no movie is guaranteed, either. But when a movie succeeds inexplicably, potential investors start to wonder if you really know what the audience wants to see.
You handle this by sticking to the formula and memorizing a lot of excuses that always back the formula.
Read the whole thing here.
August 11, 2008
Ugggh. I just realized my links haven’t been posting. I think I need to reset the posts each time delicious has an update. Well, here are the back links for the last 2 weeks they haven’t posted, including the ones for today… Read the rest of this entry »