Calling All Readers: Help me boycott Target in a creative way!

August 3, 2010 § 9 Comments

by ELENA

Nationwide retailer Target (alternative pronunciation: Tar-zhay) has wound up on many people’s consumer shit lists (mine included) due to the recent news that an executive at the Minnesota based chain donated $150,000 to a Republican candidate who is against LGBT rights legislation. But wait–there’s more! In the past, Target’s CEO has given money to such fine, upstanding individuals as Michele Bachmann.

I’m shocked and disappointed by this behavior, because according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Buying For Equality 2010 guide, it has a prefect score, meaning that it has policies supporting LGBT employees in place.

I want to do more than just write the requisite “I’m-not-going-to-buy-your-stuff” letters to Target higher-ups.

So, fellow readers and contributors, I’m looking for creative and effective ways to protest Target’s recent decisions that:

-Will not get me arrested (being asked to leave a store, or being banned from a store is fine.)
-Will not make other Target employees jobs more difficult. So, while Karen’s suggestions would certainly get the point across, that would lead to a lot of pointless work for employees that have little control over the retailer’s policies.
-Will be effective regardless of the number of people participating.
-Will be enjoyable to do.

Shopping should not have to be a constant weighing of the lesser of two evils. And I fail to see how maintaining a healthy business, and promoting basic human rights are mutually exclusive issues. Shame on you, Target.

UPDATE: Target’s CEO has issued an apology for their donation to Rep. Emmer, but many organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign aren’t convinced that Target’s apology is genuine, and want the mass retail to back up their words with actions. I’m still looking for protest ideas, because I’m not buying their apology, either.

UPDATE, PART TWO: I’ve come up with a pretty cool idea for a protest, which involves dressing up as Zombie Michele Bachmanns, and doing the Thriller dance outside a Target store. Are any readers in the Grand Rapids, MI area interested in joining in?

UPDATE, PART THREE (THOUSAND): A flash mob group performed an adapted version of DEVO’s “People are People” in the Target store. Check out their video below.

Pregnant Teens Get Clothes, Moral Panic Ensues

August 3, 2010 § 12 Comments

by KATIE E.

Dear Stephanie Hallett,

Just stop. Really.

Stop the moral panic. Stop calling yourself a feminist unless you decide you want to support all women.  And please, stop promoting the epic fallacy that if we don’t provide maternity clothes at a store aimed at women under thirty, pregnant teenagers will suddenly disappear.

“How about information on pregnancy options, counselling and pre- and post-natal care? Not trendy clothes.”

You know, that’s lovely and all, and I really do support it, but I believe pregnant people are still required by law to be clothed during all that counselling and prenatal care.

And somehow, I don’t think that F21 selling (I kid you not, this is the entire “line”) two modest dresses, two plain shirts, two gray cardigans, two pairs of neutral leggings, one of those belly supporters, and a chiffon thing that I don’t quite understand but is floral and quite unexciting in maternity sizes is going to suddenly end all help for pregnant people who want/need it. And, even in my capacity as a non-fashionista, I’d hardly call that “trendy.” Nice looking, affordable, okay for some jobs and parties, but pretty bland for F21. With the way she phrases it, I was expecting bubble mini-dresses with I AM THE COOLEST PREGNANT TEENAGER EVER emblazoned on the front in rhinestones or something. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, but it sounds much more like something of the traditional F21 cannon.

Furthermore, why shouldn’t pregnant teenagers have trendy clothes? If you are pregnant before society says it’s okay, does that mean you should feel too much shame to dress the way you like?

“Linda Chang, Forever 21′s senior marketing manager, can claim they’re simply trying to appeal to a new demographic, and not exploiting the outrageously high number of teen moms with little money in the U.S., but the point is that a 20-something model in maternity clothes isn’t even shocking anymore. It’s an integral part of the “raw-capitalism-as-spectacle-a-go-go” model that F21 has founded its business on. It doesn’t matter who’s shopping, only that they’re buying.”

I get that Forever 21 is infamous for the whole “fast fashion” phenomenon, but the whole “raw-capitalism-as-spectacle-a-go-go” you’re describing here just sounds a lot like…capitalism. I’m no fan, but the idea of discovering you have a market (young women who’ve always loved fast and cheap clothes who coincidentally become pregnant) and making a product that will appeal to that market (fast, cheap maternity clothes) is hundreds of years old

And exploitive? Really? Please go talk to one of the millions of pregnant people who couldn’t afford maternity clothes  and as them if a twelve dollar, slightly less than flawless quality dress makes them feel exploited. Frankly, only someone from a place of privilege could believe pregnant people are exploited by cheap maternity clothes.

Why should a 20-something model in maternity clothes be a shock, anyway? The average age of a first time mom is now 25, and it’s only gone up in the past forty years. Besides, I thought you only wanted to shame pregnant teenagers here. Is it just the phenomenon of pregnancy in general that makes you so mad?

“But as a company whose audience is made up mostly of girls under 24, Forever 21 has the option to behave responsibly and not perpetuate a very destructive norm.”

Is the fact that most (65%) of F21’s customers are under the age of 24 supposed to make me panic or something? This may shock you, but 18-23-year-olds are women. Adult women. And 65%, while a definite majority, is not a radically high figure.

Not that any of that should matter. I would think that a feminist would recognize how extremely problematic referring to anyone who’s pregnant as “a destructive norm” is. Isn’t it Anti-Kyriarchy 101 that there is nothing wrong with anyone who is keeping a pregnancy, and any problems that arise from it are the fault of our racist, sizeist, ageist, sexist, cissexist, classist, heterosexist society?

“How about we offer proper sex ed to American youth?”

Excellent idea, but I fail to see how this will completely erase pregnant people and the need for them to have proper clothes.

“How about we talk about what it’s really like to be a mom–the money it takes, the time it takes, the effects on a young woman’s body–instead of making teen pregnancy a mere fact of life in the US with shows like 16 and Pregnant?”

Here we go with the “pregnant teenagers are silly and don’t know that babies cost money and can change your body!” meme. I happen to know that Women’s Glib, being Women’s Glib, has a high readership of people who are currently teenagers, so I’ll invite all of them to answer this question:

You know being pregnant costs money and time and changes your body, right?

It wouldn’t be a classic teen pregnancy shame fest without a reference to 16 and Pregnant. Really, how many people do you know who watch 16 and Pregnant who have not done all of the following:

1. Called any of the girls “slutty” or something similar.

2.  Doubted the girl’s intelligence.

3. Referred to the couple that gave the baby up for adoption as being the only one’s who were smart, responsible, and/or mature.

4. Insisted that it is a great way to prevent teenaged girls from having sex and keeping pregnancies.

16 and Pregnant is hardly “acceptance” or “normalization” of teenaged pregnancy.

As much as it clearly pains you, Ms. Hallett, teen pregnancy is a mere fact of life, and it always has been and always will be. Some teens use contraception and it fails. Some teens can’t afford contraception. Some don’t know how to use it. Some are raped. Some are victimized be reproductive coercion. Some plan pregnancies. Many will choose or be forced into carrying the pregnancy to full-term. All deserve our respect and support. And that includes affordable, nice clothes that they can wear.

Ms. Hallett, what you’ve written here is one of the major reasons why mainstream feminism frequently disappoints me. A feminist should support all women and girls, but I see less and less realizing how much our society fails pregnant people and mothers who don’t fit the kyriarchal norm. Pregnant teens and teenaged parents are not a tragedy or destructive, but society (including you) is set on continuing to perpetuate conditions and ideas that make it seem that way.

No, You Don’t Have A Right

July 27, 2010 § 10 Comments

by KATIE E.

…to child-free spaces.

I’m afraid it’s true. You don’t have a right to demand a public space without kids anymore than I have a right to demand a public space without women. Or people of color. Or trans* people. Or…anyone. I would think that as social justice minded individuals we would collectively realize how seriously screwed up the notion that we can exclude a group of people from the public sphere is.

You know what else you don’t have a right to? You don’t have a right to demand parents to “control” children in public, as if they are animals or objects. You don’t get to police parenting techniques, and you don’t get to demand that kids don’t demonstrate age-appropriate behavior.

If you are going to call out misogynists, racists, ableists, trans/fat/lesbo/bi/homophobes or anyone else contributing to the kyriarchy, but you are completely open about the fact that you just hate children, you are a hypocrite.

Also, Jezebel? I have HUGE problems with your site, particularly the way you brand feminism, but now you’ve officially lost a reader. It features what I’ve often heard called the “oppression olympics” (Racism and sexism are much worse than child-hate!), and polices a woman’s choice not to call herself a feminist, which, if you read the feministe comment thread, she clearly has good reasons for.

The Jezebel thread is even worse, and includes very thinly veiled racist attacks on mai’a. (Making fun of her daughter’s name and the like.)

If Mai’a or anyone else who agrees with her is reading this, good for you and I’m so sorry you have to deal with all of these horrible comments. If you’re one of the other “feminists” I saw exhibiting ageist, child-hating behavior, you’ve made me pretty ashamed to be a feminist and normal fan of feministe today.

Things You Should Read on This:

My Child Take Up Space

Being anti-children isn’t really helping anything, you know.

Roman Polanski: Still a rapist

July 27, 2010 § 4 Comments

by MIRANDA

Yep, still.

Another woman, Edith Vogelhut, has come forward with allegations that Roman Polanski raped her. (The video interview and transcribed quotes are worth a look, albeit with an enormous trigger warning. The acts described are, obviously, vile.) She says the rape occured in 1974, three years before the rape of Samantha Geimer, to which Polanski admitted responsibility and for which he was convicted. And for which, if you’ll recall, he spent approximately zero seconds in prison. Vogelhut is the third woman to come forward, after Geimer and Charlotte Lewis.

Anyone want to wager how many asshat “artists” have already taken it upon themselves to defend Polanski on the grounds that his films are totes awesome? Or take a gander at just how much “justice” will be served, this time around?

Fuck.

As I wrote recently (in a comment on C. L. Minou’s excellent response to the Swiss government’s refusal to extradite Polanski to the United States): This Polanski shit continues to BLOW MY FUCKING MIND, and also not, because I guess I should know by now that basically the whole world thinks rape is okay.

Westboro’s Hate Monument

July 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

by CHAD

We’ve all heard of them: Westboro Baptist Church. We’ve heard their messages of hate and divisiveness, and most importantly we’ve heard their very loud statements of why gay people will go to hell. They’ve decided to pull out a new move to add to their collection of homophobic statements to the USA, and the world. Aside from their decision to protest Lady Gaga’s concert (and their direct statements that God hates Lady Gaga, a modern Gay Icon), they’ve also made the hateful decision to make a monument dedicated to the condemnation of Matthew Shepard, a Gay Icon unfortunately known for a gruesome hate crime.

I can’t even describe how disgusting that is to me. Westboro Baptist protests the funerals of straight soldiers (and I’m sure gay ones) simply on the basis that gay people aren’t being stoned to death. They now go to the extent of promoting the murder of a young man, simply on the basis that he was gay. Casper, the city in which the monument was to be placed, voted down the placement, and it led to a civil case that reached the Supreme Court, which decided that preventing the monument from being placed is not a violation of free speech.

Rape Culture Rears its Ugly Head (Again)

July 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

Trigger Warning.

Do you know what ruined my morning? What filled me with a blinding, seething rage? What made me really really sad?

This movie poster right here. The one for the I Spit On Your Grave remake.

Now I was almost tempted not to link to it or write this post so as not to give this piece of shit more publicity, but I couldn’t. Not only is this poster heinous, exploitative bullshit, but it also perfectly personifies the serious problem of rape culture in America.

I did some research and the film is about the brutal gang rape of a young woman, who manages to survive. She then goes on to exact revenge on all of her torturers. It was first released in 1978 to much controversy. It was originally entitled Day of the Woman and released under the guise of a female empowerment film, though apparently the way in which she “empowered” herself after the half-hour long, brutal, leaving-nothing-to-the-imagination rape scene, was to track down her rapists, seduce them (excuses for the actress to be naked again), and then torture and kill them in gruesome ways.

The most empowering thing I’ve ever heard.

Let’s get this straight. Let’s lay it out one more time. Rape is not a sexual act. Rape is not sex. Rape is not about sexuality or attraction. Rape is rape. Rape is about humiliating, degrading, and removing all power from the victim. I don’t care how you want to spin it, Cinetel Films in association with Anchor Bay Films or anyone else involved in the creation of and marketing of this film. This poster is about sex. This poster is about her ass and her bare back. So what if there’s encrusted blood and bruises covering her upper thighs and back from her TRAUMATIC RAPE? Look at that body!

This is reprehensible. This is sick. This goes beyond blurring the line between rape and sex–it smashes them together into one thing for your (the general public’s) enjoyment.

And the worst part of this whole thing? Countless people will see this poster and not blink an eye. Because these types of images are normal in our culture. Hell, they’re expected.

Update: Pajiba already has a brilliant takedown up. For more rage, click here.

Thoughts on a Ruined Afternoon

July 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

Cross-posted at Female Impersonator.

Memory: It is a delicious Sunday afternoon. Sun glitters through the trees, splashes over benches and stains the ground. It is the fourth of July, and I have spent several hours on my own, reading the intoxicating prose of one of my favorite writers, Zadie Smith, in one of my favorite places in all of New York City: Fort Tryon Park. Shoes off, feet in the grass. Sometimes the world is so beautiful it makes me ache. It’s time for the ideal reading break: an ice cream cone. I walk to the truck, pay for my chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles. Perfect refreshing cool, perfect crunch. I stroll back into the park under a canopy of lush leaves. Sometimes the world is so beautiful it makes me ache.

There are people in the background of my vision. One of them emerges slowly; I understand that he is moving toward me. He is an older man, probably in his early seventies, walking along. He stops in front of me, and I pause slightly.

He is going to say, “It is so gorgeous on this lawn.”

He is going to say, “It is so relaxing here!”

He is going to say, “It is so hot today, don’t you think?”

No, he is not. He is not going to say any of these things. His face is two feet from mine and he is saying, “It is so sexy watching you lick that cone.”

There is a voice in my head saying: You should have known this was coming. I am still walking and I say crisply, loudly, “THAT’S DISGUSTING” and he smiles and he turns and I walk and my mouth is dry. Sometimes the world is so awful it makes me ache.

Vision: I don’t walk on. I don’t say anything. I laugh shrilly and he looks startled and I mash my cold ice cream into his face, his beard, it covers him and I am calm. I’ve won.

Vision: I don’t walk on. I scream, “Leave me the fuck alone.” I shriek, “You’re a piece of shit.” I shout, “Fuck you, prick.” I’ve won.

Reality: I can’t win. Street harassment is so mind-bogglingly fucked up. It’s a cruel game that I’m playing against my will and I can’t fucking win it. That’s all I want: I want to win. I want to feel better than these jerks because I am. Even more than I hate harassment itself, I abhor the way I feel afterwards. At first I feel ashamed, embarassed even though I’ve done literally nothing wrong. Then I feel regretful, angry at myself for not reacting more harshly. I feel like a bad feminist, like I haven’t spoken up properly or stood up for myself in the “right” way. Next I feel guilty. I feel mean. I make excuses for the dipshit who’s put me in this situation — I tell myself maybe he’s a nice guy, maybe he didn’t mean it that way. And finally, always, I feel sick, physically nauseous.

All of this shit, all of this fills my mind. It takes up so much space, so much brainpower and it’s absolutely useless. Instead of being consumed by these victim-blaming thoughts, I want to feel safe and strong and sexy, sexy on my own terms.

Street harassment isn’t a compliment. It’s not “no big deal,” and it’s not isolated. It lies on the continuum of violence against women; it’s meant to keep women quiet, keep us inside, keep us from coming and going as we please. It can ruin your afternoon, your emotional safety, your confidence. It needs to be stopped.

~~~~~

HollaBack! is an awesome organization that works to fight street harassment on a global level. Check out their new website, and their PSA (transcript below the fold). I’m the one wearing the plaid jacket.

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