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.

File Under “Things That Are Not News”

August 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Via here:

“The odds of a death sentence for those suspected of killing white people are about three times higher than those accused of killing blacks, according to a new study from a University of Colorado professor who combed through death sentences in North Carolina over a 28-year period.”

The U.S. justice system values white lives over the lives of people of color, and despite the fact that the story broke eleven days ago, there has been little to no public outrage.  Oh, what a huge surprise. I mean, why would this be important when we have to panic about selling maternity clothes to pregnant! teenagers!

Of course, it wouldn’t be an article about race and the criminal justice system without a white academic dude saying something that reeks of privilege:

“It’s just kind of baffling that in this day and age, race matters,” Radelet said.

 Well…yes. Technically, it is baffling that courts and police can pretty much do anything to people of color and the public doesn’t bat an eye. Fair enough. But I don’t think the concept of race mattering baffles countless people of color who are victimized every single day. Believe it or not, Mr. Radelat, we do not live in that post-racial world everyone keeps talking about, and between the information you found and your lovely realization, we probably never will.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If any of you read this very shortly after it went up, sorry for the very screwy HTML. I’m not very good at this yet.

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.

Today In Good News vs. Bad News

July 24, 2010 § 12 Comments

by KATIE E.

Bad news: A Merseyside woman was caught with child pornography that included pictures of children being abused.

Good news: She was not detained because she is a transwoman, and the judge understood what danger that would put her in, especially since it was required that she be put in a men’s prison.

Don’t get me wrong, I think child pornagraphy is despicable, particularly the kind that Voyce was looking at. The article mentions that she is facing 100 unpaid work hours, supervision, and being put on a sex offender registry, which I think is appropriate, and I hope she recognizes what she did wrong and changes her ways, and that the children victimized are receiving help and compensation.

However, trans* people in prisons, particularly prisons that misgender them, are often subject to horrific treatment. No one — not a possessor of child porn, not a rapist, not a murderer — deserves that kind of treatment. All people deserve some basic human rights, which should include the ability to identify as whatever gender they choose, receive treatment and/or surgery to make that happen, and not to be victimized because of that.

I do believe that broadcasting this in a national newspaper wasn’t the best approach. I am glad that I was able to find out about one judge that was doing it right in a corrupt system of justice, but I wish the woman in question had not had her name and picture published.  Outing a transwoman and associating her with something almost universally considered evil is going to open her up to transphobic attacks, though they hopefully won’t be as bad as what she would have faced in jail.

I also think it is worth noting that the woman in question stating in the article that she looked at pictures of the children to “come to terms with her troubled childhood.” Again, I firmly believe anyone caught with abusive child porn should face legal punishment, but I don’t believe that this woman is evil. I believe this woman, as a transwoman, had an extraordinarily rough childhood (and it hasn’t had a long time to recover from it — she’s only 20), and is trying to deal with it in ways that are, yes, harmful to children, but are the best she can do. I don’t condone her continuing to look at the images, but I really hope she is receiving sincere, non-judgemental support and help.

Fibromyalgia Linked To Increased Suicide Risk In Tragically Ableist Article

July 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

by KATIE E.

A new study has shown that women with fibromyalgia are ten times more likely to commit suicide than women without the chronic pain condition.

Researchers in Denmark followed death rates of men and women diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and while the death rates overall for both genders were consistent, only the individual mortality causes of males were very similar to the rest of the population. Within the women followed, about 3.3% died through suicide, compared to less than 0.005% of the general female population.

The article notes that this is not truly brand new news, as many doctors, and, more likely, people with fibromyalgia, have been aware of this for years.

I suppose the article can be seen as somewhat of a good thing, because it calls attention to the fact that fibromyalgia is a real condition that can have devastating consequences, which many people living in this ableist world don’t or refuse to understand. Normally, I would shudder at the thought of this, but all one has to do to read dozens of stories of misdiagnoses, accusations of lying about the condition, and years of chronic pain is to read the (surprisingly civil) comment section on the article. It is not a safe space by any means, and there are a few ableist comments that are definitely triggering, but all in all, it is one of the few mainstream sites I’ve seen people with fibromyalgia share their stories without excessive attacks, derailing, etc.

The article isn’t perfect, though. There is the obvious issue that this is something people with fibromyalgia and (good) medical professionals already know, but other parts of the article seemed to do nothing but erase the experiences of the exact same women that the article is written about, particularly a section where one of the researchers speculated on the exact causes of the suicides:

“Dr. Bente Danneskiold-Samse, a rheumatologist at Frederiksberg Hospital and one of the study’s authors, said that other psychiatric illnesses that often occur in tandem with fibromyalgia might not be the only explanation for the high suicide rates.”

This leaves the reader to wonder if Dr. Danneskiold-Samse has actually talked to many women with fibromyalgia who may be suicidal, or if she, being the typical “expert,” just decided it must be true without sufficient evidence. The parts of the article detailing the study make no reference to asking women whether or not they had a diagnosed psychiatric condition, or even asking what their primary reason (the section frames it as a depression vs. physical pain issue, I’ll get to that in a moment) for contemplating suicide was.

Better yet, why not take the focus off the “experts” and actually interview some women with fibromyalgia who may have experienced suicidal thoughts or other psychiatric conditions who are willing to share their experiences? They’re the only real experts here, yet the article silences their voices.

“None of the patients in the study who committed suicide had a history of psychiatric illness before they were diagnosed with fibromyalgia.”

Well, this is a huge, ableist fail. Believe it or not, so-called experts of the world, psychiatric conditions can change radically, especially after the diagnosis of the condition that you just said correlates with suicide. Shouldn’t that be blatantly obvious?

“The high suicide rate could still be linked to depression in these patients, or to anti-depressants that are known to carry risks of suicide, she told Reuters Health. But ‘many of these patients do not take anti-depressant medications because of the side effects, and because they do not feel depressed,’ she said. ‘My opinion is that it has something to do with their pain.’”

So much assuming, silencing, and obviousness going on here. Apparently, this doctor knows everything about women with fibromyalgia who’ve committed suicide — why they don’t take anti-depressants, and exactly why they committed suicide. Never mind the fact that some people can’t take anti-depressants because of other conditions, some don’t believe in or see effects of them, and some can’t afford them, among other things. Don’t forget: “My opinion is that it has something to do with their pain.”…really? Does she not notice that that is a huge assumption about all women with fibromyalgia? Some women with fibromyalgia take their lives solely because of the pain, some only because of depression that has nothing to do with their physical condition, some solely because of depression caused by pain, and many because of various combinations of the above, along with completely different reasons.

As stated before, the article does acknowledge fibromyalgia as a real condition that can create very severe problems for people, but it cannot effectively do its job while it silences the women affected by the condition everyday.

Denial of Racism Will Not Help Prevent HIV/AIDS

July 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

by KATIE E.

I cringed when I saw the title of this article pop up: “In U.S. cities, AIDS linked more to poverty than race.” My head was immediately filled with visions of the damage that “post-racial” fauxgressives toting this as proof we should all be color-blind and the already minuscule support for reproductive health support groups specifically for racial minorities who may need it (like SisterSong or National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, both of which are fantastic groups that you should consider donating to if you can) dwindling further.

I think everyone who’s ever done real anti-racist work breathed a collective sigh of relief when the article made a note that “…understanding that blacks are disproportionately poor probably does explain why the rates are higher…”

Well, at least they can’t technically pull the “If you really wanted to cure AIDS and luuurved everyone, you would be race-blind” card on us. Still, I find it to be disturbing that this article mentions the connection between being black, living in poverty, and having AIDS a whopping one time, all while containing these gems:

  • “Federal scientists found that race was not a factor — there were no significant differences between blacks, whites or Hispanics.” For those of you who aren’t exactly statistics nerds, this point is made invalid for the disproportionate amount of black, Hispanic, and/or multiracial people who live in poverty compared to white people.
  • “Studies in Tanzania, Kenya and some other African countries actually found that wealthy people were more likely to be infected than the poor.” Because there is apparently something completely wacky about places that GASP-have different sociological trends than the U.S. It isn’t like class differences can mean a totally different thing in Tanzania than they do in the U.S.
  • “He noted there are diseases that are more prevalent in certain racial groups, for genetic reasons. Sickle cell disease, which is most prevalent in blacks, is one example.” Does this anyone else get the impression that Scientist Guy was trying so hard not to acknowledge that black people could be more susceptible to a disease because they’re more likely to be poverty stricken and living in poorer conditions, even though he knows it’s true, because it would wreck his white privileged color-blind street cred?

The article is essentially trying to brush over the simple fact that instead of poverty replacing race as one of the main risk factors for AIDS, poverty and racism are hugely interconnected, and neither system of oppression would exist without the other one. Meaning that, yes, race is a risk factor for AIDS, and AIDS prevention education and outreach need to acknowledge this in a big way, as do programs that work to put an end to poverty. Putting aside racism, classism, and the connection between the two may make those living in privilege more comfortable, but it will do nothing to prevent AIDS among oppressed groups.

No, You Can’t “Slip” Fitness Into My Life

July 19, 2010 § 5 Comments

by KATIE E.

I was really disturbed to find this article on skirt.com, a website claiming to be pro-woman. The article, titled “5 Ways To Slip Fitness Into Your Daughter’s Life,” claims to be easy ways to encourage a pre-teen or teenage daughter to exercise, but it simply promotes the concept of a parent controlling all aspects of their child’s life. Not to mention the fact that it manages to be sexist, ageist, classist, ableist, and sizeist all in one short article.

The author states in her opening paragraph: “Startling new research has revealed that our kids are spending about eight hours a day in front of electronic devices like computers, TVs and cell phones. This most certainly is contributing to the 17 percent obesity rate for kids in the U.S.”

First of all, she perpetuates the idea that obesity always equals unhealthy, which, I’m sure you’re aware, is false and hateful. That needs to stop, especially in reference to children, as their self-image and self-esteem are often very fragile and still developing. Plenty of heavy children are healthy, and many skinny ones are not.

What really stood out to me, though, was the fact that while she talked about how kids don’t exercise and kids are obese, the article only focuses on females. To me, this seems like a subtle way of promoting the idea that women always need to work to stay skinny and sexy for men. I can also see it promoting the idea that daughters are property that you can do whatever you want with. Male children are not immune to this, of course, but things like purity balls/rings, parental consent for abortion laws, etc., show that females are generally worse off in this department.

The article doesn’t get much better from here. To take it point by point:

1. “Walk the talk.” Require that she pace or walk round the house for at least one hour of her phone or texting time. This can burn almost a calorie a minute.

Sounds nice. Unless you don’t have enough class privilege to afford a cell phone or have an hour of spare time between school and work. Or if your daughter is disabled. Or if *gasp* you have one of those teenage girls who actually has interests outside of texting, like we aren’t all stereotypes!

2. Replace her computer chair with a simple balance ball. It builds core strength and improves posture.

Because stealing the personal property of your children is totally different than stealing that of an adult! Again, note the classism-not everyone can afford a computer or a new balance ball-and the ageist stereotypes-teenage girls spend all their time on the computer.

3. “Plant” items in the TV room, like a mini trampoline, Bosu or hippity hop/balance ball – and require that kids use one of the items for an hour of their TV time. One hour can burn around 150 more calories than sitting.

Do I even need to say it? Classism, ableism, and ageism, right there.

4. Harness her inner entertainer and let her play “So You Wanna Be A Rock Star?” with her friends. She can make her own rock video by picking one by a favorite musician for inspiration and reenacting it. An hour of dancing and singing burns 123 calories.

Because micromanaging what your daughter does with her friends is so normal! And boys never want to be pop stars!

5. Let her give you a “halftime show.” Every time a commercial comes on TV, press the mute button and ask her to give you a floor show. She can sing, dance or act out what just happened in the show she was watching.

Translation: All teenage girls are out-going egoists and aspiring performing artists who love to have all eyes on them. They would never consider being forced to “perform” degrading or humiliating. Also, maybe I’m just reading too much into this, but does anyone else get the creeps reading “give you a floor show?” With the constant objectification of women in society, when I here “give you a show” I automatically think of a sexual performance of some kind. That could just be me, though.

Overall, I find the concept of forcing a daughter to exercise, especially through these ways, to be intrusive, and, as I stated before, promoting the idea of women and children as property. Girls and young women might actually have a good reason for not exercising, and they are capable enough to figure that out on their own. The daughter in question may have an invisible disability the parents don’t know about or fully understand, be too tired from work/school to exercise, or may simply not enjoy traditional exercise. It should be her decision, not something for parents to invade and change.

Welcome, new contributors! (Part One)

July 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

by MIRANDA

Readers, after a few arguably annoying reminders and a surprising number of emails, the Women’s Glib team has chosen six wonderful new contributors: Chad, Elena, Katie E. (not to be confused with former contributor Katie S.), Sarah, Kitti, and Adi. They will be introduced in two waves: half will begin posting this week, and half will start the week of August 9.

I’ll let the first wave of new bloggers speak for themselves…

Chad:

Hi there! I was stumbling one day and stumbled upon Women’s Glib, and I was completely amazed with the work I saw. As an active college student and male feminist I really liked the direction it took, and kept following it. I then came across a post asking for more writers, as a blogger I thought, why not contribute to a feminist blog? I do many things in my spare time, mostly graphic design, web design, internet, and video games. I’m also active in the LGBT community in my area, as a genderqueer gay male. I’m excited and I hope you enjoy what I write. :)

Elena:

Hello!

My name is Elena, and I am one of the new writers for Women’s Glib! I’ve had some difficulty thinking about what to write for my introductory post: should I make it more personal? Write about a recent issue that gets on my nerves? Post a haiku?

I’ll mostly talk about myself, because I’m terrible at writing haikus.

Since I’ve been away for the weekend, for a wedding reception, I haven’t been able to keep up-to-the-minute tabs on everything going on with feminism/the feminist blogosphere/news and politics in general. In fact, a wedding reception is one of those times when people are encouraged not to talk about Unpopular Subjects such as sex, religion, politics, etc. In fact, not having to hear my cousins rant and rave about the newest Glenn Beck book (which they did during Thanksgiving) was a small miracle.

But at the same time, I have a fun habit of pointing out the uncomfortable things that people don’t like to talk about, including Sex, Politics, and Feminism. One of the things that I find so appealing about being an actor is when plays and films hone in on the difficult, uncomfortable subjects. People like to think that actresses are vain, preening, and willing to do anything to get a toothpaste commercial. But the truth is that most actors (especially women) could recite Chekov’s Cherry Orchard by heart, and are doing the casting for the toothpaste commercial because in our society, Chekov doesn’t pay rent as much as Crest does. Being an actor (or at least a performing arts major) makes me more of a feminist. Unless I “make it” (or can “find a man to take care of me”…shudder), I’ll have a difficult time carrying a pregnancy and/or taking care of a child. So ensuring that contraception and abortion are easily accessible, and as affordable as possible, is really important to me. As it stands, my birth control prescription costs just about as much as what my family spends on two weeks worth of groceries. This is just a little screwed up.

Art, pop culture, and media are the things that I have the best grasp on, so expect a lot of writing about the world of television and movies through the eyes of an art student. I’ve also had some interesting experiences (such as spending a year and a half at a women’s college) that I’ll be writing about as well.

And maybe a haiku if I really have writer’s block.

Katie E.:

Hey, Women’s Glib readers!

I’m Katie, and I am one of the three new contributors. This is my first experience with blogging, and I’m really looking forward to it. I am extraordinarily grateful to Miranda for allowing me to become a contributor.

I’m 16, I live in Virginia, and I’ll be a high school junior in the fall. I’ve identified as a feminist for almost four years, after I read this book. More on that in an upcoming blog post.

I read a lot, especially Young Adult books, and hope to eventually post some reviews of YA books from a feminist point of view. Contrary to the typical man-hating feminazi, I also enjoy baking and knitting.

I hope to cover a broad spectrum of issues in my posts here at Women’s Glib. In particular, I have interests in birth and pregnancy politics, size acceptance, and ageism, but I expect to write about anything and everything.

Since the writers at Women’s Glib are responsible for moderating our own comments, I’ll tell you now that I’m pretty lax about comment content, and I enjoy a good debate, but I will be following the Women’s Glib commenting policy, which means I will not tolerate hate speech, derailing, or personal attacks. Because of my age and my desire to write about issues that affect young people and children, ageism in particular is something I hope to not see in comments.

If you ever feel like I am ignoring a subject or showing my personal privilege, I encourage you to inform me of that thought the comments. I strongly believe we can’t fight kyriarchy unless we are willing to acknowledge our mistakes and learn.

Like I said before, I am so glad to be writing here, and I hope you will enjoy my posts!

I hope you’re as excited as I am to welcome these writers to the blog. You can learn more about them on our new Current Contributors page. Thanks to all the candidates who emailed me; my co-bloggers Phoebe and Silvia can confirm that choosing new writers was a difficult and thoughtful process. Check back soon to hear from the second wave of contributors!

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