Jezebel: Still Not Progressive

September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Nope. Unless your idea of busting the kyriarchy involves heteronormative, classist, ageist, woman and sexuality shaming, pro-rape bullshit.

Overall, the entire piece fails due to its insistence that the only “real virginity” is man’s penis into women’s vagina. It makes no reference at all that might not be true for people who are trans,  non-gender binary conforming, bi/pan/asexual, lesbian, gay, and/or queer identified. Plus, it effectively erases people who simply choose not to have PIV sex, or don’t want to count it as “losing their virginity” due to rape/assault/other trauma, or the belief that oral/anal/something else was their “first time.” And what about people who can’t or can’t comfortably have PIV sex due to sexual dysfunction or a similar condition?

None of these people exist in Jezebel-land.

You know who else is apparently a figment of my silly feminist imagination? Twenty something virgins. Instead of respecting the fact that someone couldn’t or didn’t want to do it before they hit 21, let’s talk down to them and insist they need a “a solid core of female friends to guide you through the first-time sex experience” or “Get out of town. Preferably Paris, France. Pick an attractive, mysterious European stranger who doesn’t speak a word of English and is totally inappropriate for your real life, but perfect for this occasion.” You know, I really have no problem with one-time sex with someone you don’t know, even if it’s your first sexual experience. Nothing wrong with that. But doesn’t the idea of picking someone who can’t understand the language you speak scream with consent issues and sound a little like rape? Or actually, sound exactly like rape because that’s what it is?

Besides, how many twenty-somethings (or anybody, really) can afford random European vacations? Not a whole lot, yet the piece  normalizes it and doesn’t offer solutions for the many people who can’t do it.

The entire piece just perpetuates the culture of  shaming women for not having their first sexual experience go a certain way, something that conservatives are regularly called out on. Jezebel would refuse to publish a piece telling women the best way to have first-time sex is after the wedding, but they are fine telling women they need to have a party or be drunk. While their isn’t a huge culture of shame forcing their advice, it’s still the same concept: telling women they don’t know how to handle their own sexuality. It’s time that all of us-conservative, progressive, or somewhere in between-trust women enough to know if, when, and how their first sexual experience will take place.

More Things That Aren’t News

August 5, 2010 § 4 Comments

(Trigger warning for transphobia.)

by KATIE E.

Seth Macfarlane epicly fails.

“…a recent episode titled “Quagmire’s Dad” shocked some of “Family Guy’s” gay fans with a storyline about the title character having to accept his military father’s feminine manerisms. Quagmire’s father explains to him that he’s not gay, but is a “woman trapped in a man’s body” and is going to have a sex change. The show’s main family characters show virtually no sympathy for their neighbor, referring to the newly out “Ida” as “odd” and a “he-she” who is having her penis “lopped off.” At a post-surgery dinner, they invite Ida and Quagmire to come over, but throw out a dessert that she contributes. That’s followed with lots of rude comments about gender reassignment surgery. Quagmire and Ida have a falling out, and Ida leaves to go to a bar. There she meets the family’s male dog, Brian. They talk, then kiss (and assumably have sex). But when the family finds out Brian has fallen for Ida, they laugh at him. Once Brian connects Ida to Quagmire, he engages in a 40-second vomiting gag. Later, Brian is seen panting and washing desperately. In the meantime, Quagmire reconnects with Ida. But when she tells him about Brian, Quagmire rushes next door to beat the dog to a pulp.”

And his comment:

”[The unhappy reaction to our transgender character] surprised me. I don’t meet a lot of stupid homosexuals. They seem to be a pretty smart bunch. But it seemed that they were not picking up on the fact that it was a very sympathetic portrayal of a transsexual character….  Look, Brian happens to be a heterosexual character, as I am. If I found out that I had slept with a transsexual, I might throw up in the same way that a gay guy looks at a vagina and goes, ‘Oh, my God, that’s disgusting.”’

Isn’t Seth Macfarlane just that wonderful LGBT ally he always says he is? Afterall, sensitive portrayals of trans* people always need to include misgendering, othering, and cliched I-just-did-it-with-a-transwoman panic.

The biggest fail here has to come in his surprise. Really, Seth, you’re SURPRISED that “stupid homosexuals” were not pleased with your “sypathetic” portrayal of a transwoman? You’re surprised that promoting the trans panic scenario that routinely gets trans people killed didn’t bring in the lulz? You felt it was okay to attribute all the outrage to “homosexuals,” and not bother to even give trans* people a voice?

 I am so sick of white, straight, cis men thinking they know everything about oppressed people. Especially someone like Seth Macfarlane, who already has millions of fans (why, I’ll never know), giving him even more power. Soon enough, his privileged fans will start parroting this, and the vicious cycle of transphobia and lesbo/bi/homophobia will continue. People living in ignorance of privilege will continue to try to tell us that words can’t hurt us, but it’s words like these that create a culture in which trans* people fear for their lives daily.

Very Quick Congrats

August 3, 2010 § 4 Comments

by KATIE E.

Before all the gender-policing, right-wing radio tangents, conspiracy theories, OMG WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDRENZ!!11!!, and plain old transphobia start to crop up, I would like to offer my  congratulations to Thomas Beatie and his wife on the birth of their third child, and my sincere condolences for all of the crap they get to hear, again. That is all.

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.

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