Courtney Martin on The O’Reilly Factor

February 12, 2009 § 6 Comments

Feministing’s Courtney Martin represented the Women’s Media Center on The O’Reilly Factor yesterday, defending Helen Thomas after O’Reilly called her a witch:

I am appalled and genuinely upset by the way O’Reilly refused to listen, interrupted, and insulted any viewpoint that was not his own or that rightfully tried to educate his sexist ageist speech. However, I am more awed by Martin’s patience, intelligence, and bad-ass passion than appalled by O’Reilly’s fallacies. 

I am rarely left speechless, but Courtney Martin’s powerful words leave me simply trying to echo her strength.

Organize a Congo Teach-In!

February 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

So, Saturday is V-Day, a day Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monologues) dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence through various events around the world. 

Her latest work has been with victims of sexual violence in the Congo. The V-Day website has this powerpoint educational tool to help spread awareness and inspire change for this humanist feminist cause. 

Miranda and I presented this at a feminist club at our school today and found it to be incredibly informative and crucial to know about. For all of you out there dedicated to spreading the word and doing some good, please download this powerpoint and spread the word.

Hope you’re able to host a teach-in!

Israel Elections Today: Tzipi Livni?

February 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

Today, Israel elects a new prime minister. This is one of the most important elections in Israel’s 50 year history. With a terrifying human rights crisis in Gaza, Israel must act for, and not against Palestinian welfare, as well as peace and human rights for EVERYONE! 

I really wish I’d followed this race sooner, but with all the political and economic excitement here at home, I’m a bit uninformed so please leave your info in comments!!

What I do know is pretty limited seeing as it is incredibly difficult finding information about Israel/Palestine that is not severely biased when nationalistic, ideological, and religious disputes are taking place all over the world about this new government. 

So here goes…

The tight race is between “right-wing” Benjamin Netanyahu and the more liberal Tzipi Livni. Netanyahu is noted as being anti-Arab. The more liberal candidate, Livni embodies an Obama-like rhetoric  and believes in compromise that lies on a foundation for peace. 

The fact is that Israel — though the election of Golda Meir in 1969 shows it is more advanced than the U.S. in terms of chronological women in leadership positions — still has a long path towards equality. This long path makes Livni stand out not just as a leadership candidate, but as a woman in power (I know, SHOCKER!). 

Focusing more on the current state of foreign affairs than her identity politics, Livni’s campaign has paid less attention to her gender than the surrounding propaganda….until it came time to fight back. The LA Times had the most straight-up article I could find that detailed the gender side of this election…

As a female civilian competing with Netanyahu and Barak, both former generals, Livni consistently talks tough on security.

She generally downplays the significance of her gender, portraying herself as a capable wartime leader.

“There’s a twisted logic which says that defense issues belong to men,” she said in a recent speech. “No man, including any general, has an advantage over me in this process.”

But at Friday’s women-targeted event, Livni displayed a different side. Her speech mentioned security issues only in passing and focused on the need for hope, optimism and a better country for Israel’s children.

“I will not allow people here to live in desperation, and without any hope for peace,” she said. “I tell you all: Snap out of the despair, because I am not prepared to give up on the word ‘peace’ and miss out on the opportunity.”

What I find most interesting about this excerpt is that it explicitly details gender as political, “targeting” voters using specific rhetorical appeals based on gender. 

As for Israeli election background in a broad sense, here’s the best I could find

Once again, please leave your knowledge of the conflict/election/Israeli politics in comments!

To those hush-hush f-words out there

February 8, 2009 § 2 Comments

PERSON X: I’m just so sick of how women are excluded from math and science, make only 77 cents to ever man’s dollar, get whistled at by strangers for simply existing, and don’t have the right to their own bodies.

ME: I know. It sucks, but it’s so great that you’re a feminist because that means you can understand what’s wrong with society and use your knowledge to fight the patriarchy!

PERSON X: But I’m not a feminist! [cue wincing and squeamishness]

Now, if I had a dime for every similar interaction, I could afford a dual lifetime subscription to BITCH and Ms. Alas, I make no money from a tabooed word. I just get to be sad for all the people out there (boys and girls, men and women, and everyone inbetween) who miss out on the liberation and fun that is feminism.

The thing is, I can totally understand why all those ignorant PERSON X’s out there are afraid to label themselves as feminists because I was one of them. People-pleaser that I am, there was a time in middle school when I told a friend who played the ME in this scenario that “I believe in equality, but feminist just seems like a harsh term.”

I was young and naïve and afraid to express myself, but there’s no excuse. Trust me: I am trying to make up for that horrific slander now!

When feminists are portrayed as man-hating lesbians who like to burn their bras in public, it’s pretty conceivable that teenagers who just want to fit into a heteronormative patriarchy (i.e. high school) wouldn’t associate themselves with a widely believed stereotype. As with all persuasive discrimination, the most widely known definition for those labeling a group fighting for equality is created by the oppressor. Unfortunately for feminists, a lot of the people in control of what we think are the creators themselves of the taboo on feminism.

BUT, lucky for us, ignorance can be easily remedied with some helpful education. If the real definition for a feminist as anyone who believes in equality were perpetuated, it would be pretty damn hard to argue an alias.

Through my writing program and some pretty awesome blogs introducing me to the coolness of being a feminist, I claim my title profusely and proudly. I encourage PERSON X to do the same. I also encourage…well, demand…that all you fabulous and influential feminists out there help those afraid of screaming the f-word loud and proud to realize their potential to use their knowledge to fight the patriarchy and claim their feminist identities!

Emily Dickinson’s Vagina

February 7, 2009 § 2 Comments

Last Thursday (thanks to the sheer beauty of Regents week), I finally went to the Brooklyn Museum’s Center for Feminist Art to see Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. This provocatively educational installation features the most powerful women throughout history through displaying what portrays women as powerless: their vaginas.

Judy Chicago, a widely published creator of bad-ass-ness, sets The Dinner Party on a triangle table (the universal symbol for equality). On each wing of the table, different eras of women are represented. One wing features goddesses, the next early historical women like Elizabeth I, and the last women pioneers and the famous suffragettes.

Each featured woman has her own table setting and her own vagina-plate (a 4th grader on a field trip asked his teacher “How does someone eat on this?” when staring dumbfounded at Ethel Smyth’s piano-vagina, but that will be another post entirely). Each vagina is unique in that it represents the possessor’s place in the feminist movement. Some were made of penetrable fire, others unfurling flowers, and some swords and weaponry that lead to mysterious corridors.

My friend and I treaded through the exhibit at a slow pace, writing and absorbing the mystery and stab to the patriarchy each vagina radiated.

Then, I saw Emily Dickinson’s vagina.

The delicate flower with its pastel pink petals repulsed me. It was the color of that really sugary medicine that makes you want to throw up. My friend described it perfectly as “cakey.” Each pink petal unfurled to the nothingness that is her hole of penetration. What didn’t make sense was that Emily Dickinson was a woman of substance, bad-ass in her own right. Didn’t she deserve some type of vagina-art recognition for that?

I think I didn’t like her delicate flower vagina because it did not look passionate. Dispassionate means submissive…powerless. I wanted the vaginas to be flaming with power and determination for equality.

Maybe Judy Chicago’s point was to portray all these powerful women using society’s most vulnerable body part.

But who am I to judge someone else’s vagina?

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