Quick Hit: Marianne Kirby on Will Grayson, Will Grayson

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

by KATIE E.

Linking because:

1. Marianne Kirby is made of win.

2. As are John Green and David Levithan.

3. I’m writing a kind of huge post about the failure in covering Young Adult books in the womanist / feminist / progressive blogosphere. It isn’t quit done, but I will say here: This is how a feminist should write about YA.

On #mooreandme, Rachel Maddow, and the curse of “Being Grateful”

December 21, 2010 § 4 Comments

by ELENA

Today, my Internet exploded.

It started with Keith Olbermann inexplicably responding to my tweets about the #mooreandme protest, and ended with Michael Moore’s appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show, which is being filmed live this week at the 92nd Street Y.

The interview can be found here, and I shall paraphrase it as such:

Maddow introduced Moore by discussing when leaked information is inaccurate, and then discussed the specifics of the charges against Julian Assange, which she referred to as “date rape.” She then introduced Michael Moore, who mentioned several interesting things:

1. That he founded a rape crisis center in Flint, Michigan.
2. That he believes that rape allegations should be taken seriously.
3. That he supports WikiLeaks because of how he was raised as a Christian.

No, really.

Now, I am not going to question Moore’s faith, but I wonder if he ever read John 8, in which Jesus saves a “sinning woman” from being stoned to death (the common punishment for any sex-related offense) by saying, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NRSV). Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann have encouraged people to throw (figurative) stones at Assange’s complainants by labeling their allegations as “a smear/hooey/a CIA conspiracy/etc.”

After briefly discussing sexual assault, Moore went on to talk about war crimes/Bradley Manning’s detention/etc. Neither Moore nor Maddow mentioned the #mooreandme movement on Twitter by name, and Michael Moore did not apologize for the comments he made on Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Rachel Maddow did not press Moore further on the comments he made, and Maddow has not mentioned the #mooreandme movement on her Twitter page (although it was mentioned on @Maddowblog).

I honestly hope Rachel Maddow didn’t think: “I don’t want to bring up this Moore and Me protest too specifically because I don’t want to piss off the live audience.” I honestly hope Michael Moore didn’t think: “Well, maybe if I say that I really, really, really don’t like rape, and I bring up that one time when I formed a rape crisis center, those feminists on Twitter will stop bothering me.”

There has been a lot of celebration on Twitter about the fact that a prominent filmmaker within the progressive movement did the truly shocking thing of briefly mentioning that sexual assault should be taken seriously. I am not “happy,” “excited,” or “grateful” that Moore said what he did on the Rachel Maddow show tonight. People who expect endless praise for the simple act of recognizing that rape allegations are not something to take lightly remind me of my 8-year-old self, who expected bottomless rewards for doing things like cleaning my room and loading the dishwasher.

I’m sure someone, somewhere out on the Internet (maybe Keith O. himself!) is thinking, “He said rape was bad! Isnt that what you wanted? Why can’t you [optional expletive] feminists be grateful about anything?”

Problem is, “Be Grateful” is a very dangerous phrase.

Workers are told “Why do you want to cause trouble by starting a union? You should be grateful that you even have a job.”

Women are still told “We gave you the vote — what more do you want? Why aren’t you grateful for everything we do for you?”

People whose race and ethnic background aren’t “Caucasian” are told “Look, racial equality comes slowly. You should be grateful for all of the achievements [insert minority racial/ethnic group here] have made already.”

Those who fight for rights of queer identified people are constantly told that progress on marriage equality/the implementation of the DADT appeal/adoption/rights and visibility for the transgender community are constantly told that “Progress comes slowly.”

When my mother was my age, her family were recipients of Christmas food, clothing, and toy drives. She couldn’t complain about eating dented cans of pimentos, or having to wear clothes that didn’t fit, or getting used or broken toys for Christmas because that would make her sound “ungrateful.” When she talks about those Christmases of cheap grace, she starts to cry.

“Be Grateful” frequently means “Don’t ask questions; it’s not your place to ask us why we discriminate against you, withold basic rights from you, or think you only deserve the dented cans of food to eat.” I frequently wonder if people say “Progress Comes Slowly” as a way for justify the harmful systems that do prevent positive change. If we think that progress happens slowly, then, more often than not, we will act slowly.

I will congratulate Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann when they simply apologize for their harmful and inaccurate comments, mention the many talented writers who powered #mooreandme, and pay more attention to how the rape culture harms everyone.

And Keith, if you want proof that feminists are fairly courteous, mature, and not a “reactionary” coven out to get you, I would be more than happy to appear on your show. All I ask in return is that my airfare and hotel costs are covered, and that you show up to your news desk with an open mind.

Profiles In Terrible Sex Education, Part 2: Well, Aren’t You Just a Pretty, Pretty Princess

December 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

This is Part 2 in a series of posts about the fail-tastic content on the website of a Grand Rapids MI based abstinence only program called Willing to Wait. You can find Part 1 here.

Tour the toy section of any store, and you’ll be smacked in the face by the good ‘ol gender binary. “Boy” toys include trucks, weapons, and action figures from films such as Star Wars, G.I. Joe, and Transformers. “Boy” toys, and the “Boy” section of Toys are decorated with the color blue, and many toys are blue, red, silver, and black. “Girl” toys are almost universally pink, primarily consist of dolls, doll accessories, and while some barbies adn bratz dolls are rock stars, many dolls personify one of the most aggravating tropes of all time: the Princess. Even toys such as toy tool kits, or those little electronic cars that my parents never let me have are somehow obligated to be as pink and princess-tastic as possible.

When I was 3 years old, and asked my parents for my first toy, a Tonka dump truck. They bought me one. My grandmother was evidently freaked out by my enthusiasm for digging up chunks of the driveway and dumping them on the lawn, not because I was causing landscapig related havoc, but because me playing with a truck would make me a “poorly adjusted” adult. She insisted on buying me a doll. I think I took the doll for rides on the Tonka Truck. I turned out just fine, thank you.

This weird obsession with turning girls into princesses speaks to how our society frequently undervalues girls. Politically speaking, a princess has very little political power. The most dangerous period in Elizabeth I’s life was when she was Princess Elizabeth: She was treated with a great deal of suspicion by the court, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Diana Spencer was considered a good match for Prince Charles strictly on the fact that a. she was a virgin, and b. she came from an aristocratic family. Whether or not Diana and Charles were a good match was not part of the equation. Kate Middleton, Prince William’s fiancee has a degree in Art History, has had jobs as an accessories designer and retail buyer, aspires to be a professional photographer, but the main thing that British and American news media focus on is OMG SHES MARRYING PRINCE WILLIAM! WHAT’S HER WORKOUT LIKE?

Okay, so real-life princesses face a lot of challenges, what’s the point?

One of the posts on the Willing To Wait website is “Ladies: Release your ‘Inner Princess’“. The author vaguely compares being abstinent until marriage to being a princess, who is “rescued’ by her prince. The photo accompanying this piece says more about the gender binary (girls are princess, who wear a lot of pink. They must be rescued by boys, who are princes) than I could possibly type:

The text isn’t all that better:

I wonder if most little girls pretend they are princesses at some point in their childhood. Something inside us longs to be special and beautiful. We long for an honorable champion to fight for us.

Actually, I didn’t pretend that I was a princess much. Besides dumping various sundry items with my Tonka Truck, I pretended that I was a Queen (and would bonk classmates on the head with my “scepter”, much to the consternation of the recess lady), that I was a leader of a roving band of orphans who had to scrounge from the city (aka refrigerator) to survive, that I was an explorer who discovered a magical new world, that I was Margaret Bourke-White, and would go around taking pictures of everything. I also didn’t really need some sort of prince figure to “save” me, though fellow queens/orphans/explorers/photographers were always welcome. I don’t know if I was born with some sort of “princess immunity”, or if my parent’s unwillingness to buy me lots of pink crap that I didn’t really want in the first place had an effect on my creative playacting as a child.

Is this just child’s play or does this resonate in our hearts as being more than that? Maybe we played like that because in our deepest emotions we want someone to see that we are worth fighting for.This deep-seated emotion does not go away as we grow up. We still want to know that we are of great value and are cherished. This is not to say that wanting to be treated like a princess is to be needy or helpless or a victim. No! Princesses are strong, and courageous too. We fight dragons, too, after all. I just think it means, for many of us, that we just don’t want to have these adventures of life alone…we would rather have a prince for a soul mate.

My child’s play was focused on having fun, and exploring my habitat. Not wondering why no prince was going to rescue me. Because, I could find very creative ways of rescuing my self. And while I do have my moments where I can get self-critical, I don’t need someone else to tell me that I am “of great value/cherished”. This piece isn’t just about abstinence, it was about reinforcing the gender binary, and reinforcing the belief that women need men to feel complete/protect their princess-like loveliness. This piece is implying that if we “kiss frogs” (ie, have sex with men), we will no longer be pretty, pretty princesses, and no “prince” will want to take care of us.

Please pardon me while I vomit in a pretty pink Dixie Cup.

When I spent a summer volunteering at a weeklong musical theatre camp hosted by a Baptist church, I had to endure some truly nauseating “morning devotionals” about different women in the bible. The main theme was that the young girls hearing the devotional should be “Princesses For Christ” The most ironic lesson was the one about Ruth, and how she married Boaz because she was such a good clean vessel for God.

Here’s the thing:

In Ruth 3:4, Naomi tells Ruth to  uncover Boaz’s feet. “Feet” was a slang term for a man’s genitalia. So Ruth’s uncovering of Boaz’s feet, and her telling Boaz to “spread your cloak over me” is not nearly as innocuous as may interpret it. Ruth marries Boaz, and has a son, Obed. The main idea behind Ruth is that God loves and values strangers, and that Ruth’s devotion to her family is rewarded with a happy marriage and son*

I don’t want to be a princess. I want to be able to slay dragons on my own, because the last thing I want is wind up becoming dragon food because my prince didn’t save me in time. While relationships are enjoyable, having a boyfirend/finacee/husband isn’t something that will miraculously make me feel loved, valued, or compelte in life. And I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only young woman with little interest in the Princess Myth.

And finally, why doesn’t Willing to Wait have a post titled “Gentlemen: Release Your Inner Prince”. Evidently the organization does not believe in being an equal-opportunity oppressor.

*I’m not pulling this out of my ass, and the connotation behind “feet” comes form the book Don’t Know Much About The Bible, which is an excellent and informative read.

On Ageism and Social Justice: An Introduction, and Women That Are Doing It Right

October 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

by KATIE E

I recognize the general mouthfull-ness of the title, but trust me, it’s all in here.

How often do you think critically about ageism? How often do you think about how it intersects with other forms of oppression? How often do you consider it one of your privileges/things that oppress you, and, to bloggers, how often do you write about it? How often do you refer to comment trolls as “acting like a bunch of children” as an insult, and how often are you amazed that something written here/The Fbomb/Zero at The Bone/Teenagerie/any other young woman’s space was written by a teenager?

I think about those things a lot. I suppose it’s inevitable. I don’t want this series to be all about me and my experiences, but I’m sixteen, I write for a medium-ished sized social justice and feminism blog that aimed at young woman, and I frequently read and participate in discussions on various womanist, feminist, and gender/social justice blogs. I am completely open about and own up to the fact that I am, by all legal and dictionary definitions, a child. I’ve seen ageism happen. I don’t think it is the biggest issue affecting the social justice (I’m still talking about all of the types of blogs I’ve listed before, but for the purposed of the series, I’m going to abbreviate it to social justice. This does not mean I don’t care about and want to acknowledge all of the varieties of social justice out there, it means I have mild carpal tunnels syndrome) by a mile. There are a few posts I’ve read and gone “Wow, that was completely offensive to teenage girls like myself, or to age group X that I don’t belong to,” but ageism does show up in the SJ blogosphere, and I see it typically manifesting in three ways:

1. Word and Phrasing Choice

2. Silencing

3. And, most importantly, Neglect of Issues

I plan to begin a series addressing these matters, from the viewpoint of a ver young woman. Ageism is a unique form of oppression in that no one is really immune. It is not 100% an us vs. them thing. For example, a thirty-five to forty-year-old woman will have her opinion respected than a lot more of other woman of much younger or older ages, but if she chooses not to be married, she will face ageist attacks. A forty-five to  fifty-year-old man will be treated like he has a lot of valuable life experience, whether or not he truly does, but will be attacked if he chooses to act or dress in a typically “young” way.

However, I will not deny that there are factions of ageism that are an oppressed vs. oppressors kind of thing, and this series will focus on the fact that people under the legal age of majority are oppressed, and the ones doing the oppressing are the adults. I do plan to write about how younger people oppress older people eventually, but for the time being, I am choosing to write about something that has deeply impacted my life, opinions, and writing.

I’d like to begin this series on a positive note. I’m going to share with you five posts by social justice bloggers who wrote about teenaged women in a respectful, positive way. These are all by legally adult women, as seeing a grown-up person write in this manner is much rarer than seeing a young person do so, and I offer my greatest thanks to these writers, and I hope they will continue to write in this manner. I’m sure there are many more, and I’d greatly appreciate links in comments, these are just five posts I remembered reading recently.

Teen Pregnancies on The Rise for The First Time In Over A Decade, by Miriam, Feministing.

Despite what the title might make you think, this is not your typical “let’s prevent this horrific tragedy” moral panic piece. Miriam does an excellent job actually acknowledging that some teenagers want to be pregnant, especially when there are class and/or racial issues involved, and that they, along with pregnant teens in other situations, deserve our upmost respect. She also states, and I quote “I don’t think being young makes you a bad parent,” which should not be even remotely considered a radical statement, but in our society, unfortunately is, and I applaud her for making it and sticking up for it, despite the extremely ageist remarks in the comments section.

It’s Not About Me, by Guest Blogger Jay, Feministe

Five beautiful words: Parent denying ownership of child. Thank you Jay, for reminding us that nobody is entitled to anyone else’s uterus, even when the uterus in question belongs to your nine-year-old daughter.

Bill Cosby Tells Black People Off Again, by Renee, Womanist Musings

This post is not entirely about ageism, or even mostly about it-and that’s 100% fine. I commend Renee for pointing out the ageism in a statement made by Bill Cosby, along with many other problematic things about it that are correct, something that many bloggers may have ignored. She acknowledges that young woman are affected by slut-shaming in a completely different way than older woman, something that, again, I frequently see ignored.

Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project: A Counter Response, by Ms. Jacks, The Bitter Buffalo

This is a brilliant argument supporting point number two about ageism: silencing. Young women’s voiced are so often cut off in favor of what older people think they should feel, and Ms. Jacks points out to use that we need to cut that out if we want to be effective social justice advocates.

Teenage Girls and Internalized Sexism, by Rachel McCarthy James, Deeply Problematic

Beautiful. I love this post. Someone acknowledging that they have thought negative things about teenagers and is trying to stop is, again, something that shouldn’t be radical, but is. This is one of the few posts I’ve seen a self-identified feminist adult write entirely about ageism, and it may be the only one confronting personal ageism. An internet standing  ovation for RMJ, who is probably my favorite social justice writer.

I really hope you read these posts, and think about the questions I asked in my opening paragraph. Coming up soon will be part two, on how language and phrasing choices can promote ageism.

Today in Transphobia

September 19, 2010 § 7 Comments

by ELENA

Trigger Warning for transphobia.

According to Investigation Discovery, being trans is just as bad as being a bank robber, serial murderer, Russian spy, or polygamist.

Until the media stops treating transgendered individuals as freaks/weirdos/comic relief/or as not really being their identified gender, many will continue to assume that being trans is a crime, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to sensationalize members of the transgender community. And the transgender population will continue to face harassment, discrimination, and horrendous acts of violence.

Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? should really be called Why the (Bleep) does John Waters Have Anything To Do With This Cluster(Bleep)?

Kudos to Fuck Yeah FTMS for posting Investigation Discovery’s Facebook page, and contact information. If you’re as upset as I am, please contact them. The only way that networks like ID will change is if they hear from viewers who will not continue to watch their programming, and will not buy products from programming advertisers.

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino gets paid $10K per episode of The Jersey Shore. Joelle ruby ryan blogged about the most recent episode at Transmeditation’s Blog.

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, known for an obsession with his own abdominal muscles and hooking up with women in order to openly degrade them and call them ugly “grenades,” is flirting with a blonde woman at the club.  We don’t actually see her face because it is pixelated out, evidently meaning she would not sign a release agreement to allow her face to be shown.  She is wearing a choker. Cast member Pauly D states: This person “got all the clues that leads me to believe she’s a man– something to hide the Adam’s apple, something on her hands The Situation got himself in a situation with a tranny.”   Other cast mates than all go on to say: “There is a saying in Miami: if you have to think about it, or hesitate to think: it is.  It’s usually a dude… it’s a tranny: stay away!”  The hate-language of “tranny” and calling gender-variant people “it” are used multiple times.

Mike Sorrentino is making a lot of money to behave like a complete asshole on a reality TV show. Some executive, somewhere at MTV seems to think this is a great idea.

MTV doesn’t seem to have a “Contact” page on their website, but you can leave comments on their Facebook and Twitter.

And, as Fuck Yeah FTMS points out, LOGO is owned by MTV.

Sex, Lies, and Christine O’Donnell

September 16, 2010 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

Christine O’Donnell, a conservative “Tea Party Candidate” endorsed by Sarah Palin, has won the Republican nomination for Senate in Delaware.

Besides getting the “Mama Grizzly” seal of approval from Ms. Palin, O’Donnell has been getting a lot of publicity about her views on sexuality. Jezebel reported on her appearance in a 90’s MTV special, in which she spoke negatively about masturbation.

Jezebel also linked to an article on The Raw Story, on how O’Donnell compared sex education, specifically talking to kindergarteners about inappropriate touch, with “suddenly talking to the stranger on the playground with candy” in an appearance with former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders on Fox News.

There are a lot of genuine reasons to not want O’Donnell elected to the Senate: Her lack of experience, many financial irregularities, and sex-negative views are enough to warrant a hope that she loses the general election. But Jezebel’s more recent article, which simply runs a quote from O’Donnell, under the headline “Christine O’Donnell May Be a 41 Year Old Virgin” goes too far.

I could care less about O’Donnell’s sexuality, or sexual practices. O’Donnell isn’t a terrifying figure because ghasp! She might not have sex! It’s because she seems hell-bent on forcing her very conservative views onto everyone else. As a senator, she would have the power to support abstinence-only legislation, which doesn’t work, and block legislation that guarantees rights to all members of the queer alphabet soup (LGBTQQIA), or increases funding towards AIDS research and prevention.

Or, as Jill over at Feministe puts it:

What we are talking about are Christine O’Donnell’s views on masturbation, which are relevant in a country where federal funds go towards sex education, churches, schools, health care organizations, etc etc, and where Christine O’Donnell is trying to get herself into a position where she will have some amount of power over those funds. Christine O’Donnell’s comments were not that she doesn’t masturbate, they were that masturbation is wrong and that we should teach young people that it is wrong. She has also said that fighting AIDS gets too much government money and that using condoms won’t work. And see, when she says that using condoms won’t work to fight the spread of AIDS and we (or I) say “That is a ridiculous comment!,” we are not talking about Christine O’Donnell’s personal use of condoms, of which we know nothing. We are talking about her very wrong viewpoint that condoms are useless and should not be promoted.

O’Donnell slut-shames other women when she says that masturbating, using condoms, and having premarital sex are wrong and immoral. However, when others use their high-profile platforms to invite a comment war on O’Donnell’s sexuality, we aren’t any better.

So, let’s not give O’Donnell any more ammunition than she already has, thanks to the Tea Party Express, and make sure she isn’t elected to Senate.

UPDATE: Jezebel isn’t letting go of this story, and republished an article from Talking Points Memo called “Christine O’Donnell’s Sexual Evolution“, which goes far more in depth about O’Donnell’s personal history and experiences, which lead her to be coming an antichoice, abstinence until marriage “crusader”. There is far more depth in this article than anything Jezebel has reported, but still an emphasis on focusing on her sexuality. After all, this article could have worked as “Christine O’Donnell’s Political Evolution”, or “Christine O’Donnell’s Religious Evolution”. But as a woman, all that matters is your sexuality. Obviously.

Shameless Blog Promotion is Shameless.

September 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

I’ve created a new blog project: Chronicles of A Cosmo Nut. I’m basically doing a version of Jamie Keile’s Seventeen Magazine Project, but with Cosmo. As a twenty-year old, Seventeen isn’t all that relevant to me, but Cosmo does seem to be the comparable magazine for young women who have graduated high school, and are living on their own (whether that be college, an apartent and a full-time job, etc)

I’ll be posting as regularly as my hectic school schedule permits, and I hope you, the valued reader, enjoy it!

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