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!

Dear Stephens College: There are better ways to raise 1 million dollars.

August 24, 2010 § 1 Comment

by ELENA

Before I transferred to SCAD, I attended a small college in Missouri called Stephens College. A friend of mine (a student at the University of Missouri — the school next door to Stephens) sent me a link to a recent story, in which an anonymous alum has pledged to donate one million dollars, if school employees collectively lose 250 pounds or more.

I think that linking a charitable donation to an institute of learning with weight loss is a bad idea. Especially at a place like Stephens, which is a women’s college.

Why?

Because many women are bombarded with so many images in the media, telling us to do this/buy that in order to lose weight. There are many competition style shows, in which contestants try to win money by losing weight. Jillian Michaels has garnered a great deal of money and fame by being the head screamer on The Biggest Loser, and her own TV show whose name I cannot remember, but would be best titled Jillian Michaels Really Enjoys Screaming at Fat People.

During my time at Stephens (Fall ’07-Winter ’08), it seemed like many of my classmates were in a never-ending weight loss competition with each other. One girl complained that it was “unfair” that a girl who was larger than her was a better, more flexible dancer. Another girl tried out the “Master Cleanse” with her friends: They spent a weekend consuming only a drink made from lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. They did lose weight, but only because they spent their entire weekend in the bathroom, suffering from severe nausea/diarrhea. During my seven-week summer intensive, it seemed like I was the only person who wasnt freaking out about “getting fat” — we spent our mornings in an intense dance/aerobics class, followed by acting class, lunch, and time spent either in rehearsal or in the shop.

The most popular majors at Stephens (performing arts, dance, fashion) are majors that do place a great deal of value on traditional standards of beauty (thinness, conventional beauty, etc). Several professors in the performing arts department told some of my friends that they should lose weight, or otherwise alter their appearance (another was told that her muscles were too prominent). « Read the rest of this entry »

Is Net Neutrality a Feminist Issue?

August 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ADI

You may have heard that Google and Verizon have released a “policy statement” about the future of the Internet, urging people to accept the creation of new, “differentiated” services (they suggest health care monitoring, gaming and entertainment services, and advanced educational options) for which they would be charged more than traditional Internet access prices. It’s been generating controversy because it may violate what’s known as “network neutrality,” a commitment to delivering all Internet content for the same price and at the same speed. But what does this mean for feminists?

For me, this is worrying from a purely self-oriented standpoint: I don’t want to end up paying more to access certain parts of the Internet. For lots of people, however, this wouldn’t be an extra inconvenience, but rather a major barrier to accessing parts of the Internet. Right now, this isn’t likely to affect us much, but imagine that the next major Internet breakthrough–the next Wikipedia, the next health care system, the next Twitter—gets put on the “premium” Internet and you have something of an idea where this might be going.

So as a feminist and generally concerned person, I’m worried about what this means to people for whom the Internet is already an unaffordable or unavailable luxury. I definitely have problems with the effects that my technology has on others, from the way Apple products generate waste to the exploitatively-mined rare metals in most electronics. However, cell phones and the Internet have also been great levelers. Cell phones have given people in rural areas the ability to connect with the world, improving their work and their lives (take, for example, this remote control device for farmers). And the Internet has given people a way to get free online courses from schools like MIT, read articles about virtually anything, and make their voices heard on blogs like this.

At the same time, the Internet has also become as much a necessity as the telephone, making things even more difficult for the 34% of Americans who don’t have broadband Internet, or the roughly 25-30% who have no home Internet access at all. Finding a job, registering your children for school, or even keeping in touch with relatives becomes more and more difficult as a steady Internet connection becomes taken for granted.

Many of these people already rely on schools, libraries and other public places to access basic services like email or job boards; are these places going to be able to pay extra to get whatever premium services are offered through Verizon? It might not matter if, as Verizon and Google say, they’re only putting a few high-content video streaming services up on a for-pay basis, but many things, including those job boards and email systems, can be “differentiated” from the normal Internet, and the more barriers get put up between poor communities and job, education, or health care opportunities, the more we’re moving into a system where class mobility is a pleasant fiction.

MTV: Torn between being relevant, and being a toolbag.

August 8, 2010 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

MTV seems to be confused, or having an identity crisis. On one hand, programs such as the reality series If You Really Knew Me and Teen Mom are tackling sensitive issues such as the stresses of being in high school, and the challenges of being a teenage parent. On the other, they are responsible for the drunken shenanigans of the Jersey Shore cast and the “fame” of Mr. Ryan Leslie, member of Real World: New Orleans, who loves making homophobic remarks on camera, and on his Twitter page.

I was impressed by If You Really Knew Me, because I have gone through the Challenge Day retreat that the MTV cameras are documenting, and I think that it’s great that such an awesome organization is getting more publicity. One of the things that was discussed at my Challenge Day was the pressure for many teenage boys to deliberately harass other people, in order to prove that they were “manly” enough. We also did exercises to show how hurtful bullying/name calling/teasing were, and that ridiculing someone based on their appearance, sexual orientation, etc was wrong.

Perhaps the Challenge Day people should host a retreat for the casts of the Jersey Shore and Real World NOLA. The fact that MTV decided to cast such a cruel bigot as Ryan (most likely for his “shock value”), and has done little to hold him accountable for his actions makes me sick. Did producers really think that by having Ryan on the show, that people like me (young college students) would watch in droves? Are advertisers really okay with selling their products during this trainwreck of a show?

Here’s some suggestions for MTV to increase viewership:

1. In the words of the great troubadour Justin Timberlake, PLAY MORE DAMN VIDEOS.
2. When not doing number 1, promote shows such as If You Really Knew Me, True Life, Teen Mom, and other programming that does not include fist pumping, drunken shenanigans, or total assholes all living together in one McMansion
3. Perhaps take a page from Current, and promote viewer created content. Young people + cameras + subjects they are passionate about = content that would be vastly superior to Date My Mom.

I wonder if MTV fears that if they promote more non-shitty programming, they will lose viewers/revenue. Honestly, losing the viewership of total and complete douchenozzles in favor of gaining the viewership of people like me (who have a disposable income that could be spent on advertisers *cough unsubtle hint cough cough*) is no tragedy.

Also, why the crap is MTV doing a US remake of Skins? Is this really necessary? [Answer: because they think it will make them money, and no.]

The Eat, Pray, Love Trailer: An exercise in first-world problems

July 26, 2010 § 6 Comments

by ELENA

I keep seeing the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love on television. I also keep on seeing promotions for an upcoming Vanguard documentary on how overpopulation is causing a lack of sanitation in countries such as India. The Eat, Pray, Love trailer is giddy: Look at this businesswoman! She is burnt out at work! She can’t remember what she ate for lunch! She goes to Italy! India! and Bali! She eats carbs! She talks with her hands! She stops wearing pants! Ohh look– elephants! And cute naked guys! Come see this movie!

The teaser for the documentary is grim. The host throws up, and says that crossing a polluted river is “unbearable.”

As hard to watch as the Vanguard documentary looks, I’d rather watch that than Eat, Pray, Love. I haven’t read the book that the movie is based on, but the trailer turns me off in so many ways. It should be called First World Problems. As unhappy as Julia Roberts’ character seems, she’s pretty damn lucky to be working somewhere where she can just jet off for a year of soul searching in “exotic” locations. And of all of the problems that women face in the workplace (harassment, healthcare benefits, the glass ceiling), not remembering what lunch was is very far down on that list. I’m not saying that feeling burned out, overwhelmed, and not enjoying things like a good meal, or learning to meditate are petty things. But the whole “women goes on a journey to find herself” trope isn’t new. And is rather irritating, in my opinion.

As controversial as Slumdog Millionaire was (especially when it came to provisions made for the young Indian actors featured in the film), it unflinchingly showed the many Indians that live in poverty. According to the trailer, Roberts’ character finds meditation to be so hard, and gets to pet an elephant. Even Italy, a first-world country, has plenty of problems (many of which stem from Silvio Berlusconi being a complete douche canoe), and isn’t all pretty architecture, cute men, wine and OMFG CARBS.

I would find this story much more compelling if this woman’s quest for enlightenment didn’t use “exotic” third-world countries as a quaint backdrop. After all, for the millions who can’t take a year-long trip to find enlightenment, learning to enjoy food, find peace, and fall in love take place in wherever they live. And unfortunately, things like being able to make and enjoy a satisfying meal, or take time to meditate are not possible because they can’t afford/don’t have access to fresh foods and have to work around the clock to pay for basic bills.

Now, if I got to travel to Italy, India, and Bali, I would go, because travel can be an enjoyable experience. But I would also spend time trying to understand what living in those locations was really like, as much as I could. I had to watch the documentary Life and Debt during my freshman year of college, and it changed the way that I looked at tourism to “exotic” locations, because frequently, tourism is the only industry in countries that have been negatively affected by colonization, and crippling loan agreements made with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

People don’t like to think about millions of people unable to have access to toilets. This is why the Vanguard documentary is airing on a small cable channel, and Eat, Pray, Love is a big-budget movie. But I would be more willing to spend money on a movie that did feature travel to countries like India, if there was a greater reason to film there rather than a search for an “exotic” location, with “exotic” (aka not white) people wearing “exotic” clothing.

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.

Beyond Lindsay Lohan

July 21, 2010 § 4 Comments

by SILVIA

Right now Lindsay Lohan’s incarceration is all over the news. While most media outlets are obsessed with how much time Lindsay will be serving, it’s super important to remember the staggering and disturbing statistics of women in prison.

The following statistics are quoted directly from Women’s Prison Association’s Quick Facts Women and Criminal Justice — 2009. For more information, visit their website.

  • Over 200,000 women are in prison and jail in the United States, and more than one million women are under criminal justice supervision.
  • Two-thirds of women in prison are there for non-violent offenses, many for drug-related crimes.
  • Nearly two-thirds of women in prison are mothers.
  • 93 out of every 100,000 white women were incarcerated at midyear 2008. During the same time period, 349 out of every 100,000 black women and 147 out of every 100,000 Hispanic women were incarcerated.

According to Amnesty International’s Women and Prison: Fact Sheet, women in prison often experience sexual assault and misconduct due to the extreme power imbalance between officers and inmates, including guards’ ability to withhold privileges. In addition, women in prison experience medical neglect, including shackling during pregnancy, as well as severe discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation. For more information about women in prison and other issues of women’s human rights, go to Amnesty’s site.

So, this is gross

July 15, 2010 § 3 Comments

I saw a commercial for CW’s new reality show, “Plain Jane,” last night. This morning I found this preview on the channel’s website.

Ew.

The title “Plain Jane” alone should have been enough of a warning. I saw this preview and didn’t have the strength or emotional energy to continue looking into it. I think the most offensive part is at the end when the creepy announcer voice says, “Every dream will become real.” Thanks, CW! Thanks so much for realizing the only dreams young women have, to receive highlights, strappy heels and some lip gloss! How else can women become confident, self-loving individuals?!?

Actually, I changed my mind. The part where the “plain Jane” is strapped with a zapper and is LITERALLY ZAPPED by the hosts of the show when she “falls back into her plain Jane ways” is the most heinous. I don’t even know where to begin talking about how demeaning and dehumanizing that is. Thanks for the soulache, CW.

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.

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