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22 June
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You know how "American Idol" just took off, much loved by all, surprise hit of the season? And you know how it spawned all those other horrid shows?

Yeah. So I'm totally in love with Fame. It appeals to my notion of art as work (the contestants start each show with this "I came to work" number, a nod to Fame old school, and you see them in rehearsal sweating and looking strained and fabulous). Maybe it's not art per se, but it feels like a reasonable facsimile. They dance! Well! That, combined with the "judges" firm gentleness and Debbie Allen's crazy fashion mama bird routine, just makes it shockingly pleasant for trompe l'oeil television.

Plus, I am totally in love with the tiny asian office manager and his Janet Jackson fabulousness. I'd pay to see that in concert.

And. The show is a dig at the other "get yr red hot fame here" television, if you look past the formulaic interview-them-till-they-cry confessional bio strategy. I mean, the judging is pointedly pleasant. Everyone is good. Some are great. Which is, looking at the people on stage, true. And a lot of the judging advice given is about practical marketing approaches for people who make stars, making the idea of the music business less of a black box for the audience. You become involved not only in who seems nicest, but who is really working, and the quality of each performance.

I know it's total schlock, but I love it.


17 June
call a spade a spade
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Roni's WHB question this week is about names.

Are you a feminist if you don't call yourself by the name?

...is it fair to label someone a feminist if they don't claim it? Is it important to label others as feminists, even if they won't march with you at the Feminist Pride Parade? How do you feel when the woman next to you on the bus, in class, at work states, "Oh, I believe I should be paid as much as Dan, but I'm not a feminist!"

I don't think you can legitimately claim for someone an identity they wouldn't claim for themselves. So, no, it's not fair to call someone who'd rather be a "womanist" or a "humanist" * or nothing a "feminist". No more than it's acceptable to decide someone else is gay.

That said, I don't think there's any requirement for feminist "membership" beyond belief in equality where gender is concerned. I would prefer feminists argue for equality in general, and most do, but even that isn't mandatory.

And why not claim a feminist identity? Well, despite what those of us in the liberal feminist mainstream would like to believe, there have been and continue to by pockets of misandry masquerading as feminism (and much more of a reputation for same). There are feminists who think the movement shouldn't allow men to participate. There are feminists who still believe women are inherently docile and peaceful. There are feminists who don't consider women of color, or poor women when they think about feminist issues.


There are pockets of stupidity in any group, quite honestly, and there are people who refuse to identify with groups for just that reason. They have a good point. But I say, change the stupidity (and the reputation) from the inside. Withdrawal in disgust is about as effective as apathy, despite their ethical differences.

I do not mean to say here that feminism is worthy of disgust, by the way. I'm just saying yes, there are some valid reasons not to identify as a feminist. Just because I don't think they're big enough reasons to diss the movement doesn't mean other people won't disagree. [Pockets of stupidity, what can I say? Ha!]

Yes, of course, I'm frustrated by the I'm not a feminist, but argument. And every time I hear it, I say the same thing.

I say. You sound like a feminist. You think like a feminist. It's okay to be a feminist. I'm one, too. We're all in good company. And I hope that feminist-thinking mind is changed.

But I wouldn't take away that person's ability to choose the label.

* To be a Humanist, by the way, still means to place humanity over divinity, or to participate in a revival of classic humanistic culture. It's not another word for "egalitiarian". Not that I'm one to insist that language is a dead, inflexible creature - but most self-styled "humanists" don't have a clue about the word's traditional meaning. At least be aware that you're fucking with a word that is currently in use with another, completely different, meaning.


i'm not fat?
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Cz, who really ought to get a blog of his own (Revo talks about him enough that he really deserves a link), told me some time ago that he didn't think of me as fat.

He wasn't being brilliantly enlightened, either. He wasn't saying that his concept of normal size is so broad that I, of course, am simply normal.


What he actually meant (and I'm not picking on you here, Cz, really) is that the word "fat" so clearly involves things like "lazy" and "stodgy" and "jolly" and "unfashionable" and "unkempt" and, as anyone who knows me well can tell you, I'm not any of those things that "fat" means. So I'm not fat. And Trish isn't fat. And none of the other fat activists on my blog roll are fat.

There's a woman who sits near me and slacks off all day at work. Maybe she's fat. Eh, but she's neither jolly nor lacking in style (nor, um, fat).

This isn't just about Cz. Because he's right, strange as it may sound. And he was only the first of three people to say that to me that week. We've done fat to death in the US. To be fat is to be a failure at self-discipline and self-love, so an actual fat person who succeeds at either is *poof* no longer fat. No matter what a scale may say about them. Why?

I think we have the diet industry to thank for this one. We've made people so conscious of fat as all of those negative connotations that the word is completely separated from its original meaning in the average mainstream mind. It's clear from the discrimination that fat people receive that we can still associate the fact of fat with this notion of badness, but for the most part, "fat" is about failure, not about weight.

And maybe the new feminine tradition of "you're not fat, I'm fat" contributes a little. If I care about you, you aren't really "fat". Maybe you're chubby. Or overweight. Or I'm afraid to reference your size at all, because to call you "fat" would be to call you a pathetic slime of a nothing evil bad badness.

Fat is something at a distance. It's a particular challenge to fat activists, because the people who encounter you being none of the things "fat" is supposed to mean on a daily basis won't change their ideas about fat if they don't think of you as fat to begin with.

Fat. Doesn't exist. Except in abstract.

How weird is that?

There's a new discussion on Big Fat Blog today about why women's clothes in large sizes continue to be hard to find. A lot of good, solid answers. A lot of frustration.

I think, as someone who commented about the connection between ugly clothes for fat people and ugly clothes for poor people came close to saying, that it's about disappearance. Not about entitlement, but about designers failing to see that which is outside of their market as a potential market. Fat people, poor people, "not our market" people are assumed not to want the things others want. Fat people, who exist only in theory, want clothes to hide in.

And presumably, fat people want to be thin. So why make clothes for people who aren't worthy of buying them? No, seriously, I think this has been a real concern in the past. I think anyone who got fat was presumed to be there temporarily. And what good is a quality suit, a well-made formal dress, if you won't be that size later? Of course, diet culture creates a whole load of people who won't be one size for long, fat or otherwise.

Probably the main reason many companies don't produce clothes for fat people is laziness (or should I say "fatness"?). It takes effort to risk catering to a market that, while growing, isn't as large (Ha! But I mean in terms of sales, silly.) and as profitable. If you then persist in assuming things about that market based on its invisibility, well...

But what do I care? I'm not fat.


13 June
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Anyone who doesn't already regularly read DruBlood needs to check out the conversation on her blog about privilege.

She's making salient, important points in her usual ranting style. I want to add more, but again with the no internet. [Another definition of privilege: the things you have and can't seem to function without, despite the fact that the majority of people around the world get on without them every day.]


11 June
notes on why i blog
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Some of Tish's recent musings have skipped to the heart of what it means to blog, what it means to belong to a community.

[Coming soon. There's a longer post about what community means that may or may not end up merging with my shifting analysis of what I think VA Spider called "girls gone wild bisexuals". So, ironic that Tish is also thinking about this, in a different way. This longer stuff is sitting on the laptop at home, without phone lines. Or even, currently, email. Sheesh.]

Anyhow. Tish talks about no one blogging without wanting to be read, then says she does it for herself (the blogging, that is). Which seems to be the way most people wrap their desires around this particular mode of communication. I think most of us write in part to savor the shapes of our words and in part because of tiny voices in our head screaming to be heard, to make some form of connection.

And the world of blogging creates in a literal sense the connections that Orson Scott Card once speculated into being as philotes (essentially non-matter string twining from heart to heart, resulting from relationships growing closer). The connections between bloggers are made real with the links and references we make. And things like BlogChalk turn those connections into maps, making it not only real, but parallel to things we understand as off blog community. Neighborhoods. States.

I blog from my fascination with that. With the blog as vehicle for connection with broader world concept in mind. And I do think that concept of blogging invests us with responsibilities to each other. Blogging and reading and linking to other bloggers is entering into a community, a social contract. It's also defining yourself as related to certain people or things (namely the ones you link), not unlike what you do when joining groups or neighborhoods IRL.

Which is, by the way, why I maintain the blog/journal distinction. I keep a journal to document memory, or feeling. I keep it online to have it (theoretically, and nearly) always at hand, to place it in the physical context of a page of my own design. And if you read it and think it's written well, or it speaks to your own experience in some way, more's the good. If you read it and know me, even better. But. If you don't, I still have the narcissistic pleasure of re-reading and seeing the growing beauty of my own words and remembering the self I was a day or year ago, which is ultimately the heart of journal-writing.

By simply being online, though, even my journal participates in community. But it becomes the one-sided conversation you have with your best friend at a coffeeshop. The blog proper remains a larger monologue, addressing your whole neighborhood.


10 June
creative pragmatic activism
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Kerri asks today on WHB:

What are feminist actions you have taken? What are some ideas for taking action (as feminists, activists, whatever) that go beyond marching or signing petitions? Brainstorm. Be creative.

I answered this question in part back in January, thinking about some of the most basic ways to approach activism. Honestly, I'm at best a neophyte activist. And I'm not particularly radical - in behaviour, at least, though some of my views border on radicalism.

So. Creative things that not necessarily radical people can do to promote activism. Part two (part one is really much more comprehensive, but this is a small handful of things I didn't think to mention in January).

Reproduce your ideas.
Teach. Raise children. Play a role in the life of someone else's kid. Your views will automatically influence children who see you living them. And that generally applies to adults, too.

Leave signs you've been there.
I keep meaning to print some little business cards or something that I can drop in stores or bathrooms, whatever. Those or stickers or inserts in magazine or fliers could drop hints of a message without seriously disrupting the lives of the people who work wherever you leave them.

Don't do things like wheat pasting posters or huge stickers in commercial properties. You just screw the janitorial staff when you do that (yes, I appreciate the message of Guerilla Girls and such, but on a local level, it sucks); don't complicate the life of some one who isn't the source of your frustration. But do leave things that don't break the rules or serve as a form of vandalism.

Provoke questions.
This is a subtle way of educating people, and ties into what I said in January about wearing your opinion. Subtle outward signs like t-shirts and bumper stickers tend to prompt questions from people you vaguely know. It creates an opportunity to share opinions with someone who's already curious.

I've had a bumper sticker on my car for years. It says "Uppity Women Unite!" and is, as far as I'm concerned, an appropriately cheeky feminist slogan. I get questions and jokes about it even now.

Basically, if it's a little funny and the meaning isn't obvious, people will ask you about it.

Be an artist.
Art is like children. Your views, your you-ness, will by default color your art, whatever your art and whatever your views. It's often subtle, but this color also influences your audience and the artists with whom you work.


04 June
room of your own
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On WHB this week, Alison asks whatís in a room. She says (among other things):

But what is the female equal to a garage? The house is a shared family place, yet, in our culture, the garage is primarily a male bolt-hole. Where do females go when they need a place?

Why is it that this exists? Does this inequality in 'rooms of one's own' exist in your life? Or do you and each member of your family - past and present - have their own space as well as a common space for all to come together? How do you define this space? Do you feel that this is a necessary space for you? Do you feel that females are more willing to compromise their space to nurture a space for others? And, if you could have your ideal room - space - that was all yours, how would it look?

There is, undoubtedly, a tradition of the garage or shed, something outside the house proper, as a manís space, and the rest of the house as a womanís space. I donít think this is about giving up oneís identity in a household for most women, though Ė I suspect that it ties back to the notion of a house as an expression of a woman, a wife.

When you were a kid, did anyone ever say to your dad: ďNice house!Ē or ďGreat color choice on that wallpaper!Ē Probably not. Most of us address comments about a house we visit to the more wifey occupant (even with single sex couples, I find myself doing that), because itís easy to assume that person is the decorator and organizer. Easy to assume because thatís the cultural norm, still, for a ďwifeĒ to own the space everyone shares, and the ďmanĒ to own a less invaded, less integral, space.

Where do females go when they need a place? The bathroom!

My barometer of normal, the PAWs (People At Work), talk a lot about having separate mom/dad/kid bathrooms. A womanís private bathroom can be the place where she works on being beautiful, but itís also the place of ďCalgon, take me away!Ē Ė where she does the work of processing the day, planning, indulging in herself. It might sound trivial, but thatís important work for a woman, something personal to follow the second shift.

And of course, the bathroom is also a mysterious, feminine shared space (speaking in cultural norms again). We go in together! We re-emerge prettier (er, or at least, with makeup re-applied). Men wonder what we do. Et cetera.
The whole bathroom as feminine space thing is a little odd, but itís functional. Maybe itís simply the natural outgrowth of garages and studies and smoking lounges reserved implicitly or explicitly for men?

I do not have an individual, all-mine, space at our house. And my partner is giving up his to make a guest room (or possibly to house a friend, should a certain other friend flake) in the near future. What we have is a variety of functional areas: bedroom, bathrooms, television-watching and eating living room, party and rehearsal space living room, kitchen, outdoor chat space, library & CD listening room, workout/training room (the last is primarily his space, but itís rarely used now). With two of us in a two-floor apartment, itís pretty easy to carve out temporary alone space in one of those functional areas, which just seems more practical.

Itís important for anyone, not just women, to have the ability to define a personal space for working or playing. Something you can draw boundaries around and call mine, even temporarily.

And I find it useful to be able to work or play independently with someone else there, in the room, doing something else. Basically, claiming your own mental space, without physical distance. We do that a lot, too. I imagine thatís a lot easier with a partner or a roommate than it would be with even one young kid, and it certainly requires a tendency towards semi-obsessive focus on the object of your interest (say, working on a website design, which Iíll find myself doing for hours while my partner reads, watches television, dances a violent polka, moves to Japan, etc.), but itís something we cultivated when living in a tiny one bedroom apartment with no room for a sofa, let alone clearly defined personal space boundaries.

Do I think women are likely to give up their space for others? Well, not exactly. I do think women are likely to think (as said previously) that the whole house is ďtheirsĒ and so to grant men or children personal rooms without thinking that women need rooms, too. The cultural norm seems to be that men are ďgrantedĒ personal alcoves in houses where women dictate the flow of space, what goes where, how things look Ė and so women arenít as likely to need space. [As an intriguing aside Ė I recall my mid-century great grandmother having her own sitting and sewing room, which seems to have been pretty typical for her time. Maybe women used to claim more space?]

Claiming space is equivalent to claiming time, too. And itís clear that women of the middle class mainstream, particularly those with children, still feel obliged to do most of the house and child work; I think thereís definitely room to claim productive time and space for yourself, and itís probably something women donít, as a group, do well (or feel theyíre allowed).


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