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30 October
shopping fun
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A couple of weeks ago, I went on what may have been a financially ill-advised miniature shopping spree.

For the most part, though, I was supporting fabulous independent merchants. Given all my talk about how sisterhood isn't part of my political philosophy, you may be surprised at how satisfying I find it to buy stuff from smart, sassy women who run their own businesses.

Oh, but I do. Find it satisfying, that is. And I have to tell you about some of the cute stuff I've bought from these fabulous ladies recently.

This adorable and functional apron from Exquisite Lass (I also have this precious puff-sleeved little dress I got from her a year or so ago). Eleanor makes gothic lolita-style clothes, very girly; her work feels very high-quality handmade, which I love. She sends little off-the-wall cartoons and such in your package when you order things, and is really nice about altering measurements here and there. I think she's shifting to doing less custom-fit work in the near future, and she's started charging more for larger sizes on some items (I think it may be driven by the difficulty of resizing the pattern), but it's worth it for the quality of work she does.

I'm revitalizing the apron as a cute and practical clothing item. Yes, I actually wear them while cooking, particularly when cooking for a party or in some other case when I want to protect my purty dress. Aprons are super.

The longer cherry skirt on this page from Mode Merr. Angela's stuff is more me-like in general, sort of cleverly retro - girlish with edge. This skirt is really simple, but also a ton of fun. The cherries are sparkly! I wish I could justify the purchase of a flame skirt. There just aren't many places to get clothes you might describe as "witty", you know?

On thing I really love about buying stuff from independent stores is that these one- and even two- or three-person shops seem to be all about the personalities of their owners. People who complain that they never get to do business with a "person" clearly don't spend enough time shopping on the internet.

It's just nice to know that you have this very small personal relationship with some of the places you buy from - in the case of clothes, I don't really have many options to do that in real life, but I'm glad there's the web.

 

29 October
possible redesign
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I have not touched - not even tweaked - the design of this site in at least six months. Do I get a present? [For resisting the urge to wholly rethink my site for half a year, that is.]

Several new design ideas have sprung up in the meantime, they just haven't been implemented.

But this one's okay, at least I think it is: very very brown possible new splash page. Thoughts? I mean, aside from the fact that the images are much too large and slow-loading. Some of you may recognize the pomegranate image as one I used in an old design for my former diary.

I have another version I'm working on, completely different. I might let you see that, too.

 

28 October
morning!
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This morning, I was so impressed with myself. I got up a bit before 6:30 and was exercised, showered, dried and pressed by 7:15 or so. I almost never rise before 7 in the morning. I'm a 9-to-6 workday kind of girl.

So I think to myself. 6:30! So exciting! I'm up early! And I'm shockingly alert!

And as I pull into the office parking lot a big before 8, I realize. Sunday was daylight saving time.

My earliness? Entirely unremarkable. Compared to last week, I was actually up late.

 

27 October
the "fat like me" show
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About a minute and a half into this show, I realized I couldn't turn away from it. It was pissing me off that much. And if I'm going to tolerate this much pissoffitude, you need to hear about it, too.

So, live from my bedroom, where I have a bit of a cold, my thoughts on this hour of television.

8:02. The Fat Like Me show is on. A fifteen year old girl apparently has it all - looks, weight, and something else. Meredith Viera is sort of mumbling.

She's (the girl, not Meredith) trying on a pair of foam pants that make her look like she's made of solid foam rubber. Can't anyone make a fat suit that looks like an actual fat person? She's supposed to weigh 200 pounds? How tall is she, three foot two?

Seriously, they have this girl in like 100 pounds of foam. If she were a real person with real bones, muscles and fat, she'd be a complete couch potato. Like no muscles, just fat. What the fuck?

Someone makes fun of her and she's about to cry in the car. She's fifteen. I don't think she's feeling the experience of being fat - she's just fifteen, and in a new freaky situation. I feel for her.

Oh. My. God. If you didn't see this show, you have to go find a picture of this girl in her fat suit. She is the most desperate, pathetic looking kid I've ever seen. Are those glasses from 1972? Oh, god, I can't imagine how hard it must be to be this dorky looking on your first day of school. Fat or thin wouldn't make much difference. The striped blouse? Even stereotypes of librarians haven't worn blouses like this since 1982.

8:12. Apparently Meredith Viera once was - gasp - 30 pounds overweight as a kid. She looks pretty cute in that little red coat. Am I supposed to care?

But hey, at least they're talking to actual fat kids now. This is better. They're talking about isolation and how crappily fat kids' parents talk to them and blame them. And they're interviewing a family who are becoming active and eating healthily in order to make their fat kid less fat (don't know if it'll work, but at least they're all living better).

8:25. I'd never believe a man who tells people how to eat and exercise was once a fat kid, apparently (that's what they tell me). His dad had a stroke (the trainer guy's dad, I mean). He wasn't really much of a fat kid - maybe a bit pudgy in these pictures, but not fat. So I'm not shocked he's found a way to lose and keep off weight.

Another family learning how to eat better. Parts of this show are remarkably positive. But no one's talking about what happens if the kids don't lose the weight on these new plans. Do the families stick to them? Or do we ship them off for bariatric surgery?

There's a woman talking about how kids have "what we call crossed wires" (meaning they don't express emotions). There's a twelve year old talking about how "nothing ever tastes as good as thin feels".

This show is officially depressing me.

Ah, VH1 is doing 1987 (Raising Arizona! Princess Bride!) again tonight. I liked that "Beauty and the Beast" show with Linda Hamilton. A few years ago, I kept trying to stay up late to watch it on Oxygen or Pax or something, but then they moved it from 11 to 1 in the morning. That's past my bedtime on school nights.

8:35. Back at it. More than halfway through it! Huzzah!

I have never seen so many creepy ass shots in one show, ever. I think they're trying to tell me that girl over there is fat. If her ass is any measure, she wears about a size 8 and is maybe 14. Is that fat? Hell, I don't even know.

They're talking about the BMI report card school district. This mom is cute as a button. Huge health risks my ass! Speaking of ass, here are more anonymous ass shots. Hey, where did that little fat butt get those cute corset-laced jeans?

The not-fat girl is babbling about taking it for granted and how horrible it is to be handicapped with fatness. She really wants everyone to know she's not really fat. She's wearing normal clothes, much better. But she's still wearing the horrid 1972 glasses; they have a camera in them.

She's upset that as a new kid, no one paid attention to her. She thinks it's because she's fat. Maybe, but she's also, you know, fifteen, and wearing the worst outfit ever. Kids are mean as hell, you remember. Not that they can't also be sweet, but they can be mean little buggers.

My partner thinks that fat fixation is emblematic of our culture of fear. Parents and teachers focus on childhood obesity because we all feel like we don't have any control over all these other factors in kids' lives.

8:45. Ali (fat suit girl) thinks that the reason people made fun of her or didn't talk to her is only that she was fat. She can't trust them. Welcome to high school, sweetheart. Am I being too cynical? Is she from some sort of crazy world? Maybe she's just really popular at her school. I don't understand how she can't have ever been picked on. The way she talks, though, it's very fifteen. I totally feel for her.

A fat girl (who is damn fine looking, by the way), is explaining that she couldn't stand up for the pathetic dork in the fat suit because, hello, high school. Good point.

A fat guy doesn't want to be reminded that he's fat. Everyone looks really silly in bright colored life vests. Meredith thinks that the fat suit girl lost her self esteem just cause she was in a fat suit. A random thin girl is crying about a fat girl's story. See, what I said about kids being sweet, it's true.

An ugly kid made fun of fat suit girl in the cafeteria. He's not ugly, really; he just looks like he belongs in some sort of British steel town, which makes him a freak in the southwestern US. He looks like he gets beaten up a lot. I bet the stories these fat kids are telling hit home for him.

8:55. How is the fact that fat kids get picked on supposed to teach me that obesity is a problem? What it teaches me is that fat is considered a difference and, like any difference, is something that gets kids picked on. And guess what happens when we talk about the "obesity epidemic"? That's right. Those kids are seen as even more different, even more to blame. And they get picked on more.

Would you tell a kid to just not be Jewish? Not be near-sighted? Not be gay? Well, you might tell a kid not to be gay, but that would make you an asswit.

So. To summarize.
The teasing and social interaction components of this show brought in an array of experts who apparently have never been or associated with fifteen year old kids. That was foolish.

I have to say, the healthy lifestyle stuff wasn't bad. It's not unreasonable advice - namely, get out and exercise and try to eat healthy food. But how do we as a culture deal with all the cases of people who do those things and don't become acceptably thin? Do we just ignore them? Blame them?

As a blow for the fat revolution, the show is neither here nor there. Even with its emphasis on understanding the fat is the last acceptable thing to make fun of, it still comes out on the side of the "obesity epidemic" that isn't.

Sigh. But at least you can say you got live reportage from the street.

 

grrr. with the matriarchy.
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Kerri stole my fire.

See, we've been having this conversation on WHB about the notion of matriarchy (or, if we choose to stick with the accepted definition of that term, egalitarian/matrist societies). I've been thinking for like a week that I needed to put down in words what I think of anthropologists who still fixate on the evidence Marija Gimbutas uncovered about "woman-dominated" societies as indicative of some inherent biological wisdom and peacefulness on the part of women.

And Kerri just goes and beats me to it. With, I might add, more thunder than I was likely to have mustered.

Damn.

Anyhow. So, I went through a period of reading a lot of women spiritualists, goddess-worshippers, feminine-centered anthropologists. Nice, smart people. But people with really, really marked agenda. Like all people with agenda, they (and I as their reader) could and did overlook common sense at times in order to see the facts of their agenda in whatever evidence presented itself. In this case, the agenda is that women need more power because women are different from men. Sure, it's more complex than that, but it ultimately comes down to celebrating the peaceful feminine as a better course for society, and the woman as manifestation of peaceful feminine. So, any society that was perceived based on archaeological evidence as peaceful and egalitarian is termed "matrist" or "matriarchal", because they must be ruled by women if they manifest this feminine principle (roughly: peace, love and understanding).

I think it was probably this book (Pollack's Body of the Goddess) which finally highlighted for me clearly what the problem is with this agenda. Problem being: a) the logic is circular (women manifest the feminine, so the feminine manifest is woman-dominated), b) following on that, it strikes me as absurd to name as "matriarchy" what may well have been an egalitarian society where, all things being equal, they may or may not have decided to take the simple route and trace birth lines matrilineally, and c) ultimately, it assumes that peaceful is better, that women are inherently peaceful and men inherently not, and that creates its own brand of sexism. [Pollack, by the way, doesn't attack the agenda in question; she just presents kind of a tour of European early civilization through cultural relationships to the earth - what I found striking was that she did not assume female-rulership in culture, which a number of the other things I had been reading that year did do. Basically, what I learned from her book and a couple of others was to balance my ingestion of the post-Gimbutas school with things like Karl Kerenyi (archaeologist whose work inspired Jung), and to infer my own meanings from what we could know or guess from the past.]

I'm down with the feminine principle, yo. I am down with egalitarianism. What I am not going to accept is this notion that the feminine principle is necessarily connected with one gender/sex (as Kerri points out, women can be power-hungry and men can yearn for peace), or with any agenda that places a greater value on either the feminine or masculine (roughly: power, strength and progress) principle. See, these words don't have good-bad value attached to them, not anywhere except in your head.

In addition, it is not acting as a tool of the patriarchy (a word I come to loathe more and more) to question the assertion that the feminine is inherently better for us than the masculine, to question the assertion that any one thing unbalanced by another is better for us than another. It is acting out of common sense.

Also, Kerri totally ganked "so 1985" from me. I think it needs to be adopted as an academic concept. It would simplify a lot of arguments over "have you read...? what about...?" - people who start those arguments are really just saying your logic is so 1985.

 

26 October
the marital name game
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I can hardly believe we've never talked about the topic Vic posted today: would you [or did you] change your last name if you got married?

If you are married, did you take your husband's last name? Or, if you're unmarried, do you plan to take your husband's last name? Why or why not?

How about Mrs.? Are you, will you ever, be "Mrs." anyone, or is "Ms." the only title you will will ever take?

In general how do you think this naming thing should be handled? Last names, children's names, etc.

I'm not married, and I don't know if I ever will be. I don't recall ever thinking about being named a "Mrs. So-and-so" as a little girl, though I certainly thought about being married, having kids and all that - maybe my mother trained me that way. The question of naming for me has always been how to deal around the name. Am I Ms. Johnson forever? Mrs. or Ms. Something-hyphen-Something? Something else entirely?

The name-changing thing is, of course, another symptom of the patrilineal, man-as-default syndrome. To do something other than exchanging a father's last name for a husband seems like an unnecessary rebellion against the How Things Are to a lot of people (most, even?), but it's not - it's a subtle way to shift us to thinking about women and men in a different way, to think about relationships in a different way.

There is, however, an aspect of the name change that I like, and this is why I think I'd choose to make some name change rather than to keep my name exactly as-is if I were to get married. Part of the traditional name change is a symbol of leaving one family to start another, becoming part of a husband's family.

Well, I don't believe in being assimilated by a man's (or woman's) family, but I do think there's value in a household choosing a single name. A big part of what marriage would mean to me is a fusion of families into something larger. So, I think a hyphenated name is the right choice for me. Yes, this could mean that children of hyphenated families have to deal with a very complicated name in the future, but you know - I think my children, if I ever have any, would be creative enough to come up with a solution to that problem. And hey, maybe their kids might have eight last names to choose from. Could be fun.

I've seen the hyphenated name convention work well for my married gay and lesbian families, too. It's egalitarian, but it also recognizes the decision to become a household, a family as well as two individuals - recognizes the decisions for both partners, no matter their gender (and it could just as easily work for polyamorous families, too - they might adopt a triple last name, even). I like the formality, the ceremony of that. It makes the family the same, except in cases like previous marriage or adoption - where kids might come into the picture with their own names (in which case, I think the kids ought to have a role in choosing how to align their name with the family).

As for "Mrs." - well, there I don't care as much for the ceremony of naming. A man has no married honorific to identify him as part of a family, and a woman does. This is unequal, period. I occasionally am called "Mrs. Johnson" (and my partner "Mr. Johnson", which obviously amuses him) today, and I just correct people to "Ms." (versus "I'm not married"). While the master and mistress connections of Mr. and Mrs. are fine, it just annoys me that there's a differentiation between women and men here. It's another sign that a woman is still in part defined by her marriage and family, and a man apparently isn't.

 

where IS my country, dude?
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Every American who hasn't yet needs to march right out and read Michael Moore's new book "Dude, Where's My Country?"

Immediately. I kid you not. I've always enjoyed Moore's movies, which tend to both sadden and inspire to action, but his other writing has generally pissed me off. "Stupid White Men" was like the Rush Limbaugh of liberalism - given to broad, sweeping generalizations, funny and occasionally relevant, but mean and generally small-minded. New book - total exception. The last two chapters are brilliant - all about how liberal Americans really are and how to help your "Republican" friends and family realize this.

Also, it appears he presaged Wesley Clark's presidential run. That wacky Moore!

Seriously, seriously. Read this book. Slug through the parts you disagree with. It might change your mind.

 

you win some
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We've established in the past that my parents like to get me to go to church with them and that I'm not a religious gal.

Well. What had been a mild annoyance at their conservative military pastor in the past came to something of a head a couple of months ago, last time I went to visit. Their old chaplain was back in town visiting and preaching, and about halfway through his sermon that Sunday, he started spewing some bile about all these problems with society, at some point going so far as to call homosexuality a "blight" or a "scourge" or something like that.

Out of courtesy to the family (and understanding this particular guy wouldn't be back, that it was up to his congregation to call him on it, etc.)), I made a point of not participating in the rest of the service and did not greet the guy on the way out the door, but did not march out mid-service or call him aside to discuss the issue.

It was incredibly frustrating feeling like I couldn't act on my principles and also get on okay with my family, but I erred on the side of family harmony in this case. Afterwards, I was very worked up about the whole thing - I mean, hell - the sorts of words he used I thought were relics of a conservative former decade - and rather impassionedly accused myself, my partner, and my parents of being implicitly discriminatory, basically just as big of assholes as he was. My parents came back that you never agreed 100% with anyone, and they came to church for community, not for the sermon.

And a few weeks ago, my mother told me they'd joined a new church. See, the new chaplain started spouting the same "gay = evil" line, and they couldn't ignore it anymore. Mom wrote an email to the chaplain explaining why they were upset by what he'd said, they went online to find out what Protestant sects were gay-friendly, and they came to the conclusion that they are, in fact, Methodists. So they've switched to a Methodist church, because they're alright with queer folk, and so are most other Methodists. Which is funny, because the time when we went to church regularly as a family was with a Methodist church, and I have to say the community was quite friendly and accepting. Perhaps mom and dad were Methodists all along.

The point behind all this story isn't that I had an argument with my family, but that we had a discussion about how upset I was that I hadn't felt able to do anything about a discriminatory act, and then my parents thought about what they could do the next time it happened. And I hope that chaplain will think about what he could do, too. You win some. Sometimes telling people what you think without yelling at them will make them realize you agree, and that something can be done.

 

24 October
bad to have fat friends, or bad to be goth?
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Today I saw some of the photos used in the Liverpool study that highlights cultural assumptions based on people having fat friends. To summarize, they showed 100 some people pictures of a guy with a fat woman, then the same guy, same pose, with a thin woman. And the study subjects (the ones seeing the pictures) were more likely to associate the man with the fat woman as "miserable, self-indulgent, passive, shapeless, likes food, depressed, weak, unattractive, insignificant and insecure".

I don't have any new news to report on this study, but I'm curious (as always) about the methodology. The BBC article makes it unclear whether the two photos they show are the only ones subjects saw - while I can't imagine that could be so, there are a number of other significant differences between those two women - see fat picture vs. thin picture. Did similar differences exist between all pairs of women in the photos? How do we know that those factors didn't influence subjects' assessment of the guys?

In this case, the fat woman looks to be leaving for a night at a moderate goth club, and the thin one looks like she's headed to the prom; the guy's attitude and outfit could be interpreted differently in either scenario. The thin woman is closer and looks at the camera, the fat one leans away. The women's body language could make the pictures tell very different stories. And hey, maybe Liverpudlians just hate goths and people who are distant. All the words associated more often with the man shown with a fatter woman are, after all, not dissimilar from the associations of mainstream folk with goth kids, though you could add a whole other subset of "dangerous, creepy, suicidal, needs therapy" if you so desired.

Admittedly, if the subjects saw a wide range of pictures that included more affectionately posed fat women and more counterculture-looking thin women, the sum total of those pictures might cancel out any differences between individual women, but I'm curious as to why those individual differences were included at all. I'm curious why this study wouldn't have used images that made the difference between the women other than fat v. thin less noticeable. Why not pose them the same way? Why not alter photos of the same woman to make her thin or fat?

Any thoughts? Anyone know more about this study? Maybe seeing some of the other pictures used (assuming there were other pictures) would help.

I'm not implying, by the way, that the bias found in this study doesn't exist. I have seen it in my own experiences; any 10 year old could tell you that having a friend who is "different" is the kiss of death when your goal is to fit in and be accepted (it becomes more clear the older I get that we still live by the social rules established in fifth grade). But that doesn't mean I don't want to understand the flaws in a study that may relate to me. We should hold supporting and detracting studies to the same standards of relevance and accuracy.

On that note, Paul posts a restaurant (and consumer) backed assessment that some of those "obesity crisis" statistics are flawed. I'm shocked - shocked, I tell you!

[Edited to add an amusing side note - I think I may be taken to task on the BFB comments for saying the fat woman looks goth. Apparently my assessment may have been off. Silliness.]

[Comments closed on this post due to the vast stupidity of most things people have posted. If you have an intelligent comment to add, please email me.]

 

23 October
i'm angry. and depressed.
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Things are making me angry today.

Some of the response to Tish's average-sized privilege list is very frustrating. Notably the conversation at Ampersand. It reminds me of something that happened on the DTMWSIB list awhile back. One of the members was upset that Queen Latifah's new Wal-Mart plus size undies line was donating a portion of proceeds to a fund to help black kids pay for college (I think; I don't recall what it was exactly). The rationale being - if you make something for fat people, the proceeds should go to a charitable organization that supports fat people. I disagree completely; if you have money to spend, you always have the option of not buying something if your money will go places you don't want it. And if you sell something, it's pretty much up to you what you do with the proceeds.

[Well, in theory. If your budget or town is such that Wal-Mart is really your only shopping option, and Queen Latifah's undies are the only ones that will fit you, then I guess your choice is to support her charity or go without panties - but it's still a choice.]

Anyhow - it's amazing how quickly this group of fat folk (who are well acquainted with the ways in which discrimination can happen) became rather divided over the question of whether black people were really discriminated against or not, since sometimes individual black people get advantages over individual white people. It is a privilege to be ignorant of the way you are privileged. It is a privilege to be able to think of yourself as an individual and not as part of the groups, to carry the weight of the normative prejudices against that group. And yet even people who recognize prejudice against themselves on one front can't see how that happens to someone else. This is so often the reaction of fairly liberal people to the assertion that fat people face prejudice and that's wrong. How can this be?

Everyone gets defensive when confronted with the idea that they might be receiving some privilege. I can understand that; being confronted by privilege makes it feel like you haven't earned what you have. But a reasonable person doesn't react to it by saying "see, look at those really fat people - they ARE unhealthy and they could be better" or "see, black men really do commit more crimes, and they could just stop living like that"; a reasonable person doesn't try to blow smoke around the real issue by bringing up some special case where, okay, maybe the things said about a particular group might be true.

And then the "partial birth" abortion ban gets passed. I don't even know what to say; I'm just so depressed by this.

It frustrates me, too, that groups like NARAL choose to talk about the procedure (which, let's face it, sounds more painful and generally icky than most abortions) in terms of rights, like it's an abstract. It reinforces this image of wild abortionists with no connection to reality and a need to hid our nasty procedures when you can't find a good explanation of what a D&E or D&X abortion even is on Planned Parenthood's website; only the NRLC will tell you in any detail, and they'll load their description with such bile you'll start wondering if you can dilate and evacuate their damned website.

See. It doesn't matter if the D&X reminds you of a baby being born. What matters is that that "baby" doesn't have a life unless the woman continues to bear it. And it is unconstitutional, has been found unconstitutional again and again, to deny a woman the right to a medical procedure that could protect her life (medically or otherwise).

We need to be angry about this.

Little George W. has now virtually guaranteed my vote, and the votes of all my formerly slacker non-voting friends (who mobilized so charmingly for Nader four years ago), for ANY democrat who makes it through the primaries. Screw the Greens! My vote is for anyone who could take Bush out of office! I hope we can count on the Court, but I want a president who reflects the true liberalism of America that Michael Moore keeps telling me about.

[Edited to add after the fact to point out Ampersand's explanation of the abortion issue over several posts. Because you can't expect me to cite a lot of research or facts, but you can trust Ampersand to do so.]

 

22 October
looking for new links
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I'd like a broader community. I'm looking for new regular reads to add to my blogroll (that isn't actually a blogroll, but - oh, never mind). I'm sure I'm missing truly great sites.

But where are they? I'd like to know.

[By "great" here, I mean people who share some aspect of my perspective on the world, are open-minded and are passionate, articulate, and - at least to a degree - prolific writers.]

 

21 October
studying your zagat's
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I have to say this is one of the more clever ways to approach comparative studies of portion size: some guy compares the Boston Zagat's guide to the Parisian one. And, shock, restaurants in Paris are described as serving much smaller dishes than restaurants in Boston.

Is anyone else thinking "well, DUH" here?

It seems obvious to anyone who eats out that not only are restaurants in American serving huge amounts of food, but the amounts have been steadily increasing over time. You can't even get a small french fry order at McDonald's without ordering a Happy Meal anymore (and McDonald's is no worse an offendor than anyone else). It's been years since I could successfully consume more than half of my food at dinner out, and I've established elsewhere that I still believe I eat (ate) too much.

Would limiting portion sizes prevent people from getting fat? Well, maybe and maybe not. It could keep some people from getting fatter by adopting the wildly vacillating dietary and exercise habits that are so popular. But then, I'm sure many of those people would still go on their starvation diets, though they might get accustomed to less of a wild swing if they ate less in general. Would they still get fat? Maybe more slowly, but yes. Would there still be fat people who actually ate perfectly reasonable amounts of food and were otherwise quite healthy? Or thin people who ate too much? Of course.

Fat or unfat aside, the whole portion size thing is emblematic of American culture - generous, unrestrained, free, and further evidence of our consumption of more than we need. And our guilt over overeating is all about our fear and awe that we consume too much overall - it is no coincidence that dieters reward themselves with new clothes, new cars, new whatevers. Which brings me back, as so many things do, to the fact that what we audibly worry about is just disguising the deeper concern - we worry about portion sizes instead of the things we think we can't control, like oil consumption, the rest of the world, etc.

 

20 October
world's tastiest chili, i kid you not
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We made a brilliant chili on Wednesday night, inspired by a recipe my dad gave me that I promptly forgot.

It's better than your average chili, seriously. It's all wholesome and stewy.

Ingredients (serves 2 for at least 2 meals, plus nachos): 1 can black beans, 2 cans dark kidney beans, 1/2 pound of some sort of meat or meat-like product (cubed-ish), a bunch of green onions, 1 red pepper, 1-2 fresh tomatoes, any other veggies that sound good, 2 cans of tomatoes, cilantro, a small amount of lemon juice, a lot of ginger, chili powder, nutmeg, paprika, a large clove of garlic (minced), salt and fresh pepper, 2 tablespoons of cheap white wine, 2 tablespoons of V8, 1 rather large pot, a lot of grated cheese. If you buy extra cheese, tomatoes, and veggies, you'll have leftovers to top nachos later.

Start by cooking your meat (pork, steak, or some solid soy product like tempeh will all work well), garlic, some black pepper, and about 1/3 of the bundle of green onions, chopped up, in a couple of tablespoons of cheap white wine and equal amount of tomato juice or V8.

When that's browned, reduce heat to a high simmer and pour in your canned tomatoes and two of your cans of beans - DO NOT DRAIN YOUR CANS before you dump them in the pot. Add as much chili powder and ginger as you like, and more garlic. If you've picked out veggies that need to really stew (potatoes, broccoli, etc.), throw those in, too. Cook for an hour or so. Stir a lot.

Chop up your fresh tomatoes and pepper or other soft veggies you gathered. Throw them in the pot, too. Add some lemon or lime juice and a whole lot of cilantro. Nutmeg goes in now, too, as can some more ginger, and the next 1/3 of your green onion. Keep stirring. Cook for another hour, or longer if you want thicker chili with less identifiable ingredients.

Serve in bowls topped with cheese and some portion of your remaining green onion. Save remaining ingredients and appallingly large amount of chili for nachos later.

 

19 October
selective equality
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Eris poses her first question on WHB today, and it's a tough one (one of the things she does best): Is feminism really about equality, or is that equality selective? Of course, she also gets all German on us - it seems like every third word is capitalized, but I won't hold that against her. Ha.

One of the largest critiques of Feminism is that, despite its official mantra of being “about equality”, feminism as a whole tends to lack support for men and people of color. From this perspective, it would seem that Feminism is about “Selective Equality”.

Feminism, like any other movement or political group, is too often defined by people outside of it, by its critics. And it's time-consuming for feminists to spend much time defending against misapprehensions from outside the movement - particularly as some of these criticisms are so simplistic and off-target (the "feminazi" thing, the assumption that feminists are mostly lesbians or vice versa, and - of course - the contention that being for rights of women is to be anti rights of men).

As the simplistic definitions of critics will show pretty clearly, there is a strong tendency for people in general to assume an us-them duality. The more obvious effect of this is the "we're okay, they're confused" attitude that most political groups share. Less obvious but equally present is the tendency for group members to assume other group members share traits with them beyond what is essential for group membership. So, I might assume most feminists share an acceptance of the gay community and gay culture, but that isn't necessarily true, nor is it a requirement for being considered a feminist.

What I am saying in this circular fashion is that feminists, as much as but not more so than any group, do assume that others are like them. When the most vocal, most visible spokespeople of the movement are white, middle class, straight, etc., there will be a tendency for them to assume the rest of the movement resembles them and a tendency for them to speak from their own perspective as if it represents the movement. Additionally, even if they are aware and point out that they can't speak for everyone, they will still be assumed to do so.

I've recently experienced this as an "owner" and spokesperson of the WHB site. I had several email conversations with a guy who was convinced that I was selectively censoring him in favor of a "matriarchist" viewpoint that Morgaine had expressed pretty clearly as her personal opinion and with which I don't agree. Neither Morgaine nor I purported to speak for the other or to hold the same opinions, but because we are members of a group, we were presumed by someone outside to share not just some but all opinions on the subject of women.

Absurd? Yes, but also the way humans are socialized and a real factor of our daily and political life. When the voices of non-mainstream feminists, of women of color, men, transfolk, or any other group are not adequately represented in the feminist mainstream (say, Ms. magazine), it is not a conscious exclusion; it is a lack of conscientiousness from those who represent feminism (inside and outside the movement) in including other voices and perspectives.

That does not, of course, absolve feminists - or anyone - from recognizing that they can't represent the opinions of everyone and that the movement isn't homogenous. Quite the contrary - it's important that the space be made available for all those different viewpoints, which requires the mainstream to open its doors and the "fringe" to step up to the microphone.

If you have chosen to carry around the moniker of “Feminist”, explain how you tackle these two issues in your personal daily battles. For example: Do you take into consideration other culture’s histories before saying anything about how “all women….”? Do you stand up for a man’s right to equality in unjust situations?

If Feminism is about Equality, what do you do to emphasize that point? What could you do better?

Is it the business of feminism to specifically defend the rights of men? That is, where the interests of men and the interests of women don't intersect, does feminism need to stick up for men? In probably 90% of issues, men's and women's rights come down to the same thing - the same choices need to be available to people of all genders. But there are a very few instances where that might not be true - I'm thinking, for instance, of the question of a male partner's legal ability to influence the decision to have an abortion. In those few cases, I tend to side with the person whose life is most influenced by the issue - as perceived by me (which could certainly be considered inequitable).

Like anyone, I certainly make generalizations about various groups without accounting for the individuals who make up those groups. But as a feminist, I don't think I can do this about women and men in general, be there cultural differences or not - there are just so few things that are true for all women or all men, and even the woman/man division is getting blurrier. This just seems like common sense to me.

 

17 October
bedding, yawn.
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[Note: really quite boring and apolitical, but if you have an interest in interior design, I could use your help. Otherwise, skip this one, trust me.]

I have been trying for years to come up with some sort of integrated artistic design concept in our bedroom.

What I have to work with: one massive iron canopy bed (beautiful and apparently guaranteed to last more than one lifetime), several mismatched painted dressers and nightstands - none of which are on the same them and all of which are rather ramshackle, a whole load of white walls that can't be painted, and two rather large canvases I have yet to paint.

I need. Something. We keep acquiring (by "keep", I mean once every couple of years, not every payday) these semi-modern linens that work with the wacky painted furniture, sort of, but not the melodramatic goth-kid - or rather, heirloom - bed.

Presumably I have a queer eye (and a straight guy), ha, but this one room continues to have me design challenged. What I think I need is to replace or repair, varnish, etc. some of the wacky furniture bits and to put some sort of dramatically colorful, somewhat ethnic, yet in keeping with the artistic quality of the furniture, bedding on the, you know, bed. And also, to slap some of that old time art on the walls.

But it's really hard to find - the bedding, that is (art's all in my head, if only my fingers would translate). Most of the fascinating ethnic markets (i.e. Novica) only carry throws and coverlets, and I want a big foofy comforter/duvet thing. So far the closest I've come are wacky things like this and and this and a crazy satin-velvet thing from - of all places - Victorias Secret, and while they might make good use of the dern canopy for once, I'd really prefer to invest less than $500 on this project - and that's including furniture changes.

So, yeah, any ideas on places to acquire foofy yet arty bedding?

 

16 October
love your body?
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Yesterday was Love Your Body Day. While I posted something on WHB, I didn't actually do anything about it.

Slacker.

But something Kim said about weddings awhile ago ought to be taken as a life lesson for everyone: have pretty pony princess day every day. [Editor's Note: What she said was actually not that at all, but it was a reasonable facsimile.] Which should be interpreted to mean that whatever you think is good enough to embrace for a day ought to be embraceable for 365.

So I'm working on the other days.

Tish is composing a list of things an average-sized person can expect that a fat person can't. You should read it. I'm not average-sized, but I'm not that far off, you know? And there are privileges I enjoy even as someone who is obviously fat but who can still fit (literally) in.

Like.

I don't have to worry when travelling (by car, bus, plane, whatever) that I will be stopped from doing so by the size constraints of my mode of transit.

The same clothing other people wear is, more often than not, available for me, even if it is inexplicably more expensive.

I am not assumed by others to be unhealthy - mentally or physically - based on my appearance.

I can expect people to flirt with me. And those people aren't thought perverse or fetishists.

I'm not expected to defend my size, or to speak for fat people in general or the fat revolution in specific.

Wherever I go, I can be assured that, if I sit down, I will not have to worry about fitting in my seat.

My partner and I can go out together without being laughed or stared at. Well, at least we can be sure they're staring at our shoes or our indiscreet conversation and not my ass.

People won't always even recognize me as fat, which they take to mean lazy, unstylish, and prone to overeating.

I'm sure there are more. And I owe all of this to the fat and feminist revolutions. Because ten years ago, being as fat as I am would have meant none of these things would be possible, I wouldn't be just above average, I'd be obese. While BMI standards might still call me obese, I'm privileged to be able to blend into the "average sized" world sometimes (even if I can't shop there), because these movements have been pushing the message that average is a lot bigger than what we see in the media.

There's still more road. Even the average-sized still believe themselves fat (meaning unhealthy, lazy, bad), and there are so many ways the treatment of even the slightly fat continues to be appalling and horrid.

But even the fact of Love Your Body Day is an improvement. It's better. It's getting better.

 

13 October
women's religion
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Quite possibly in response to my snit last week about goddess feminism, Morgaine raises the question this week on WHB about the same: Is there room for women's religion in the women's movement?

I have to get a few semantic issues out of the way - responses to the wording, not the meaning of the question. First off, my feminism is not just a women's movement. It's feminism, the belief in equality of gender/sex in all its variations. Men and transfolk are totally and completely invited to this party (I know from the rest of Morgaine's writing that she agrees with this, but I'm calling out a semantic clarification). And second, I think the question implies that paganism is more representative of women's spiritual leanings than other religions, which tends to discount the experiences of women who believe in other traditions.

Personally, I believe that my spiritual beliefs are the most feminist - as I'm a fervent atheist and therefore have no implications of gender whatsoever in my deity. I have no deity, la.

But I won't go so far as to argue (whatever I may actually believe) that this makes atheism the uber-equality-aligned religion. Marx already went there. Well, after a fashion.

Anyhow, I will go forth and answer Morgaine's question from the perspective that what she's really getting at is whether goddess-worshipping religion deserves the respect and acceptance of feminists.

Do all religious practices deserve acceptance from feminism? Hell, yeah. Every religious choice one makes is a choice, and feminism has to defend those choices. All religions practiced by women are women's religions, as Kerri so eloquently pointed out. Every religion has the capacity for gender equality within it. You do not need to reject Judeo-Christian tradition to embrace equitable spiritual and social values through your religion. HOWEVER. For many people, embracing old pagan traditions and creating new traditions (see the Unitarian Universalists as well as Wicca) provides effective answers without the struggle with what they've experienced as a confining church tradition. So be it.

Do all religions deserve respect? Inasmuch as respect, to me, equates to recognition of the validity of the sociopolitical beliefs implicit in your religion, I don't think so. No, I do not respect the sects of neopagans (mostly Wiccans) who elevate motherhood to divinity (I don't buy that belief from Catholics, either). A lot of Western culture is built on the concept of duality, of divine mothering, etc. - so it's not a surprise that Wicca and other religions would reinforce this. Nevertheless, it's polite and just generally good form to allow people to express their religious beliefs and argue their points.

Does sisterhood extend to our spirituality as well as our politics?

Ladies, ladies, ladies... Sisterhood does not extend to my politics. The truth is that women's experiences aren't always universal, that we don't share an agenda, and we don't always need to be open and supportive. Politically, we are not sisters.

That does not mean we are enemies, not at all. But sisterhood - as the sharing of experience and purpose and just general acceptance of each other - is a concept that makes more sense in contexts other than the political. There is sisterhood at my belly dance class, there can be sisterhood in your religion, your birthing experience, any number of places. In the political sphere, there must be room for other women to be wrong, for us to argue our points and focus on the things we agree on at the moment. Sisterhood is a social phenomenon, not an intellectual one. And I admit to a certain disdain for politics that emphasizes the social (i.e. likability, sentiment) over the intellectual (i.e. justice, economics).

I suspect that, for most women who participate in religious communities, a feeling of community - of which sisterhood is an element - is a big part of it, whatever their beliefs may be. Seems fine to me.

Are Goddess Feminists welcome in the Women's Movement, or are they a distraction? An embarrassment?

Too often, they're a distraction. Too many of the implications of even the most equitable neopagan religions come back to this notion of the goddess figure as various archetypes of femininity. Which would be okay if the archetypes could be accepted as a whole picture - masculinity, femininity, all various points on a continuum of gender. The problem is that too many neopagans, mostly Wiccans, focus either on exhaltation of the "feminine creative principle" as applied only to women (i.e. "girls rock! the goddess told me so!") or fixate on the application of maleness to men and femaleness to women (i.e. "i must be a mommy! the goddess told me so!").

I blame Karl Jung, quite honestly. Jung and the feminists who expanded his man-focused archetypal principles to make more sense to women gave us all these archetypes that, at their simplest level, reflect the virgin/mother/whore division we're all used to. A lot of neopagans draw on oversimplifications of Jung and anthropological study of pagan traditions (because oversimplifications are always the easiest to come by and the easiest to turn into elegant aphoristic statements); Wicca is the worst offendor - many Wiccans don't even seem to recognize the fact that their religion is, you know, 80 years old.

Wiccans, particularly, seem to focus more on rejecting the Judeo-Christian tradition than on adequately researching the next thing they adopt. So, they're choosing a community that feels warm and open, and they equate that feeling of community (aka sisterhood) and the notion of a goddess instead of/in addition to a god with feminism [These ideas aren't anti-feminist, they're just - well, not quite enough, are they?]. Given that, there are a number of Wiccan feminist witches whose ideas seem anything but feminist (at least, by my definitions) - they seem to advocate a lot of the same gender divisions as the chivalric tradition. Being a southern woman who's been working to inform people about issues with southern "gentility" (basically the same ideas) for years, this is desperately frustrating.

As with any movement, feminism has its share of less-informed (I call them stupid, but that's not necessarily true) proponents.

This is not to say paganism is a breeder of idiots. Quite the contrary! Just as the Christians get the Gnostics, neopagans have a number of representatives among them who look at a broader, more complex vision of faith - and because so many neopagans are serious seekers of truth, there are many individuals who bring a deeper sense of equity and psychological truth to paganism.

Does the fact that the Judeo-Christian faiths practiced by the majority of Americans subordinate women to varying degrees mean that we should avoid the subject altogether?

Many women who practice within the "standard" religious traditions don't find them at all subjugatory [Er, if that's a word.]. Just as two women may have vastly different experiences of neopaganism, so might they have the same experiences of Christianity.

Yes, the dogma of Christianity is paternalistic, and women are something of an idealized sidebar, but is that how most people experience their religious communities today? I would suggest not. Even the Catholic Church has made concessions to contemporary life, and many Christian sects have done quite a bit to equalize their practice based on gender and sexual preference - The Unitarian Universalists (who are mostly loosely Christian in the south), Episcopalian and Methodist churches are all among these.

I suspect that those churches changed because their members demanded it, or because their members started leaving. And some of those members were feminists, whether they call themselves by the name or not.

So, no, I don't think we take religion off the table as a feminist conversation topic, but we need to approach it not from the standpoint that any one religion is more or less feminist than another, but from the social standpoint of holding our institutions accountable to change to meet our needs - and keeping in mind that ultimately, it's the members of the church, its people, who will change religion to suit their own changing views. In many ways, if feminism works on a social level, religious change will follow automatically.

How do you feel about President Bush stating that it is not a religion?

Hey, Republicans breed idiots, too. Whatever I may think about various forms of neopaganism, there is no doubt in my mind that all spiritual practices should be granted the same protections. Religion is in the mind of the practitioner. Period.

 

12 October
firefly movie!
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Apparently Firefly is being made into a feature film.

It was a much better show that it appeared to be (and way better than captainman's brief and bloody stint on Buffy might lead you to believe). But it was so heavy on the concept, it might make for a better movie.

Hey, wait! They announced it like a month ago. Darn, I miss all the good entertainment news. How was this not on TWOP?

 

09 October
backblog hates me
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Whenever I visit a blog that has comments hosted by BackBlog, my PC freaks out and starts begging me to debug. And of course, every entry on a blog has a corresponding BackBlog script line, so every line throws an error and I'm clicking and clicking and clicking.

Of course, this is on my PC, which is controlled by foreign powers that lock my desktop and programs into certain settings that are reset everytime I log in, AKA work, so I suppose the lesson to be learned is that I shouldn't be surfing on work equipment to begin with. Not even if it is after work hours and I was already online checking my legitimate work email.

 

testing for fat bias
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Can someone explain to me the research premise behind the shifting word associations in this test?

What test, you may ask? Why this here weight-bias association test. I went through the test quickly like it asked, and then it told me I like fat people.

I just get a little stuck on those rapid-association tests. I guess it's hard to develop a methodology that effectively reveals people's bias when they know the purpose of your study in advance, but I wonder how this one is really intended to work.

So.

The test in question is sponsored by an organization with a clear "public health" perspective, so I shouldn't be at all surprised or annoyed to at some of the associated information about obesity elsewhere on the site.

But things like this just kind of rankle. I suppose this style of language bothers me no matter what the subject. The intention is good, the ideas in the background of the language are good. I can't complain too much.

For instance, speaking of a person in absentia or by terms the people themselves might not use:

Let us consider the perspective of the overweight person. They experience discrimination, but rather than feel angered or outraged by it, they may accept the notion that they deserve it.

And the wacky slogan: "See the person, not the pounds". No one is a person inside and apart from pounds. The goal of this project is to get physicians to think about the whole body, not just a number, and I get that. I'm with that. But this slogan is oversimplified. (Yeah, it's a slogan, that's what they're supposed to do, I know)

But most irksome is that there's surprisingly little challenge (though there is some) to the idea that fat is unhealthy in and of itself. It's not that simple. I'll return to the thing I say all the time - if fat is unhealthy, so is being male. The correlations to disease are similar.

Still, I can't complain too much. And I still want to know the rationale behind the test method.

 

i didn't do it!
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The clever kids at MoveOn.org have started a PR stunt to get W to take a closer look at the source of the Valerie Plame leak.

The stunt? They're asking loads of random liberal folk to sign their affadavit stating none of us were responsible for the leak.

And I've been checking out a bunch of places like Smart Mobs that talk about ways to use technology to form politically-motivated mass action (such as the flash mob idea, where people instantly gather to protest and then instantly disperse).

You may find these things silly, and they are. They're the tools of both people who care deeply about issues and people who are mostly concerned about protesting everything. But. This is how change happens - through humor, organization, and massive numbers of people all doing something slightly off the wall.

 

07 October
cranky bit about who is and isn't a feminist
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The WHB audience has been irritating me somewhat lately. No, scratch that. Actually, a couple of those people have me wanting to slap them silly.

I mean. I try to maintain a certain "yeah, I hear ya" vibe on the site that a couple of folks really aren't playing along with.

And yes, one of them is a guy - but this isn't a "man enters women's studies class and takes over with his stupidity" issue. The guy's ideas aren't stupid, they're just off-topic. And he isn't the only one whose personal agenda is overwhelming the ability to discuss actual - gasp - questions of feminism. Another of the contributors, something of a "goddess feminist", is very much pushing a "bah, men" agenda lately.

I'm worried that I've made a mistake by inviting the latter person to join our staff. But I've allowed her in partly because I hate goddess feminists, almost on principle, which strikes me as odd. And she is, in fact, a reasonable, thinking person.

Still. I don't believe that paganism and feminism are really on the same page. And a lot of pagans disagree.

So many pagans have this idealized notion of woman as peaceful and nurturing, and I think that's complete crap. A matriarchal society where women's ideas and "feminine" behavior were more valued would be no better than where we are today. Actually, I'd hazard a guess that a woman-dominated society would reverse some of the behaviors associated with masculinity and femininity (but anyone who watched the original Star Trek series might also conclude that - how many women-powered planets did they encounter where the women were the aggressors and men the nurturers?).

I believe certain types of feminists aren't really feminists at all, but I don't feel it's my position to decide who is and isn't allowed to claim the label (pockets of stupidity, pockets of stupidity). That doesn't, however, mean I have any obligation to like other sorts of feminists (not only for their contrary beliefs, but for their style), and the people on the WHB site who currently fit these categories aren't helping much with their behavior.

 

02 October
in-between
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I have a pretty wide range of friends with a pretty wide range of experience, but when I was talking to someone awhile ago about gay folk "coming out" as bisexual only to follow with truly coming out as themselves a bit later, I started thinking about why it's so difficult for many gay people to come to terms with the idea of bisexuality as a preference unto itself.

Because. It's as if every gay person has to "do" bisexuality for a couple of months. Seriously, no gay friend or acquaintance who has come out in the time I've known them has gone from "gee, of course I'm straight like everyone" to "hell, no, I won't be sleeping with that" in a snap. Every one of them has started with thinking they might be bisexual - that is, making the first [public] acknowledgement they're attracted to people of the same sex by broadening their self-identification with heterosexuality with a little of something else.

I'd be okay with this if part of the definition of sexual preference allowed for fluidity over time - if the gay folk in question would discuss their sexual history as being, or at least thinking they were, hetero- and then bisexual during those times. But a form of revisionism nearly always creeps into the process of coming into a gay sociopolitical identity, a process of which sexual preference and behavior are only parts. As a result, it seems de rigeur for someone who identifies gay to denounce all past sexual experiences as not really part of the new gay sociopolitical identity. To become someone who was always gay, never actually heterosexual or bisexual despite the very real experiences and behaviors involved.

This bothers me. Particularly because it seems to me to equate to cooptation and ultimately denunciation of bisexuality. It seems dishonest to declare and reject bisexuality in this way, this way that makes my mode of being seem like a step on someone else's path. And, yes, from my standpoint as someone to whom a variety of people have come out first as bisexual and later as gay, it's like you lied to me. For awhile we played on the same team, then you quit - and like a grade school best friend betrayal scene, you deny ever having been like me.

So, I have a certain personal peevishness to add to this topic, I admit.

But the identity issue is a big one here, a big source of tension in the queer community and probably one of many reasons I don't really hang in that community like I did once (the huge number of straight people I now associate with is no doubt also a factor). The temporary adoption of a bisexual identity would be alright, but the seemingly global way in which this happens - and worse, the tendency to dismiss periods of bisexual identification as experimental or transitional - seems to say that the truth of the gay relationship to bisexuality is in transition, fence-sitting, dismissal.

Of course, that is said outright by many gay people, and only an undercurrent for others. But it's almost more frustrating coming subtly - when you hear from the people who were once in the same place that they can't imagine where you're coming from.

A sociopolitically bisexual identity doesn't just jump out at you as a ready-made choice. There aren't (aside from promiscuity, which is true of some bi-identified folk) even semi-true stereotypes of bi-ness that you can wear ironically, like softball and uhauls, or show tunes and shoes. Bi-ness is still defined mostly as an in-between state, which can't help but frustrate those who find themselves perennially in-between.

 

01 October
poundy on jemima j
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I've read the back cover of Jemima J at the bookstore before and been hurled into spasms of blithering bilge.

I mean, I'm a fan of the chick lit, but this book is disempowering and stupid. It's also priced way higher than your average Cosmopolitan, which ought to give you the same level of depth and inspiration (in the form of pissing you off royally). I do not understand why anyone has ever recommended it to me.

The book is ass, ass I say.

No surprise, then, that I adore the thorough skewering that piece of disgusting buttock masquerading as entertainment gets at Poundy's Jemima J Sucks Week.

 

that's right, you are.
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Tomato Nation made me a birthday present (well, not knowing it was my birthday or anything, but still): Not a feminist? Yes you are.

Good reading.

 

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