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30 January
ew. ick. magazine. ick.
link : thoughts (5) : track it (0) : in fat & health stuff

A survey from some people thinking about starting a plus-size magazine.

This is so the next to last straw. And people wonder why feminists talk like all guys are nasty uneducated skeezydaddies sometimes. They're not, generally speaking, but sometimes...

See the second question:

2. Do you consider men's magazines such as Maxim, Razor, and King exploitive to women?
- Yes, the women in these mags are sluts!
- I do not have a strong opinion
- No, there is nothing wrong with a little sexuality

Not only did they misspell "exploitative" and use it with incorrect grammar (one thing is never exploitative TO another but exploitative OF something), but the question betrays an appalling lack of understanding of objectification. Or perhaps, too strong an identification with the ideas that objectification sometimes produces. That a woman whose image is exploited sexually (by herself or someone else) is inherently a slut. Generally, when we say something/one is being exploited, we're talking about that thing/person as a victim or tool.

Exploitation turns people into objects that you can then ascribe your own fantasy traits to. And I assume these guys are doing exactly that - they sort of vaguely [mis]heard some feminist criticism of men's magazines, and then translated it to stupidguy-speak. The funny thing is, I'm not actually wildly opposed to the idea, though I do think it reflects what most of the men's magazines they mention are actually about - namely half-naked chicks, but the approach to asking me what I think is so icky I just want to respond back "You're nasty! Nasty! Go away!"

But then. My theory is that the survey is actually a joke, and the magazine doesn't and will never exist, because a real magazine would have editors who could actually, you know, edit copy.

On the other hand, there are people like Paul to make fun of half-naked chick magazines like this (make sure you take a look at the pictures).

[Something funky seems to happen with the link when you click instead of cutting & pasting. It's http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=63404369275.]

 

29 January
activist in one sphere doesn't mean activist in another
link : thoughts (3) : track it (0) : in fat & health stuff

One of the lists I belong to is DTMWSIB, which is essentially a size acceptance group with a focus on fashion. There is, however, a fair amount of self-congratulatory supportive posting going on at any time (basically, the "you go, girl!" think). It's generally sweet and positive and friendly and I can't really fault it, even if it talks a lot about boys and modelling and beauty - part of size acceptance is being able to see yourself as beautiful, which often means conventional means of gaining appearance-based approval.

However. Today I read this in one of the posts:

Eventually a guy will come along and make you feel so unbelievably beautiful...and by then, hopefully you'll know yourself that you are.

I think my boyfriend can attest to the fact that it's virtually impossible for someone else's attraction to you to make you believe yourself attractive. But that is not the source of my annoyance. My annoyance is that, once again, the size acceptance folk are showing that fat isn't actually a feminist issue. That is, you are assumed to be content with your size if and when a man loves you for and/or despite it. Sure, you might get there before you feel the love of a good man, but he'll cement it for you.

Ew. Part of my issue is the tone, too. Eh.

Maybe what I inferred from that clip isn't what was intended. And hey, I know that this particular group is diverse enough to include some people who just Do Not Think The Way I Do - I've talk about that before, actually. But it still disppoints me that all the things I believe are so closely aligned aren't connected in others' minds, too.

 

28 January
whb: life and motherhood
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Alison, who will be a mom soon, is asking what motherhood means in the context of one's life. Her question and associated commentary

What are the expectations of a mother? What version is correct - is life beginning or is individuality ending? As a feminist, what do you feel should be the role of the mother in society - wearer of more than one hat, or mother first, person second?

Can you be anything first and a person second? I don't know.

Even a woman who assumes her life should be all about sacrifice after having a kid is still showing the influence of her own personality in making those sacrifices. It's an approach. It's like the Julia Stiles [who is now a Total Evil Twerp in my book after declaring that the movie wasn't "feminazi or anything" on The Daily Show] character from "Mona Lisa Smile"; one can choose to define oneself by any role, but there is still an essence of self in that role.

The role of a mother, as the role of a father, should be to choose to parent as best s/he sees fit. Some mothers will choose to be home with their kids, others will define themselves primarily as workers. If you see family and the next generation as The Purpose of your life, then your perspective on what else you're willing to change and/or drop is a lot different than someone like me - I think children might be something else I could invest in.

A (male) friend of mine sees family as his ultimate purpose. Work, everything else, will in his mind ultimately be all about being the best parent and provider he can be. I think he would be very much of the "life begins after childbirth" mind, despite not having kids and being in his early thirties (therefore presumably having lived quite a bit before his life begins). I should ask him these questions. I wonder how much he believes his other roles will be changed by parenting, and if he wonders whether to stay home or not.

I would guess not. And I think he should. The role of both parents (assuming there are two and not one or three or twelve) should be to assess what aspects of their pre-child lives they'll change to accomodate a child. If a woman's whole career is on the table, a man's should be, too.

But that's not the way The How Things Are works. We do think, as a culture, that a mother will be more bonded with, more supportive of, more contributing to a child than a father will be. Generally speaking. There are some exceptions to this culture, notably the differences between whitepeople and blackpeople parenting expectations - Lenee treats this better that I think I could, so you should read her stuff - but those exceptions still come down to mom and momfigures playing more of a role than dads.

That bothers me, because it seems to lead to things like women changing their whole lives around a new baby, while men don't change so much. What's worse, hetero couples often see their whole relationship changing to revolve around offspring - no doubt partly because of increased responsibility, but also because they think they've now grown out of themness and into familyness.

I don't believe people need to change their lives as much as they think they do to accomodate children. There are advantages to integrating a kid into your life as much as you can, but I think many parents, particularly SAHMs (some - not all of them!), make the mistake of integrating their lives into the kid instead of the other way around. Maybe part of that is the result of a general dissatisfaction or purposelessness around life or career, so a baby, being so compelling, becomes this thing you wrap your life around.

Living your life plus kid instead of life around kid isn't selfish (which is the common criticism of career moms) - actually, it seems like it's better for the kid to have a parent with a purpose and life outside the kid. That is, more or less, the way my parents dealt with me. I remember my mom taking me to her flexible job and to school, and my dad studying with me (they both did college stuff after they had me, as they're very young) and recognizing that as a cool aspect of this outside grownup world. I mean, think about it: what are your best memories of your family from childhood? I'd bet many of them involve your parents' grownup lives touching you in some way.

The benefits of raising a child in a way that allows him or her to be part of your adult life (be that a life at home or away from it), as far as I know personally and have read, are that you end up with a more independent kid who will eventually be a better grownup. So, ultimately, the "selfish" thing is also the most giving to a child.

 

come on, howard, smile a little
link : thoughts (0) : track it (0) : in generally political stuff

Is it me, or do most of the pundits' criticisms of Howard Dean as non-presidential and non-electable ultimately come to the point of: ew, he has emotions. Sometimes not just bland happy smiley ones.

Egads.

Dean was on The Daily Show the other night doing a brief, ridiculous interview with Jon Stewart. Howard rocked this interview. I don't know how pre-scripted it was (certainly the "internal monologue" voiceover portions were read from a script, as we saw in the show's closing credits - I think designed to prove that Dean has a sense of humor and wants to appeal to the kiddies AKA me). But it was good. It was funny, and Dean came across as a serious politician who was fully and happily aware that he was being a complete dork on national television.

It was pandering, without a doubt. Yet I suspect that Dean must actually be the sort of person who can have a bit of perspective on things, if he's either a) enjoying and relishing the whole Jon Stewart experience [Hey, I would!] or b) deliberately and calculatedly acting the freak to appeal to young people.

The screaming thing - well, I rather like that. It fills my little head with images of a president who can take off the poker face and be honest with us. It makes me trust him just a bit more. None of the candidates meets my political requirements, but Dean is starting to feel like someone I could vote for without massively compromising my ideas about representative democracy.

And that's something.

 

22 January
the political process & me
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I haven't talked much about my views on the Democratic candidates and the presidential election in general. It's not so much that I'm apathetic, but I'm torn. Roni asks on WHB: How are we preparing ourselves?

How, as a feminist, are you preparing yourself to decide who to vote for in the 2004 primary? If you're not a Democrat, you may have a senate race to watch out for as well, so feel free to address this question from a Presidential stand-point or the Senate or even the House of Representatives. Which issues are deal breakers? Which you can bend on? If a candidate says one thing, but you know they vote another way, which do you tend to believe? Where do you get your information?

Kerri's response had me going "right! me too!" and is rather exhaustive; good reading.

I was looking forward to voting for Carol Moseley Braun in our primary. Both she and Kucinich were really written off by the media, despite fervent support from their fans. Sure, they didn't get the Dean celebrity endorsements & didn't really engage either the machine of the usual donors or the new grassroots buzz, but various media helped to feed that.

Braun agrees with me on most things, and her femaleness and blackness are a plus. But she's out of the race now, and I can't vote in the primary, so I'm not really doing anything to prepare. If I passionately supported one of the other candidates, I'd write letters to New Hampshire voters.

[Sidebar: I'm annoyed that you have to apply for an absentee ballot so far in advance in my state. I didn't realize until last week that I'd be out of state on primary day (I never travel for work, but I am that week), and now I can't vote. I know the VA primary doesn't mean a lot, but it means something.]

What issues are the deal breakers?
Choice, healthcare, living wage & welfare reform, responsible foreign policy, social equality, civil liberties (namely, the Patriot Act must go).

What can I bend on?
Gun control, education, the death penalty, the military. I'm also willing to bend on anything but the items above in favor of electability. Two nights ago, my Bush-voting Navy dad told me he'd vote for Clark - that is, to me, a pretty compelling note in favor of Clark. He's a social liberal with a fiscally moderate agenda (not unlike Dean, who seems to differ from Clark mainly on Iraq), which means many of my biggest issues would be addressed in a Clark administration. Ultimately, I will give on many points in order to be de-Bushed.

Where do I get my info?
Everywhere. News junkie here. NPR. Project Vote Smart.

Talk vs. walk?
A candidate's recent voting history tells me what they really think. But I'm willing to grant someone the opportunity for a change of opinion. Kucinich's stand on abortion, for instance, has clearly changed. Their responsibility is to go with what the majority of Americans believe, so it is absolutely reasonable to change to suit public opinion - as long as that new opinion is backed up with future votes.

but wait! there's more »


 

roe v. wade anniversary
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Today's the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I'm pretty sure everyone reading this is already aware of that fact, but if you're not and you'd like to do some about it, check out some of the resources Kerri posted on the LJ progressive community:

NARAL
I'm Not Sorry
March for Choice
Bloggers for Choice
Feminist Majority
Planned Parenthood

 

20 January
civil rights fiction
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I've just finished Sena Jeter Naslund's Four Spirits, which seems oddly appropriate the day after MLK Day.

So, the jist of the novel is this: it's the stories of several different people woven around civil rights goings-on in Birmingham in the mid-sixties. It starts after the first efforts at school integration and ends (minus epilogue) before any real resolution or federal involvement. I don't typically read historical fiction that isn't essentially historical science fiction (i.e. the story is in the past, but something wildly different happens), but I read everything Naslund publishes. She's that good.

Reading historical fiction centered around a time and place you know a little, not much, about is unusual. Everything seems factual. I wonder if it's different to read about a time you lived through in a fictionalized way, too; I want to pass this book on to older southern friends and know what it means to them.

One of the characters in the book is the battered wife of a Klan bomb-setter; their whole story terrifies me in an odd, back-burner of your mind sort of way. I kept wanting to push that part of the book away from me. And it's a side note of a story, too. It was no more graphic than, say, a Steven King novel (which, if you don't read them, are generally not graphic and more about tension than violence) - but it was so upsetting. Like the rest of the book, it felt like someone's true story, but that wasn't even the thing that made it so disconcerting. It just. Was.

But I meant to talk about this book, and how it worked more through poetry than a history lesson might have. You think, you learn in school, that the big heroes of the civil rights era died for a cause, but you don't think about the people who weren't leaders. Teachers and shoe-shiners and waitresses who were also activists.

And it's sad how much we still haven't achieved.

 

19 January
all people are sexy, just not like you think
link : thoughts (4) : track it (0) : in feministy stuff

I was sent a link this weekend from a mysterious lurker who essentially challenged me to explain the automatic annoyance he felt upon reading this essay/book/whatever.

And lo, I felt the same annoyance. Or rather, I felt some annoyance, same or not. The reasons?

One. The author is not up to the historical task he takes on. He views, as is entirely typical of those who write unresearched treatises, history through the lens of his already decided conclusion: women have a historical need to hide sexuality, and have for thousands of years. Well, not so true. Women were thought the uncontrolled, sexy gender for many hundreds of years of recorded Western history. Before that, what? We don't know. But he misses what is very clear from solid readings on women's sexuality, gender, marriage and power through history: the notion of woman as asexual and passive is Victorian, and as Kerri pointed out, only the "correct" social norm, not necessarily the prevailing attitude. This is the most glaring inconsistency when one compares his "book" with other readings on the same subject, and I think it's symptomatic of a misreading of history on his part.

Two. He fixates on the female as other, like yet another theory of biological determinism. He may believe differently than other determinists, but he's clearly approaching things from a Mars v. Venus perspective. As a result, he generalizes his experience to all men and women and consequently does a disservice to both women and men. I consider that a very thin premise upon which to build a book, but it has worked for a lot of people. His commenters certainly seem willing to go along with the idea of men and women as wildly different; though they disagree on exactly how and by what means, no one seems to question the validity of the difference. But how can you write a book that purports to but a historical context around sexual interaction and not question that?

Three. There are a number of supposedly "feminist" aspects of his opinions that I'm supposed to accept just because he calls them feminist. Well, I don't. He reads, for example, the icon of "Victoria's Secret women" as sexually liberated, while most feminist readings see those touched-up, passive figures as an example of fixation on the female as eagerly receptive and unrealistically squooshed into male fantasy form, not liberated and not active in her sexuality. He borrows feminist words, but I don't think he gets it.

This applies to men, too. He assumes certain "typical male" expectations and desires from his presumably male audience; honestly, some of the things he attributes to his audience are insulting to them. And I fear that his advice will come from this same place - not asking men and women to both consider where they get short shrift in the How Things Are, but assuming that women bear the burden, while also assuming that the inside of a woman is in line with some sort of universal male fantasy.

Fourth. It's a style thing. The didactic "advice-book" style he takes is irritating when the content it wraps around is social/cultural history. It might be fine for the advice part of his book, but it makes me want to smack him down when he uses it to discuss (sometimes erroneously) history.

Furthermore, his entire essay is based upon the idea of a male-defined notion of feminine "sexiness", which he embraces as fact, not as cultural norm. It would be more interesting to see him question this norm, or at least attempt to explain its origin, but he never goes there.

I remember my own introduction to this dichotomy. I was working with employees of a health care institution who spent most of the day dressed in sexless hospital clothes resembling pajamas. Then one year I attended their Christmas party. The same women appeared in little black dresses cut mid thigh and held up with spagetti straps. Gold bangles clanked on smooth, well-tanned arms and breasts strained against push-up bras and underwired camisoles... a glimpse of the hidden world women usually keep under lock and key, even from themselves.

The little black dress, the heels and jewelry are all part of a cultural norm. But a person may feel sexy in a tee and jeans, in "sexless" baggy clothes, in a wide range of stylistic choices. Quite a number of women feel awkward in those little black dresses, just as many men feel awkward in tuxedos. I think he mistakes one style of "provocative" dress or behavior for the definition of sexy, and he's shortsighted in this.

[Edited to add - Oh, now I see. I suspect Chapter 11 of the book explains it all. If the same thing happens to you repeatedly, you might assume a commonality between the other parties involved (other than the obvious - yourself). You might concoct somewhat elaborate theories about it. Just as I mentioned in the comments about sociobiologists, what you saw in the world might be influenced by what you already believed.]

 

18 January
virginia & lee-jackson-king day
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This is only the fourth year the state has celebrated Martin Luther King Day. For a couple of years before and several years after the institution of the federal holiday, Virginians combined it with Lee-Jackson Day, celebrating Confederate generals. Now, there's the Confederate holiday (not observed with a day off) the Friday before or after, and there are fewer people in gray [unless it's blue, I can never remember; they look sortof slate blue] uniforms semi-reenacting around the monuments.

Virginia's wacky history with Lee-Jackson-King day is less about racism (as might be implied by combining it with the longer standing holiday for the Confederates) than it is about defending causes. Most people assume, for instance, that Virginia was all Arizona-like about the MLK holiday and crammed the other celebration in with it to be less cooperative and more statesrightsey. But the Confederate thing started shortly after the Civil War, and Virginia waffled about how to celebrate King for years before the federal holiday was implemented. First, it was New Year's Day, then it was moved later in the month. The coincidence of Lee-Jackson Day and MLK Day didn't strike the state legislature as particularly ironic in the late 70s/early 80s when it was first implemented.

To people who haven't spent serious time in southern states, it's probably odd to imagine that a civil rights leader and Civil War generals could be celebrated simultaneously. For many white, traditional southerners, Lee and Jackson represent a kind of historical glory and willingness to take a stand. King represents the same thing - to blacks and most whites, despite all the racial conflict around segregation earlier in the century. All of them are southern heroes after a fashion.

Of course, ultimately, most Virginians came to see that the history of the Confederacy is to dodgy, too grey to be celebrated along with civil rights (though there were plenty of racially-fuelled debates along the way). But a lot of southerners still do the whole Lee-Jackson thing. Some of them are, honestly, creepy fucking racists. But some of them see the generals as icons of independence, history and a time when Virginia was an industrial and cultural center it hasn't been since.

 

16 January
michael moore's celebrity candidate endorsement
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Michael Moore will vote for Wesley Clark, which should be no surprise if you've read the last chapter of his book (which keeps coming back to the essential fabulousness of Clark).

You should read the endorsement, whatever you think about Clark or Moore, because as is so often the case these days, Mike's saying some of the most reasonable and balanced things you'll hear out there in the ether. It's well-written and he's right about how things are, if not about Clark.

More than any other media figure could, Mike's endorsement makes me think seriously about the campaign he supports and the reasons Clark has earned his support. If Mike thinks Clark is a reasonable, balanced person who can bring the country back to the gently left of center position it seems to like best, then Clark might just be that guy.

I wished I'd realized in advance that I'd be travelling the week of the VA primary. I don't know if I'd have voted for Clark, but this is the first thing that's gotten me really excited about it (you know, other than the general opportunity to vote W off the proverbial island.

 

15 January
big girl's guide to life
link : thoughts (3) : track it (0) : in fat & health stuff

Maybe I've devolved into some sort of humorless drone, but I have to say I'm not as keen on this Big Girl's Guide to Life book as I might have guessed I'd be. The DTMWSIMB list sent out an article/interview with the author today. And, um, ew.

I think it absolutely rocks when people take independent routes to get something done, so I applaud the woman for getting her book published. But the things it laughs about are so sad. On one hand, it's funny and a smidge empowering, but on the other hand, it's not making things any better.

It's like the dumb-ass anti-feminists joke thing - laughing it off is sometimes okay, but it's ultimately complicit in the suckiness of The How Things Are.

Par example, selections from the "Ultimate Big Girl List of Fashion No-Nos", which snarkily but quite clearly reminds us that big folk need to be covered up:


  1. Anything featuring horizontal stripes. Double Wides R Us. Not.

  2. Red sequined hot pants with black fishnet hose. Steer clear of this wardrobe selection, please. Keywords to avoid are ‘hot’ and ‘fishnet.’

  3. Belly shirts. Big Girl bare navels are not the wildly exciting stimulus you believe them to be, ok?

Funny, okay. And there's some really absurd, hilarious diet advice. But we're so used to hearing this kind of shit as insults. Is voluntarily reading and writing jokes about your sub-class role in society useful? It is subversive, in a way - if you do something with that subversion.

Maybe my frustration is just, as the author says, that she "doesn't promote fat power"; she's all about finding ways to survive The How Things Are by laughing them off, not by changing things. What little I've seen of the book doesn't promote power or anger at all, but it seems to deal exclusively in things we ought to be really, really angry about. And, well, that's weird.

Then again, maybe there's more to it. I'll have to check it out at a bookstore some time soon.

 

14 January
when feminists attack II
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This is in a way a reply to Karl's post on the "angry grrrl club" by way of my own blog. I can't comment on his blog, and anyway, I suspect I have more than a comment box in me today, and things to say that aren't just about Karl's post or even just about the others who commented on the source of his frustration, this week's question about men turning misogynist in the presence of feminists.

It's interesting to me how much responses to the question brought up this undercurrent of "men don't like us". Part of it was, I think, simply semantics. When you respond to a question about how some men act, you end up using words like "men" to refer to the subset of men you were asked about, not all of them - but it sure sounds like all of them to a listener.

If I were an outside observer on the site for this one question, I might think that feminists believed men to be to a one ready and willing to attack others to prove, preserve, protect and uphold their sacred masculinity. Because a lot of the responses came from the assumption that men (or at least many of them) believe that feminism is an attack on men, an attempt to steal their marbles. When we assume people are threatened by our views or just us in general, though, I think we create that threat for ourselves. If the first time someone made a stupid, sexist remark that bothered you, you then decided they were a schmuck, they'd continue to act like a schmuck out of hurt that you thought they were one to begin with. So, when feminist women deal with not feminist men, we may well approach each other with a certain quantity of preconceptions that make us act like asses, especially if we're family or friends.

In other words, I see where Karl was coming from in taking people to task for busting on the men/boys in their lives while simultaneously wondering why we face hostility from these guys. Maybe we face hostility because, when we wonder where they're coming from, we're already belittling them in our heads. Of course, if they started out belittling us, it's hard not to respond defensively, but defensiveness breeds. Mitosis.

Maybe some men really do hate feminists. Maybe some women do, too (and many of those women also call themselves "feminists", but that's a whole other story). And maybe some people who express chauvinism and anti-feminism at times are acting stupid because they're confused or embarassed and don't want to admit it, or just because they know it will piss me off.

What I'm trying to get at is that sometimes we all argue really stupidly, and it would be real swell if we'd stop.

 

12 January
suffering fools
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This week's WHB question is a long one. You should read the whole thing, cause I'm only going to snip from it.

Why do some men in feminists’ lives (both female and male feminists) find it necessary to be overtly chauvinistic around said feminists? I am talking about men who aren't usually misogynistic, or not even usually chauvinistic, and how they become super women hating evil monsters when in the presence of a known feminist.

I think some of the other commenters have pointed out that this also happens with women. That is, women can become, in the presence of feminism, pretty piggish themselves. I'd like to talk about women and men together here, because I believe the negative response to feminism may be coming from the same place for both genders.

And what exactly is that place? It's complicated, but I think it boils down to the fact that we're schooled in adherence to norms, which depends on the norms not being questioned. This has two sides: first, there's a need to identify with normative behaviors (gender being among them), and second, there's the desire to comply - that is, not to rock the proverbial boat. Everything non-feminists hear and say about feminism is colored by the fact of activism or non-compliance.

Think of it this way: how do ten year olds treat non-conformists among them? Badly, right? This mentality doesn't fade with adulthood - for many people, it's actually amplified. People who attempt change are obviously failing to conform, and that means they're not like us and probably dangerous. Thus the success of commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken, who make a living not through espousing new ideas, but through critiquing others' different ideas. Rush is a particularly relevant example because he's so closely associated with things like the "feminazi" concept - a notion that feminists want to police your thoughts and control you [Well, personally, I do, but that's another thing...]. A lot of people believe the bad press of feminism without question, because they believe a lot of what they hear without question. Honey, if you act like that, you are already being controlled. You're just being controlled by groupthink, not by political correctness.

There are practical reasons to believe stupid things about feminism, too. There are only so many hours in the day, and a person can only care about and research but so many things. I think most people respond well to information, but not to righteous anger. Righteous anger is not only non-compliant; informed passion makes other people feel like they need to act more informed and more passionate themselves. Thus, defensiveness. Thus, stupid jokes. Thus, your [my] desire to pop their tiny heads off their bodies.

And. That's probably more true the better someone knows you.

There's another, related, component to anti-feminist responses: the gender stereotype. Some people really like them. They're familiar, they make people more predictable (at least in theory). A woman who knows you're a feminist may assume that you believe in the natural superiority of women or that you don't value "feminine" characteristics (lipstick, shaved legs). And so, companionable jokes about male ineptitude, the declaration of "not a feminist", things that establish her as part of normal - that is, someone who behaves correctly according to stereotypical gender roles. Men do the same thing, but in reverse. The intention in both cases is to establish comfortable normality, and you the feminist pose a challenge to that comfort.

So, assuming these theories are accurate, how does a feminist deal with sudden attacks of misogyny/misandry from otherwise fabulous people?

One thing is to always try to work the information angle, instead of responding with righteous fire. Try not to scare them. Counter the stupid shit they've heard from other people. Point out that they're being defensive and joke back at them. It works sometimes, sometimes changes minds.

But there comes a point when you want to hold people accountable for themselves, and carefully working around their defenses is just a big pain in the ass. Particularly with people you know well (for them, it's much too easy to separate their respect from you from their complete lack of same for other feminists) and see a lot of, the whole feminism-is-a-big-fucking-joke thing wears down patience pretty quickly. And it's okay to spew fire at people who deserve it. It might not work, if your goal is to change their views, but it might. It might shame them into some righteous anger of their own.

The one thing that never, ever, works is silence. It achieves nothing. It perpetuates their ignorance, reduces and demoralizes you, and isn't even clinically proven to reduce mean-ass teasing by semi-anti-feminists. Silence is for shit. So, my advice to feminists who suffer counter-misogyny and mistaken misandry is not to suffer it. Be firm, be gentle, be funny or serious - just say something.

Don't ever suffer fools, even the ones you love.

 

join them and beat them
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This year I've decided to do something about the new year exercise and diet craze that everyone else seems to do around me every year.

I'm going to join in!

It's not what you're thinking. I'm going to join in, but in a subvert-from-within way. I'm a big fan of subversion from within.

I mentioned on the LJ that I've joined up with this office fitness competition. The jist of the competition is that you get points for the minutes you spend exercising each week. The team with the most points wins, and gets taken out for cheeseburgers (which I actually don't eat at lunch anymore - trying to avoid the dairy and red meat; they make too much phlegm).

See, I exercise quite a bit, or at least I do now. I've been following my semi-rigorous plan for a couple of months, so I'm not really changing anything by getting involved in this competition. Unlike some of the other people, I am not going on a fad diet (South Beach, this year) and I don't need to worry about cheating or failing because the exercise isn't a temporary thing for me.

While others are using the whole competition thing to motivate them to exercise where they don't already (which is great - or it would be, if they weren't so focused on short-term weight loss), I'm thinking more politically. I want them to know just how much I am fit and fat. That the two are not opposites, but quite often coexist happily.

This would be, despite the politics, a rather shallow goal. Except. Because I'm part of the "fitness challenge" thing, I end up taking part in a lot of fitness-oriented discussions, which give me more opportunities to talk about fat and health and to encourage others to like themselves just a bit more. And that's good for me.

Plus, I want to win.

 

09 January
the strangest thing
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I was at a friend's birthday party doing what can only be described as shucking lobsters a couple of days ago. [And I don't know about you, but something about ripping the tail off of something just makes me not want to eat it - which is strange, since I really liked ripping the tails off.] I was at this friend's party, and I got into this discussion about the theatre we do with this guy. It was the strangest thing, this conversation.

The guy keeps asking us questions, one of which is "Which is more important, the script or the picture of the character that the artist drew?" or something like that. I'm wondering who is the artist? What the fuck? And I think he must be thinking that we have a picture of what actors should look like in our heads. Or maybe we make art from, you know, other art. Plays from Magritte or something.

But it comes to light that he's heard something about extras casting (I think) at some point, because he's talking about someone having a list of things they want, like height and mustaches and haircolor and other things I think they use to cast extras. So I try to explain to him that what we do is plays, and my partner even gets really simplistic and tries to tell him that it's like a movie, but the people are right there.

And then he asks where our building is (we don't have one) and is dumbfounded that we don't have a building. It's like he's switched from not having the vaguest idea of what theatre is to being convinced that we must be some sort of huge regional theatre. He just won't get that we don't have a building.

But this. This is the absolute strangest. He's asking how we get people to do stuff and do we have something written up and then he wants to know, if we don't have the list of physical traits or the script doesn't has one, then how do we cast people and we say we ask them to move around and speak and see how creative they are and whether they seem like they could learn and work well with us and he. Completely. Freaks. Out. About how it's like we're judging, we're being like God or something, and that isn't right. Because, apparently, casting extras is okay, but holding an experimental theatre audition is an affront to nature.

I have never in my life had such a hard time explaining to someone what theatre was. I mean, I'm still not sure he got the thing about movies but real people right there with the audience. I'm not at all sure. He looked either blank or really angry the whole time. I don't know if he's drug-addled, or a bit nuts, or just functions in a really, really different way.

Strangest thing.

It made me think. How many preconceptions people have about what things are and aren't, and how much these things get in way of seeing anything. Most of us don't actually take it to his extreme of seriously-are-you-all-there-or-what, but we all do it.

 

07 January
i started a livejournal
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I've held out for ages, but I finally caved and decided to create a livejournal. I kept finding things I wanted to comment on and being frustrated by the community's forced commenting anonymity if you're not a member. Plus it makes it easy to read other people's LJ's.

I have no idea what purpose this new site will serve. Perhaps as a cross-posting location for good blog writings. Perhaps as wholly original snippets of content.

If you have an LJ that I ought to be reading, let me know.

 

06 January
gender and reality television
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This week on WHB, Brigitte is talking about reality television.

Are these shows exploitative? All of them, or just some? Are the female cast members exploited more than the male, or is there some gender equality on these shows?

Brigitte references a season of The Real World, which is a show I haven't watched in years. My impression is that it became much more a show about trying to get people drunk enough to have sex or make asses of themselves than what it started out as (basically, a show with a handful of somewhat manufactured normal roommate issues among some pretty freaky people). So, I'm not surprised if the show turns into a multi-week drinking party. But I also don't know enough about The Real World - or even other shows like it - to effectively analyze it.

I have watched a handful of episodes from some other "reality" television: a couple of those godawful dating shows where people live in houses together, and just about anything on TLC or the Style network that involves redecorating or party planning. I'm particularly fond of Clean House (you through things out, have a yard sale & get cash to redecorate in exchange) and You're Invited (really cute girl comes to help you plan a surprise party). And makeover shows in general - Fashion Emergency, Movie & a Makeover, blah blah blah. I might be an expert on those.

What surprises me about the makeover shows is that they are not as gender-divided as one might expect. Most of them maintain about a 2:1 ratio of women:men subjects, and some are almost 50/50. And, not surprisingly, no one seems to feature genderqueers in makeover shows - though I think it'd be fun. In fact, the men and women in the Extreme Makeovers show (which is the truly bad, depressing one where people think they need plastic surgery in order to live normally) differ primarily in which features they believe make them unworthy of happiness without plastic surgery (the men seem to fear age, the women fat).

Not that the makeover shows aren't gendered. There's a sharp division between the way women are taught to "dress for your shape" (read: hide that which is imperfect and accent that which is closer to ideal) while men are taught simply to dress stylishly and in ways that suit their personality. If you watch enough of this, the message is clear: everyone needs to change to look better, but a man's asset is his personality, and a woman's is only her imperfect body.

The dating shows are worse, more painful to watch, but sometimes less gender-biased when you compare the content show-for-show. The Batchelor (muscley guy picks airbrushed girl) is no more exploitative than Average Joe (airbrushed girl picks normal looking guy), for instance. Both the suitor and the sought have their emotions manipulated throughout the shows, and everyone comes out looking desperate and pathetic.

All of these shows play on major gender stereotypes. You have your catty and competitive women going after slimy-ass men because they think the guys have money. Doe-eyed regular guys jockeying for position whilst mooning after empty-headed hot chicks. Average Joe was interesting, because it sometimes slipped something moving past those stereotypes, only to continue reinforcing them. And Boy Meets Boy was exceptional - it was characterized by very little cattiness or oneupmanship, and all the cute boys seemed to get along well. It was a whitewashed view of gay life, but it was also endearing that the conflict of the show was really about the manufactured situation, and not the inherent bitchiness of people the belief in which the other dating shows constantly reinforce for our television viewers. Boy Meets Boy is the one dating show I've watched more than two episodes of.

The most gender-neutral shows are the household ones. Their designers, builders & redecoratees aren't cut from one single mode (Trading Spaces, the most watched of these shows, for instance, has male and female designers, presumably both gay and straight, and carpenters of both genders). It seems you're as likely to catch women as men doing fine with hammers and power tools in these shows, and they rarely play on stereotypes of how inept men are at designing things. The exception to that is, not too surprisingly, Queer Eye, where the untidyness and decorating disasters of shared homes are invariably attributed to the man. The boys always mock the poor guy severely for his house, yet praise and dote on his wife/partner - but then, that's a key part of the show, playing up the "incompetent but well-meaning straight guy" stereotype.

I suspect that the most exploitative and annoying reality television shows are the ones where a bunch of skeezy lunatics inhabit a house together. But I don't watch those.

 

05 January
the western feminist icon quiz
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I like the language of this quiz. It's like it started out reductive, as most of these quizzes are, and then the author started thinking better of things. It feels edited in an interesting way.

Oh, and I'm either bell hooks or Gloria Steinem, depending on which not-really-me answer I give on the sexuality question. Which kind of makes sense - I don't think Steinem's a sell-out and I'm a big fan of taking feminism to the street. What's a movement without legs?

 

"fattest" cities? as if.
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I figured a listing of "fit or fat" cities published by a "fitness" (read: weightloss) magazine like Men's Health would be based on some wildly false assumptions. You know, like "fat is the opposite of fit".

What I didn't figure is that the list would be based on such odd criteria. I guess I just assumed that there would be some measure of actual fatness and/or fitness taken. But no!

I haven't been able to find the full list of criteria used to assess each city online, but Paul pointed out some key flaws. It seems like a lot of inferences are made about how "fit" or "fat" a city's people are based on factors that only have the possibility to influence them one way or the other - air quality, climate, number of fast food restaurants, parks or gyms, commute time.

I don't doubt that easy access to the tools of a healthy lifestyle could encourage people to be healthier, but any rational person should question a study that relies on vaguely related factors to measure its object.

The sad thing is that this study could be useful - it could encourage cities to provide more resources like parks, playgrounds, free and cheap access to fitness and nutritional resources. Instead, by promoting fat as the opposite of fit (instead of, say, unfuckingfit as the opposite of fit) you get things like the mayor of Houston hiring a former body builder and shiller of nutritionally suspect supplements to promote a city-wide diet campaign. At least that's what we hear about - maybe Houston did actually improve the resources available - but that won't sell diet magazines and fuel the anti-obesity fears of Americans.

 

02 January
new year's resolutions
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I wonder if Vic had any idea of the stream of invectives I'd like to unleash upon the topic of Resolutions.

Probably not.

So I'll keep it short. Suffice to say that, as some of the other respondents have already said, I'm not a resolutions person.

One. I think that intentional change is fine, that making lists is fine, but if you really wanted to do something - if the change really mattered - you'd be working on it already. Why limit change to one time of the year? Just do it now.

Two. New Year's resolutions (NYRs) seem like a cultural obligation, an assumption that you can't be right just as you are. All mainstream people are expected to have them, so much so that you see diet and gym commercials skyrocket in frequency during the month of January every year. How many people vow to lose the same 10 pounds (or the same 10 plus 5 each year) every year? And how many fail, or succeed only to gain more? No mistaking it - the traditional "lose weight" NYR is a product of the diet industry, which makes money off your failure. Also, NYRs tend to include the implicit assumption (again thanks to the diet industry) that thin is healthier, which is complete bollocks.

Three. People fail at their NYRs. We tend to assume fast, unimpeded progress towards whatever goals we set. And shockingly, everything takes work. When we don't get results before February 1 (or sometimes, January 2), we give up. It feeds this notion that you should be able to make instant change, when change is never instant.

But on to Vic's question. She asks what we're going to do to change the world and ourselves this year. And that I can answer. I haven't resolved to do these things; they're continuances of things I've already started.

For the world: First, the obvious. I'm going to the March in April. I'm going to continue doing everything I can financially and politically to protect abortion rights and oust Bush from office. I'm going to maintain my online network of politically savvy friends and work to get my less political offline friends more involved. I'll keep supporting my current political causes and charities, and I hope expand somewhat given that I have more money to donate.

And the little things. I'm finding a politically savvy calendar to put up in my cube at work where everyone can see it. I'm going to put my superwhite fat ass in a bathing suit and have a wildly good time in Hawaii when we go, which I hope will give some other fat person the courage to take off their shorts and t-shirt. I'll go to church with my parents sometimes, even though I'm an atheist, because it matters that they chose an open-minded church and it's good for open-minded churches to have their numbers increased, if only by one. And the usual others - the way I talk to other people, the ways we create community.

For myself: I'm learning more dance, including taking proper classes and applying Gypsy, Tahitian & Hula to what I'm already working on. I'm eating next to nothing produced by chickens and very little produced by cows - not for moral reasons, but because I'd like to holistically approach my allergies (er, speaking of which, the occasional smoking is perhaps not so good an idea, but we'll get to that later). I'm eating much less crap in general. I'm exercising every day, never at a gym and always in a way I find fun and that builds some skill other than calorie counting. I'm working towards my project management certification, which I'll need if we ever decide to move. I'm playing with toys and getting outside more. I'm angry with myself that I still think about weight loss, but I've found an even more effective motivator for maintaining this lifestyle - I don't ever want to be a collapsey old person. And I'm taking up photography and scrapbooking, just for fun.

 

happy new year
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Happy New Year (Gregorian), kids.

We passed a sign outside a bar in Fell's Point (a semi-funky/semi-touristy shopping district in Baltimore, good record shop) that said that. Happy New Year (Gregorian). I like the specificity.

I spent a surprising quantity of my year-end vacation time in Maryland. First, visiting my parents, who live in the rural/coastal area. One of my grandmothers was there. That was strange, and made me think - not entirely in a good way. My parents were at their funniest, and my mother has started me on scrapbooking with a gift of more pretty and odd-shaped paper than I can imagine ever using. She's concerned I'll lose my creativity through lack of exercise.

Then I came home for a bit and watched many hours of Dark Angel on DVD. We've apparently started acquiring early-cancelled sci-fi shows, as we also picked up Firefly before the holiday. Hrr. Yes, I'm a geek.

And then we went to Baltimore for a chill new year celebration that included these rather confusing fireworks that seemed to happen in three places simultaneously. And I discovered Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton, whose drawings made me smile so much I wanted to cry. I bought a souvenir poster, which I almost never do, featuring one of them. The buttons say things like "FAT PRIDE" and "How dare you presume I'd rather be young" and "Gays are people too".

So, in all, a good holiday.

 

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