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29 April
celebrity activism
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I'm glad to see that very little of the post-March coverage on blogs has anything to do with the celebrities who were there. But the media coverage keeps coming back to pictures of famous folk. I was thinking on this in the shower this morning, some of the same ideas pop up on Ms. Musings shortly after.

Ms. Musings linked to a Salon.com article that actually went a step further, trying to pinpoint the leader of our next generation of feminists to one of the celebrities who was or wasn't there. While I doubt anyone actually believes that Kirsten Dunst (par example) is going to rise up and lead anyone, this seems to me to highlight a problem with celebrity activism: it furthers the idea that famous people are more able to get things done than anyone else. And yet, outside of feminists, is Betty Friedan or Emma Goldman or - yes, Gloria Steinem - famous? Is Ellie Smeal? Is Gloria Feldts? Is Kate Michelman (who so completely and totally rocked it on Saturday night, can't say that enough)?

Well, no. But they're the ones who get it done. The lobbyists and the congressfolk and the people who vote for them or send them money or whatever get it done. Celebrities are just eye candy.

That's not to say a celebrity endorsement isn't useful to a cause, particularly an unknown one (i.e. freeing Tibet). Or that a little free press on an awards show ever hurt anyone. But...

Do celebrities motivate other people to come out for political events? Does anyone think, well, Whoopi Goldberg loves reproductive freedom, so I guess I do, too? Yeah, I don't think so, either. I don't have any research to prove it, but I'm guessing that celebrities promoting a particular message serves less to pass on the celebrity's sparkle to the message and more to pass on the message's sparkle to the celebrity.

That is, I think Susan Sarandon Whoopi Goldberg Cybill Shepherd Margaret Cho Camryn Manheim Ani DiFranco Janeane Garofalo Pink Indigo Girls Maggie Gyllenhaal Thora Birch Ed Harris Salma Hayek Julia Stiles Glenn Close Alan Cumming Tyne Daly Ossie Davis Ted Turner Illeana Douglas Kirsten Dunst Sarah McLachlan Moby (a selection of celebs of various generations from the list of celebs I got via email a while ago) seem cooler to us for having shown up or otherwise supported the March fo Choice, but not one of those people has the power to make me show up. Their involvement with the March more emphasized that they were cool, if I thought that before, and made me reconsider my belief that they sucked in a couple of cases (well, Julia Stiles' "feminazi" comment on Jon Stewart's show some time ago pretty much convinced me she was a twat, but maybe she's not and anyhow I'm not sure I care).

And there could be a danger that the celebrity coverage of any given issue might lead you, the fan, to believe the issue's being covered, it's under control. It's just my sneaking suspicions talking here, but I don't want people to forget that there's an urgency for each individual to take part. Not because your one vote matters that much, but because a coalition of 1.15 million voters could do a lot to change the balance of things.

The full force of any movement shouldn't be measured in which cool kids come to the party, but in the size of the party itself, and its momentum. If a celebrity can make that more visible, great. But we should never (as the folk over at Ms. pointed out) confuse popularity with leadership. That's for grade school.


28 April
paul campos rocks, and so do you
link : thoughts (0) : track it (3) : in fat & health stuff

As a token of thanks to the five (yes, count them, FIVE, y'all know me so well) people who have independently sent me a link to the Guardian's publication of parts of Paul Campos's new book, I bring you...

Pattie Thomas's excellent interview with Paul as published on Big Fat Blog this week. Better even than the excerpts I've seen of his book so far (which I will absolutely be buying ASAP), the interview does a really nice job of placing the fat panic in its appropriate political context. And of beginning to lay out some solutions to the political problem of fat hate.

Purely as a blogger, I often hate when Campos has something new to say. I always end up just chiming in with something like "Rock on, Paul Campos!" and "Way to go Mr. Smarty Smart!" - not exactly scintillating stuff.

To the five people who sent me this article, I apologize for not thanking you individually and recommend you buy his book. Paul's book, by the way, is The Obesity Myth. And, if your bookstores are anything like mine (giant chains and locally owned used book shops), you may not be able to find it there. I suggest demanding to see the store manager, personally. ;)


27 April
i can't read anymore.
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Puzzled by the mix of attack-dog tactics (people with - I hope - fake fetuses in jars shoving them towards us, people calling us "wicked" and congratulating murderers of abortion doctors) and stoic silence (the "I'm sorry" crew, the "women deserve better" crew), I tried reading some of the accounts from pro-lifers who were at the March.

I can't.

I occasionally read the posts on After Abortion. I think we, as the pro-choice majority, need to recognize that individual women's stories aren't all about not being sorry. Some women are sorry, either when they do it or after. We alienate them when we act as if abortion is a simple issue for everyone. Most of those women don't, typically, argue that abortion and other reproductive choice resources shouldn't be legal, safe and available on demand. They just want to have their pain recognized. When we don't do that, they just feel anti-us. That makes them anti-choice, polarizes them when they didn't need to be polarized.

Is a man made to feel guilty for his vasectomy? Is he pushed to celebrate it? If he feels sad, is the only place he can turn to a pro-life community that calls him a reformed baby-killer? FUCK FUCKING NO. And yet hasn't he removed potential children from the world? This is an issue for all women, that we need to be able to recognize abortion as both a safe, legal outpatient surgery and a complex issue.

As supporters of choice, supporters of the rights of all women, I feel we need to stand by these women who regret abortions, need to respect that this is their feeling. Not because abortions are bad or wrong or need to be outlawed, but because their individual experience was bad. And if the pro-choice community can't see that, we drive more people to the pro-life camp. A camp whose followers bullhorned at me, called me names, called me a whore and shouted biblical verses at me (I guess they thought I was also a subscriber to their bible, which was perhaps a mistake). That camp shouldn't be the only welcoming audience for a woman who regrets or hesitates choosing to abort.

I personally don't give a rat's ass what choice any individual woman may make where abortion and birth control are concerned. I just want all these choices to be available. And I don't understand how someone, particularly a woman, could see otherwise (for instance, believing both sex education and abortion are wrong - how the heck does that work?).

So I read the March-related posts on After Abortion and on Diotima and the LJ abortion debate community.

Or, I started to read them.

And then I saw this pattern of generally moderate pro-life folk making comments about how we aren't really feminists, how all pro-choice folk at the March were mean (dude, did they actually encounter all of the million of us? I'm imfuckingpressed). It left me shaking with rage.

And I wonder if we can really have a civilized debate about this.

For now, I think, I'm just not reading any more of the pro-life side of the March coverage. I'll wait until they've cooled down a bit. I'll wait until the memories of some of the things that came out of those anti-us bullhorns are a bit softer.

But, like the women who regret their abortions, I feel polarized by this debate. I feel like I can't even speak or listen to someone who is strongly pro-life anymore.

And I'm thankful that we're the majority. Because if it has to be a contest instead of a compromise, I'd like to win.

To make us all feel better, here's one link about finding common ground between "choice" and "life": Naomi Wolf and Frederica Mathewes-Green in Sojourner, via a pro-life source


26 April
march photos!
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Are here. I'm such a dork, I actually designed a little photolog to organize them into a story. ;)

I wish I'd had a camera Saturday night at 9:30 Club. Did anyone else get pictures of that crowd? It was BEAUTIFUL.


post-coverage from the march
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I had intended to post Saturday night, but it just got so chaotic over here. And then I had intended to post last night, but I fell asleep.

I took like 70 photos, all pretty mediocre, but I'm in the process of creating a March photo log [edited to add pictures and Sunday's story/photolog] from the ones that came out okay. Sadly, the best picture I took, a photo of tirani flipping off a sign exhorting us "wicked jezebels" to "repent or go to hell" was interrupted by some NARAL signs - the end result looks like she's really really angry at the Washington Monument. Oops. I'll post it anyhow.

It was amazing to get a glimpse of a mosh pit composed almost entirely of teen women on Saturday night. I mean, ASS KICKING. Also, some seriously hot women in that crowd. That we managed to get there after what turned out to be a four-hour road trip (twice what it should have taken) and to hook up with as many people as we did also astounds me; snidegrrl, belladonnalin, zorah - you all rock. AND we managed to meet up (briefly) with Roni and Cinnamon on the way in.

It was amazing to see the seas of people all around the Mall yesterday. And that we managed to keep our little posse; including snidegrrl, tirani, kitty_pitchfork, bizarrojack, Ms. Nine and unlinkable others (all of whom seemed really confounded by the blog/Livejournal concept) together throughout the day - much thanks to Ms. Snidegrrl's kitty umbrella. And the folks in suits and ties standing around the edge of the March path cheering us on and making thumbs-up gestures. So many different people and messages, speakers and marchers both. It was astounding, really.

The whole weekend had the feeling of a long, chaotic & exhausting party. And also, that what we were doing was so important, that we were so strong we couldn't help but move forward.

It's amazing this morning to wake up to everyone talking about their March weekends. That's one thing about this March, it felt so technologically connected... despite the cell network overload that meant you'd call someone whose phone was on, and get their voicemail. How many blog posts are there about this weekend, I wonder?

This can hardly even describe the intense experience of the March. I don't think the pictures will even do it, when you see them. I'm just so glad I was there.

Rarely do so many words come up so short.


24 April
if you need to find me this weekend
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I'm in DC! (Well, I'm not yet, but I will be). Call me if you need me - 804-307-6943.

Today - driving up, picking up Ms. Nine, checking in to my schmancy hotel, and hightailing it over to the 9:30 Club to meet my friends, , , and others for the No More Freaks (Planned Parenthood/Punk Voter) benefit. 5:30 PM, kids, if you want to meet us there. I'm wearing a girly red dress and the world's biggest flip-flops. Also, my bag has a cartoon face on it and is bright orange, among other colors.

Then presumably getting some dinner and hooking up with Cinnamon and Roni cause Ms. Nine's shacking up with them tonight.

TOMORROW - WOO! I'm meeting a gang of folks at 10AM in front of the Smithsonian Castle/Info Center on the Mall. I'll be wearing a grey t-shirt that says "eat", black pants, pink chucks with pink star laces, and porting Cinnamon's super-fabulous pro-choice/Mommie Dearest messenger bag (my sarcastic friends interpret the beautimous clothes hanger icon as a "No more wire hangers!" statement). It's black, with a beaded logo on it.


22 April
march weekend
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This weekend is the March for choice/women's lives/whatever (not to demean the cause with my "whatever", but it's sorta become my name for the thing).

I'm so excited!

Really excited!

It started out several months ago as something I just knew I had to go do. A combination of celebrating and putting your money where your mouth is (or, actually, putting my body where my money and mouth have been for some time). I think this was the same for a lot of people I knew. It was just what needed to be done, one of many ways to express outrage at the Bush administration's reckless abuse of abortion rights and a way to congratulate and stand by the people who do the fighting for these rights on a daily basis.

But it has turned into what seems like the world's biggest feminist party. I mean, I was hesitant about the dilution of the message originally, but it's still clear from the press that we're talking about reproductive freedom. And. Wow. There are these really awesome feminists I half-know from all around the country coming. My friends are coming. It's a giant freaking party.

And it's still an important thing to do.

I'm going with a group of people to the show at 9:30 Club on Saturday night, and we'll be gathering to march on Sunday, presumably in front of the Smithsonian Information Center (see map).

If you're coming, I hope to see you there. And if you can't make it, I'll be there for you.


our friends are so cute!
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For those of you who know Cz and J, I made a little website to put out information about their wedding this summer.

I think it looked better in Photoshop (I used an old layout as a template once we got to the whole HTMLy bit, thus the two thousand majillion tables like a bunch of little dolls stuffed inside each other thereby making the site load at about the speed of a very tired slug) and the font's too small (easily fixable), but it's still kinda pretty.

And they're getting married!

And they're pretty, too!

[And apologies to those of you who don't know me or my friends and are thinking "sheesh, and I was waiting for an abortion update or something".]


20 April
porn tastes like chicken
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I feel inclined to both agree and disagree with Naomi Wolf's 'Porn Myth' article.

I've said before that I don't think pornography is exploitative or inherently demeaning to women, but that doesn't mean it does no damage. Feministe called out the bits I really agree with. Namely, yes, I do think the sexification of products and the productification of sex (both of which are forms of pornography) desensitizes us in certain ways. And, undoubtedly, both of these things contribute to the impossible beauty ideal women - much more than men - feel constantly reminded of their failure to meet.

Wolf goes a bit over the top, though. Her article tells us we have a whole generation of messed up kids who can't relate to each other sexually, but she relies on college kids as her evidence of this. And she doesn't consider the generational shift that created what college kids are today (delayed adolescents, mostly). The fact that a college student is essentially a kid today, while s/he may not have been in the 60s or 70s, accounts for some of the fixation on a fairly shallow idea of sexuality in her subject - their developmental stage can be blamed, if not entirely, at least in conjunction with our porn culture, for a college kid thinking of partners in terms of parts instead of a whole.

Yes, of course, the rise of porn helped to make that thinking possible, but I don't think it sucked all the mystery and magic out of sex. Demystifying sex, for that matter, isn't such a bad thing.

And hey, sexy images can be as much of a turn-on as actual sex, after all; it's different ways to the same satisfaction - it all tastes like chicken. There's no rule codifying the real thing as sacred. Talking about how sad it is that younger folk are skipping the pre-sex tension as if they're necessarily missing out also sounds suspisciously like "back in the old days" talk. Annoying.

That said, I have seen women in my cohort, self included, not only feeling the body image pressure (porn didn't create that, but it reinforces it at every turn) but also feeling that there's some sexual secret they don't know, or something they don't do that reduces their sexual credentials. While the prevalence of sexual images helped open us up to talk about sex, it also created so many opportunities for pornographic comparison that it's hard not to feel lacking - both in body and in action - sexually. Porn makes it seem like everyone else is doing something you're not - including, for example, consuming more porn.

It's hard to differentiate the fantasy of images from the reality of one's own life - or rather, hard not to compare the two and come up short. I think that's the real damage inflicted by pornography - it helps to establish these standards of being, this fiction of normal, that many (if not most) people feel they're outside of.


14 April
oy, condoleeza
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I really don't like Condoleeza Rice. I've seen her on television so many times saying things about Iraq [basically "they love us to bits!"] and the economy [basically "it rocks the socks!"] that don't really jive with the evidence available to the public. The Bush regime may or may not be responsible for the way things are, but all evidence seems to point to the Iraq thing and the economy kindof sucking.

So, if you're going to go on the teevee and say encouraging things, I don't think it's too much to ask for you to support your statements in some way.

Condoleeza isn't the only person in the Bush administration who does this - in fact, it seems to be a characteristic of the administration to be unflinchingly optimistic while simultaneously not sharing any background information that supports their optimism. [They can't all be insane, can they? So this must be some sort of tactic. It must have some purpose.]

So, Kerri's WHB question about Rice this week had me laughing.

What do you think of the way the media is portraying Condoleeza Rice in terms of sex and race?
Do you remember when Rice first joined the administration? There was a lot of talk about her as "slim" and "pretty" and such. Very much "ooo, look at the nice, soft unchallenging black woman, such good eye candy". That irked me. It's a bit like having Halle Berry (who is pretty but not a great actor) win an Oscar - it makes her position so unthreatening, so powerless.

But that seems to have gradually fallen away. I think partly because Rice, despite her dainty suits, very solidly follows the Bush admin's party line, acting very serious while she does it; she's business, not pleasure.

Is the Rice we are being shown a fairly decent reflection of reality, or is her image being spun?
Every political figure is spun. I think 95% of them believe what they're saying and believe they have the best interests of the country at heart, though they disagree on what those interests are. But that doesn't mean they don't use every opportunity to manipulate their image to get something done.

Rice & her people certainly went with the "pretty" thing early in her tenure. I think that made her a more appealing mouthpiece. But now, particularly because the administration seems so unwilling to publically support their assertions about some issues, I think the decision to be more sourpussish was a conscious one - designed to make the mouthpiece more serious. I suspect Rice herself, like most people, is complex enough that both images reflect her real persona to some extent.

What do you think of remarks about how she appears to be a "sourpuss"?
The media favors people who are entertaining or can be quickly pigeonholed into a role or type. It makes for better cartoons.

That said, I think we originally wanted Rice to be this icon of feminity, and she didn't consistently play along with that. And a woman who isn't smiling and agreeable is, by default, a cranky sourpuss.

Is she still an African-American woman, or has she become "one of them" by accepting a role within the government?
I'm sure that Rice sees herself as still part of the black community, she's just part of the black Republican community. Democrats aren't the only ones whose politics benefit black people - particularly not if you're a wealthy black person.

As for women, well, we're the majority in this country. If we actually had a single Woman Party platform, we'd win. But what we actually have is socially conservative, tax-cutting, pro-defense women on one side and socially liberal, tax-cutting, pro-defense women on the other, and a variety of people of widely divergent other opinions on whatever side they like. Women don't generally agree on even the issues I think we should all agree on, so you're hardly not a proper woman for being on the wrong side.


12 April
bomb this, anti-semites.
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I saw this propagating over LiveJournal a week or so ago but forgot to bring it over here until Amp posted about it.

My small contribution to the anti anti-semitism google bomb google bomb: Jew.

[Edited to add that, thanks to Ben, I've learned that the rank of the "Jew Watch" site isn't purely the result of Google bombing itself. But, as Google doesn't intend to change the site's ranking, the anti-anti-semite google bomb is still the best way to change it.]


march with my posse!
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I'm going to the March (in less than 2 weeks now, woo hoo!). But, partly because I'm a slacker and partly because I Hate Buses, I'm not going with the local coalition. I'm staying with my DC peeps and we're going to be among the hordes of random cute disorganized marchers who don't have matching t-shirts.

I think, also, the night before me and my DC peeps are available to hook up with other exciting peeps for compelling pre-marching funs.

So, who wants to march in our itty posse? Or join us for funs?


07 April
why curves is creepy, or not.
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There is a Curves gym on one of the alternate routes between work and home.

When I first saw this, and the advertisements for it, I was intrigued. The gym sounded like a great way to avoid some of the irritating side effects (emphasis on appearance, crowds, general lack of helpful attendants) of most gym environments while getting the same basic experience. The initial advertising locally spread a pretty simple message, that it was a place where average and fat women could work out together and encourage each other. That sounds cool, right?

So I did a little research, looked around internet boards and sites related to Curves, where I found a decided focus on weightloss. I also found that Curves isn't just a gym. It's a very regimented, repetitive (as in, you do the same things every time) workout.

It's also only one workout, not aligned to your individual body or objectives - be they health, strength, or weightloss. That, to me, seems like something that would take the fun out of going to a gym. A workout also ought to be aligned to your particular goals. One trains for something, after all, and the training needs to reflect the something you strive for. Even if your goal is just baseline "get me off the sofa" fitness, you'll likely be more successful if you strive for something.

But that something could just be fun, right? So, if Curves couches a simple workout in an environment that makes it fun and accessible, that's a good thing. If your life isn't active, at least you'd be doing something to get moving, and having fun makes you likely to stick with it. In that, I've always thought a gym like Curves could be a fun, random addition to my overall exercise scheme. Something different to do whilst meeting people.

But that breaks down with the whole weightloss message of this particular gym. When you say "amaze yourself" with the implication of "...by losing weight and keeping it off!" and you aim that message specifically at women you're doing two things that make me very, very angry.

You limit the power women are granted by refocusing us on our appearance. I still think there's an aspect of the woman-only gym that is empowering, that is recognizing that the world of gyms and strength training is male-dominated and seems difficult for a woman to enter on her own. There's a value in single-sex spaces where people can encourage each other (though there's an added complexity of fitting transfolk into this) and engage in things that are "unwomanly" or "unmanly" without reproach. But Curves focuses that encouragement on weightloss, putting what could be this hugely empowering swell of women working out without regard to things like appearance and sweat and being "good" into an envelope of "how many pounds did you lose this week". Why are most women's gyms about weightloss and appearance? Because women are about these things?

Of course we're not, but when we buy these products, we send the message that we are. Even if your individual franchise didn't push that message, you're still buying it at a corporate level.

The argument against this is that Curves is actually pushing health, not weightloss. Sorry, honey, but if you're measuring my outside, you ain't measuring my health. Weight and size aren't inversely related to health. I know various media sources have told you that, but it isn't true. [Read Dean Edell's Eat Drink & Be Merry, Glen Gaesser's Big Fat Lies or stop by show me the data, for instance, if you aren't already familiar with the data on this one.] If you sell weightloss as "health", you're lying.

There's a recent final chapter to this that I came upon in this month's Bitch - which is that the guy who started Curves uses his profits to push abstinence-only sex education and anti-abortion clinics. I admire people who put their money where there mouths are, but I don't want my money ultimately going where his mouth is. Particularly when his mouth was already making out with the weightloss industry.

I do think it would be useful to have more fitness services available to beginners, whether that be new fat-friendly gyms or just adding certain "beginner only" areas or times to existing workout spaces. Gender segregation might be nice sometimes, too - especially considering how self-conscious we seem to get about exercising or sweating and hanging out all over the place. And lacking the ideal, I guess Curves seems like a well-publicised second (or fifth) place alternative. But I've finally decided that I just can't deal with Curves' approach.

Edited at various points to add relevant links on the pro-life/pro-choice thing. Which, by the way, was NOT the original intent of the post. I still believe there are more anti-feminist things about Curves than just being anti-abortion. Like the attitude towards women and beauty. Like the misunderstanding of what "health" is.

Seriously, people. I don't care how liberal the franchise may be, you're still buying a brand that chooses to associate itself with weightloss as health, and by accident of its owner, has also associated itself with denying reproductive rights. Is your workout worth that? It's up to you. In my mind, the Curves brand is anti-feminist, and was well before the pro-life contribution thing came out. But it's a complex issue - for many of you the experience is feministy even if the brand isn't, and I won't tell you what to do.

Poundy's April 2004 posts - well-written and peppered with links to articles and detail around the pro-life thing.
The Snopes piece - full of news references and stuff.
Curvers for Choice - if the pro-life thing is the only issue that bugs you about Curves, this may make you feel better.
Feministe on the subject (actually, it's Cinnamon, not Lauren) - one of the most reasonable, non-reactionary blog posts on the subject, posing a viable solution for you Curvers.


06 April
the blog.
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It's so true.


02 April
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I've heard arguments that drag performance is analogous to blackface or other ethnic imitation before. Morgaine brought it up on WHB last week: la.

I think it's too simple to say men in drag demean women. I think it's way too simple to say gay men in drag demean women. And what about women in drag? What about drag as performance art?

I'll grant this article one point. There is an implication of gender inequity in the idea of straight men dressing comically as female stereotypes. To borrow a cliched image that I've never seen played outside a sitcome, there's the Powder Puff football cheerleader (Powder Puff football, if you haven't watched as much TV as I have, is when the high school cheerleaders and football team trade places, to much ensuing hijinks). A large man dressed as a cheerleader is funny precisely because he's clearly not a woman. And there is certainly inequity in the range of female stereotypes that we're all familiar with - namely, that it's pretty easy to pick up on "slut", "virginal bimbo", etc., but male stereotypes can be a little less obvious (and generally are based on media icons more than "types"). But the Powder Puff cheerleader also has a counterpart - the girl acting out the role of big jock boy. Are they 100% equal? No. It's pretty clear from the cultural result of feminism (women acting more "masculine" but men not acting loads more "feminine") that we think being a boy is better. So they can't be equal.

But I think our response to both is very similar.

The second before you begin to laugh, your body tenses much like it does the second before you decide to run away. Not to get all sociobiology on you, but to make the point that we laugh about things that are strange or challenging. I think we laugh at "normal, straight" people in drag because they convey simultaneously the image of what we think they are and what we think they're not. And on some level we realize the boundaries between are and are-not are artificial.

Drag as art and drag as an element of queer identity are a whole other story. I think a lot of queer identity is caught up in appropriating supposedly other-gendered behaviors, and drag can be a magnification and exaggeration of that. It's not even so much imitative of women as taking on an opposite, non-man, identity. To be queer and in drag is to declare I AM NOT WHAT YOU THINK. As a part of identity, or as part of a performance, that can be very powerful. It can also be silly and excessive, but it's a part of queer culture I'm personally quite fond of. Drag seems to say "Call us sissys? Fags? Well, fuck you, we ARE sissys and fags, and we're so fabulous we don't give a damn if you're sorry." It creates a problem for a straight community that is uncomfortable with sliding gender, and a problem for a gay community that wants to be seen as part of normal.

Why isn't drag part of normal? Why isn't over the top gender behavior normal? Not easy questions.

It's odd to me that the article Morgaine referenced cites Judith Butler but doesn't bring up the question of women in drag. Butler's "Female Masculinities" (which I've read only about a chapter of) talks quite a bit on that subject, and on the long history of women dressing in men's clothes - or otherwise "masculinely" - as a similar phenomenon to men-in-drag-as-queerness. That is, women in drag are also claiming an identity as "other", not appropriating man-ness, but appropriating ideas of what is masculine. The drag king thang seems a lot like it's queeny counterpart - kinda complicated, kinda challenging.

And that does not demean me.


01 April
if i had a magazine deedle deedle deedle deedle deedle dee
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You can so tell that Alison is a teacher sometimes. In a good way. This week on WHB, she asks how we'd run a feminist magazine, if we ran one.

Like Brigitte, I think of running a feminist media outlet (although I've always thought television, not print) as something I'd love to do with my future millions. It's not something I'd take on now, when I'd have to solicit investors and advertisors in order to get by, but if I had enough money on my own...

The principles I'd apply to my television network could also be applied to a magazine. It's primary goal would be to make people feel in touch with a network of others, and to motivate them to act (politically, primarily).

  1. Represent "regular" folk. Get political contributions from people whose political experience is mostly voting and getting involved, not politicians and theorists. Let people tell their own interesting stories. Kim mentioned this, too. Don't go crazy touching up or dressing up people for photo shoots - show them as they are, and as they're comfortable. I think we'd all feel more beautiful, more intelligent, more informed and more connected if we were exposed to the array of other people out there.
  2. Give readers a wide range of perspectives. While I have a very particular political slant, I don't think I'd want the magazine to have that. What I'd like it to do is show many sides of issues that are being discussed more flatly in other media, and also draw attention to issues that other media might be ignoring. Basically, I'd like to point out things we ought to care about and help people understand how global issues affect them, but without creating the sense that there's only one side to any question. To do that, we'd probably spend each issue dealing with only a handful of topics, so we deal in detail with our subject matter. This is a damned complicated world; I'd like to have a magazine that gave people more tools to think for themselves.
  3. Provide a lot of resources for readers to take action. When we profiled an issue, I'd want to include information about what you could do to get more information, or to get involved on either side of the issue. You know those 10-page "Where to Buy" sections in the back of women's glossies? I'd do something like that, but with a network of sources and ideas.
  4. Be gender-neutral. Also. Be queer-neutral, sex-neutral, size-neutral, race-neutral. While I see this magazine as aimed at people of more or less my generation, I'd like it to be accessible to a lot of different people. It should feel more like a thinking person's magazine than a women's magazine. Ideally, it would appeal to people like me, 12-year-old girls, and men in their sixties, but I think I'd let that come later as the audience grew.
  5. Design the magazine in a way that promoted all of the above. It would be a pretty substantial departure from the format of feature articles vs. columns vs. blurbs that most magazines follow. Whatever topic we focused on, I'd want to give equal weight to each aspect of it, and each contributor - with the exception of the resource list and advertising, I'd imagine the design of each issue flowing almost like a chaptered narrative, with each question a chapter, then with two opinions on question X presented visually near each other, contrasting slightly.
  6. Seriously limit advertising. I think I'd be willing to have small businesses and DIY folk advertise in the magazine, but I'd want to keep advertising more of a service to those people than a revenue-generator that the magazine depended on (we'd obviously be basically non-profit, relying on my investment, actual sales & possibly donations). I'd like advertising to function only as a way to call readers' attention to products or ideas they wouldn't otherwise hear about.

That's pretty much it. I'm not diametrically opposed to celebrities being involved - I mean, ultimately, they're another breed of regular folk. But I wouldn't let their publicists dictate how they appeared in the magazine - they'd be as straightforward and unairbrushed as anyone else, and their opinions would be given no more weight that anyone else's.


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