Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: Vanity Fair, Anti-Choice Race for the Cure, & Jay-Z’s Political Correctness

Happy 2012! We’re back after a long winter break. Here’s a little of what has been going on in feminisms around the web.

Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue emphasizes fresh white faces. via Jezebel

  • The Globe and Mail explores the politics of the b-word, imagining Jay-Z’s lyrics without it after his statement that having daughter means he will no longer use the word. Samhita Mukhopadhyay from feministing.com is quoted:

“There’s an idea that being politically correct ruins art. You don’t want something raw like the lyrical mastery of Jay-Z to be diluted by these PC notions – that women are humans too. … But if we think of the basic reality that women are humans as ‘politically correct,’ we’ve got a major problem.”

  • Jeffrey Goldberg tells us how to spot racism in the Republican campaigns. According to him, “This presidential election will be one of the most race-soaked in recent history.” Here’s a little sample of the kinds of assessments of the black community we can expect from the GOP [trigger warning]:

“[T]he pathologies afflicting black Americans are caused partly by the Democratic Party, which has created in them a dependency on government not dissimilar to the forced dependency of slaves on their owners.”

Keep your eyes out for the February Issue of re/visionist, coming very soon!

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: All-American Muslim, Victim-Blaming Ad Campaign & “Muscular Empathy”

via feministryangosling.tumblr.com

  • In an attack on women of color’s reproductive freedoms, anti-choice members of Congress have pushed for a bill called the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act,” which seeks to prevent women of color from attaining abortions in the name of “civil rights.” Clarification: Neither Susan B. Anthony nor Frederick Douglass would have supported this BS.
  • Feministing breaks down the victim-blaming and just downright disturbing “rape prevention” campaign at “ControlTonight.org”, targetting — you guessed it — young women victims. Same old ridiculous narrative: the raped person should control the rapist’s urge to rape by NOT going out and drinking.  The ad’s image itself is a trigger warning, so be prepared to fume with anger.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates responds to the Forbes article, “If I Were A Poor Black Kid.” It’s entitled, “Muscular Empathy,” and explores one of the greatest challenges an historian faces, let alone a human being: empathy with people from very different circumstances than ourselves. Here’s an excerpt:

This basic extension of empathy is one of the great barriers in understanding race in this country. I do not mean a soft, flattering, hand-holding empathy. I mean a muscular empathy rooted in curiosity. If you really want to understand slaves, slave masters, poor black kids, poor white kids, rich people of colors, whoever, it is essential that you first come to grips with the disturbing facts of your own mediocrity. The first rule is this–You are not extraordinary. It’s all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it’s much more interesting to assume that you wouldn’t and then ask “Why?”

Harris-Perry is at her strongest when she breaks down the devastating and unseen culture of shame that is put upon and often internalized by black women; it is fed by a dangerous form of misrecognition that harms both individuals and societies. Harris-Perry is nuanced in her understanding of shame not only manifesting as a sort of shrinking-away, but in the compensating “strong black woman” stereotype that seems positive, but leaves little room for the full scope of human vulnerability. Shame, then, serves as a kind of social control.

  • Robin Lim, an American midwife who has served thousands of Indonesian women in their births, is CNN’s Hero of the Year.

Sebelius claims that her reason is that the FDA didn’t show that 11-year-old girls, some 10 percent of whom are fertile, understand how to follow the EC directions….If a sixth grader can’t understand those elementary, crystal-clear instructions, we should just move back to the caves, because civilization is finished.

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: Plan B, Feminist Art, & “Gaslighting”

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Hair Cut Off, 1940.

  • Bitch media does a series on feminism in art: they ask, “How did you discover Feminist Art?” Frida Kahlo (<3) and Judy Chicago get shout-outs! Go and post your own feminist artists of choice.
  • The best thing I’ve read this week: social critic and feminist Yashar Ali published his “Message to Women from a Man: You Aren’t ‘Crazy'” at Huffington Post. He recoins the psychological term “gaslighting,” or manipulative behavior that causes others to think they are crazy when they are not– this, he says, is what men do to women when they tell them, “Calm down,” “Relax,” “You’re overreacting.” Brilliant.
  • A study finds that abstinence-only education does NOT work. In case it wasn’t already obvious, here are some statistics of all the damage done by this unhealthy and unscientific mandate. via Slate.
  • At Jezebel, Hugo Schwyzer explores the stereotype that “sisterhood is easier in the winter.” It is all based, he says, on the “myth of male weakness.”
  • Here’s some warped logic for you: right-wing group “Concerned Women for America” has announced that they do not support abortion access for women in the military who have been raped–because– the abortion will just “distract” from the crime. Huh? Here’s a direct quote from the organization: “Women deserve better than simply being given an abortion as a ‘cure-all.'” Read Amanda Marcotte’s analysis.
  • The newest development in the Occupy movement: Occupy Our Homes. Since December 6th, activists across the country have been focusing their protests on the mortgage crisis and foreclosure. From The Nation:

“To occupy a house owned by Bank of America is to occupy Wall Street,” said Ryan Acuff, who has been working with Take Back The Land in Rochester, NY doing these kinds of actions since Sept 2010. “We are literally occupying Wall Street in our own communities.” The reclamation of foreclosed homes and defense of individuals facing unfair eviction helps make arcane economic issues like deregulation and securitization, local and personal.

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: An Anti-Racist Dating Book, NPR’s “Living Large” Series, & Brave Uses of Free Speech

photo credit: Bitch media

So much feminist news to catch up on! Enjoy.

  • The wonderful Samhita over at Feministing wrote an unconventional and feminist dating advice book. Racialicious applauds her deconstruction of exoticism, anti-interracial dating narratives, and the pressures on cis-gendered men. (There’s a long excerpt in the review, too.)
  • American-Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy courageously shares her story of being sexually and physically assaulted by Egyptian police in Tahrir Square. via The Guardian [trigger warning]:

“I was taking pictures and covering events on the frontline of confrontations between protesters and the police and the military and a group of five or six riot police beat me, and surrounded me and rained their big sticks down on my arms. I was trying to protect myself.

“They also sexually assaulted me. They dragged me to the ministry of the interior. They dragged me by the hair and called me all sorts of insults. And this all happened in about seven to eight minutes.”

  • Another, quite different, brave use of 1st amendment rights: Emma Sullivan, an 18-year-old high school student from Kansas, overtly and shamelessly criticized her state’s Republican governor, Sam Brownback, for his homophobic and anti-choice politics. She was sent to the principal’s office for her comment made on Twitter that he “sucks”– but as she says, “I wasn’t sorry for what I said because I meant it.”

-Losing Weight: A Battle Against Fat and Biology
-One Woman’s Struggle to Shed Weight, and Shame
-Why Doctors and Patients Talk Around Growing Waistlines
-For Obese, Intimate Lives Often Suffer
-Corporations Offer Help in Trimming the Waist

  • Notice any patterns? Shame, lose weight, trim your waist, waistline, suffer, shame, shame, bad, bad. Might as well read Cosmo. Read Tiger Beatdown’s excellent analysis of the lack of critical treatment of body size in this series.

credit: feministryangosling.tumblr.com

  • Can’t believe I haven’t posted this here yet. Feminist Ryan Gosling, created by a PhD candidate in Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin. It’s FLASH CARDS of dense feminist theory, in a cute package! Here’s an interview with the creator, who responds to the question, Why do you think this is so popular?

Feminists are apparently not supposed to have a sense of humor.  I think people are really liking the fact that this site is intelligent while simultaneously silly, and obviously self-referential. A lot of my followers are women’s studies majors, or people who have taken women’s studies classes, and love seeing inside jokes presented in this way. For example, if you’re a women’s studies major, you’ve probably read “The Yellow Wallpaper” at least 18 times. Now matter how much you like that story, it gets a little ridiculous.

  • A little politics-of-the-c-word action for ya! Comedian Sarah Mathews writes about her mixed (but ultimately positive) feelings in Guernica magazine.

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: Shame-Free Sex, Katie Roiphe (Eye-Roll), and Twilight

  • To paraphrase Rachel Maddow, this is the Best New Thing this week. Maddow introduces us to the OWS “bat signal”:

At no point does she address how not fun and amazing sexual harassment is for people whose intersecting identities make them a target for harassers who want to exploit their lack of institutional power. The workplace Roiphe is commenting on is some fake workplace, in which sexual harassment never goes too far, never impedes anyone’s ability to do their job, and never creates collateral damage for those employees least able to fight back. She does not see fit to address the cost levied against the targets of sexual harassment, who are likely to see their creativity, productivity, and standing within the company deteriorate.

I said, “Considering the fact that my son is hungry, and he’s sick, and the fact that it’s not illegal, I don’t find it inappropriate … And the judge said something to the effect of ‘It’s my court, it’s my decision and I do find it inappropriate.'”

  • Raise your hand if Bella, the protagonist of the Twilight book and movie series, makes your feminist soul writhe in pain! GOOD magazine offers fans of young adult fantasy fiction a list of “what to read instead of Twilight.”

GOOD magazine's awesome "no charts" serve this topic well.

  • But Sarah Blackwood at The Hairpin has another view on the series in her piece “Our Bella, Ourselves.” She argues that Bella’s passivity and the “gothic” depiction of her pregnancy in the series “has the potential to revitalize a number of our larger conversations about feminism, especially those related to sex, pregnancy, desire, and autonomy.” She writes:

Gestation, birth, and motherhood are gothic emotional and physical states in which many of one’s most carefully considered intellectual stances and commitment to autonomy are challenged and often dismantled. Even more importantly, these are topics not much talked about in young adult fiction aimed at teenaged girls, which means that, perhaps in the name of empowerment and feminism, we have omitted a major aspect of women’s lives from the very narratives through which girls come to deepen their understanding of how to live in the world.

  • Here’s your new desktop background: Benneton’s new “UNHATE” campaign. Check it out.
  • Victory for a Roma woman who was forcibly sterilized in Slovakia and has been awarded €43,000 as a result of her human rights appeal. This is a huge step forward for global reproductive justice, as it is the first time Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights has taken up a case of forced sterilization.

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: Remembering the Ms. Revolution, the History of ‘Personhood’, and Umbrellas

The first cover of Ms. magazine, Spring 1972.

  • In honor of its 40th birthday, a fabulous tribute to Ms. magazine at NY Mag. My favorite tid-bit: some of the proposed titles for Ms. included Everywoman, Sisters, Lilith, Sojourner, Female, A Woman’s Place, The First Sex, and The Majority. Plus the article is structured as an oral history, with insights from the pioneers themselves. From Mary Peacock, one of the founding editors:

When Ms. started, you couldn’t pick up the phone and say, “Ms. Magazine,” because what people heard was “Mmzzz” and they’d ask, “What are you saying?” This would happen 25 times a day. So when we picked up the phone, we said each letter separately: “M-S magazine.” But gradually something changed—I could shoot myself that I can’t remember when it changed, because it was a huge watershed: Suddenly you could say “Ms.,” and everybody knew what you were talking about.

  • And also at NY Magthe feminist blogosphere! Holllllaaaa! Emily Nussbaum uses blogs to show how far the movement has come since the days of Ms.:

Subjects recurred from early feminism, including outrage at sexual violence. But there were also striking differences: While seventies feminists had little truck with matrimony, feminist bloggers lobbied for gay marriage. There were deconstructions of modern media sexism, including skeptical responses to the “concern-trolling” of older women who made a living denouncing the “hookup epidemic.” There was new terminology: “slut-shaming,” “body-snarking,” “cisgender.” And there were other cultural shifts as well: an acceptance (and sometimes a celebration) of porn, an interest in fashion, and the rise of the transgendered-rights movement, once seen as a threat, now viewed as a crucial part of sexual diversity.

  • Barbara Ehrenreich on OWS and homelessness–reminding us that the messy conditions faced by protesters are a daily reality for many Americans. She asks, why aren’t our cities legally required to find accomodations for homeless folks? It is a deeply troubling contradiction:

LA’s Skid Row endures constant police harassment, for example, but when it rained, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had ponchos distributed to nearby Occupy LA.

  • Also, Nick Kristof breaks it all down and builds it back up with his defense of birth control and family planning in the NY Times. Here’s something to tattoo on yourself: “Contraceptives no more cause sex than umbrellas cause rain.” BOOM.
  • House Democrats have filed an amicus brief against the anti-LGBT rights Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), arguing that DOMA undermines the stable family structure that children need to thrive by denying married gay and lesbian couples federal marriage benefits. Hell yeah–but it’s not just for the kids’ sake, right Dems?
  • “I’ve been protesting what’s been going on on Wall Street for a long time.” -Elizabeth Warren showing her support for the OWS movement at a speech in Brockton, MA, Wednesday evening. Watch this video and read about how she eloquently handled some Tea Party b.s. during the speech. [Favorite part: As the Tea Party dude is leaving, members of crowd shout, “Thanks for coming!” as others boo.]

Of course men’s liberation is tied up in women’s. Men, particularly those operating within a traditional Western context, have missed out on some of the most exhilarating parts of being human for far too long—authentic expression of emotion, the joys of being a present parent, intimate relationships with other men in which they can show up as their whole, vulnerable selves. Likewise, they have suffered from tremendous pressure to make money, to appear eternally strong, to wedge their diverse interests, passions, and reactions into the narrow box of socially acceptable masculinity.

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: The Good & the Ugly of Occupy, Pro-Choice United Nations, & Pinkwashing

  • Occupy Wall Street: Check out this video of Eve Ensler explicitly detailing the ways in which economic inequalities disproportionately affect women. “Why aren’t we supporting nurses? Why aren’t we supporting teachers?…Why isn’t the work [women more often do] the respected work?” YES EVE.
  • We can also take heart from Sarah Seltzer’s excellent piece at The Nation about the instrumental and visible role of women in Zuccotti park. The narratives from women activists show their awareness of the history of “leftist” social movements. If we know our history, let’s hope we can change it:

“One of the things we didn’t want, which has always been the history of the left, is to start splintering among ourselves,” says Husain. “So how do we create a movement that allows us to swim with one another?” She notes that this includes an effort to discourage anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as well as racism, sexism and homophobia.

The solution, for her and others, lies in the essence of Occupy Wall Street: its leaderless, non-hierarchical nature, which allows any participation to have a say in the movement’s direction. The casual observer, unaccustomed to organizations without hierarchy, might mistake leaderlessness for structurelessness. But in fact OWS is governed by a highly structured, constantly evolving series of processes, with checks and balances to make sure no voice or one faction takes over.

Woman in wheelchair trying to escape tear gas at Occupy Oakland, via The Nation

  • Now the ugly. Police’s violent response to Occupy Oakland has sent shivers down the spines of activists around the country. Here’s Joshua Holland at Alternet, who takes the conservative narratives around OWS–that it’s a bunch of dirty anarchists, that there’s violence and chaos, that it’s a reprise of “Lord of the Flies”–and links them to the justification of violent police crowd control tactics like tear-gas, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades, as well as mass arrests and destruction of the entire camp. At The Rumpus:

In the meantime, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan released a somewhat insulting statement and is in DC while all this goes on. She is facing a recall and terrible poll numbers. She’s also taking heat for deleting angry posts from her Facebook wall. Will she be the first politician Occupy takes down?

  • The United Nations–yes, that United Nations–has issued a formal report on reproductive health and rights, calling for the decriminalization of abortion around the globe and recommending that states remove all legal barriers to contraception and family planning services and education. RH Reality Check has a series of articles analyzing the implications of this groundbreaking report!
  • Another huge step in sexual and preventative health care in the U.S.: a panel from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has recommends the HPV vaccine to males aged 13 to 2l, linking the symptomless and highly common STI to a number of cancers in men. Doctors tellin’ it like it is:

Dr. S. Michael Marcy, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California and a committee member, said that the money needed to vaccinate 11- and 12-year-old boys would pay for only a few hours of the war in Afghanistan while potentially saving thousands of lives in the United States.

“I’m constantly being told we don’t have the money. Well, we do have the money,” Dr. Marcy said. “We need a new set of priorities, and we if we don’t set those priorities, who will?”

  • At Tiger Beatdown, an excellent critique of the “pinkwashing” of breast cancer–what is awareness? What does that little pink ribbon actually mean? How can we focus the breast cancer activism movement?

Mindy Kaling is a writer for The Office, in which she also plays "Kelly."

  • And for all the rom-com lovers out there, Mindy Kaling of The Office breaks down her love of the genre by listing some of the fantastical/impossible kinds of women that seem to crop up time and time again–from “sassy best friend” to “ethereal weirdo.” Pure gold:

I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world. For me, there is no difference between Ripley from “Alien” and any Katherine Heigl character. They are equally implausible. They’re all participating in a similar level of fakey razzle-dazzle, and I enjoy every second of it.