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: 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.

SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE: A Foreign City Teaches Me Political Dissent

{Emma Staffaroni is a first-year Master’s candidate in SLC’s Women’s History program. A ruthless feminist, she slays haters with her pen and then eats them for dinner, covered in cheese. She also enjoys basset hounds, trains, and red wine.}

Before we left for Manhattan the morning of October 15th, my roommate tossed me a letter from the day’s mail, postmarked from Céline, a good friend I met when I was an English teacher in Besançon, France, last year. In our most recent Facebook exchanges Céline had asked me if I was occupying Wall Street: “Not yet!” I replied, “But I plan to.” It seemed timely that I got her letter just as my roommates and I were preparing to occupy Times Square, my first physical show of support for the Occupy Wall Street movement that has been mobilizing in New York City for over a month and since spread across the nation and globe. Céline’s letter informed me that people on her side of the pond hear about OWS in the news every day: “It reminds us of our beloved May 1968.”

In French collective memory, the revolutionary strikes and occupations during May and June of 1968 are engrained in a way tantamount to our Civil Rights Era marches and sit-ins (or even our women’s liberation movement). Rising up against capitalism and imperialism, Parisian university students and leftists held riotous and destructive protests, iconically tearing up cobblestones from the Boulevard St. Michel and building barricades against the police.

Parisian protesters on the Boulevard St. Michel, May 1968

The difference between May 1968 in Paris and the American Civil Rights Movement lies in their effects on our respective cultures some 40 years later: the French Left has not lost its fire-in-the-belly zeal for a strike or a march. Quite the contrary, our American populace has been more than reticent to repeat the bold and public displays of political dissent that filled the 1960s and 70s.

I’d learned of the May 1968 Paris maniféstations while I was studying in Paris in 2009. I shouldn’t even say that I was studying; most of the time, the entrance to my university was blocked by three or more heavily armed police. Indeed, in the Spring of 2009, the city of Paris was occupied in much of the same fashion as it had been in 1968. Nobody was tearing up cobblestones, but university professors and their students were regularly occupying the Latin Quarter throughout the Winter and Spring in objection to Sarkozy’s privatization of the public university system (and other social service sectors).

Professors in France traditionally held a significant amount of freedom in their decision to teach or to research as enseignant-chercheurs (teacher-researchers). Under the newly privatized system, the university’s administration determines the resources allocated to their faculty. Theoretically, this allows the individual institutions to favor professors and disciplines that will earn the most for the school and improve its reputation.

From our American capitalist perspective, this structure is commonplace and rational but for the French’s tacitly different socialist view, it is an aberration. And so students, in support of their teachers’ freedoms and their beloved traditions, jeopardized their hard-earned diplomas by taking to the streets instead of going to class.

Talk about a cultural experience: I learned more from the young people en grève than I ever would have in a Sorbonne lecture. These politically engaged folks taught me French values, French political history, and French point-of-view on capitalism. To say it was eye-opening would be an understatement.

Of course, I’m not French. Recounting this experience to friends and family back in the States, the punchline of my story would always be: “I mean, would you ever see American students doing something like that for their professors?” Everyone laughed. As much as I respected the French commitment to “l’esprit de mai 68,” it was still preposterous from an American cultural perspective.

Fast forward to my year abroad teaching English. This time, it wasn’t university students protesting, but high school students. The French minister of education had put into effect a reform of the high school structure mass budget slashes to the education system meant teachers were losing their jobs. If the details of the reform are too complicated for this short article, their effect is not: high school students across France organized to blockade the entrances of their schools and protest the changes to their education. One year before I would occupy Times Square, I looked out the window of my apartment to see students pushing huge trash bins and other large materials in front of the entrance to their high school. Unions staged sit-ins and occupations of the major squares in town, shutting down the bus system and parading through the streets.

Needless to say, the spirit of protest has been following me around for a couple of years now. When I first read about Slutwalk this past summer, I was overjoyed—a feminist protest movement—finally! And now: Wall Street. A woman we met on the 15th in Times Square told my friends and I: “I was arrested forty years ago in an anti-war protest. It’s about time for people to wake up! We should’ve been out here in 2004 when Bush stole the presidency.” She was reacting to the sign my friend Jenn (a fellow Women’s History student and my roommate) was holding that exclaimed in big bold letters :“GIVE A SHIT.”

Now that I’m back in an American city, occupying public space feels expected, if not overdue. Up until now my generation has seen a generally apathetic and anti-intellectual culture, which instructs us that political and civil rights have been won by our forebears. Marching and boycotting–that’s for hippies, for folks without rights, for nations without democracy. But my experience in Times Square on Saturday October 15th seemed to transcend history, and at the same time honor it. We shouted “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” or “ALL DAY, ALL WEEK, OCCUPY WALL STREET! NEW YORK, TIMES SQUARE, OCCUPY EVERYWHERE!” and “THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!” These were moments of collective consciousness and political dissent. Flanked by the Hard Rock Café, Sephora, and Times Square’s ostentatious light show flashing all around us—our voices became a part of a new American culture as well as a forgotten one—a culture that actually, and finally, gives a shit.

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.

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: Support Body Positivity and Anti-Bullying Campaigns

I considered putting a really really frustrated title for this week’s smorgasbord, as every single thing in the news this week is infuriating me. See below for some examples. But first, some positivity.

  • Yesterday was NOW’s official and 14th annual Love Your Body Day. There are some amazing posts and stories around the blogosphere in honor of body love and self-acceptance.
  • Now, less positive. The Nation reports on the local budget cuts that have resulted in the decriminalization of domestic violence in Topeka, Kansas, and massive loss of funding for shelters and survivors of DV. Though it’s not surprising to most of us, I’m glad to see a journalist openly drawing tacit connections between the recession and violence. This is NOT where budget cuts should be happening:

80 percent of shelters nationwide reported an increase in domestic violence cases for the third straight year. Three out of four shelters attributed the violence to victims’ financial issues; almost half said that those issues included job loss, and 42 percent cited the loss of a house or car. More than half of shelters also report that domestic abuse is more violent than it was before the crash.

  • Relatedly, Jos at Feministing writes about the police, who, she reminds us, “are not your friend” :

This is a lesson many feminists have been slow to learn. Folks who have grown up with the police serving and protecting them understandably think the police work for them. Folks who’ve grown up being harassed by the police – who’ve seen their family members pulled over for no reason, arrested for being in public space, or totally ignored or even charged when they were a victim of a crime – have a different image. When the cops work for you, it seems like a pretty good idea to trust them to serve and protect. When you’ve been a target of the police, you tend to see a different picture.

  • The award for the sexist crap causing me the most nausea/anger this week: “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street.” It’s exactly what you’re thinking: sexist bros photographing and videotaping women “being protesty” and, without their consent, posting the images on a tumblr. Read Jill at Feministe‘s brilliant and scathing smack-down, and then read Racialicious‘s awesome analysis, too.

The legislation has almost no chance of being brought to the Senate floor, and President Obama is certain to veto it should it ever pass both chambers. The House has brought a few bills aimed at limiting abortion access to the floor since Republicans took control in January.

But it’s getting scary out there.

If you’re at Sarah Lawrence College or in Westchester County, the following annoucements are for you!

Last year, with the Office of Community Partnerships, four Sarah Lawrence undergrad students hosted the First Annual Inter-College Women’s Cafe. We invited students from SLC and students from other colleges in Westchester (Pace, Iona, Westchester Community College, Mercy etc) to attend this event. Upwards of 80 students from all over Westchester came to discuss women’s issues on college campuses in a safe space. Some of the issues discussed during the last Cafe were girl on girl hate, body positivity, sexual assault on college campuses, the economy, the environment, bettering and empowering the Westchester/Yonkers community and many more topics! The event was well received and by popular demand we are hosting the Second Annual Inter- College Women’s Cafe! If you are interested in joining the conversation about women’s issues and meeting our neighbors, please come to the Women’s Cafe this year!
The event will be hosted in the Faculty Dining Hall on Saturday, November 12th from 5pm to 8pm. There will be free pie, cookies, coffee, cheesecake and much more! All are welcome, please feel free to bring your friends!

There is the opportunity for students to be a table facilitator for this event. The responsibilities of a facilitator would be to make sure the conversation is fluid and interesting.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at ewilson@gm.slc.edu.
RSVP by November 2rd to partnerships@sarahlawrence.edu or call 914 395 2573.
Thank you and I hope to see you there!
*********
Please join the new SLC Feminist Collective!

A Weeks is an activism based meeting, creating an open, safe space for women (cis & trans) to talk about any & all issues they face. Meetings will be formatted as open dialogues. Members will be encouraged to share books, films, ideas, or anything they think will benefit the group. Here are some activities/events/topics that the collective will address: – American rape culture – Slut shaming – Body positivity, lookism, and the media – Sexual dynamics on campus at SLC – Female misogyny – Girl on girl hate – Sex Positivity – Acceptance and understanding of trans women – The success and failure of past feminist movements (W.I.T.C.H, riot grrrl, etc.), misconceptions of feminism – Male-identifying feminists as allies: how they can help? – Art history and religion buffs, we want you! Arts and crafts/zine making events to promote DIY fun and help spread the message of the collective!

B Weeks in the Spiritual Space- Will include guided meditation at meetings (to be led by Una Chung) intended to help women center themselves, as people often fall prey to outside influence. This meeting is reserved for female assigned at birth and female identifying people.
We created an anonymous, online help forum where women and men can submit questions, concerns, or anything the feel is relevant to the collective. All of these submissions will be discussed by the women of the collective during meetings, and those discussions will lead us to the answer we will post. All of these submissions will be gathered to be released in the form of a publication the following semester. Please visit slcwomen.tumblr.com and our facebook page SLC Feminist Collective!
A Week Meetings are Wed. 8- 9p.m. upstairs in the Black Squirrel
B Week Meetings are Wed. 8- 9p.m. in the Spiritual Space
-Potential Events are, but are not limited to, Clitfest (Combating Latent Inequality Together), workshops about sex and sexuality, zine making, dominant masculinity, harm reduction, combating the anti-choice movement, etc. We want you to help us shape this group. What are you interested in? Are there any topics you feel comfortable leading a discussion on?
Please, contact the co-chairs Ciaran Rhodes at crhodes@gm.slc.edu, Elizabeth Wilson at ewilson@gm.slc.edu or Emma Harris at eharris@gm.slc.edu and check out our Facebook page: SLC Feminist Collective!

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: Indigenous People’s Resistance Day

  • I did not celebrate “Columbus Day” on Monday; did you? Let’s leave it to Howard Zinn to say it straight:

To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.

All too often industries, sports teams and ignorant individuals legitimize racism under the guise of cultural “appreciation”. There is nothing honorable or historically appreciative in selling items such as the Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask, Peace Treaty Feather Necklace, Staring at Stars Skull Native Headdress T-shirt or the Navajo Hipster Panty. These and the dozens of other tacky products you are currently selling referencing Native America make a mockery of our identity and unique cultures.

  • The Nobel Peace Prize of 2011 has been awarded to three amazing champions of women’s rights: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, both of Liberia; and Tawakkul Karman, of Yemen. Read about them and their work here.