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.

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: 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.

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: Inclusive Populism, Domestic Violence Awareness, & Hyde Turns 35

To quote Rinku Sen’s headline on Colorlines today, there is “people power exploding around us.” It’s a good time to be a feminist, for the tools we use to understand power relations and structures in the world are coming in very handy as we predict and influence the direction of the #Occupy Wall Street movement. Indeed, everything–racial justice, gender and sexual justice–is related to our economic reality here in the US.

  • Here is Sen’s piece, which reminds us why inclusivity of interests strengthens, not divides, populist movements:

…[A]ddressing other systems of oppression, and the people those systems affect, isn’t about elevating one group’s suffering over that of white men. It’s about understanding how the mechanisms of control actually operate. When we understand, we can craft solutions that truly help everybody. Building movements that include groups that explicitly address the racial, gender and sexual dimensions of our economic system is key to that process.

  • Racialicious publishes An Open Letter from Two White Men, affirming that OWS must recognize that the oppression white men are feeling in this economic recession is a condition people of color have lived with for centuries:

This unintended marginalization is occurring daily at #OWS. We know this may be hard for some people to understand. Of course, who could expect us to understand what it is like to be reminded of your skin color every time you leave your home? Who could expect white people to understand that the spaces we feel so comfortable in may feel exclusive or even hostile to people of color? After all, we are never told; we are not forced to learn that our skin color is related to our social status; and we are not taught black and brown history, so many of us do not know how we got here–and cannot imagine it any other way.

  • October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Check out the Domestic Violence Awareness Project’s website for lots of resources and information. You can also sign the petition to support education in your community at the Love Is Not Abuse coalition. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE [7233]) is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in all 50 states & Puerto Rico.
  • Jezebel reports that British marathoner Paula Radcliffe’s world record will no longer be considered as such because she ran alongside male pace setters. Whaaa?
  • The Hyde Amendment turns 35 years old this week. RH Reality Check has a couple of great articles about where we stand. The anti-choice movement is not backing down, and so neither should we. As one writer/activist puts it:

False claims that abortion is linked to breast cancer and causes women to suffer from post-abortion syndrome are intended to show that the anti-abortion movement cares as much about women as it does about fetuses. However, the theme of contempt and distrust for women, so clearly articulated during the original debate on the Hyde Amendment, recurs.  A recent attempt by Republicans to restrict government funding of abortion to cases of “forced” rape echoes the earlier debate where opponents claimed that “any woman who wants an abortion under Medicaid could go in and say” she has been raped, in order to get Medicaid to pay for her abortion.

  • This piece was written pre-SlutWalk NYC, but it does an excellent job of exploring the complexities of the SlutWalk marches/movement. Yet another example of how inclusivity promotes strength.

What have you been reading this week?

Don’t forget to check out October re/visionist, The Legal Issue, below!

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: SlutWalk NYC, Wall Street, & Immigration

Stuck in a homogenized, tightly controlled and dehumanizing “total institution,” in sociology speak, wherein everyone wears the same thing, eats the same thing, and sleeps and showers in the same paltry conditions, the only means to autonomy is through hardened hypermasculinity.

  • Colorlines reports on the new, horrifying anti-immigration legislation that just made Alabama the most xenophobic state in the U.S. Now it’s a waiting game: will the Supreme Court uphold a state’s right to create its own immigration regime?

“Today is a dark day for Alabama,” Mary Bauer, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s legal director, said Wednesday in a statement. “This decision not only places Alabama on the wrong side of history but also demonstrates that the rights and freedoms so fundamental to our nation and its history can be manipulated by hate and political agendas – at least for a time.”

Keep your eye out for the October Issue of re/visionist, coming soon! In the mean time, “Like” us on Facebook. Takes 4-10 seconds, depending on the speed of your internet connection.