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: 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!

Law, Order, and Sexism: Testimonials from the Law Firm

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.

 

 

Behold, a great irony: sexism in the profession of justice. Re/Visionist asked a few women to share their stories of experiencing sexism within the legal profession. The anonymous women below have given their testimonies in order to raise consciousness about the complex (but straightforward) ways sexism can pervade the legal workplace.

I.

I worked in a law firm in Manhattan dedicated to women’s rights in employment. However, it was run by two men – that’s right – two men. All interns, administrative assistants, office managers, and attorneys at the firm were women. Although there were many women working at the law firm, the two head lawyers never allowed any of the hard-working female attorneys to be a partner in the firm.  They also treated their employees poorly – sometimes yelling and speaking condescendingly to the females. One of the attorneys started a blog and wanted those who contributed to use pictures of themselves at the beginning of each post. One intern felt compelled to participate but albeit uncomfortable about providing a photo because she felt her writing should stand alone. When she gave a photo of herself, he sent it back and requested a close up of her face because the photo was taken of her from “too far away.”

After about a year, I left my position as an administrative assistant after an argument between the head attorney and me about my disappointment in him not fulfilling in what he alleged to be.  He purported to be a feminist attorney trying to help women, but he treated his employees and his clients terribly and underneath his feminist mask he was just a patriarchal male attorney in lower Manhattan.

II.

When I worked at the firm there was (and still is) a dress code that was especially enforced for us underlings. The girls always got lectured if a skirt or pants were too tight, whereas the boys could pretty much do whatever they wanted. They would look all wrinkled and messy, and they never got chastised. Also tasks were delegated to us [based on gender]: girls were generally asked to do most of the filing (unless there was a huge amount and then the boys would help). Guys did more of the physical or technological stuff. Also some of our fellow couriers/service techs who were male would just expect us to do certain tasks, like copy jobs.

III.

We were at trial in New Jersey.  All of the attorneys and litigation support staff stay in the same hotel.  We had a holiday weekend and a few of the attorneys and staff went to the hotel bar for some drinks and appetizers.  Everyone had a little bit too much to drink, and on our way up the elevator back to our rooms, the lead attorney on our case grabbed my ass walking out of the elevator.

IV.

After graduating from college I decided to paralegal at a Manhattan law firm hoping to reach a decision on whether or not I wanted to attend law school. I found it interesting that a vast majority of the paralegals at my firm were women in their early-twenties who had recently graduated from top colleges. All of the attorneys, except one, were men. I once asked the head unit attorney why he only hired women and he answered that women were smarter and “more able” to get the job done correctly and efficiently. There is no doubt in my mind that women are smarter (kidding), but I took this to mean that women are non-threatening, especially when it came to prepping for court motions or depositions, and it made him feel superior.

During my first year at the firm I started to notice that younger women who dressed in tighter, shorter, more provocative clothing received bigger cases and more important tasks within the office. This translated into these paralegals traveling with attorneys to depositions and motion proceedings. Women were clearly not valued for their mind or their talents alone, but rather for their bodies and how they looked.

After rebelling against this stereotype for about a year and not receiving anything of great importance in terms of work, I realized that in order to get the leading cases or recommendations that I needed for school, or even just to have attorneys know who I was, I needed to step it up with my outfit choices and start taking pride in my appearance. I basically realized that I would need to work within this patriarchical system – something that I was taught NOT to do in my past Feminist Political Theory classes – to get what I needed out of my stint at the law firm.

As I started to confidently strut the hallways wearing more shoulder-baring tops, shorter and tighter skirts, and heels (ALWAYS heels- never flats), I was noticed by more attorneys in the office. Not long after I was placed on trial team and given more important and serious work to do. I was given more opportunities to travel with different attorneys and work on different cases. Despite the fact that I knew using my sexuality or gender to get ahead was ultimately wrong and against my beliefs, I figured I was only staying at this male-centric law firm for a couple years I would try to get what I needed out of this position. My lesson from this job is that no matter how many women are graduating from law school these days, the legal field is still very male dominated and misogynistic. Women are not valued for their minds alone, but most importantly, their looks. My intellectual capabilities were secondary to my attractiveness and appearance.

V.

Sometimes less really is more. On my first day of observations as a legal intern I had the opportunity to view a custody case in Family Court. Before the proceedings, the Judge asked me to introduce myself and describe my legal interests. At recess, opposing counsel approached and congratulated me, seemingly intrigued by my interests. After uncomfortably staring in silence when every facet of Small Talk was exhausted, he finally commented, “I hope to see more of you… and even less of your skirt.” That single sentence possessed more power than he could have envisioned. In several words, it undermined my past, present and future abilities. More importantly, it solidified my decision to pursue law.

 

We invite you to share your stories below in our comments. Let women know that they are not dealing with this alone.

WOMEN X ART X SIMI JOHNSTON

Simi Johnston is a student at Sarah Lawrence College who works in mixed media arts and studies gender theory. She grew up in Vermont and recently went on birth control.

Fuck Pretty

Fuck Pretty is an all female photography exhibit based in Los Angeles and curated by Angela Featherstone. Though the show recently ended its term in the Robert Berman gallery, its ability to pull together personal growth and the universal female experience is one that leaves a lasting impression. The provocative title of the show, Fuck Pretty, in many ways was what brought around this compilation of works from only female artists. While dealing with childhood trauma, Featherstone (as a model and actress) found herself confronting issues specific to her beauty and gender. Featherstone explained that the title came from a phone conversation she had with comedian Richard Jeni in 1994. She explains that while talking to Jeni about a deal that had gone south, she said, “They always say, ‘she’s so pretty and funny,’ but I say fuck pretty, gimme money.” This statement lead to Fuck Pretty, a collection of images that portray the process of self-discovery involved in the journey from child to woman for both Featherstone and the other artists involved. Furthermore, the show stands as a brave and aggressive consideration of Rei Kawakubo’s quote that “in order for something to be beautiful it doesn’t have to be pretty.” As Featherstone puts it, her show is one filled with the “violent act of truth telling” and is both a public and private investigation of beauty and the liberation art can bring.

{photo “Julia” by Siri Kaur}

Super Bowl Round-Up

Super Bowl News and Analysis

Huffington Post: What to Say to Young Boys and Men About Big Ben

“There will also likely be considerable hand-wringing from many in Steeler Nation, who will cheer for their team with a troubled conscience, out of concern that their cheers could be construed as support for a man — the team’s quarterback and on-field leader — with a disgraceful record of mistreating women.

The following talking points are designed to give parents, coaches and other adults some ideas about how to frame conversations with boys and young men (and girls and young women) about the Ben Roethlisberger case.”

Change.org: Super Bowl: ‘One of the Biggest Human Trafficking Events in the U.S.’

“At the second annual meeting of Texas’ anti-trafficking task force last week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot announced that his staff is already getting ready to help authorities stop traffickers during the Super Bowl—which he described as “one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States.” Task force staff will train law enforcement to identify victims of trafficking, and to engage with them as victims, rather than criminals.”

ColorLines: Mike Tomlin’s Super Bowl Return Is Proof Affirmative Action Works

“But Tomlin wouldn’t likely be roaming the sidelines if not for the Rooney Rule, which requires an NFL team with a head coaching vacancy to interview a candidate of color. Before the rule, few African Americans were granted interviews, let alone given head coaching jobs.”

Socialist Worker: Those Non-Profit Packers

“Actually, it’s not quite accurate to say the Packers are without an owner. They have 112,000 of them. The Packers are owned by the fans, making them the only publicly owned, not-for-profit, major professional team in the United States.

…. In the United States, we socialize the debt of sports and privatize the profits. Green Bay stands as a living, breathing–and, for the owners, frightening–example that pro sports can aid our cities in tough economic times, not drain them of scarce public resources.”

Ms. Magazine: There’s a Reason Lucy Grabs the Football from Charlie Brown

“When do corporations spend $100K-per-second for TV ads in which the product will inevitably be forgotten by consumers, but the content will help spread misogynistic stereotypes?

On Super Bowl Sunday.”