Monday, December 31, 2007

"Bi-Gendered" Relationships

This article kinda irks me. On the one hand we see that the writer is making a point about men and women friendships that can be platonic; an idea that is often brushed to the side. Meaning, our world is often set up dichotomously – men hang with men, and women hang with women. But this friendship is different; they are two genders that get along well, have good conversation, and yet, don’t want to sleep together. Wow. Unheard of, right? Of course I am being facetious here…anyone can be friends with anyone, but with all of the pressure to remain true to predefined (and gross) gender roles in society (i.e. the men play sports together, while the women shop for shoes together), it is often skeptical to see a man and a woman being friends and nothing more. And the comments posted to the article prove this skepticism:

“I think in certain ways you really want to date your friend Sean and try to sabotage his relationships,” one commenter writes.

“One day your friend will find a woman to love and that same relationship you have with him will dwindle as he transfers that part of his life to her. You're both wasting time. You need the courage to have a romantic authentic relationship with someone. Him too," another commenter remarked.

These comments are awful. They perpetuate the idea that men and women can have little in common/comfort if they are not sleeping together. The idea is very heteronormative in that it points to romance as being the ultimate goal between women and men.

And in other ways, the author herself irks me. She compares the relationship with her male friend as something that her female friends cannot give her. Is this because she thinks women are only “cheerleaders” who offer support, thereby perpetuating a common idea that all women are more nurturing then men? Or is it because the man in her life gives her “realistic” advice, as if to say that only men can offer real conclusion while women are somewhat floaty?

It is interesting that as much as we move forward towards equality, and the elimination of gender-role justification, these types of articles only seem to put a back-peddle on the progression.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ladies' Night

It’s Ladies Night, and that means those who society deems a lady get to waltz in to a bar (often for free), sit down at a stool and order greatly reduced drinks.

One has to wonder why these types of specials happen. Is it that the patriarch is finally realizing that women work damn hard and deserve alcohol in cheap quantity? Or is it because bars want to exude their finest chivalry by allowing women to enjoy life on the establishment’s dime? Or is it because bars want more men to come to the bar – maybe because of age-old stereotypes that man pay or drink more while out on the town?

A club in New York City is being sued for allowing such nights because it is discriminating towards men. A lawyer representing the bar makes many attempts to say that this is not the case, including pointing out restaurants that allow free/discounted food to those who are elderly or children. The lawyer also says how it can be better for men…

Vanessa R. Elliott, a lawyer representing the club AER Lounge, said in court papers Friday that nightclubs recognize that men might not want to visit the clubs if they fail to attract enough women. "Under this theory, male customers may actually benefit from ladies' nights in other ways and be encouraged to attend the club on those nights," she wrote.

Who is really benefiting here?

This type of lawsuit has been going on all around the country. In Denver one male customer won because, well, it does seem particularly sexist. The customer said it was unfair that he had to pay more to get in to the establishment, and he felt discriminated against. Rightfully so perhaps.

[As an aside, the NYC man suing has not been all too kind to feminists, which sucks because true feminists also believe that sexism is a two-way street..."What I’m trying to do now in my later years is fight everybody who violates my rights… the Feminazis have infiltrated institutions, and there’s been a transfer of rights from guys to girls.”]

One writer – who is a serious misogynist in “gentleman’s” clothing – says that men are not men if they can’t saddle up to a bar ready to pay. He goes on to say any man who presses such charges should lose their “status” as a man, and should no longer have the privilege of sleeping with any women. Wow. One can’t be a man if they feel that one way to stop perpetuating sexism is through the abolishment of such women-luring tactics?

What would be interesting, perhaps, is to do undercover work on what the bar considers a man to be – does it matter if they are straight or gay? What do these bars consider a lady? Are they only those who will catch the male gaze, maybe donning a skirt and cleavage-revealing top? Are they only feminine females? Are they heterosexual females? What happens if a masculine-identified lesbian woman walks up to the bar…does she get treated the same?

Important questions.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Proving One's Gender

We are a country made up of both science and religion, of which the two sides are often in contradiction. And while the powers-that-be contend that spiritual and faith-based beliefs are kept out of policy, many would argue that it has indeed permeated into the fabric of institutions, legislation and moral codes. And while religious folks essentially believe a story that has no real PROOF, although it may indeed bring faith and hope to people, they demand that anyone not conforming to their life code must PROVE themselves.

We are a society with a need for absolutism: the idea that we can prove something beyond a shadow of a doubt. For transgender folks, this proof lies within themselves – they feel it, they know it, and they want to live out the gender of their choosing. Yet, despite the fact that a higher power has not been PROVEN; many say that gender identification must be proven.

This article talks about a young man who is going through hormonal treatment, and will not be placed on his college dorm’s male floor because he has not “transitioned completely.” What does this really mean? If a person does not have surgery (coupled with hormones) to physically alter their body, does that discredit the fact that they have felt and known that they have identifiable (PROVABLE) needs including the desire to fully express themselves?

It is unfair, and incredible to me that our society is still stuck in this world where on the one hand people accept moral reasoning that stems from religious texts, while on the other hand requiring proof of one’s own identification. And of course, the worst part about this story is that even if this young man goes through with surgery, gender roles, and “biological presentation” sit at the forefront of many people’s minds, making it impossible to fully transition because so many just simply cannot accept it.

Advocates cited in the article explain this best:

“No surgery is going to remove the discomfort other people have,” said Will Carlson, Equality Utah's policy director. “It's important for people to face these stigma.”

Monday, December 17, 2007


The Tila Tequila show is pushing societal boundaries, as it pushes sexuality, and the freedom of being fluid in to the mainstream. It is like other dating shows where there are handfuls of folks vying for the love of a partner – in this case 16 men and 16 women who are seeking the affection of Tila, a woman who says she came out to the world via the TV program.

Discussion and articles about the idea of the identification of bisexuality have been thrust in to the forefront of conversation and Internet sensation because of the show, mainly because the concept has been long questioned – just like being queer has long been discussed as a choice.

Many say that bisexuality – for a woman anyway – is a trend, a way to turn on men. A valid argument. We live in a world where women are still objectified and marginalized, and the idea of a woman kissing another woman makes a man tingle…it is the ultimate fantasy for those who feel that two females could never be truly be in love with one another, but rather that they want to please the patriarch. Others say that bisexuality is a stepping-stone for those on their way to acceptance of being gay.

Tons of books can be purchased where women and men can read the trials and tribulations of being bi, and many discuss this concept. One book, “Bi Any Other Name,” opens with a cartoon:

Your lesbian friends: “Internalized homophobia won’t allow you to accept your lesbianism.”

Your straight friends: “Your interest in women is an attempt to avoid your fear of intimacy with men.”

Your mother: “You’re sick.”

While simple, these interpretations run the gamut of the ways in which society feels about not conforming to the hetero norms that the powers-that-be set up many moons ago. Women, in particular, are supposed to marry a man, have a career, take care of the home, raise children, and the like. Often, the question of bisexuality has been an argument against these “requirements” because coming out is a hard-thing to do, and many contend that parents, friends and society-at-large are more willing to accept this orientation because, well, there is still a chance that normativity can still be clinched. As if it’s only an experiment.

But for folks who identify as such, it’s not a joke, or a test. It’s real for them. And in fact I have heard that many people feel like they are marginalized in an already marginalized gay community. It’s an interesting dialogue that really may only be absolved (but then again maybe the topic of sexuality should never really end…we should continue to stretch our labels and boxes), if we can successfully break through the gender role glass ceiling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Things We Want

I don't generally put my own thoughts here, but after seeing the "Things We Want" the other night at a small theater in midtown, (directed by Ethan Hawke and starring awesome actors from "Little Miss Sunshine" and "The Station Agent"), I wanted to write:

Ah, the quest for happiness. What is it? What does it feel like? Who does it feel like? Am I constantly in a state of change; ready to seek out the other, the one thing that doesn’t quite feel like right now? Do we all do that? Why do I lose sleep every night over all of things that I wish I had done, wish I had said? Why do I repeat this dialogue the next night – those last minute should have, could haves – instead of stepping up to the plate? Maybe that’s what dreams are for? How is that we obsess over things only to change, only to erase that product, that feeling, that comfort?

Fuck the questions, I want some answers.

I used to go shopping. Big shopping. I would drive to the grocery store; find just the perfect spot on the blacktop parking lot. List? Check. Cart? Check. Wallet in my right back pocket? Check. I’m there, sifting through product under fluorescent bulbs; a random person walking past on a cell phone, “Do we buy the toilet paper with hearts or zigzags?” I wonder what they bought. I choose the same things over and over again – some for me. Some for other. Those items, as if a metaphor for life, were always in the house. Pierogies? Check. Tortillas? Check. Biscuits? Check. Comfort. Love. Being aware, yet unaware of what we feed – physically and metaphorically – our bodies. Then one day, it’s gone. The smells don’t waft the same, and the drip of the coffee pot doesn’t percolate as long now that there are fewer cups to brew. It’s just life. Changing. New comfort, new smells. New favorites.

Life is kinda like my relationship with a frozen bag of brussel sprouts. The water would bubble, then boil, and one by one they would melt into the steam. They are good for us. The vitamins, the fiber. I used to eat them so much that one day, they smelled like feet. I remember one morning, just before the humidity hit its full peak. I sat there at the long cream and black table, salted the vegetable just so. Something was off. I gagged. I gagged again. I lost what little I ate. I never had them again. I wanted change. Now I eat peas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's Monday; We Could All Use A Good Laugh

Monday, December 3, 2007


Bullying can be a major road block for any kid, and thankfully some states are now taking punishment to a new level by drafting and enacting anti-bullying legislation.

And while there are many reasons specific kids are targeted, i.e. race or class, of particular concern are young LGBTQ students because thier identification may often be compounded by the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their religion, etc.

Cited in a Kansas newpsper article -- a state where anti-bullying laws go in to affect January 1, 2008 -- were statistics taken from a 2005 national survey about LGBTQ students:

• Three-fourths of students heard derogatory remarks frequently or often at school.
• More than a third of students experienced physical harassment.
• And lesbian and gay students were five times more likely than students in general to report having skipped school in the last month because of safety concerns.

However, despite mounting tales of young folks who have been savagely beaten, or intimidated, Kansas lawmakers say there is no need to specify LGBTQ bullying issues because it is already folded in to the general policy: “Superintendent Winston Brooks said the district's current policies and student code of conduct already prohibit such harassment, and that sexual orientation is not a protected class as defined by federal law.”


It is an unbelievable outrage that sexual orientation is not protected by federal power, and more so, that individual states would be so ignorant to want to go along with it.

This is especially true because there are numerous states and school districts that are not only saying that bullying is a problem, and that folks should be held accountable for their hateful actions, they are also saying that students, the administration, teachers and parents also need to look at the reasons behind the hate; learn to solve the problem through education; and to train everyone in LGBTQ human rights by shining light on the underlying heteronormativity U.S. society is grounded on.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Contradictions, or not?

Am I woman if my hair is long
Am I not a woman if I don’t do anything with it
Am I woman if I shave all hair off my body
Am I not a woman if I wear no makeup
Am I woman if I carefully trim my nails
Am I not a woman if I wash with no fragrance
Am I woman if I worry about what I eat
Am I not a woman if I lift weights
Am I a woman if I wear thong panties
Am I not a woman if I wear athletic socks
Am I a woman if I sometimes show cleavage
Am I not a woman if I often wear beater tanks
Am I a woman if I care
Am I not a woman if I cuss
Am I am woman if I read gossip news
Am I not a woman if I read intellectual studies
Am I a woman if I listen to soft, slow songs – fluttering
Am I not a woman if I enjoy hard and heavy music – thumping
Am I a woman if I like to cry during films
Am I not a woman if I enjoy comic book adaptations
Am I a woman if care about family and friends
Am I not a woman if I don’t want kids
Am I a woman if I enjoy luxury
Am I not a woman if I choose Monte Carlos over Lamborghinis
Am I a woman if I stop before I’m too drunk
Am I not a woman if I prefer a good beer
Am I a woman if I like to shop
Am I not a woman if most of that shopping is on the Internet
Am I a woman if I am getting educated in a helping field
Am I not a woman if I want to change the world
Am I a woman if I want to take it slow
Am I not a woman if I just want to have sex
Am I a woman if I love women
Am I not a woman because I love women

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Media Eliminating Bisexuality?

An interesting question was recently posed via email in regards to a new song/video by a mainstream artist:

Have you heard the song by Ray Lavender, 'My girl has a girlfriend?' Its a pretty track about how he says his girl has a girlfriend and its ok because having two girlfriends is better than having no friends so if she calls her girlfriend he's going to show here how he do what he do. Anyway I wanted to ask you that because a lot of radios play a different version but I just saw the video and they changed it to my girl has a best friend. I don't understand why his girl can't have a girlfriend. why did they change it to best friend?

And my response...

No, I have not heard that song, but that is an interesting question. There could be a couple of reasons:

1. Committing to the girlfriend version means that the powers-that-be have to commit to the idea that bisexuality is a real orientation. And in some ways, this could equate to the (scary!) notion that women can actually be in power -- because in this situation she would play the "traditionally masculine" role of sort of being in control of others.

2. Having a best friend, on the other hand, would first off eliminate any idea that bisexuality is a real orientation (because as you know, many-a-folk would love to say that heterosexuality is the only path in life). In today's world instilling heterosexuality is vital to the powers-that-be because they may feel it is the only way to perpetuate economic power (capitalism is associated with heteronormativity because marriage + kids = stability and power). More, there are a lot of people benefiting from patriarchy, which is why it is common to women being objectified and marginalized...society needs to make sure that women are not gaining on the men...keep them full of self-loathing! Therefore, they may have made her have a best friend because this eliminates her power role -- she is no longer controlling two separate intimate relationships, instead he is controlling her (and the best friend) as the designated boyfriend.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Genderizing the O-word

A new research study shows that men are having orgasms two and a half times the rate of women, thereby broadening the gender-gap debate to a new level: the bedroom.

First, one has to consider the ways in which patriarchy has seeped in to this phenomenon. Orgasms may not be be purely physical -- and if a woman is not comfortable in her body, in her intellect or feel second class because this is what mainstream society still perpetuates, her emotional confidence may not allow for an orgasm either. Think about it, a woman is told to look sexy, feel sexy and to, often, please their men (we are talking about heterosexual statistics here) in all areas of life, including during intercourse. Men have the luxury of not having to examine who they are at every second of an interaction. I can think of numerous times I have stood in line in a grocery store and noticed Cosmopolitan Magazine covers that give a step-by-step guide on how to look hot while having an orgasm. We wouldn't the woman to be concerned with her own happiness here, would we? Instead, we shove the idea of perfection down their throats -- that even in a time of pure, blissful self-love, women still need to look good for their man. No wonder the stats are low.

Another note of interest from the Stanford article compares heterosexual orgasm rates to that of same-sex rates.

"The women in England's study who reported on a same-sex hookup that included oral sex had an orgasm 62 percent of the time, while women reporting on an opposite sex hookup of the same variety had an orgasm just 39 percent of the time."

One has to wonder how much of this is related to the overarching patriarchal themes as well. Particularly because the article points out that: "men often didn't’t know if their female partner had had an orgasm. England compared men and women’s reports of the woman’s orgasm in heterosexual hookups. The women themselves reported an orgasm 25 percent of the time, while the men thought their partners orgasmed 60 percent of the time."

Hmm. I would say that if one is in a relationship where their partner is clueless about who got their rocks off, and who didn't, that will definitely play a role the next time around (if there is one), when intercourse takes place.

The article's author has a couple of awful indications such as women should BECOME lesbians -- as if it is a choice -- and also that instead of "take back the night," which is an anti-violence event, women should be demanding "take back the orgasm" rallies; however, the author does make a good point about the need to shift societal dynamics:

"To close the gap, societal attitudes need to shift toward valuing female pleasure in hookups and enabling women to understand their own sexual response."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hip Mothers Need Only To Shop

Ok. I’m not a mom. But while I don’t know the feeling of having a child running around my legs, I do know that “letting myself” go would be an unfair accusation – however this article points out a step-by-step guide to making sure that post-labor mommies are looking good…and by that I mean wearing hot camo pants.

There are so many things wrong with this list.

First off, it speaks only to those who can afford to shop, shop, shop, and even makes light of REAL life families who struggle everyday to put food on the table, “Even if you're on a tight budget, our tips can help you feel your best even on the days you have run out of diapers, can't find your car keys (again) and have just discovered you've been walking around for hours with spit-up on your shoulder (again!).”

Yeah because their suggestions are so much more important than paying the heating bill:

1. They suggest getting big Angelina Jolie-type glasses to hide the puffy, black circles under the eyes of moms. Um. That’s called sleep deprivation, and what we should be suggesting is more resource allocation from the powers-that-be, so that mothers don’t have to work two jobs, plus maintain the family and home.
2. They suggest subscribing to a newspaper so that they can have “good conversation skills,” something the authors’ feel their “husbands will appreciate.” Hmm. How about the conversations one can have at work, during business meetings, etc? Oh yeah. That’s right. Women are supposed to stay home. Silly me. I forgot.

And the over-arching heteronormativity of this article is just flat-out gross. All references to a partner in the home center around a husband. This means that a). the woman is in a heterosexual relationship, and b). that she has committed to the “morally correct” choice of taking religious and legal vows.

Thus, this article does not speak to those who are in long-term relationships with someone they choose not to marry, or someone the powers-that-be have decided for them that they cannot marry (i.e. lesbian mothers). This article does not address women who like being single, but are also mothers.

Apparently “being hip” is the only way to maintain self-respect, so I guess these writers don’t mind letting all other situations fall to the wayside.

Transgender Inmates' Have Rights Too

The Inmate Sex Change Prevention law DENIES transgender inmates from accessing hormones, etc, which are required to maintain their identity. Prisons can deny inmates these drugs, but as three transgender people state in a federal case against the corrections system, “stopping their treatments would be a form of cruel and unusual punishment, and would violate their right to equal protection under law.”

The real issue here is that many say that those who are not comfortable in their body, and are seeking to reveal the real them – i.e. the gender they identify as – are mentally unstable. We are supposed to be who we are: those born with a penis are boys (and masculine), and those born with a vagina are girls (and feminine). No exceptions. No wiggle room.


These debates feel like they go on and on, round and round. What is it about forcing someone in to a box? Why?

Please find out if your state is actively denying transgender inmates important hormone treatments. If so call them, email them, and tell everyone you know that the perpetuation of "moral" gender identification is wrong. This is especially important to those who already have so many of their human rights stripped because they sit in a jail cell.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Last ditch efforts to save kids until marriage

Here we again. Just as we are rounding out Bush’s term, we see that his administration is pushing their conservative, heterosexual agenda. This time, on kids.

A new television ad tells young people that they are worth it if they wait to have sex, but like this article points out, it never reminds kids that they are STILL “worth it” if they do engage in sexual activities. In fact, because this type of campaigning against reproductive and sexual health has never been proven to work, it makes it harder to resist rolling one’s eyes at the unrealistic agenda.

What’s more, one will notice that towards the end of this ad, a call for abstinence until marriage is prescribed, which thereby limits “worthiness” to only those who can legally marry, and to those who want to get legally married – which means that a whole slew of LGBT young people, as well as heterosexual adolescents who feel marriage is not for them, are not getting their needs properly addressed.

This is not to say that the ad is not correct in asking parents/guardians to talk about sex with their kids. It’s a good thing to have an open-door policy, to offer guidance. However, telling them only to wait, and not supplying other areas of support in case they do engage and are scared, excited, or find themselves pregnant, with an STD, or otherwise, is not fair to anyone.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Update on the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (EDNA)

Quick update on the ENDA, a legislative bill that ensures discrimination is not happening at the work place:

A decision to remove gender identification from the amendments was made, and the bill is now only focusing on sexual orientation marginalization. For obvious reasons groups around the country are in uproar. To only recognize one is unfair, and there does not seem to be a point to removing gender identity from the language.

GayWired reports: "In addition to the missing vital protections for transgender people on the job, this new bill also leaves out a key element to protect any employee, including lesbians and gay men who may not conform to their employer's idea of how a man or woman should look and act,” Cathcart said in the release. “This is a huge loophole through which employers sued for sexual orientation discrimination can claim that their conduct was actually based on gender expression, a type of discrimination that the new bill does not prohibit.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Adrienne Rich...


Last night I went to see the famed feminist poet Adrienne Rich speak on Columbia’s campus. The room was packed – people sat cross-legged on the radiator against the wall; made spots for themselves in the middle of the stairs, and stood at the doorway to hear her speak.

She never stood up, as she is nearing her 77th year on this Earth; and she never explained her poems – requesting that we decipher its meaning on our own…that they should speak for themselves.

Her readings were beautiful. I am particularly drawn to her artisan expressions of love, war, hate, fear and beauty because of her history.

Ms. Rich spent 20 years in a relationship with her husband until one day he committed suicide. Thrown in to a different world, she began standing with the feminist movement and understanding who she was as a person; she came out as a lesbian, and she continued to make social justice appropriations. She has won numerous awards, and I believe the person introducing her last night said that she has over 400,000 pieces of paper boasting her works.

Particularly, she has written about the idea of compulsory heterosexualism, and the lesbian experience. However, she did not speak much of this last night – even though Ms. Rich did open up the evening with a poem about the importance of finding one’s home; questioning whether or not it is the journey, or if it is the actual place to finally lay one’s head, that is most important.

Pulling out my trusty feminism papers from undergrad, I located notes I wrote about Adrienne Rich, and thought I would share:

• Women are supposedly the earliest sources for emotional bondage to children, but why, then, do women constantly redirect their search for love and tenderness in men. Meaning, if women are supposedly natural caregivers, then why do we need to be reminded of ourselves by our patriarchs?

• Adrienne Rich believes that if more men would take on the role of mothering, less hype would be around the issue of mothers (women) and children.

• She identifies the characteristics of male power:
- To deny women their own sexuality – i.e. restrictions against
orgasms, masturbating, destruction of literature or other that
include sex or lesbianism
- Force male sexuality upon them – meaning rape, incest, creating
socialization of women in order to increase male sex drive,
advertising, pornographic depictions, etc
- To command or exploit women’s labor to control produce, marrying or
having children but not giving an income;segregation of women paid
in employment; male control of abortion, contraception, etc., and
pimping out women as sex workers.
- Seizure of children from lesbian homes (or maybe not allowing lesbian
couples to adopt); genital mutilation
- To confine them physically and prevent their movement by means of
rape or terrorism, foot binding, the veil, sexual harassment, etc
- Use women as objects in male transactions – the use of women as
gifts, pimping, arraigned marriages, call girls, cocktail waitresses
required to dress fro male titillation, prostitutes.
- Cramp women’s creativeness – witch persecutions, campaigns against
midwives; restriction of female self-fulfillment to marriage and
- To withhold from them large areas of the society’s knowledge and
cultural attainments – non-education of females, sex-role tracking
which deflects women in science, technology, and other “masculine”

• Adrienne Rich points out that all women are part of the lesbian continuum because women are handled by other women (mothers, grandmothers, caregivers, etc), and they have children...a constant continuum of womanhood, bonding.

• Many women, she says, live separate lives with other women outside of their marriages.

• We should not think of the heterosexual lifestyle as normal, but the view has actually been imposed on us by men. Heterosexuality has been forcibly and subliminally imposed on women.

• Just because women are in heterosexual relationships does not always mean that they prefer heterosexual relationships – they marry men for economical reasons; to avoid social ostracism; to do what is expected of women.

• If a relationship is based on a double life (meaning you get beat by your man, but you still love him), then she says that sex is then equated with attention from the male, who is charismatic, though brutal, infantile; and that women are often put in to a place where women make one another’s life endurable…helping to care for the shame, pain, give advice, etc.

• That being said, Adrienne Rich always stressed that being a lesbian does not stem from a hatred of men – however it was made a negative word by the patriarch.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stop Workplace Discrimantion Already.

For the past 33 years proponents of a bill– created to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers – have been trying to get it passed in to legislation, but to no avail.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act was created to stop discrimination based on sexual orientation, as well as gender identification, and instead, push employers to hire and fire based on merit alone. Unlike other bills that ensured inclusion of all races in the working world, H.R. 2015 is struggling. Why?

Because it appears that many people still believe folks CHOOSE not to be heterosexual, and thus, they should be able to adjust themselves if they want to work; as if it is simply a mask that can be taken on or off, depending on the weather, the day of the month, etc. Or that if one identifies as male, but is biologically a woman, or identifies as female, but is biologically male, or anywhere in between, that it should be easy enough to done a dress if one has an “F” on their birth certificate.

The problem, for opponents is that these “choices” are immoral and unnatural – despite mounting scientific and psychosocial evidence – thus workers falling into these identifications should not get special treatment.

Why the hell not?

As it stands, there are only a handful of states that protect workers against this type of discrimination, and once an employee is fired (or not hired at all), they have no federal law protecting them. This is a problem.

Clearly we live in a very categorized world – because we are a society that boasts forward movement and success, we have created a system where labels are placed on people to demoralize, quell their advancement, and to successfully create dichotomies. People are either good or bad; straight or gay; conservative or liberal, woman or man.

But how can we really live in such a boxed in environment. I think many people can relate to times in our lives where we realized, “hey, things are not simply black and white.” Life is constantly a mesh of ideas, and to pretend otherwise is downright ignorant.

I mean, what is it? Are we simply stuck in stereotype madness: A woman has to wear a dress and heels in the workplace so that people know who to go to when they need a baking tip? Or a man has to wear a suit in case a piece of furniture needs to be moved? Are we really that dependant on outside identification?

More, does a man or woman have to be in a heterosexual relationship so that office mates know who to complain to when they get in to a fight with their partner? It appears that people forget the concept of empathy – the idea that believe it or not, humans are capable of reaching beyond their specific lives, and talking, working and hanging out with people who are not exactly like them. How interesting that our country has had a long standing opposition to socialist/Marxist ideas - because that would mean giving up individual characteristics - yet we constantly find ourselves hating people's independence.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ms. Hooks, Telling It How It Is

Some notes from Bell Hooks' handy feminism guide, "Feminism is Everybody:"

- Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.

-In this country, feminists are made, not born, just as demur, mold-fitting women, are.

-The big problem with combating sexism is the FALSE idea that it is all about men-haters. Rather, the truth is that sexism permeates all of us.

- The "enemy within" is the idea of women being "trained" to hate other women. This is because we are meant to first hate ourselves.

-If a woman is anti-choice she cannot be a feminist because that means a woman does not have control of her own body, which, in turn, eliminates rights in other areas of her life.

-Consumerism/capitalism seems to continue the struggle because they have a product to sell: makeup, certain clothes, hair products, baby products, etc. If a woman does not buy she is stuck...

-Says that feminism is "the commitment to eradicating the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels: sex, race and class, and so on. It is also a commitment to reorganizing U.S. society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion and material desires.

-The feminist movement allows women to see that they have a CHOICE to wear heels, skirts, pants, makeup, etc.

-Unfortunately the media highlights feminists, or women who choose to not conform to the socialized form of clothing and identification, as ugly or frumpy. Magazines plaster their pages with before and after photos, with the “made-up” woman being the beautiful one.

-Some white women believe(d) that their liberation will get them out of their homes and in to the workforce, while minorities (race and class alike) strive towards the ability to have the choice to be in the home, as that avenue would be freedom.

-Lesbian feminists were integral in the classism scope, as they never imagined their lives with a husband. Stepping around the hetero-normatively of our society facilitates seeing situations more clearly.

-U.S. women have to be weary about “liberate” women in other countries, as they may not know what is best for other cultures. By ignoring this, women – in this way – are no better off than their Western male counterparts who persist on ruling women, and other countries.

-The media spins the struggle of women in other countries as worse than the ladies in the U.S., for example wearing the hijab. This pushes women, and men, here in the States to be in a state of ignorant bliss.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thin is still, apparently, in.

When will the body image self-loathing end? I mean, will it? As much as I say that I am comfortable with my body, I still find myself feeling guilty for eating something fattening, or when I miss a day at the gym. As a feminist, I think I surprise myself when I find myself worrying about these stereotypical ideals that women think about. Is it my fault though? For every one person that says it’s cool to look and feel the way one wants, there are 10 magazines and newscasts dedicated to thin-is-in; or how fat Brittany Spears has gotten – which by the way is ridiculous, I mean the woman has a child, and should not HAVE to have a 14-year-old’s body anymore.

In fact, in New York, where the city is going through fashion week, article after article have been published about the clothes, the designers, and of course, what to eat. AM New York, is a free daily that gets distributed all over the city, which is good – because it is free, but bad because more people may read it, and begin to carve out NECESSARY calories, in exchange for a smaller waistline. The “Fashion Week Diet,” article – on Sept. 10, 2007 – listed this as the author’s meal:

Breakfast: Unsweetened coffee, one slice whole-wheat bread with low-fat butter, two low-fat, plain yogurts
Snack: : Unsweetened green tea
Lunch: : Two protein packets, eight ounces mixed vegetables, two cups raspberries
Dinner: : Baked rabbit spread with fromage frais, steamed fennel with lemon

Since when is tea a snack?

She got the recipe from the book, the “Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” in which he notes, “If you attach no importance to weight problems, if not being able to wear new, trendy small-sized clothes does not cause you any regret, this book is not for you.”

Ugh. What a gross thing to say; why is there a “weight problem” just because one can’t fit into “small-sized clothing?” There is something really wrong with this.

And younger girls – who should not be worried about whether or not they can squeeze in to a size zero pant, are picking up on this trend. ABC reported that (brace yourself) EIGHT YEAR OLD GIRLS are “being admitted to the hospital suffering anorexia nervosa. One in 100 adolescent girls develop the disorder.”

Not surprisingly, “Women's attitudes toward their own bodies are worse after looking at thin media images;” while “In young teenage girls, looking at pictures of thin, idealised models is likely to cause lowered satisfaction with their body and a high state of depression. Reading fashion and beauty magazines is associated with wanting to lose weight and initiating diets. A five-year study found that reading dieting advice in magazines was associated with skipping meals, smoking, vomiting and using laxatives in teenage girls.”

Young (and old, alike) say that there is no need for feminism, that all is equal, that we can show our bodies off to the world and be empowered. Really? Vomiting is empowering? Who knew.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Importance of gender-neutral restrooms

So life in NYC is exciting. There are tons of things to do, a variety of people to do things with, and access to culture all around. Yet, close-minded folks still abound.

Friday night a group of us went out for drinks, and found ourselves in a trendy martini bar on the lower west side. Beautiful outfits surrounded me, fancy people talking about fancy things, while sipping their cosmos. Not my usual beer-drinking comfort zone, but it was cool nonetheless. I am open to new things.

My dirty martini was much stronger than anticipated, and I stumbled back to the bathroom, and thus elbowing through a crowd who did not even notice that there were others in the bar.

There were two red doors. Both boasted RESTROOM. Neither was specifically assigned to a gender. I liked that. In a city where millions of people live amongst one another, it is important to have options; to not quickly throw someone in to a blue or pink box based on their biological sex.

The woman waiting in line in front of me apparently did not agree.

Donned in a short, all white dress – with her collar popped just so – she looks at me and asks, “Why can’t they just have a ladies and a men’s room?”

Well maybe, I tell the woman with the valley-girl voice, the bar is trying their best to be progressive; letting folks know that you can be whom you want, when you want…even in the public restrooms.

Thinking I was enlightening the young woman, I began getting excited about sharing more of my (important) knowledge, and passion for breaking gender lines, until she looked at me; wide-eyed.

“Ew. Gross,” she remarked.

And with that she disappeared in to the next door that opened – a tall, drunk man stumbling out before her.

Across America transgender folks are begging and pleading for a change. The Seattle Times reported on two female-to-male mall-goers who were not only kicked out of the shopping plaza for using the “wrong” restroom, they were also marched around the mall by security guards.

In my undergrad, I wrote for my college’s paper, where I reported about how the campus did not offer even one gender neutral restroom for its students, staff, faculty or visitors, even though it boasted about being diverse on the school’s Web site.

There is no federal law that mandates the inclusion of restrooms where all genders can feel safe, so it is up to businesses, schools and cities to implement gender-neutral restrooms themselves.

I contend that the more commonplace these restrooms are, the more likely folks, such as the woman who remarked at the icky-ness of a male or female using the same commode, will ease up the desire to have everything neatly labeled and put in to a box.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Vaginal Rejuvenation Surgery; a bust?

Finally, the gears are a changin’. In a recent report, docs are saying that maybe vaginal rejuvenation is not the best form of cosmetic surgery a woman can opt for.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said “the procedures are not medically necessary and are not guaranteed to be safe as there is little known about their potential complications, such as infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia (pain), adhesions, and scarring.”

Indeed, the surgery, in which the labia is cut, stretched and redefined so that women can feel confident that they have a “normal” looking vagina, is not needed. More, the report talks about the way the procedure can also “amplify” the g-spot.

I have to say that I am weary of a process that magically gives women the ability to have an orgasm. Meaning, it is so much more than this amplification; it is about confidence, self-love. And I am not confident that a surgery will give this to women. Instead, it appears that the more a woman believes that there is a right and a wrong way to look and feel normal, the less likely it is that she will be able to rid her body and mind from the self-loathing ideas that continue to berate our sex/gender.

And while there are always exceptions to the rule – there may be a genetic issue, or other, that gives the process merit – for the most part women are lining up for the surgery because just like the beauty magazines beckoning women and men as they wait to pay for their groceries, the seed of perfection was planted by someone other than the patient herself.

Sure, we are all subject to the wraths of the media, in that it consistently exposes us to a variety of norms, but it is vital – and apparently death-defying – to filter through the messages and ask why. Why am I slicing up my vagina? Who is the end product for? Why am I ok with this?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Time to Speak Up

In a very interesting study, researchers found that while most men benefit from marriage in terms of health, many women are often silenced, experience irritable bowel syndrome, and are depressed.

This is not new news, as many folks say that marriage is often pushed in this country because it is good for both the man, and the capitalist machine: when men come home from work they get a good meal, they get clean clothes, they can be comforted...and this means that they are less likely to quit their job, that they will get up every morning and fiscally contribute. This is not to say that working is a bad thing, but what is wrong is this reliance on women to get their man's ass out of the house...this perpetuation continues to place women in the position of maid or assistant; not an equal.

Women, on the other hand, have to come home from work, put on their rubber gloves, and begin their second job. I do wish that these truths could only be seen on 1950s TV programming, but the reality is that women are still forced to be submissive (however, obviously, forces such as feminism have allowed more equal roles to take place).

And this leads up to the most important finding: women who are in these types of relationships must adhere to her husband's rules because of the verbal, emotional and physical abuse, or possibly death. As a result, many will stay silent during explosive arguments, or when their men come home stressed out...better to rub his feet than speak her mind:

Over a 10-year period, the most striking finding was that women who self-silenced were four times more likely to die than women who expressed themselves freely during marital arguments.

Women: if this is you, or a friend, you must believe in the strength of help. It is out there. Don't be afraid to speak up.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Just moved to NYC

I am here to begin my master of social work program at Columbia University, and it is taking me a bit to get settled, and back in to my regular agenda, so please be patient on the (lack of) posts.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Female Circumcision

A report out today about the second young woman in the last couple of months who have died due to complications arising from banned female circumcision surgeries.

The procedure, which many refer to as female genital mutilation, usually involves the removal of the clitoris and other parts of female genitalia. Advocates say it tames a girl's sexual desire and maintains her honor. Opponents say girls can bleed to death, suffer chronic urinary infections and have life-threatening complications in childbirth as a result.

Not to mention that this mutilation is happening against the young woman's free will.

Of course it does not appear that men are not made to lose their sexual desires, and the article does not discuss whether or not a young man has to remain a virgin until he is ties the knot. Those who believe in this practice believe that cutting off a woman's sexual desire also means lowering the odds that she will have sex before marriage.

Obviously this type of story breaks my heart, especially because the practice is only banned, and not outright illegal. The folks behind this particular case may never be prosecuted.

Still, the craziest fact here is the astonishing number:97 percent of the married population have undergone this horrific surgery, while half of Egypt's ladies between 10 and 18 have been limited of their desires.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Caddy Chicks

It's summertime, and for many that may mean vacations, relaxation and golf. This year's outing can be spruced up with the help of some [warning...this is annoying] good-looking ladies:

If you're a golfer then you know that lugging around those clubs can be a pain. Thankfully the caddy thing caught on. Well now this concept is being taken to a whole new level. Allow us to introduce... the "Caddy Chicks" - these ladies are really making golf look good! Check it out.

That is a blurb on a golf and caddy service called CaddyChicks.

Hmm. First, I thought that caddys were there to serve as an aid, maybe offer advice; not prostitute their looks.

Not only does the web site boast that the caddies will "spice up" a golfers' game, but they also say the golfer will laugh more, and be the "envy of their buddies." Wow. Golf has always been a classy game, and it is nice to see that well respected courses will be dotted with escorts. Keep it classy! More, I wonder how many women and men -- who would potentially use this service -- are in relationships, and whose partners may find it frustrating that their significant other needs to "spice up" their game.

That being said, I think it is cool to see that the CaddyChicks mission is to break women in to the often very-male game of golf. The compnay offers an oportunity for women to get out there and learn more about the game, work, and play a vital role in the sport. It also gives out scholarships. However, the approach is a bit off for me -- using women to bring spice, good looks and/or envy to a game appears to go against the idea of their mission.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Putting the moron in oxymoron.

Here is an interview with a writer who is making attempts to smash some of the stereotypes between the sexes. In many ways, Robert Dubac, who created the theatrical performance, "Male Intellect: An Oxymoron", is admired because he first attempts to find some of the differences, and then he applies this to life lessons: he basically says that when men admire the idea of putting "a few notches on his belt," they tend to live up to an unsafe, unemotional foundation.

Ok. Good stuff, but what ticks me off about Dubac is the fact that he is supposed to be this expert on the sexes: being able to identify the differences. Well, first off, the interviewer asks him about the differences in his new town in Colorado, of which he first calls the female population GIRLS, and then he makes a silly generalization: “The girls don't shave their legs as often." Huh? What a random thing to say about women in Telluride.

This perception is interesting because GIRLS don't shave their legs because, um, they are too young; but more importantly -- because it is clear that Dubac meant women -- it is important because he goes on to give the golden answer to "what do women want." I can't help but wondering how in the world he can know anything if he still considers them people with the intellect and needs of a child?

He says that women basically want the same thing as men, but because they only want to be "CHERISHED" for their hard work -- as opposed to the "RESPECT" that men crave -- they go through different steps to get to their goal.

This actually may be true, as women have no choice sometimes but to take other routes to get to the top because let's face it, there are many roadblocks in the way (pressure to be in a traditional role, sexism, the glass ceiling...) but come on Dubac, elaborate.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Video montage

Glen Beck wants a journalist to pose nude:

Please educate our younger sisters...

Why do people keep mixing feminists up with folks fighting against equality? It's not about one being more anything than the other -- no real feminist would say that ONLY men are aggresive, oppressive, violent, etc. This video, which focuses on women-only fighting (and I am sure they could have found just as many examples of violent men) is perpetuating the untruths:

And while I will not post any of the videos that I found on YouTube when I typed in the word rape -- in hope of finding news or educational videos -- I want to say that there are handfuls of segments that call the abuse "hot" and "sexy." More, the comments made by YouTubers are incredibly savage. When did rape become sexy? Oh yeah. NEVER.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cleavage, legs; what's the difference?

There has been a lot of coverage about Hillary Clinton's choice of wardrobe. She decided to wear a v-neck shirt on the Senate floor, and was thus, exploited by a Washington Post columnist because she has (gasp!) female anatomy. In fact, this line really sticks out in Robin Givhan's article, and really pisses me off:

"There wasn't an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable."

So, I mean, what is the big deal? Of course it is undeniable; she is a woman! Is it a surprise that the presidential hopeful has breasts? Are people that shallow that this is a constant nag on her campaign?

This reminds me a lot of a similar knock on the physique of women (in addition to the constant barrage of sexist b.s. that graces nearly all modes of media in our mainstream society), when Katie Couric was promoted to one of the most coveted positions in nighttime news.

We really need to focus less on complete coverage of clothes, the hair, the boobs, and so on. Let’s really smash that perpetuation and begin to truly value women for what they are: humans.

Jackass Star is, Well, a Jackass

In the words of Johnny Knoxville, "He explained: "I don't like it when girls do disgusting things. They should leave that stuff to the guys."

Whatever dude. I guess he has not been surfing the numerous feminist sites that are angry that comic book superwomen have not been getting their due process (in fact old school characters, such as SuperGirl, have been stripped down and sexed up).

There is, however, hope that the new generation of comic artists are on the path to change, as stated in the above-referenced Mother Jones article:

"Some of the guys who write comics are listening. I'm conscious that female characters have been treated poorly for much of comics' history, and I don't want to fall into the same traps," says Superman writer Kurt Busiek. Brian K. Vaughan, who has written The X-Men, says he's developing more interesting female characters "to raise the dialogue about comics beyond, 'Could her boobs be smaller?'

Monday, July 30, 2007

Unborn Fetuses Now More Important Than Women

Hmmm. It is unbelievable that an unborn fetus has more respect and humanity than a walking, conscious woman. If you ask
me, those same pro-life advocates -- who are obviously religious in their reasoning -- are so caught up in the patriarchy of Christianity that they cannot even see the marginalization of women. Meaning, the religion appears to tout men as the dominators, and women as unimportant. Maybe the followers of Christianity believe that because a man's sperm created the fetus that he is in charge of its life, and sees it as more upstanding than the woman's belly in which it resides...

More, it is incredible to watch these avid naysayers stand idly when asked such (obvious) questions.

Thank you Nikki for sharing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

News Roundup

A bit of a news roundup:

A radio show in California gave Aerosmith tickets away to “dudes who look like a lady,” and “ladies who look like dudes.” No real problem with creating a themed contest, but I must say that one line in the news station’s coverage truly irks me, as it perpetuates a negative perspective on transgender women and men: “The freaks do not just come out at night.” More, the contestants went so far as to apologize to their parents for stepping out of their pre-designed gender role, and donning a skirt.

Questioning whether or not the Golden Ratio (a mathematical formula that creates identifying ideals within structural perfection) creates clear gender roles – while also setting societies beauty standards in place. This begs the question: are we a sexist society, or is it all based on scientific (un)realities?

Finally, the National Education Association is moving towards adopting legislation that would create a safety net in the country’s schools:

• Call for the NEA to lobby for hate crimes legislation
• Boost the NEA website to "include all resources" devoted to homosexual causes
• Push for sexual orientation training to be a requirement for earning a teaching credential.

Really, the inclusion of these principles is pretty great. The only issue being left out is the curriculum of the coursework. It would be valuable to ensure that students read stories/watch films/hear lectures that include more flexibility than the heterosexual ones that I experienced while in school. Maybe young people who bond with an LGBT character in their readings will be able informed in the real world.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Can't We 'Evolve' Past Sexist Ads?

Some say that my hometown (Pittsburgh) is in the mid-west, which also means that a lot of folks believe that the city is backwards or behind the times. Well, a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette appears to smash that perception.

The article states how all of Pittsburgh’s local TV affiliates have canned a new Trojan ad, which depicts a bar full of pigs (males), and one human woman. As a certain hog and the lady are getting more intimate, the piggy jumps up and heads to a condom-dispensing machine. Upon retrieval of the latex, he too turns in to a human.

Pittsburgh has decided to not run the ad because it is inappropriate, which is very different than the recent slew of stations that are choosing to not air ANY condom ad because it talks about the "immorality of contraception." And while I agree that it is necessary to display ads that show viewers the importance of safe sex (against STDs and unwanted pregnancies), I also agree that by this pig ad is not the right way to go about it.

The ad reinforces the notion that all men are pigs. I would be just as outraged if a commercial was aired depicting women as a dog on a leash (or a group of baby chicks perhaps). The Trojan ad is harmful in other ways as well. It appears to say that men can only rid themselves of the pig spell if they approach a woman (who is of course up to society’s standard of beauty) – meaning all homosexuals are out. It also seems to say that a man is still a dirty, mud-wallowing pig if he is not white.

That being said, I do believe that we should be careful in what we DO advertise. In Pittsburgh one can still watch America’s Next Top Model, or a Viagra ad, or watch a commercial that zooms in and out on a greasy carton of McDonald’s fries. It is important that we send messages that reflect ALL realities, which means making condom ads available for our viewing pleasure (education)…just as long as we are not perpetuating sexist, racist ideals in the process.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editor

We all live under deadlines. Lawyers have to collect evidence in time for trial, writers have to submit edits in time for publication, and rape victims have to secure their future in time before conception.

However, unlike lawyers or journalists, women who have been raped – or involved in any situation where unprotected sex took place – have to jump through hoops to get the needed tools to ensure her deadline.

Why? Because people don’t have their facts right.

In Post-Gazette columnist Ruth Ann Daily’s piece, “Abortion Advocates Rhetoric is Absurd," she points to the erroneous Emergency Contraception myth that the pill aborts fetuses.

She said: “Though some faith-based organizations refuse to use the ‘morning-after’ pill in any circumstances, including rape, most do use it if doctors can determine that fertilization has not yet occurred. But if a woman's egg has been fertilized, there are now two patients involved, the woman and her fetus, according to Roman Catholic theology.”

Actually, Ms. Daily, you are wrong. There are not two patients involved in emergency contraception debates. According to the U.S. Department of Human Services Office on Women’s Health, EC does three things: keeps the egg from leaving the ovary, keeps the sperm from meeting the egg, or keeps the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus (womb).
What it does not do, however, is work if the woman is already pregnant.

Short definition: emergency contraception does not abort. Thus, there truly is only one victim in these circumstances: the woman who (if raped) is traumatized, scared and in need of a solution. She has a five-day deadline (as that is how long sperm can survive in the vaginal canal), and folks such as Ms. Daily continue to make it difficult to live within that time frame.
In fact, her own rhetoric is what causes absurdities in society, such as the refusal by pharmacies to dispense a pill that is nothing more than a heavy dose of hormones; a super strong birth control pill, as stated by the U.S. Department of Women’s Health.

While the abortion debate may rage on until the end of time, it is vital that emergency contraception be left out of those conversations. The two – EC and RU-486 – are not one in the same, and it is the media’s responsibility to not simply meet their deadlines, but rather, get their facts straight before going to press.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The consequence of being fed up with Paris.

Oh my F'n goodness.

This video clips makes me ask whether folks can actually believe how utterly sexist and gross MSNBC's Mika's co-horts are?


First, they SMELLED a Paris Hilton story script (the actual paper it was printed on) -- as if the balled up tree-product was an actual woman. And as if they have any right to stick their noses on another person.

Second, they say that Mika is fighting a mousy comment made by her father -- as if a woman (who is obviously intelligent) needs to be angry to prove that she has an agenda, a goal, or a (gasp) a reason for waking up in the morning. They allude to an idea that many who fear strong women point to: that having a clear head means that a woman is stepping out of her role of demure servant, and that she must be slammed back to subservience.

Finally, the men completely mock her decision to be a upstanding journalist (we can't have a woman making big media decisions, now can we?) by still showing the Paris clip.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Planned Parenthood Protesters

Yesterday I attended an orientation at Planned Parenthood, as I will embark on my volunteer journey at the downtown Pittsburgh office this upcoming Tuesday.

I arrived at the intersection of Smithfield and Liberty Avenue about 10 in the morning, dressed casually, head high, and ready to meet my fellow advocates. Then I saw it.

The poster was massive – I would say six by six in size. I could barely see its holder, but that did not matter. Its message was clear: choose life. A fetuses’ head squinched between a pair of metal tongs; blood everywhere. It is a scare tactic. A way to get passerbys to hate those patronizing the building directly behind the protesters; and a way to get those who are arriving for an abortion procedure to carry the baby to full term.

As I walked closer to the entrance of the building, I realized that the religious shouting, and comments about being a murderer, came from three men. They stood there, eyes pleading, telling women who walked near the Planned Parenthood building to forgo their choice, and instead, follow the word of god (who they also believe is a man). Um. Who in the world do they think they are? These men have no idea what these women are going through. They don’t know what it feels like to be a woman, a mother, pregnant, or on the verge of emotional breakdown. They don’t have estrogen running through their bodies; they pretend they have never made a life decision, and most importantly perhaps, they believe that their word as men is far more commanding than that of the woman herself.

It pains me to think that women could be turned away from their choice to abort because a trio of men told them what to do with their bodies. And no doubt this happens. I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster one must face as she wakes up on the morning of her procedure (in Pittsburgh, the law states that a woman must wait a full 24-hours from the initial counseling appointment to have the procedure done). This, of course, is compounded by the underlying reasons for the necessity of the abortion: rape, incest, age, economics and so on. Trying to balance out all of these factors must be incredibly intense. And while Planned Parenthood assured us volunteers that the organization lauds itself on double and triple checking ambivalence of its patients, women coming to the clinic should not have to be faced with such gruesome photos – blown up WAY beyond actual size.

You see, the Supreme Court allowed for legislation that includes a ban on second (or third) trimester procedures. Thus, the aborted fetus is tiny. It is not full term; it is not capable of living on its own. It is not a child. These blown up posters tell a different, often misleading, story. I find it incredible, especially because a man stood behind this pro-life propaganda. Luckily, the City of Pittsburgh passed an ordinance that creates a 200-foot neutral buffer zone in front of the clinic. No one can cross the line and scream about the injustices, or advocate for rights. I like that. However, 200-feet is still a bit close for comfort…

I imagine that I will run in to these folks quite a bit during my summer tenure here in my hometown. My mission in life is not simply to argue my point, and therefore cut out all opposes. In fact, I enjoy the varied opinions of our world. However, I do not enjoy seeing the rights of ones own body overruled. Our choice to take part reproductive battles is exactly that: OURS. I hope to one day engage in discussion with the protesters – reminding them that just as they have the democratic right to hold signs and scream, women have the right to hold their own reigns on life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

In the news...

I just wanted to point out the reprimandation women face in other countries as they fight for their rights. In Iran, a woman who protested the country's discriminatory laws was sentenced today to not only THREE YEARS in jail, but also TEN LASHES.

In France, a woman who is "sometimes mistaken for a man," was kicked out of a restaurant after a customer complained that there was a male in the ladies restroom. Ok, this is a important topic because what we are talking about here is fitting in to molds – if one does not look female enough (what ever that means exactly), or if one does not look male enough (what ever that means exactly) -- and if one does not, then they have the chance of being discriminated against. This article is very topical, and only mentions this issue in passing, and in fact it seems to perpetuate other problems. First, it mentions the eatery, but uses a reference to margaritas as its identifying marks. It seems a bit insulting that an important issue such as gender discrimination is juxtaposed next to the fact that "[the] Caliente Cab Company, a Mexican restaurant [is] known for its enormous margaritas." More – and this most certainly the more important aspect of the coverage's flaws – the headline of the article points to the woman's sexual orientation. The fact that she got kicked out for her looks has nothing to do with the fact that she is a lesbian. To me, this is yet another example of the ways in which the media exploits lesbians as a titillating way to sell stories.

This little blurb highlights the ways women resemble crocodiles and porcupines when they don't live up to societal expectations: having smooth, shaven legs.

Just like a similar post about all-women hotel floors, an Italian beach's idea to only allow women access to the sand has latent repercussions. First, this makes ALL men look like dogs, and any feminist would rather support an equal opportunity space where both sexes can live comfortably. Second, this article, once again, focuses only on the heterosexual gaze. Third, by "giving the women their own world," what they have done is further marginalize and ostracize women. Having single-sex anything reminds many that women are too weak to fend for themselves, or that men are too promiscuous to lay next to a woman on the beach. And of course, the beach’s biggest slap in the face: "The lifeguard must be a man," the article points out. "You clearly need a man to save a woman in the sea."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In the news...

Twenty percent of women who die while they are pregnant, are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands, according to a Washington Post article, as stated on ABC News. This is a very interesting phenomenon, because while the article says these men are psychopaths, and that the women simply get in the way, this appears to be a strong example of the ways in which men still continue to not only control women's bodies; it also shows how they make successful efforts to control children's bodies. The police interviewed for the story say that "these murders are sudden outbursts of violence," but I contend that these feelings are everything but sudden. This is not to say that each homicide is premeditated, but what it does speak to are the gender roles that our country relies on. In some ways, there is a lot of pressure on these men to be strong, controlling, and the like. There is also this pressure on women (to be submissive, motherly, etc). If these behaviors have been coaxed since boyhood, how much of these eruptions are founded in societal expectations, and how much of the violence is a sudden act of insanity?

More, there seems to be little attention to the fact that these relationships often circulate around domestic violence -- there may have been signs that family members, or the slain women themselves, were ignoring because they were afraid of speaking up. Also, on a side note, these stories are hot in the media -- giving hours upon hours of TV time(and news print) to these slain women, and what I find it disturbing is that these largely-covered murders are almost always about white women. Just like little children who are kidnapped or killed, it appears that our media still continues to pick and choose stories based on race.

Maxim Magazine Called On By Israel
Ok, so Maxim Magazine, which offers titillating photos of women, and then basically rates women's bodies on a scale, is still up to its old objectifying ways, but it now has a new fan: the Israeli Consulate. Its latest issue highlights women who were soldiers in the Israeli army, and are now posing. Why? "In a statement, the magazine said it was contacted by the consulate to help improve Israel’s image." So...a near-naked woman is the answer to boosting a country's ratings? There is no other way to reach young people? Hmm. How about campaigns highlighting young filmmakers, authors, artists, and the like? Oh yeah, that's right, nations reaching out to the mainstream have to weed out education and culture to reach us young folks...yep. It's only boobs and butt that get our attention. Grrr.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Discrimination in the workplace composed a survey asking female employees to rate discrimination (if there was any) in their office environments, and the company found (somewhat unsurprisingly) staggering results.

A quarter of those interviewed felt some sort of discrimination in the workplace -- either sexually, economically or otherwise. The numbers go up if the woman is a minority, over 50 years old, or if she is lesbian or bisexual.

As a freelance journalist, who works from home, the thought of discrimination comes across my mind often. In order to make money I come up with an idea, research, interview, write, edit, and then pitch the story to publications that would benefit from the article. It is not an easy thing to do. Often I attempt to create catchy email subject lines so that I may capture the attention of my editors, but when I hear nothing back, I wonder if I am being discriminated against.

My articles are often very in-depth -- research is my passion -- and I take great strides to get as many sources as possible; sometimes cramming too much information in to the 3,000 words. Thus, surprise creeps up when my piece is not accepted. I wonder if it is because I am a woman, and I refer to my self as freelance. Do editors see my name and title and think I am lazy, reliant on a husband at home; interviewing with a baby on each hip? Not that these ideas are a bad thing for those who choose this route, but this is not me. I work diligently on my articles, and I believe that my stories are often rejected because I am a woman, and thus, my articles must be innaccurate or too emotional.

Other times, my articles will be accepted, but a male writer's article will make front page, and mine will find its way in to the middle of the rag. I have to question whether or not there is discrimination here -- particularly when my article may be about a significant discussion in society, while the front page article is about an author who is in town. I know papers (and other mediums) need to sell papers, but at what cost? Is it better to have more people pick up the paper, or more important to be fair to staffers by advocating for diversity?

This is a struggle that we all have to live through -- and as a feminist I question these values all of the time. One would imagine that I would save myself from unnecessary workplace discrimination by working at home, but it appears that there are just as many hurdles in place.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The big move.

This past weekend I moved between Miami and Pittsburgh, as I am staying with family for the summer before transferring to NYC, where I will begin my MSW tenure at Columbia.

Because I had to pack up my life and move, the posts have been slacking. I apologize. Please don't stop visiting...I will have something up tomorrow (June 20).

Thank you for the continued support.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Single women: find your purpose now, but once you tie the knot, forget about it

I read an interesting quote today: Marriage is a sentence, not a word. All jokes aside, I have to wonder if it is true.

Personally, I am not interested in joining holy matrimony, changing my name (or hyphenating it for that matter), and becoming one with my life partner. Instead, I truly enjoy my independent self – I have had this name for all my life, and I don’t see the value in changing it – er, becoming owned by another. I don’t want to own anyone, and I don’t want him or her to be owned. That being said, this is my opinion and I do not knock those who believe in its sanctity – particularly those who have religious or culture reasons for the bond.

BTW, Ms. Magazine states that if you are a man and you would like to have your wife's name become yours, you need to put out an ad in the newspaper, petition in court and pay hundreds of dollars in legal fees. Women simply fill out a marriage application. Only six states in the nation have statutory laws stating the rights of men who wish to take on their partner's last name.

The Washington Post reviewed “Now and Not Yet: Making Sense of Single Life in the Twenty-First Century,” and I have to say that there are some major issues with the ideals printed between the covers.

First, author Jennifer Marshall states that the book is meant to give single women something to strive towards as they await their lifelong partner to come (and by partner I mean man, since apparently she only points out the ills of waiting for Mr. Right). Meaning, the book will give women a reason for living, but it kind of eludes to the idea that once she is married the purpose changes – that she somehow must shift her reason for living. Ok. I get that people enjoy their partners, and want to live for one another, but I think we should be stressing the need for people to still live for themselves. People change, and I don’t know anyone who would want to break out of a relationship and have no sense of self. My mom always told me to be independent of my friends, boyfriends, etc. You never know when you are going to be without them.

Marshall does, however, discuss an important theory called Destination Marriage. She says this occurs when people ready themselves so much for the wedding, and the IDEA of being married, that they come in to the relationship feeling somewhat unfulfilled. I guess she wants people to live their lives first – getting all adventure out of the way – and then tie the night. Hmmm. I don’t know, I contend that as we grow older we change so much. There has to be more wiggle room, and remarkable milestones should not have to necessarily be hit by two people (because the common rationalization is that the two parties in a marriage should celebrate everything together). Let’s be serious. We don’t all grow at the same rate, and finding purpose throughout life – at staggered times – should truly be celebrated. The pressure to grow together may be one of the reasons so many marriages don’t do well, so why do that?

Because of patriarchy. Women, just like men, live in a heterosexual, male-dominated world that is founded on pre-destined roles. And while Marshall thinks it is ok for women to get a job and reach goals, she feels that feminists are to blame for the lack of “chances” a woman is afforded in getting herself a man. She says in the Washington Post article: “Feminism has complicated relations between the sexes and created more confusion about singleness.”

What is the confusion; that it is OK to be single, strong, independent and wealthy? That is OK to have the desire to maintain one’s own self worth, dreams, aspirations, loves, hates, and purpose, post-wedding. More, I can only imagine that she in under the common perception that women cook and clean (and work, and raise kids, etc), while men wear a suit and tie to work each day. I say MANY in our generation DON’T want to follow those crappy rules anymore. We want to branch out and switch up the roles. Feminism fights for those role reversals, which despite Marshall’s thinking, actually STRENGTHENS the relations between the sexes. It gives each individual the true freedom to live life as they want to.

Lastly, she says we live in a divorce culture (then quit telling us to get married unjustly…duh), and that in addition to feminism, the sexual revolution has increased singleness, and decreased the possibility of getting married. To her, these changes are not a good thing.

Wow. I guess we should just forgo education, equality and exploration. Better that our generation reverse all of the “negatives” that people died for.


Rhyming For A Reason

This is just cool: In a giant leap to "bring peace, love and respect back to reggae music," three major musicians in the genre (Sizzla, Beenie Man and Capleton) have signed The Reggae Compassionate Act.Those who sign the Act must adhear to three rules of thumb:

In the Reggae Compassionate Act the three singers pledge to:

■ “respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender”;

■ “there’s no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia”;

■ “we agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community”.

The article goes on to describe how "artists promise to not sing lyrics or make public statements, in Jamaica or anywhere else in the world, that incite prejudice, hatred or violence against lesbian and gay people."

I think this is awesome. The media constantly infiltrates our lives, and creating a pact that will effectively remove bigotry and violence, has the possibility of actually shifting the status quo. When radio host Don Imus made his notorious remarks about the women basketball players, much of the mainstream music industry began whispering about this type of anti-hate mantra. Now the reggae world is moving towards it...let's hope it trickles down to all other radio-play areas.

Because let’s face it, music and movie stars have a lot of clout in society, and young (and older) kids may formulate some of their beliefs based on the singer or actor’s message – others may find that they have allowed for a self-fulfilling prophecy to churn their well-being. I know there is a lot of talk about freedom of speech, but there has to be a line that says, hey, you are infringing on the rights of others with your hate-filled speeches; you are inciting violence against those who are not straight, rich, or so on. Sure, people will still get their values from their household – which I contend is where most of the morals stem from in young people’s lives; not the music or movie industry – but it would be nice to curb some of the prejudice on the airwaves.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Women in power are only for our enjoyment?

The Associate Press reports that Dan Rather made sexist remarks about his replacement: Katie Couric. Apparently, he believes the news – since her arrival – has been “dumbed down,” and that her appearance has “tarted up,” CBS’ Evening News.

She is the first female anchor to hold this important nightly news position, and just like comments made about the possibility of a female president, it is not surprising to hear hateful words about a woman in power. Stereotypes abound in these positions, as those who are afraid of a strong lady quickly say that because someone has ovaries they automatically equate to an emotional train wreck, and who can do nothing more than spice up the broadcast through cleavage, lipstick and heels.

And in fact, there are hundreds upon hundreds of comments on the Internet regarding the Couric’s legs. Many say that because she chooses to wear short skirts, her now-famous legs are reason for objectification. Usually, the “talking head” syndrome takes place in TV news anchor world, where viewers only see the persons chest, shoulders and head, but Couric added another element, which I think is fine because why the heck does it matter what she wears if she is using her skills and intellect to hold a conversation with world leaders? Her ability to tell the news should be all that matters, yet instead of commenting on her skills, her reporting style, etc, people constantly pull the clothing/looks card when it comes to women in these public positions.

And of course, had she decided to forgo the skirts and wear more masculine suits, she would have still been the subject of appearance discussions, only this time saying she is too butch or not sexy enough to weigh in on the news, rather than intellectual ones.

Stephen Colbert did a great bit on this topic; only he focused on Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Whistlin' a change

A couple of nights ago a group of us were out on South Beach’s Lincoln Road, having drinks, eating, and laughing. And then, the whistling began.

Lincoln Road is a closed-off-to-cars street where tables and chairs line a six-foot-wide pedestrian walkway. We were on one side – closest to the bar – and a table of four (three men and one woman) sat on the opposite side.

I realized that every time I heard whistling – followed by incessant laughing – it was coming from the direction of the foursome. In no time at all I was 100 percent sure that they were whistling at the hordes of people who walked by the tables.

But it wasn’t just anyone who they were whistling and laughing at, it was directed towards groups of women, or single women. I began monitoring the action – just to make sure that I was not crazy – and indeed they were never whistling when there was a man in the group.

As each group or individual woman passed, they would suffer the same humiliation as those before them. Because I was standing at a table further down the road than the ignoramus table, I had a clear view of these women’s faces. They NEVER looked thrilled, they NEVER looked as though someone noticed them as sexy, and they NEVER incited the whistling…they NEVER even looked over at them until they were publicly humiliated by their catcalling.

After the 20th girl (or group) passed, I just could not take it anymore. I was meaning to hold back – because honestly, you never know how a bunch of drunkards are going to react to a life lesson – but before I knew it, I was crossing the pedestrian divide and standing over their table.

Calmly, I asked them if they were whistling at women as they passed. All eyes were on me, but no one dare admit to their wrong doings – and no one fought the accusation either. I did not want to simply say that their act was appalling and that they should be beat up for their sexist harassment, but instead I wanted to fight fire with humanity. I politely explained to them that these women do not look happy to be called out amongst the hundreds of partiers on Lincoln Road, and in fact, the ones who were by themselves, looked downright scared of her verbal attackers. More, I told them that just like men, women have the right to wear what they want and not feel like their outfits (or just having boobs for that matter) deem them candidates for marginalization.

They nodded in agreement.

I never asked them to stop though because I figured I said enough already, and I was already on my fourth beer. To my glee-filled surprise, the whistling ceased. And within the next five minutes the group stood up and walked away; down the same path that their victims eagerly strolled along.

Sure, they may have been annoyed and left, or happen have a meeting time with other friends, but I contend that the foursome left because their actions met its consequence.

Standing up for those around us CAN make a difference, and even more, standing up without raising one’s voice, or belittling someone can really turn the tides. I mean, no one wants to be made to look like an ass – not the innocent women who walked by their table, nor the antagonists themselves. We all come from environmental situations where bigotry, racism, classism, sexism, etc, permeate. But there is wiggle room for change – one advocation at a time.

That night, I whistled myself a happy, social justice tune.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

More on Camel No. 9

Following yesterday's blog about sexist ads, a commenter pointed out that NPR did a piece on the way women feel about the new Camel cigarettes that are advertised toward women, or probably YOUNG women, as this sleek black and fuchsia box will be attractive to the bounds of youngsters who are reading the ads in Glamour or Cosmo. One woman at the promotional party actually said they taste better: "I like them. They're a sweeter taste, and they don't stink like regular cigarettes," said Angela Rewis, 26, who described herself as a stay-at-home mom. "And I like the pack. It's more for females, instead of carrying around a nasty, ugly pack."

In fact, the promotional party - which not only gave out free packs, it also gave out free lip gloss and makeup for the ladies - advertised that the smoke is more "light and luscious."

Wow. So they don't stink, huh? Hmmm...maybe I will degrade my body after all. Or, maybe not.