Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Want to Help Kids?

Well, Focus on the Family sure doesn't. This post at feministing is about Focus on the Family's most recent offense: hatin on anti-bullying programs because it might cause children to be accepting of gays. And GOD FORBID THAT HAPPEN!

Fortunately, if you are as pissed of as you should be, there is a way to let Focus on the Family know how they should change their evil ways. Simply click HERE and get to letting them know how they are endangering the lives of children. (Where's the Focus on the Family now?)

I've already sent in my angry e-mail.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment is still not ratified? 22 states have it... but the leaves a majority of American states without the proper laws to protect women's equality.

The ERA guarantees the legal access for women to have equal pay and benefits. This great video explains a lot (and has a bangin' soundtrack... I downloaded "I wish I was a Punk Rocker" by Sandi Thom after watching)

I'm not so sure about the bra-tossing thing (it's a little cliché for my tastes), but I do agree with the guerrilla media tactics.

Learn how YOU can join the cause (and possibly fling your bras) at Lopezistas!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

On Race and Rape

Over the past few days, I've seen Antoine Dodson videos linked numerous times on facebook. I've seen links to videos proclaiming him a hero, and as well to "the Bed Intruder Song," something I found to be kind of more than crude. (Normally I really enjoy auto-tune the news videos.)

Today, I finally figured I should watch the video (the original, I hadn't seen any beyond the link name) because seeing it around so much was starting to annoy me.

My first thoughts were basically, this is just "people laughing at working-class African-Americans!" (Funny I should think that... as here is this post about that fact) And then, this is another instance of America racializing sexual violence and writing it off. And the fact that you can BUY "the Bed Intruder" song is very disturbing to me, as it should be to everyone.

Which is why I am happy to have found this wonderful post on the Crunk Feminist Collective blog. It really hits all the right points. Basically:

1. As an internet people, we should not trivialize the seriousness of sexual assault. Kelly Dodson was fortunately not raped because her brother did happen to hear what was going on and kick the guy out. However, laughing at this video is not only disrespectful to African Americans, but to other survivors of rape and sexual assault. What about those survivors who didn't have brothers to come save them? As a person who is disturbed by the fact that one of my close friends was sexually assaulted while I slept through it, and I am sure for people who have actually suffered from sexual assault or abuse the fact that Antoine's reaction is viewed as FUNNY instead of anything less than purely... heroic is really troubling! (Oh, and if I had woken up, I totally would have Antoine Dodsoned that douche bag too. )

2. Putting the focus on Antoine is taking the focus away from Kelly, the actual victim. The blog post points out,
Framed under the guise of “news” this masquerades as a story about a woman awaking to an intruder in her bed but is really a story about a funny black man, hilarious in his anger. It was never about her.
The post then goes on to discuss the "invisibility" of women of color.
For women of color, invisibility is often forced and along with hypervisibility, it is used to as means to discredit and oppress. This is indeed the case with Kelly Dodson, made invisible through the hypervisibility of her brother. Her invisibility is highlighted by the numerous Antoine Dodson for President T-shirts and paraphernalia that exists in the same space that doesn’t even remember Kelly’s name.
3. Why are so many portrayals of women of color and people of color stereotypical? Especially when these portrayals go memetastic? Is it the little racist inside of every one of us who enjoys laughing at other races when they do something stereotypical? Oh, this is from real life, so it's okay to laugh at. No, no, it's really not. There are not the same kinds of video posts satirizing whiteness... so why is it OK to make fun of people of color this way?

This is something that's been irking me, and I think on a whole this relates to the problem of racism within the feminist movement. As a movement, we're pretty white-dominated. And more than than, prominent feminists tend to be cis-gendered, middle-class, highly educated and white. Now, seeing as I fall into that category... it's on me to make sure that I don't use my privilege and ignore the needs of others. There's been a long and complicated history regarding women outside of the cis-gendered, middle-class, educated, white majority in the feminist movement, and it hasn't been nice either. You would think that a group of progressively-minded people such as feminists would be welcoming to other women more oppressed than they. But no. It's really not been like that.

That is why we, who are sort of straddling the 3rd wave , have got to stand up for incorporating the ideas, opinions, problems, and successes of all feminists. Men, women, white, black, latina, asian, transgendered, bisexual, lesbian, young, old... You name it-- all of them. It's a complicated world that we live in, which means that we must embrace it and NOT cast it aside.

I don't have a whole lot of plans/structure for this blog; usually I just sort of post whatever is really tugging at me that day. However, one actual goal of mine is to incorporate the opinions of feminists outside of my cis-gendered, white, middle-class, educated world view. That's me. I am one person. But there are a lot more people out there, and a lot of them are not like me. So, here's some linkage relating to this post. There are things that I know, and other things that other people know or can express better.

The Crunk Feminist Collective: this is an awesome blog written by and for the hip-hop generation women of color. Race, current events, hip-hop, and women's issues are only a few of the things that this blog covers, and I highly recommend it.

Womanist Musings: Renee states on her blog that, "I am a committed humanist. I believe in the value of people over commodities. I believe in the human right to food, clothing, shelter, and education. I am pacifist, anti-racist, WOC. My truth may not be your truth, but I intend to speak it nonetheless."

NO! This is a website forged out of the need for breaking the silence in the African-American community about inter-community sexual violence. I saw the documentary last year in one of my women's studies classes, and I really, really recommend it. The website offers resources for those looking for answers, as well as looking for a great film to show and discuss for class, with a group, with a community, or with friends.

RAINN: Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. Co-founded by Tori Amos, a rape survivor, activist, and prolific musician, RAINN "created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at1.800.656.HOPE. This nationwide partnership of more than 1,100 local rape treatment hotlines provides victims of sexual assault with free, confidential services around the clock. The hotline helped 137,039 sexual assault victims in 2005 and has helped more than one million since it began in 1994."

Racialicious: The Intersection of Race and Pop Culture. There are lots of links to what's going on, for those of you who like to rely on the internet-hunting of others for your news (like me!).

Holla Back New York City: This blog is devoted to giving victims of street harassment an outlet to post pictures of their harassers and HOLLA BACK! No matter the context, you always "have the right to feel safe, confident, and sexy, without being the object of some turd's fantasy..." Holla Back also has a bunch of links to resources and like-minded progressive websites, like Gender Across Borders, Street Harassment: A Feminist Guide to Action, and SAFER: Students Active for Ending Rape to name a few. There are also Holla Back websites for Washington, D.C., Chicago, the UK, and Toronto, Canada.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Problem with Vampires

OK, so the title of this post is not referring to me having a problem like, vampires following me or something. It's referring to my problem with vampires in the media.

Not these vampires.

These ones:

I'm going to be upfront: I have never seen True Blood, so I cannot fully critique it. I just really... can't get behind the idea of it. (I have seen the first Twilight movie though.) Which is why I'm glad that FeministFrequency has so diligently followed and aptly critiqued the show. So I don't have to. Because I really have no desire to watch this show on my own.

I think there are a lot of really good points in this video (she also has a great one about Twilight, check it out) that can be applied not only to True Blood, but to all of the current sexy-vampire mania:

1.) Sexy-Vampire-Mania (hereafter known as SVM) perpetuates weak female characters and puts them in contrast with powerful (vampire), domineering, patriarchal and macho male characters.

2.) SVM perpetuates these scary-addictive women-in-danger plot lines. I'm sure such plot lines are addicting. You watch and HOPE that something good will happen. And if the only thing writers can think of is that the girl gets saved by the guy... eh? As FF said, women like to see women in power! Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on air for a really long time! And yet, Buffy did not play into the same old sexist traps as other SVM vehicles. When Buffy (WARNING! SPOILER!) lost her virginity to Angel (a vampire), he lost his soul, and the show got a lot of flack for that. And even after Angel turned evil, Buffy had these really complex feelings for him, but still managed to condemn him to hell. To protect herself. That's right, protect herself.

3.) SVM also teaches viewers(/readers) that women are passive creatures who must submit to the will of their masculine saviors. Excuse me while I vomit. Really? It's 2010 and that's really what we're watching?? (Where the HELL are Veronica Mars, Xena, and Buffy when we need them?!) It's just really frustrating to constantly see women in these terrible, lame, passive (but sexualized) positions in which they need to be saved. (This isn't just in the SVM genre--advertising is too often guilty of making women look rapeable.) I know I've already posted this video, but "Buffy Vs. Edward: Remixed" is just really too good. How women should act when faced with scary, sexualized, stalkery, emotional violence.

4.) SVM also has these weird, weird sexual messages. Whether it's the conservative, Mormon undertones of Twilight (marriage before sex! babies before death!), or the virgin/whore dichotomies in True Blood, no viewer (mostly young girls) is going to get any sort of healthy or productive knowledge about sexuality from that. This great article, "Vampire Shows Glorify Chastidy and Sexual Violence" breaks it down pretty clearly:
In both series, sex is spiked with danger. A man’s protection and a woman’s desire are intimately connected to violence. Sookie frequently finds herself the subject of Bill’s wrath while he is trying to protect her. In Twilight, Edward’s penchant for pointing out all the ways in which he could maim Bella by accident borders on S & M foreplay. This would have never gone down with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Latoya Peterson.)
It's just very troubling to me that there are all these young girls (I work at summer camp--I know) fantasizing over these flawed, scary and unhealthy depictions of sex and sex roles.

5.) I also have a problem with unnecessary violence. I think we see far too much of it, and that it's really not something that should be made into entertainment. There are far to many people actually suffering from violence for others of us to treat violence as something entertaining. That being said, I do watch a lot of action movies, and there is a considerable amount of violence in some of my favorite shows like Xena: Warrior Princess, Bones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Law & Order, and Veronica Mars. However, the violence in these contexts is generally condemned. It is violence that is not made sexy, but shown to demonstrate that violence is bad and scary and that when the good characters fight back, it is not in an inherently violent way, but in self-defense. SVM is sexualizing violence and turning it into something that we are supposed to watch and think is titillating. Which is just something that is not at all needed or good or ... entertaining!

(from Vampire Diaries)
I mean, vampires historically have been portrayed as these evil seducers, and the whole biting the neck thing is a very symbolic image of violent sex for more repressed times. Now, vampires are being portrayed as much more sexy beings and these sort of violent, sexual images are much more clear and much more graphic. Take for example, the above picture. The connotation is that the main female character (played by Nina Dobrev) has these two sexy male actors all over her in a consensual way.

Well, how would this image appear to you if the two men featured were not attractive? It's disturbing to me that we are letting these scary, rape-y images be treated as something sexy and wanted. Also, look back to the True Blood cover of Rolling Stone. Note how Anna Paquin is in the center. One guy in front, and one in back. How does that seem to you? The blood all over them is a nod to the show, but at the same time... I don't know. The whole thing is just too reminiscent of rape to me, GANG rape at that, and that's just not something that we should be applauding.

As for Sexy-Vampire-Mania? I'm pretty turned off.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More about Teens

I highly recommend the F-Bomb blog. Blogs are totes the new zines, and this one is a good testament to how the internet is being used for good (and not evil).

All posts are written by teens, and reading their writing reminds me of my high school experiences, especially this post, and I will share with you this great section:
But the fact that I call myself a feminist does not mean that every single thing that I project into the world will be tinged with feminist ideology.Ergo – I don’t exactly stomp around school screaming, “STOP OBJECTIFYING ME!”What I mean to say is, people believe in Christianity. Christianity, as I imagine is true with most other religions, encompasses religious ideology as well as values, a certain lifestyle, and views on issues. But do we really say, oh that’s THE Christian, or question Christians when they don’t project an image of Christianity into the world through everything they do? And yet I’m considered Julie, THE feminist.Maybe this is one reason why people are so hesitant to identify as feminists. People have this idea of what a feminist looks and acts like and feel that they don’t fit that one mold, so therefore they couldn’t possibly be one. Well, news flash: feminism is not a set mold you fit into. You don’t decide to be a feminist, then become a stereotype. Feminism is just a culmination of beliefs, your beliefs, that are just part of what make you an individual.I am a feminist, but I am not a stereotype.

This isn't groundbreaking stuff by any means, but it's important. It seems like a pretty simple explanation... which makes it all the more frustrating that people continue to just not get it!

Some History

Happy 90th anniversary of women's suffrage!

Aside from this, it's important to know a little about the long road of the feminist movement. Not all is bra burning and voting, you know. For anyone who wants to learn more, I recommend Seal Press books, which is a publishing company for female authors about topics pertaining to women's lives. (Some good and short reads: Women of Color and Feminism, Feminism and Pop Culture, Men and Feminism, A History of U.S. Feminisms, Full Frontal Feminism, We Don't Need Another Wave, and Colonize This!)

There's a great post on the Bitch Magazine blog about the not-so-pretty side of the feminist history. Sure, it sucks that abelism, racism, and homophobia have all affected the women's movement through time, but it is important to learn about the sucky stuff so that we know how to best move forward. Duh.

el Feminismo y Ecuador

So I've written (and read) mostly about American feminism, but now that I am studying in Ecuador for the semester, I have the opportunity to really learn about feminism in another culture. Border Crossings, the class I took freshman year and was a teaching assistant in last semester, was about globalization and feminism and many of the different issues that feminists/women face around the world. However, it is one thing to learn about this, and actually experience it.

This week I'm trying out a few different anthropology classes at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador, and tonight I went to Sociocultural Anthropology. My professor is pretty young, and spent the majority of the class explaining what we'd be doing for the semester. It sounds similar to a class I took at Temple, so I wasn't sure if I should keep it on my schedule--but then my professor mentioned that we will be studying feminist theory to analyze our texts. Qué?

After she finished explaining the course, she opened the class up for questions, and a few people started asking about feminism. It was interesting, because the discussion about feminism in my class tonight in Ecuador was exactly the same as many discussions about feminism in my classes at Temple.

One male student asked if he had to be a feminist to use feminist theory. Carolina (the professor) then went on to explain that a lot of people are not familiar with what being a feminist means, and are unaware that they are feminists.

Carolina: Do you believe women should have the right to choose who they want to marry as well as if they want to get married at all?
student: Yes.
Carolina: Do you believe women should have the right to choose if they would like to have children as well as how many children they would like to have?
student: Yes.
Carolina: Do you believe women should have the right to work and get an education if they choose to pursue one?
student: Yes.
Carolina: You are a feminist.

A female student asked questions like Can feminists be feminine? and Can women who have children and husbands be feminists? Carolina explained the 3 waves of American feminism briefly, which have influenced Ecuadorian feminism.

Sitting through this talk reminded me of my first day at Temple in my section of Border Crossings. Kristi started asking the class individually if they were feminists. To my surprise, the girls (and boys) in the class (a women's studies class) all said that they believed women and men were equal, but since they weren't "activists or anything," they weren't feminists. What??! That day I was the only person to raise my hand and say I was a feminist. Two semesters later, I got a job as a peer teacher in that class, and sat through a new class of students ignorant to what feminism is. That time there were at least 3 students who said they were feminists (not including me).

After class I talked to Carolina to get some suggestions on Ecuadorian feminist reading, (She told me to look up Maria Cuvi, Gioconda Herrera and Mercedes Prielo. When I've read some, I will report back to you. In English.) and we talked about how the fear of being called a feminist was similar in Ecuador and America. Girls don't want to be called lesbians. Boys want to be masculine. Those aren't terrible things, but I mean, that's why we, as feminists, should be vocal about it. I don't mean you have to yell all the time (you can if you want to...), but no one should be a secret feminist. We can only start changing discriminatory cultures and attitudes when we are open to talking about it and when others start getting comfortable with talking about it as well.

Which is why I recommend this t-shirt. I finally bought one at the beginning of the summer and wore it about once a week at camp. This summer I had the oldest girls (14-15 year old girls), so feminism did come up, and I made sure to mention that I was a feminist. Hearing girl after girl in the Border Crossings section that I helped in say, "Well, I had this weird teacher who was a feminist..." and "There were these weird girls at my high school who were feminists..." only solidified my feelings that girls don't have enough feminist role models who are clear about being feminists. It's really not that hard!

Me in my feminist shirt

And in case you need to whip out a quick definition of feminism, these are the two I have memorized:

Feminism: 1.) the belief that women should have political, social and economic equality with men. 2.) the belief that women and girls should not face any form of discrimination or degradation.

Y en Español:

El feminismo: 1.) la creencia que mujeres deben tener la igualdad política, social, y económica. 2.) la creencia que mujeres y chicas no deben afrontar la discriminación o la degradación en ninguna forma.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hey-o, long time no posty

So I've just returned from 8 weeks in the woods, only to go off again for another adventure. But in the coming months, I will actually have internet access. Probably less than usual, but I will at least have some.

However, my 8 weeks as a camp counselor were of course, not feminism-free. To start with, I was a counselor for the oldest girls' cabin, so for 13-15 year old girls. An interesting age, as you might remember. So, my summer was rife with opportunities for me to tell them why they shouldn't call each other sluts (I may have quoted Tina Fey in Mean Girls a few times), why it doesn't matter if some boy doesn't like them, that it's far more important to be friends with each other than to fight over some nasty 14 year old boy... and so on. I even let a few of them read the print copy of this blog that I made for my class, and I think it got through to them a little.

I also had the time to read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, which was, in a nutshell, amazing, heartbreaking, and inspiring. I recommend that everyone read it (I cried multiple times), and check out the Half the Sky Movement website. Rather than throwing overwhelming and depressing statistics at you, Kristof and Wudunn have the stories of women they've interviewed from all over the world, about how they have created success for themselves and others despite dire situations and oppressive forces that keep many women and girls (and men and boys) from having as full and opportunity-filled lives as they can. And since knowing is not enough, the book and website list all the grassroots organizations that are working to help create better lives for women and girls sothat you can get involved! There are organizations in lots of countries for many different causes, and you can be involved by raising money or committing to volunteering abroad for one of them. Pretty cool!

One such organization is STOPstart, which works to empower formerly trafficked people by teaching them how to sew. I bought this bag today made by a Cambodian woman, who learned how to design and sew from STOPstart. Their website has a gift store as well as resources if you would like to learn more or get involved.
Feminism is everywhere!