Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Hir"


"Hir" and "ze" are gender neutral pronouns used to replace him/her and he/she. Gender neutral pronouns are used by a number of different people, mostly those who either do not fit or do not want to fit into the gender binary of male or female. I saw this video linked on microaggressions and watched it and it is really beautiful. I cried. And I am not a crier.

In my "Gay & Lesbian Lives" class we've just started working on Queer Theory. It's some dense stuff, but I really like it. I'll be posting a little more about that soon (probably?), but it's the kind of theory that makes your head hurt. I need a couple days to process it and work on making it blog-material.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: The Business of Being Born



My friends love babies. Like, really love them. Sending each other pictures of various babies we know is a pretty common occurrence. I actually attended the 1st birthday party of my friend's baby sisters earlier this year. My friends love babies so much that all-things baby-related are also a fascination. We held a screening party for the premiere of Lifetime's The Pregnancy Pact and a lot of them watch Teen Mom (I cannot handle that show), and I have been at parties (like, you know, college parties) where I have ended up discussing the politics of breast feeding. Babies are a thing.

So my friend Keiran suggested that we watch The Business of Being Born, which is a documentary about the birth industry and how it works against the natural, home-birth movement. Babies and birth kind of make me nervous, so I am not always into the baby mania, but I have to admit, birth is pretty interesting. And from a feminist perspective, it's kind of a complicated thing. So a bunch of us got together and set out to watch some babies get born.



I first became really aware of the fact that people had home births in a women's studies class I took sophomore year. We did a unit on birth and the professionalization of the birthing process, and that midwives, mostly women, were locked out of conducting the births of babies to make way for the "professional," male doctors. (Ladies couldn't be doctors in the early 20th century.) In reality, many of these doctors had never seen a live birth and getting a birth done in a hospital was a lot more dangerous than getting it done by a midwife.

Fast forward to today. Less than one percent of all births are done in the home. Midwives are less expensive than going to a hospital in many cases, and are just as safe and better as long as the birth is normal.

I'm not going to lie, birth kind of grosses me out. I know it's cool, but it's also very messy, and that gets me. I'm not a bodies person. The documentary does show live births, and despite the grossness, it's really cool. One of the births shown is a woman in a small blow-up pool in her house, and aided by her midwife, the baby just pops out! We were all amazed.

fwoop! OMG BABY!

Ricki Lake produced the film, which she got the idea for after her second child was born naturally and at home. The footage of the home births were pretty funny, actually. Women make some weird noises when they're in labor. One of the funniest births was footage of the main midwife in the movie, who admits that she was not the "ideal patient" even though she'd had so much experience on the facilitating end. The director, Abby Epstein, was actually pregnant during the filming, and planned to have her baby born with a midwife as well. However, she went into labor 5 weeks early and the baby was breech, so after calling the midwife, they decided to go to the hospital.

One of the points that I thought was really interesting was that the United States has the second highest infant mortality rate among developed nations, as well as one of the highest rates of maternal mortality. And the nations with the lowest rates of both have really high percentages (30%-70%) of home births. Clearly there's something to this home birth movement. Birth in a hospital is important for irregular births where there is actual imminent danger to the baby's or mother's lives, like in Abby Epstein's case. However, home births make sense. They just don't contribute to this huge industry of pharmaceuticals and insurance and doctors that make billions of dollars each year.

There are several other points made in the movie that make home birth sound really so much more pleasant and healthy for mother and child development. I really recommend this movie, it's great!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Movie Review: XXY

(Just as a heads up, there's some nudity in the trailer)

As I was perusing Netflix's selection of Spanish-language movies on instant-watch, I came across XXY.

To briefly explain the title, XXY is a chromosomal variation known as Klinefelter's syndrome. Typically, XY is the chromosome that creates males, while XX creates females. (As far as sex organs go.) XXY is a variation for males that can result in smaller testicles and reduced fertility (some men get the extra chromosome and don't have Klinefelter's syndrome). When babies are born with sex-chromosome variations, parents are often pushed into deciding a gender for that child. So while XXY is a chromosomal variation for males, some parents decide or are coerced into raising their children female because it is assumed that without larger male sex organs, the child will not be able to live "normally" as a male. Unsurprisingly, this is often an uninformed or bad decision.

I really enjoyed it. I don't know a lot about intersex people, other than what I've read on wikipedia and in Jeffrey Eugenide's novel, Middlesex (which I also recommend). I think this movie did a really good job at showing that holding onto gender stereotypes deeply is an oversimplification of how gender works as well as really dangerous. Alex, the main character in the movie lives in a small sea-side town in Uruguay with her parents. The movie centers around a visit that a famous surgeon, his wife, and teenage son make to Alex's house. The surgeon appear to be understanding at the beginning of the movie, but turn out to be strong advocates of the gender binary. Alex's parents are much more caught in-between wanting Alex to live a "normal" life, and realize that adopting one gender or the other is not an easy choice. The friendship that develops between Alex and Alvaro, the surgeon's son, is really interesting as well.

I think it was a very well done movie (Argentinian cinema is pretty baller), and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in gender or the rights of intersex people. (There are subtitles, don't fret.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sometimes I Hate Facebook. A Lot. Because it Reminds me that I Hate People.

I was invited to an event on facebook called "GIRLS ONLY" that is described with the following drivel:
Ewmygod. Last October I posted about the complete non-sequitor that is the bra-game in facebook statuses, and this one is worse. First of all, at least the stupid bra-game was "sort of" related to Breast cancer awareness. You know... boobs, bras... This piece of crap event says clearly that it's really only to "screw with guys' minds."

Ughhhhh... First of all, one of the inherent critiques to the bra-game is that if we are intentionally leaving men out from the game, then you are only bringing "awareness" (if you can even call it that) to a very select group of people. This one has absolutely no point other than to reinforce the idea that girls have to play games and be coy to be alluring. First of all, if anyone posted any of these, I'd just think they were eating or hungry or something, I wouldn't be wondering of they were prescribing some secret meaning to their relationship status. And besides the obvious point that this event heterosexistly leaves out people who aren't looking for or in heterosexual relationships with men, this event is just a convoluted waste of time that's reinforcing lame stereotypes that girls are dumb and boy-crazy. And more importantly, I find all this stuff irritating and groan-worthy so I have to complain about it or explode instead of immediately deleting the invitation. Just stop! Just be people! Anyway, the stupid thing is happening on Wednesday, so here's my "warning."

And for a better critique on how men and women shouldn't play games with each other... Miss Lauryn Hill:


By the way, I don't actually hate people. Only a little bit. Some things just really irritate me, and these kinds of shenanigans get under my skin and make me lose faith in humanity a little bit.

Salt-N-Pepa


So I saw Salt-N-Pepa almost a month ago now... blog-FAIL!

Salt-N-Pepa's Legends of Hip Hop tour is marketed to a very specific audience, of which I am really to young and too white to actually belong to. HOWEVER, I really enjoyed the concert. Doug E. Fresh and Naughty by Nature were fun to watch, and Kurtis Blow (the man is OLD! he had the first signed hip-hop album) was adorably elderly, Kool Moe Dee didn't make a huge impression on me... but in general it was a really fun concert and it was fun to see how much the crowd appreciated this walk down nostalgia lane.

But clearly, Salt-N-Pepa were the highlight. Salt became quite religious several years back, and when they started touring again a couple years ago she was kind of hesitant about some of their old songs, and because of this, they no longer perform "Let's Talk About Sex." What?? But they performed a bunch of the staples, "Tramp," "I'll Take Your Man," "Push It," and "Shoop." Since it's a multi-artist tour, they were on a tight schedule and performed shortened versions of their classics and hurried through a short set... Honestly, I would have paid just as much to see just Salt-N-Pepa and have them perform longer. However, it was still a really fun concert and my friend Sara and I were really happy that we'd gone.

In related news, I'm writing about the intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality for female rappers in a paper for my Gender Theory class so I'm excited to be synthesizing some of the stuff I'm reading for the paper and here. There'll be more soon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Glee: Original Song


1. Gay teens kissing! Gay teens kissing! Okay... finally! It was super cute. I watched the episode tonight and had seen headlines as well as heard people talk about it so I knew that it was going to happen, but it was still really exciting and adorable! Also, Kurt totally had a Rachel Berry moment using Pavoratti's death as an excuse to sing a song. I think that part was supposed to be serious, but I was hardcore giggling.

2. Rachel Berry: songwriter extraordinaire. So... I was a little suspicious about this "original song" thing since I mean... duh. Half the fun of Glee is watching them perform songs that I know. (And I tend to like songs less if I don't know them. Usually the songs I don't know are like, indie or something so I wouldn't like them anyway, but still, knowing the song is part of the fun factor and likability factor.) Rachel's crazy "Headband" song last week had me practically weeping from laughing so hard (and I loved that Brittany said that was her favorite song), and I also enjoyed her emotionally self-absorbed anthem, "Only Child" at the beginning of the episode. Perhaps this is the angry feminist in me wondering this, but could she really only find the inspiration to write something good when she was thinking about Finn? (Also: while I'm sure no one believed her "I'm done with boys until professional success"-schtick from the past few episodes, it was slightly annoying that all of a sudden she's mooning over Finn again. Teen stereotypes!) "Get it Right" was the sort of typical New Directions ballad that is old hat on Glee. I honestly didn't pay that much attention to it. (Don't know the song! It's not registering!) There were a lot of furtive glances backstage at Finn which he returned with his trademark smirk-smile.

3. Which brings me to... What the EFF, Quinn? Since when are you like Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions? She was a little terrifying in this episode, as in I was worried that she'd pull a Stephen King's Carrie and KILL EVERYONE WITH HER SCARY STARES! Jezebel's recap sums up my feelings about Quinn in this episode. Poor writing!

4. Santana was great in this episode. Her "awesome heterosexual song," "Trouty Mouth" was really funny. And I like the way that they're handling Santana's and Brittany's friendship post fallout in the last episode.

5. The judges at the competition made me uncomfortable, as they usually do in the competition episodes. I don't know why this is a theme. And I was unsure about Kathy Griffin's tea party politician role... I thought it was interesting that she voiced her bias against the Dalton Warblers and definitely for the Glee viewer, this is going to be seen as wrong and problematic, and wondering if her prejudice cost the Warblers' a win is I'm sure an intentional part of that detail, but at the same time, it made me feel icky and I hate ickyness in my happy TV shows. That's the best way I can describe it right now.

6. Just as a side note point, while Kurt was singing "Blackbird" and all the guys started joining in doing backup, I was dying of laughter. Perhaps this is because I went to private school and was involved in the a'cappella/choir/musical theater scene and sometimes some of the really seemingly bizarre aspects of show choir culture on Glee is also really familiar for me because... I mean, that was my high school experience. I mean, not the slushie thing, doing a'cappella was cool. (Or at least I told myself that.) But there is this definite weird, join-in-and-harmonize-everything-phenomena that occurs when a bunch of singing freaks are together, so even though it seems weird, that is a point I can give Glee for its realism.


7. Ultimately, "Loser like Me" made sense as far as New Direction's repertoire of competition songs goes, as well as the standard line up (ironically... not a New Direction) of Rachel singing lead, people doing bit parts, we're-all-in-this-together-theme, and then Mercedes belts some stuff out at the end. Um... where has Mercedes been this season? She is now the only New Directions member not in a relationship (besides Rachel, who is basically in a relationship with her ego JK --not really-- but she does have a romantic story arc) and I feel like this is marginalizing her character. She's never gotten a lot of air time, and when she has been a focus of the episode in the past has proven that she has acting chops as well as rocking singing chops... so I have no idea why the writers keep her in this "sassy black girl" trope who only exists to make comments and every once in a while sing a really great song to prove that she's a diva. The diva-off a few episodes ago was great... but I mean her character appeared from relative obscurity and then left again after the episode was done. Again, the Glee writers have not mastered writing for an ensemble cast yet. There are a few characters they focus on, some secondary characters that get attention, and then there are a few (mostly minority) characters who don't get much attention at all. Even Mr. Schu's allusion to his relationship with Holly seemed like it was tossed in at the end when he was on the phone with her. I barfed a little in my mouth. (Metaphorically.)

I think in general, this half of the second season is a lot better than the first half, which was sporadically awesome (think the Britney Spears and Duets episodes) and absurdly terrible (think basically every other episode). They've stabilized the quality a little more, probably in response to the blog world's and entertainment media's criticism of their weaknesses, but at times I can't help but long for the feeling of the first season, when many of the characters were so much more fresh, interesting, and genuine. While the shift in foci have led to these great explorations of new characters, I just want the writers to be a little more consistent! Ensemble cast! C'mon!

But I'm looking forward to New Directions at Nationals. (Perhaps the Tufts Beelzebubs--backup vocals for the Dalton Warblers-- can make a guest appearance?? Probably not.) That will be exciting and will hopefully push the show to more creativity!

Glee: Sexy


Thoughts on "Sexy"

1. Oh, my god, I love what they're doing with Kurt and Blaine. That portion of the sex-ed PSA that this episode tried to do was really good, and it's something that is not typically discussed. And while I think some high schoolers would be able to ask their health teachers about information for gay teens, at the same time, a lot of teens aren't out! And that's a barrier. And parents are often much less prepared to talk to their gay teens than straight ones, and I'm really glad that was part of the episode.

2. The Brittany-Santana storyline was awesome. Before my women's studies class began today several of us had a little squeaky session praising Glee's treatment of queer sexuality. (Just to clarify: "queer" has had a history of usage in a derogatory way, but is accepted in academia and has been reclaimed and has helped constitute "queer theory" which is a much more all-inclusive look at LGBTQQIA people, without the long-ass acronym. In case people are used to seeing that word as a slur, I wanted to make it clear that I am using it because I am pointing to the queer community's appropriation and redefinition of the word that has made it positive.) There was the mention of the fluidity of sexuality on the show! That's really, really novel! Jezebel, as usual, my source for everything, has two really good posts about it, so go here and here for more. I basically agree with everything they're saying.

3. The other parts of the episode were somewhat bizarre. Rachel has sworn to herself that she must use her youth and talent to their fullest and forgo romantic relationships until she is a true, professional diva on Broadway, so she ends up in... the Celibacy Club?? Which has turned into Emma, Rachel and Quinn. I was not okay with this.
a.) Quinn's reactionary teenage politics to her teen pregnancy, sin, and social downfall of the previous school year are annoying and quite frankly, sloppy writing! Angry Quinn was kind of fun. But all of a sudden this season she turns into this calculating, Bible-thumping teenage monster again. Now that she's in a poised for being the Queen Bee again, she really wants it? What happened to all the epiphanies she had last year?
b.) Rachel, memorably and importantly, in one of the first episodes of the first season, entered Celibacy Club to get closer to Finn, but ended up giving this really great speech on why pledges of teenage celibacy are often unrealistic, unhealthy, and counter-productive to progressive attitudes about teenage sexuality. Just because you're single doesn't mean you have to join the Celibacy Club.
c.) The Emma storyline was a little strange. I don't know. I'm sort of ambivalent on how they treat Emma's obsessive compulsive disorder on the show, as well as her aversion to sex. I don't know about adult sexual aversion... but the only thing that I could think of was that perhaps she had been molested as a child and becoming closed off to sexual advances was a reaction?? It seems like that might be a little too dramatic even for Glee to use as motivation... but there's no explanation, and her character hasn't really been around at all this season, so she's not developed at all. So anyway, her character popped up last episode, but I still don't feel like I know anything else about her.

4. As always, the other characters don't really get a voice. Puck and Lauren have a brief focus, but in general, the rest of the cast is not heard. Also, I don't even want to talk about Mr. Schu because I don't like him... so I won't.

That being said, I thought it was interesting that my conversation pre-class tonight was centered around the good parts of the episode, and that the people I were talking to self-identify as gay and gender-queer, and they hadn't felt like the story lines about straight characters were problematic. Which I think is funny because it's much more common that in a television show the straight characters have the better story lines and characterizations, and gay fans feel that the gay characters (if there are any) are marginalized and not represented as well. I'm not trying to be a whiny poopstain and say, "Ohhh, Glee doesn't care about the straight characters," but I think the larger problem is that the writers have not yet figured out how to write for an ensemble cast, which is what the show is turning into, and that remains probably my biggest complaint about this season. On Degrassi, another teen drama with an ensemble cast, each character gets developed fairly well and is not left in development limbo when there are a number of episodes in which they are not the main focus. That's a problem on Glee.

Post Script: The Celibacy Club's performance of "Afternoon Delight" had me in stitches. There was some serious concern about peeing myself while watching. I was reminded of when Michael Bluth and Maeby F√ľnke karaoke that at the Christmas party on Arrested Development. So funny!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MythBusters : Feminist Edition, #1

Okay, so this isn't MythBusters in the sense that I am going to dismantle feminism, but from all the reading I've been doing lately I thought it would be fun to do a series to address some of the weird, old, sexist adages (and perhaps ones that still prevail) about women from a feminist perspective.

So, myth #1:
I found this in Anne Fausto-Sterling's article, "Hormonal Hurricanes," and the original source of this quote that I'm referring to is from M.A. Hardaker's "Science and the Woman Question," published in Popular Science Monthly in 1881.
Opponents of higher education for women also claimed that females were less intelligent than males, an assertion based partly on brain size itself but also on the overall size differences between men and women. They held that women cannot "consume so much food as men... [because] their average size remains so much smaller; so that the sum total of food converted into thought by women can never equal the sum total of food converted to thought by men. it follows, therefore, that men will always think more than women."
Most thinking people will now look at a statement like that and LAUGH. That is often my first reaction when reading these silly old opinions about women. I think after I had a good laugh to myself about Hardaker's theory, I thought about how I eat a lot. A lot. I love eating. Duz that mean I am teh smartz?

So, this first myth is: women are small and eat little so naturally they cannot think as much as large, hardy male eating/thinking machines.

Okay, so besides the total lack of science, and the fact that measuring brains has gone out of fashion as a way to determine intelligence (which it does not, by the way), this falls under the category of problematic statements that don't make sense because humans are not made like robots and experience quite the range of capabilities within certain identity categories.

What does that mean? Well, first of all, Fausto-Sterling points out in her article that many have made the argument that not all successful dudes are built like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast.

Gaston: model of a thinking man

She says, "One respondent to this bit of scientific reasoning asked the thinking reader to examine the data: Aristotle and Napoleon were short, Newton, Spinoza, Shakespeare, and Comte delicate and of medium height, Descartes and Bacon sickly..." So first of all, by saying that only burly men who eat like horses are physically capable of producing the thought power to be successful students, that discounts the experiences of all sorts of men. Some guys are small and nerdy and quite the thinkers.

Additionally, making sweeping statements about the abilities of the men and women discounts the duh-factor that some women are really smart. And perhaps they do have a nice hearty breakfast. But even sickly and scrawny women, like the sickly and scrawny men who have made successes of themselves throughout history, are capable of being thinking human beings who can be students and produce really good work. And furthermore, it discounts the experiences of those who do not fall under the gender binary's intellectual abilities.

And while the relating women's lack of brain power to their lack of appetite may seem ridiculous, it is truth universally acknowledged that a man who feels threatened by the intelligence of women will make sweeping statements about their biological incapabilities to learn. Perhaps you remember when former Harvard president Larry Summers made a statement in 2005 about the lack of senior female professors in the math and science departments was due to the fact of the "innate differences" that make women dumber.

Let's think about this a little more deeply:
When universities began to be founded, they were generally used for the education of men. If you've ever read Little Women, you may remember Jo lamenting that although she would love to go study at a university she was both too poor and too much a not-man, while her friend Laurie couldn't care less about his education. Few colleges admitted women in the 1800s, and many big-name universities continued to have low numbers of women or none at all into the mid-to-late 1900's. Without proper access to education, who could really expect women to excel in academia? Without being given the chance to try something, how can you really expect someone to be good (or bad) at it?? (This is a really good question brought up in the sports documentary Not Just a Game, in which, among other things, the plight of female athletes and men's campaign to keep them out of organized athletics was based on a bunch of nothing. It's a great movie, I watched it today in class and I recommend it. You will not feel like you're watching a documentary. It's great!) And as access to education has changed, women have excelled and participated in higher education in record numbers. One explanation for why there are more male doctors, lawyers, professors, dentists... (etc., think of a profession and ask yourself if it's gendered... it likely is) than female doctors/lawyers/professors/dentists/etc, is that there still exist these social norms about what professions are ideal for men and women. (There's this great clip from The Simpsons when Lisa goes to a Build-a-Bear-like place and the woman helping her asks what she wants her dolphin to be dressed as. Lisa shouts out "Doctor! ...Um, professor!" and the saleswomen responds, "Okay, nurse it is! ... Kindergarten teacher!" and only acquiesces to Lisa's requests when Lisa informs her that it is a boy dolphin. And after getting the doctor outfit, Lisa says to her dolphin, "We fooled her... Betsy." I can't find a link to just the clip, but this compilation video called "Lisa Simpson Feminist Hero" from Jezebel has it in it. It's the last clip. The whole video is about 5 minutes, and it's so great, so watch it all! Lisa Simpson is definitely one of my feminist heroes.)

While these attitudes are changing, they still exist. Recall the "Guess Who?" video I posted a couple weeks back? So what we can conclude about these stereotypes formed long ago that continue to reign is that the barriers that keep men and women in gendered professions are socially constructed. While 90 years ago flapper girls were making waves with their promiscuity and wild, social ways, we now have Britney Spears and Katy Perry! What would those flappers think of them?? Attitudes change! By today's standards, flappers were pretty darn modest. And really, few people bat an eye when starlets come close to a nip-slip these days. Cultural attitudes about modesty have shifted a little bit, and although some may still call half-naked pop stars skanks, we know that this is a very different attitude than one that might have existed 30 or 50 or 100 years ago about women's sexuality. So goes attitudes about professions. One hundred years ago, imagining women in the army might have been inconceivable. Today, women are fighting for their right to serve on the front lines (and in practice, some women actually do). Eating a good breakfast is shown to help the thinking wheels in your brain machine start in the morning, but it doesn't have anything to do with the gender of that person. Smart people are just smart people!

So while myth #1 might be busted, we still have a ways to go before gendered assumptions about intelligence and ability go away.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Portlandia: Feminist Bookstore



I'm really enjoying the clips of Portlandia on Hulu (I'm not rich enough to watch it on IFC), in particular, the sketches on the Feminist Bookstore. This is the latest one, but I recommend you watch the rest of the clips on Hulu. (The Feminist Bookstore ones and the rest of them.) HILARIOUS.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Genuine Ken: Episodes 6 & 7

It's really getting down to the wire here! Only one episode left! Here's what happened in 6 & 7.

Episode 6, "Race to NYC," had the remaining four guys, Keith, Chris, Kash, and Kurtis (so many hard-C names) running errands for Barbie to test their memories and skills. Needless to say, the tasks did not require a lot of memory or skill, but still proved to be somewhat difficult for the boys. This was not the most exciting episode, and basically I just waited for 21 minutes until Keith, who's been basically a bimbo since the beginning and has squeaked by on charm, finally got kicked off. Keith, Chris, and Kash will unnecessarily travel to New York for the final episodes!

Episode 7, "Public A-WEAR-ness" I thought was a lot more interesting. It opens with the guys watching a video from Kenneth Cole talking about his devotion to social activism, and hints that the guys will have to think about this for themselves. They learn that their challenge is to create a PSA for a cause of their choice. Chris, who seems to be a really genuine person, also seems to be not the brightest. I mean... not that I have high standards for this show or anything, but he's sort of like a dumb puppy. His cause of choice: orphans. ...? He filmed a confusing PSA, filled with a lot of not-information, although it seemed nice. Kash, who seems like he is a lot dimmer than Chris, also picked orphans.

First off: this seems like a really weird thing to me. Like, when there are PSAs they're for causes or ideas, not for people specifically because that's an impossible project to speak on the behalf of a type of people. So for PSAs that help homeless people, they address homelessness and usually shelters and soup kitchens that help the people. While orphans may be a needy type of people, no one makes a PSA about orphans, they make it about the importance of adoption. Or a certain agency or organization you can donate money to. Except for Chris and Kash. What was confusing about this episode to me was that they weren't actually picking an existing organization, which in retrospect, might have had legal complications in certain organizations saying, "I don't want some airhead man from a not-real reality TV show representing my cause!" but in any case... that's what happened. So these were hypothetical PSAs, which will never be seen outside the context of the show because they are for organizations that are not real. What made it confusing is that Whitney Port & co. announced to the boys that the winner would get money donated to their organization. To... their fake organization? Or a real one that actually does stuff for the philanthropy they support? (I'm sure it's the last one, but it was never actually specified.) Kash made even less sense than Chris did, and babbled about golf tournaments to support orphans (sorry, orphans, I have swore to stay as far away from golf as possible, I cannot help you) and did a poster with him showing his abs. Nail in the coffin.

Kurtis actually did well and chose to talk about domestic violence. His mother was in an abusive relationship until he was 4, and it was something that he said he "never" talked about. His PSA wasn't the most eloquent thing in the world, but it was heartfelt, and he actually had a connection to the cause that he was trying to raise awareness about. This brings up-- implicitly, because the show is not long enough or relevant enough to actually include this kind of information--the fact that a lot of people are affected by domestic abuse and have a hard time talking about it. Professional football players included. And it was affecting to see this grown man talk about the importance of helping women and children affected by domestic abuse (although there are men who are affected by domestic abuse as well, and people not in heterosexual relationships... but again, the show is simple.) and reminded me of that PSA a football player put out right before the Superbowl this year asking men to not pay for sex and think about what makes something consensual... or something... I don't remember it that well. Anyway, Kurtis did a good job, and I applaud him for being able to highlight a part of himself that was vulnerable and genuine when that does not typically fit into the American macho construct of masculinity.

At judging time, Whitney Port & co. (including guest judge Kenneth Cole) expressed these concerns as well. And Kenneth Cole had the opportunity to say THIS gem, "From one genuine ken to 3 aspiring genuine kens, to be aware is even more important than what you wear." (Oohhhhhhh!) And thankfully, Kash went home.

"A lot of guys would have died to be in my shoes." -Kash (BARF, and not true.)

And now it's Chris vs. Kurtis for the title of GENUINE KEN: THE GREAT AMERICAN BOYFRIEND. This is not a surprise. I probably could have predicted this from the first episode. They're the least offensive guys in the competition. Everyone else had gaping character flaws, mostly ignorant self-worship, and Chris and Kurtis seem somewhat down to earth and normal.

OH WAIT! I just realized these two in the finale mean that it's down to the college cheerleader (Chris) vs. the college football player (Kurtis). Is this significant?? Will they mention it in the finale (they did in the first episode)? If the cheerleader beats the football player, does that say anything about masculinity? Or if the football player wins does that mean alpha-maleness doesn't change? Or is all of this completely unnecessary and a way for me to avoid doing homework???

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review: Big Girls Don't Cry

I saw reviews of this a couple times last semester in my goings-about of the feminist blogosphere (that's really a word, spellcheck??), but when my cousin sent me an article with an excerpt I knew that it had to go on my Amazon wish-list. Mom mom bought it for me for Christmas (she swears she came across it independently and thought of me and not on my wish-list), and I started it pretty soon afterward, but hadn't had a lot of time for reading.
Eventually I got into the habit of reading a little every time I went to the gym and really started getting into it, and finally finished it this week during spring break.

Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women is a pretty damn exciting book. I was a voter in 2008, and pretty highly invested in the election, but reading this made me realize how really dumb I was. I've always been better about keeping up with everything going on in Celebrity Land than I have with Politics Land, and I was a lot less informed in 2008 than I thought I was. I don't think I would have changed anything about how I participated in the election, but I wish I had been reading more about it in real time, not just retroactively.

Rebecca Traister is a really awesome author, let me start with that. She's a journalist who has done a lot of political and women's issues coverage, and she was all over the 2008 election so the whole book feels like a treat to have it all laid out for you. (I'm saying this because some authors/journalists, AHEM Maureen Dowd, get really into name-dropping and it makes reading their work unbearable, but Traister is not like that at all.) And what I really liked about it is that, I mean, it is at times an emotional read. There are facts and interviews, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone, I think, who did not have strong, emotionally-based feelings about the 2008 election, then or now. And she wasn't a rah-rah Hillary fan either. Traister began as a John Edwards supporter, and had never had strong positive feelings for Hillary, which she explains. As she discusses in the book, women's issues with feminism, politics, and female politicians are complicated, and a sort of "problem that has no name" a la Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique.

The book goes through the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Sarah Palin mess, the media's obsession with Michelle Obama, as well as how women reacted to all this Lady Business (as in politicians who are ladies, not periods or anything) being in the news. And Traister is so right on in this book. With observations like, "What Palin so beguilingly represented... was a form of female power that was utterly digestible to those who had no intellectual or political use for actual women: feminism without the feminists" (236), you can't help but think "Oh, snap!" to yourself as you read. Or at least, I couldn't. At one point I was reading about Hillary Clinton's success in the New Hampshire primaries, which came right after some really sexist comments from Chris Matthews (and perhaps some of her success can be attributed to his sexist comments right before the primaries about how she couldn't win), and the whole description was so on point, and so also in line to how I had felt about Hillary, that when Traister came to the part about Hillary winning I like actually reacted by saying, "yes!" to myself. Out loud. At the gym. I knew what happened and I got sooo wrapped up in what was happening anyway.

I really recommend this book. I have a much deeper understanding about the intersections of politics and women in the 2008 election, and what that means now, because of it. It's great.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day!


Hooray! It's International Women's Day! (Actually, the 100th anniversary!) AND Feminist Coming Out Day!

Unfortunately, I don't actually have anything planned for today's post. Midterms were last week and I am still recovering. I worked all day... and this PSA is all I got for ya. But it's a good one. I will post things on here other than youtube videos... soon... so soon... But this is all for now. I have to go to sleep. Enjoy sweet dreams of equality!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sorry to Interrupt Your Flow...

I saw this video linked on Jezebel (what else is new?) And thought that it was 1.) adorable and 2.) really great! I mean, at 5, 9, and 10 years old, they are no Lauryn Hill (one of their idols), but I admire their message and agency in producing this video.

As they explain on youtube:
"Letter to Lil Wayne" is a direct statement of justice from Watoto From The Nile. Growing tired and fed up with the constant degredation of Black women inside of Hip Hop music, they voice thier views and opinions on this melodic track.
I like rap. I have for awhile, and sort of inevitably... I run into music that doesn't exactly jive with my politics. And like a lot of rap fans, sometimes I ignore it. Feminist-friendly rap is in short supply, and the lyrical quality of some songs with em... questionable "moral" quality (that doesn't sound right, but it's been midterms week and I'm too tired) is still sometimes amazing.

But I also want to point out that while rap has a bad reputation as far as women-friendly music goes, other styles of music are not so welcoming to the ladies either. Jazz is known as a boys' club (so much so that it is theorized that famed musician Billy Tipton--who upon his death was discovered to be a biological female--began playing as a male to gain access to the scene), rock is pretty heavily male-dominated (uhhhh, hello? Groupies? Where are the groupies' fighting words for the way they're treated by rock stars?! Groupies fight back! Groupies fight back!), and there's even huge inequality as far as gender portrayals go in genres like pop and R&B where women have been able to have some great success--but male artists in both genres are often stereotyped as more serious musicians.

Rap music is famously androcentric and misogynistic, and there are many, many songs that there is no argument about how badly they portray women--HOWEVER, I think there is a huge racial component to this stereotype. Black men--since antebellum days have been stigmatized (unjustly) as the "black rapist" and been portrayed as these evil, sexist, snatch-up-your-white-ladies people. And so when the misogyny in rap is pointed out people readily agree, and ignore the fact that sexism exists in all genres of music. (Just look at "Under my Thumb" by the Rolling Stones. Uhh... hello!? That's a terribly misogynistic song that really goes unexamined.)

I don't want this to turn into a rant against all male artists... I mean, I would say that a little over half of the music on my iTunes is male artists and bands, I definitely listen to male artists and like them (currently I am wearing a Dropkick Murphys t-shirt), even those that have questionable attitudes towards women, but I just want to make sure that there isn't this demonizing attitude toward rap that I think is a very racially charged issue. Sexism shows up in a lot of places, so we shouldn't be focusing all our energy on critiquing one thing and not another.