Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Year 2009 in Feminist Review  

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It's that time again. Another year is almost over, marked by the holiday I have such a love-hate relationship with, New Year's Eve. I love the Twilight Zone marathon and the cocktails, but I hate the pressure put on every breathing person to find someone to kiss at midnight... which this year, will most likely be my dog.

But New Year's is more than just getting drunk off champagne, it's also a time to look back. So let's put our feminist goggles on, and take a peek at the best and worst times had by feminists 'round the world.


2009's Most Deplorable Anti-Feminist Happenings

Let's start with the bad, just to get it out of the way.

Bush Senior publicly told a story about his encounter with an ugly angry feminist. His words: "I saw one of the ugliest and angriest women I have ever seen in my entire life... And she charged my car with a sign... and came up right next to the window: 'Stay out of my womb!' No problem, buddy." You are an ass, sir.

PETA continued to offend with their racist, sexist, and fat-shaming advertisements. More to come in 2010 for sure.

Protesters at the "tea party" rallies showed little class in displaying signs that compared Obama to Hitler and slave-owners.

iPhone applications made me angry. Want to objectify and offend women? There's an app for that!

The media so ignorantly mocked Mexicans for "spreading" the Swine flu.

I lost all faith in humanity when right-wingers attacked Sonia Sotomayor, accusing her of being a "reverse" racist, a Latino KKK member, and was only appointed by Obama because she's a woman, and no other reason.

Obama-hating activists and politicians found it hilarious to attack our president with racist "jokes."

Small-brained assholes criticized people like Sonia Sotomayor and Regina Benjamin for being TOO FAT to do their jobs. Methinks said assholes need professional help ASAP.

Magazines continued to photoshop and airbrush the hell out of models to give young women even more impossible standards to live up to.

Glenn Beck still won't shut up, even after receiving an enormous backlash for calling Obama racist towards white people.

Adults acted like children at the town hall health care debate meetings, where a white man ripped up a photo of Rosa Parks that several black women had brought in. Stay classy.

After a story broke about a black student beating up a white student on a school bus, Rush Limbaugh played the poor oppressed white man card.

And thanks to Senator Stupak and his anti-choice allies, our reproductive rights came under serious attacks during the health care reform debacle.

2009's Notable Activism

Maria Vieira showed immense courage by taking the story of her rape public to show the importance of doing something if you witness a sexual assault.

After word circled the blogsophere about the highly offensive "Tranny Alert" website, activists sent in angry e-mails, which led to the eventual shutting down of the website.

A website called Beautiful Just the Way You Are encouraged people who are sick of seeing beauty-obsessed magazine covers to, ahem, cover the covers with a positive message.

Former president Jimmy Carter, in a bold move, publicly left his church because he was fed up with religious sexism.

The "BMI Project" was put together at Shapely Prose, consisting of photos that illustrate how ridiculous and inaccurate so-called "BMI calculators" are.

Ms. Magazine highlighted the amazing plights of women in Iraq trying to escape violence.

Bryan Safi released several more installments of That's Gay, where he mocked the homophobic and heterosexist nature of our culture.

The New York Times put together a collection of reader-submitted photos that illustrated the importance of educating and empowering girls and women around the world.

Feminist organizations and individuals rallied together to send a message to Ralph Lauren: keep your photoshop off our bodies.

The activism that many say has revitalized the pro-choice movement: reproductive justice advocates fought against anti-choice politicians who sought to eliminate health insurance coverage for abortions. The fight will undoubtedly continue into 2010 and beyond.

2009's Notable Women

Diablo Cody and the rest of the "fempire" made news with their lovable movies and willingness to take on the male-dominated Hollywood.

Alysa Stanton became the first black woman rabbi.

Kathy Griffin rules for not only proving that women make great comedians, but also for fighting for queer rights.

Rachel Maddow kicked ass on MSNBC, giving queer activists a voice in mainstream media.

Women senators (e.g. Debbie Stabenow and Barbara Boxer) reminded their anti-feminist colleagues that women's health care matters too.

Caster Semenya wow'ed the world with her amazing athletic abilities, and perhaps even more miraculous, dealt with all the crap the public gave her regarding what her "real gender" is.

Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, helped get a hate crime bill passed in the Senate.

Michelle Obama went above and beyond her first lady role by handling the nonsense the media gave her about her clothing with class, and doing great things for women everywhere, like working with breast cancer awareness.

Sarah Haskins continued to give us hilarious and extremely true installments of Target Women.

Sonia Sotomayor made it through the tough confirmation process and the bullshit thrown at her by her opponents to become our newest Supreme Court judge, making history in more ways that one.

2009's Losses

Some of those who left us this year. May their messages of equality and their fight for women's rights live on and continue to inspire us all.

Dr. George Tiller, long-time abortion provider and champion of reproductive justice.

Senator Ted Kennedy, the "liberal lion of the Senate."

Marilyn French, feminist activists and author of The Women's Room.

Eve Sedgwick, feminist scholar, author, and queer theorist.

Nan Robertson, journalist and author of "The Girls in the Balcony," about workplace equality.

Alice Rossi, sociologist and one of the founders of the National Organization for Women.

I definitely missed some events and people, so please comment with your notable happenings of 2009. I hope all of you had a wonderful year, and I wish you health and happiness in 2010.
Saturday, December 26, 2009

Buffet of the Week  

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I hope everyone had/is having a fabulous holiday! I haven't been able to write a post in a few days because of the festivities, but here's what's been going on:

  • With more and more people becoming aware of the fact that abstinence-only programs do not work, supporters of the no-sex-until-marriage curriculum in schools are looking for its revival in the health care bill.

  • Both pro-choice and anti-choice activists are displeased with the final Senate version of the health care bill.

  • Sarah Thomas has become the first woman ever to referee a college football bowl game.

  • Mexico City has legalized adoption and marriage rights for same-sex couples.

  • Jill of I Blame the Patriarchy wrote a post yesterday about an anti-feminist blog run by a husband and wife team, called The Art of Manliness. Eesh.

  • Cara of Feministe sheds light on the sexual trafficking of Native American women.

  • Check out Racialicious for commentary on the new Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog.

  • It isn't just the painful phrase "no homo!" that is becoming prominent in pop culture, but its counterpart "no lesbo!" as well. Commence banging head against wall.
Monday, December 21, 2009

Cynthia Nixon's pro-choice activism  

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I love me some Cynthia Nixon. She is a talented actress (who is smokin' hot) and 100% open about her sexuality. What I didn't know is that she's also a vocal pro-choice activist. An article today on CNN called her the "abortion debate's new voice." They also interviewed her, where she discussed her pro-choice views, and how abortion has been portrayed on "Sex and the City."

CNN: "Sex and the City" did the now-famous episode where your character, Miranda Hobbes, chose to have an abortion only to change her mind at the last minute. Was there a message in that episode? What was it?

Nixon: The message was choice. Miranda is a fighter. If she had to fight to get to that abortion, if there were forces working against her, she would have fought and fought and fought to get there and she might not have stopped to think, "What do I really want in this situation?"

But she was able to sit there in that doctor's office, about to go have an abortion with the support of her friends, and think to herself, "You know, I don't think this is what I want to do." This should be all about choice. We should not be pushing women to have children they don't want or can't care for.

As a celebrity, it's really risky to take a public stance on such a controversial issue because she could plausibly lose some anti-choice fans, but this doesn't seem to phase her much. I appreciate her willingness to put her neck on the line for a good cause and to use her power and publicity to do some good in the world.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Men creating their own "Vagina Monologues"  

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I noticed a recent post in The Sexist about an all-male production in Washington, D.C. called "Deez Nuts" that basically markets itself as The Vagina Monologues for men.

Creating male Vagina Monologues-esque shows is nothing new. I'm all for people discussing sexuality (especially in public!) but the fact that "Deez Nuts" calls itself "an all male spin to The Vagina Monologues" rubs me the wrong way. It seems that this productions and other ones like it are created not to provide men with an outlet to discuss their sexuality, but to counter an all-women production that they feel excluded from. Patriarchy promotes the idea that whatever women have, men need to have too (well, at least whatever makes women feel empowered and liberated).

The problem is that men don't need a theatrical production to discuss their sexuality because men are allowed to discuss sex damn near whenever and wherever they please... women, however, are looked at as loud-mouthed sluts if they do the same. That's why there was a need for The Vagina Monologues to be created. But methinks "Deez Nuts" and all similar productions were created not from men expressing a need to talk about their sexuality, but from the mentality of: "Hey, where's our play? Where's our movement? What about the menz?!?!" My guess is that "Deez Nuts" wouldn't exist if The Vagina Monologues wasn't created first.

I just want to put it out there that there are some things that women can have that men can't. For hundreds of years, men have been receiving rights and privileges that were denied to women. I think men can handle not having their own Penis Monologues.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sen. Boxer dislikes double standards  

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THANK YOU, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), for calling out the fact that women's access to health care and reproductive services is constantly under attack, yet the medicines (i.e. Viagra) and procedures that men use are not put in this same political position. Double standards. Story of our lives, ain't it? IMO, it all goes back to society trying to control a woman's sexuality. Why are birth control rights threatened incessantly, yet condoms seem almost impervious to the same assaults? Because men are allowed to be sexually free, and we're not.



Take a moment to contact Senator Boxer and thank her for her wise words. It's not easy being a feminist in Washington.
Saturday, December 12, 2009

Disney parody video pokes fun at Jews  

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I saw this on Huffington Post, and it made me think. It's a parody video that basically shows Disney filmmakers constructing a movie about the first "Jewish American Princess," entitled Rachel and the Dragon.



I'll admit: this made me laugh a bit. But I was upset and offended more than I was amused. In my first Women's Studies class ever, we discussed the "JAP" stereotype and how harmful it is, and it was the first time I had looked at Jew jokes as anything other than innocent fun. As a Jewish woman, you would think I would have realized that earlier, but I was a naive teenager at the time. Jews are an oppressed people, and no matter how much time passes and how much things improve for Jewish people around the world, we will always have that history of being oppressed, harassed, and stereotyped. Because of that, you don't make jokes like this. You just don't.

My roommate also pointed out that if this same video had been made based on stereotypes surrounding people of color, it would never be posted by Huffington and tweeted and retweeted by people who find it hilarious. Why is this?

But most of all, what disturbed me was the fake movie poster they made for Rachel and the Dragon. The "JAP" portrayed on the poster is extremely stereotypical: wild brown hair, too much makeup, large nose, cell phone, irritated expression. And what this portrayal instantly reminded me of was the anti-semitic posters the Nazis once distributed as propaganda:


I realize that the whole Rachel and the Dragon parody isn't anywhere near the hatred popularized during the Holocaust, but stereotypes and seemingly "harmless" jokes are what fuel that hatred. You cannot tell me that Bill O'Reilly calling Dr. George Tiller (may he rest in peace) "Tiller the Baby Killer" didn't have some effect on his eventual death.

I just ask that people think before they make these jokes or laugh at them. They are more harmful than we think.
Friday, December 11, 2009

Sotomayor makes history (again)  

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As feminists, we know that language is important. Telling our friends to use "she or he" instead of simply "he," "you all" instead of "you guys," or "people of color" instead of "colored people," is a seemingly small, but vital, part of being an activist.

This is why I was so pleased to hear that Justice Sotomayor made history when she became the first Supreme Court justice to use the term "undocumented immigrant," rather than the standard "illegal immigrant," used by many other justices in the past.

Using the term "illegal" pins the immigrants who come here looking for work and a better life as criminals, which is wrong. I was very happy that Sotomayor made that crucial change.
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Burqa Barbie  

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In Italy, you can find "Burqa Barbies" on display at an exhibit, being auctioned off as a fundraiser for the Italian branch of Save the Children.

Barbara Kay of the National Post, who asked, "Why is the world's favorite fashion doll wearing a symbol of oppression?" wrote:

I have seen some pretty tawdry advertising campaigns in my time, but I must say this one takes the cake for insensitivity. What's next in dolls that are "important for girls" to play with? "Illiterate Barbie"? "Forced-Marriage Barbie"?

I understand Kay's concerns, but I have a problem with this article. By saying the above statement, Kay is equating the burqa with women being denied access to education and being forced into marriage. However, burqa Barbie does not come with a scroll inscribed with the Taliban edicts; there are no indications that this burqa-wearing Barbie is oppressed in any way, other than, as Kay observes, the cloth covering her from head-to-toe.

In the article, "Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?" Lila Abu-Lughod points out that the Taliban did not invent the burqa. She explains, "The Pashtun are one of the several ethnic groups in Afhganistan and the burqa was one of many forms of covering in the subcontinent and Southwest Asia that has developed as a convention for symbolizing women's modesty or respectability." Abu-Lughod also cites anthropologist Hanna Papanek, who in 1982 wrote that many saw the burqa as liberating because it allowed women to move about in public, while still respecting the moral requirements of separating women from unrelated men.

When the Taliban was overthrown, though some women did discard their burqas (those who felt safe enough to do so), many continued to wear it. As Westerners who have been taught by the media and by people such as Kay that the burqa is an oppressive and horrific invention, it's hard for us to understand why a woman would choose to wear one. But even with the Taliban gone, why would a woman suddenly choose to discard what she might see as a symbol of respectability and liberation?

My bottom line: the reasoning behind a woman's choice to wear a burqa is complex. We cannot reduce the burqa to a mere "symbol of oppression." To many, it is a marker of their culture. And as people who didn't grow up in Middle Eastern culture, it is impossible for us to fully understand it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rachel Maddow interviews gay conversion 'therapist'  

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Watch Rachel Maddow take on one of those "gay people can become straight with therapy!" nuts. It's awesome.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Senate REJECTS restrictions on abortion coverage  

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In a 54 to 45 vote, the Senate has rejected the anti-choice effort to eliminate insurance coverage for abortions.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said the legislation is about access to health care, and not abortion.

I'm extremely relieved that the Senate had some sense, but the Senate bill that was created still specifies that abortion coverage can only be paid for with private dollars (not public dollars - e.g. Medicaid), a restriction put in place by the Hyde amendment in 1976. Visit Change.org to send a message to the House, Senate, and President Obama, urging the repeal of the Hyde amendment.

But still, definitely a pleasing victory for all supporters of reproductive justice. To everyone who did their part to stop the elimination of insurance coverage for abortions, congrats!
Sunday, December 6, 2009

Feminist Holiday Gift Guide  

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If you're gift-giving this holiday season, here's your Feminist Gift Guide to go by. Use it to find the perfect present for the feminist(s) in your life, or put what you like on your wishlist for you to enjoy. Feel free to comment with any other feminist gift suggestions!

For the feminist newbie:


  • Newbies can learn about everything from patriarchy to Alice Walker in Cathia Jenainati's book Introducing Feminism. The perfect introduction for any person interested in joining the movement!

  • The Black Feminist Reader will introduce them to writings by bell hooks, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, and many more.

  • Queer Studies: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Anthology can give them a crash course in queer studies.

  • Help any new feminist learn about the modern feminist movement by getting them a subscription to the cutting-edge Bitch magazine.
  • And now that they're feminists, it's time to shout it from the rooftops. Give the feminist n00bz in your life "This is What a Feminist Looks Like" gear from Feminist.org, or a poster of the classic feminist icon, Rosie the Riveter.

For the sexually empowered:



For the vagina-lover:


For the bookworm:


For the movie/TV show addict:


  • Teeth (an ordinary girl learns she has a toothed vagina that is not afraid to bite anyone who mistreats it)

  • Iron Jawed Angels (follow Alice Paul and Lucy Burns as they fight for votes for women)

  • Daughters of Afghanistan (a documentary about women in Afghanistan struggling to put their lives back together after the removal of the Taliban)

  • Death Proof (bad ass women get sweet revenge)

  • Sugar Rush (a hilarious British TV series about a 15 year-old lesbian in love with her best friend)
Thursday, December 3, 2009

Keep abortion covered by insurance!  

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I don't know about you, but I'm incredibly freaked out about the assault on abortion coverage, carried out by anti-choice politicians through health care reform. The Hyde amendment has been in place for 33 years, which bans public funds being used for abortion, but Bart Stupak and his anti-choice allies not only want to keep the Hyde amendment in place, but also eliminate private insurance coverage for abortions, a service that 85% of insurance companies offer now.



Yesterday, I campaigned on my campus with Tiffany Card to get signatures on an anti-Stupak petition. Here are some actions you can take:

  • Learn about the situation.

  • Check out upcoming rallies and protests in various states.

  • Visit the Planned Parenthood action center to contact your senators.

  • Sign the petition on CREDO Action, and they will send a coat hanger to the 20 formerly pro-choice senators who voted in favor of Stupak.

  • Or follow in the footsteps of the Clinic Escort and purchase miniature coathangers yourself to mail to the "pro-choice" senators or Democratic representatives who voted for no abortion coverage.

  • Sign the online petition at StopStupak.com.

  • Download Planned Parenthood's petition, print it out, and collect signatures in your community.

  • Join the Stupak REVOLT group on Facebook.

  • Tweet, post, e-mail, and flyer! Get the word out. Many people are not aware of the situation, but are willing to take action once they learn about it.

Porn doesn't affect how men view women... says 20 dudes  

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There's no other way to introduce this story than Tracy Clark-Flory's (of Salon.com) way:

It's official: Pornography doesn't affect men's view of women. This breaking news comes by way of 20 young men who ... just say so, OK? Stop asking so many questions, gosh!

Basically, a researcher in Montreal conducted a study, funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Family Violence and Violence Against Women, on how pornography shapes how men view women. The researcher determined that since less than two dozen 20-something hetereosexual guys say that "they don't want their partner to look like a porn star," porn has absolutely no affect whatsoever on how the rest of the male population views women!

Wow. Wow. The researcher, Simon Louis Lajeunesse, even says:

If pornography had the impact that many claim it has, you would just have to show heterosexual films to a homosexual to change his sexual orientation.

Wait a minute. Last I checked, sexual orientation was something that we can't change, and ideas/beliefs/perceptions are things that we... can change... right? So, wait, why are we comparing them? Oh right, because this study is crap. I'm glad Tracy Clark-Flory points this out.

I don't doubt that most young men do not want their partner to look like a porn star and that X-rated flicks can be part of an innocuous -- and even healthy -- private fantasy life. It's just -- this isn't science. You don't determine the impact of porn by merely asking a small sampling of typical dudes whether it changed their view of women. If it's all they have known (since the age of 10 for most of the study participants), how the heck are they supposed to evaluate how it changed their view of women?

Not buying it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Same-sex marriage in NY: not quite yet  

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New York State Senate Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill.

My heart just broke.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009  

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There are approximately 33.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

If that number scares you... it should. It should scare you into ensuring that you get an HIV test regularly if you are at risk, and that you and your partner get tested before becoming sexually active. If you are unsure whether or not you are at risk for HIV/AIDS, information on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website can help. And you can visit HIVTest.org to find a place nearby that can test you. Remember, getting tested for HIV/AIDS is scary and nervewracking, but the earlier the disease is caught the sooner treatment can begin.

In addition to getting tested, you can get active for World AIDS Day. Learn about the harms of abstinence-only education, and how it is a strong cause of high STD and teen pregnancy rates. Also, check out the "Do Something" section on the World AIDS Day website to read about the many things you can do to spread awareness.

But World AIDS Day isn't just about getting tested and being an activist... it is also about supporting our loved ones who may be living with HIV/AIDS. It is important to remember that it is unhelpful and incorrect to dismiss someone living with the disease as careless or ignorant because they contracted it. People get HIV/AIDS for a wide array of complex reasons... and yes, some do contract the disease because of a mistake like not wearing a condom, but that doesn't mean they don't still deserve our support and love.

What are you doing in honor of World AIDS Day?