Monday, April 28, 2008

Recognizing Our Own Limitations, Mistakes, & Needs as a Movement

I wasn't going to touch any of this. I really wasn't. For lots of different reasons that ranged from being scared to feeling like it wasn't my place. Scared not in the physical sense but rather that someone would find fault in what i say. Also scared that i wouldn't be able to do it justice and wouldn't be able to find the right words to say what i mean. Then i read two things that made me change my mind and search for the words, even if they are flawed or naive.

First i read Latoya's post in which she wrote "Now, I am sure that some non-allies are confused at this one. They are neutral. They can see both sides. They want everyone to just come together already and fight the real problem, not realizing that their silence is part of the real problem." Then Sarah's, "And at the same time we all need to know that there are times when I do need to shut up and listen. There will always be people whose lived experience gives them a right to speak out about racism and homophobia and transphobia and poverty and many other things that I have simply never experienced." Sarah ended on the note which i'd like to start, "Those voices are not more important because they are white. They are important because they are making that chorus louder. If there are enough of us, we WILL be heard."

Latoya talked about exactly what i was doing. Staying neutral, waiting for all this to pass, and hoping for everyone to work things out so that we could all once again come together and fight the real enemy: patriarchy. But then i remembered two things, with the help of several very smart women: 1. sexism isn't our only enemy and 2. feminism isn't without faults and the feminist movement is historically notorious for excluding nearly as many people as patriarchy itself.

And although I realize i'm not a mainstream blog and definitely don't have as much readership and traffic as many of the women i admire, i do have a voice and a place in the blogosphere. People are writing about this and it's a conversation that needs to continue. So i too will speak up, because i shouldn't be scared to or feel bullied out of it (even if my fear is unwarranted or misperceived, it stems from somewhere).

I realize that lots of people who read my blog do so because they know me personally, rather than because they are involved in the feminist blog scene. For those people i will quickly summarize what's been going on. For my readers who are here because of the feminist blogosphere and know what i'm talking about, please excuse the entirely too abridged version of past events.

Basically, the feminist movement continues to be flawed and has difficulty acknowledging the racism within. I doubt many people will disagree with me there. It all blew up a few weeks back when BrownFemiPower took down her blog as a reaction to Amanda Marcotte's article for the Alternet in which Amanda used many of the same points and thoughts that BFP has written. Amanda is white, she also has a book deal. This is important because it got discussed a whole lot during the controversy. But it's not the point. Or at least it shouldn't be. More importantly is that BFP, a powerful, thought provoking, WoC, was no longer comfortable and able to share her voice with us. Fast forward to the past few days and the racist images in Amanda's new book. Now BlackAmazon has also left the scene. Amanda apologized about the illustrations in her book. She said, "I didn’t pick the offensive imagery... but I should have caught it sooner than now" Really?! How the F did you not notice it? As a self proclaimed feminist writer, and a feminist publisher, how can you miss something that obviously racist? Here or here for more. The issue (IMO) isn't the conflict between Amanda supporters versus WoC supporters, it's that WoC don't feel like they have a place within feminism. That right there is where we have all failed.

Like i said, really really abridged.

How in the world did Amanda not notice the blatant racism until so late? I'd love to accept her apology but i'm really struggling to understand all this (the current situation she's gotten herself into as well as numerous others). It's gotten equally as difficult to accept her words as it is to identity with the same feminism that she believes in.

Also, I understand it's frustrating and down right infuriating to tolerate racism in the name of education, and no, it isn't solely the responsibility of WoC to educate white feminists in how to be feminist. It's all of our responsibility. Not to police each other but to challenge one another to become stronger, more enlightened, to value each other more, and to become more united in the end. Again, i'll echo Sarah's words "if there are enough of us, we WILL be heard."

All that said, this open letter to white feminists also got me thinking. Mostly because it said everything i wish i had thought to and linked more people than i ever could.

When anyone (including but not limited to WoC) is pushed out of the blogosphere, silenced, or in any other way oppressed, we as a movement have failed. The moment feminism discriminates, we as a movement have failed. The instant someone no longer feels comfortable or able to speak up, we as a movement have failed. So what does this mean? Should we all pack it in? Well no, i don't think that's the answer at all. In fact, i really really hope that more WoC don't do that. It serves no purpose to the greater good at all. I understand it may serve them a purpose of self-preservation but as far as the greater good, i don't see quitting as the answer at all. I think that we, as white feminists, have to recognize not only our privilege and our responsibility but also our limitations. Although i don't believe you have to directly experience oppression to fight against it, sometimes realizing that we may not understand the whole experience is crucial in providing the ability to listen. We desperately need not only to listen to each other but hear one another. We need to ask questions, continue dialog, and learn. Silencing ourselves and each other serves no purpose. Rather listening, challenging, and communicating teaches us all important lessons.

Gender and race intersect at many points. Just as gender and sexuality do. Finding the ability and creating the opportunity to listen to and learn from those who directly experience the oppression we write about (even if we may or may not experience it) helps create the unity we need to challenge oppression as a movement. Also, white women should not be the face or voice of feminism. White women should especially not react so violently and defensively to criticism. How can we begin to learn from one another when we can't chill the fuck out and listen? I understand that personal is political and i even understand how difficult all of this is for so many highly intelligent and currently frustrated people but we need to unite as a movement and regain our focus.

I'm not saying disregard all that has happened. Not at all. In fact, i'm saying we should use this as a catalyst to tackle the racism within feminism and make the movement stronger. We should all continue to challenge ourselves, admit our mistakes, learn from them, and unite.

Is your Nalgene Making you Sick?

I got back yesterday from a 3 mile run with Beans, and like i do on any other occasion, downed lots of water from my Nalgene. I've been using my Nalgene bottle since fall of 2003 when i decided to be more conscious of my carbon footprint and quit buying single use plastic bottles due to their impact on our growing waste problem.

D will attest to the fact that i'm always nauseous. I always complain about feeling like i'm going to throw up, but i rarely do. Until yesterday. I managed to puke up what i image was about 32 ounces of water... all the water i drank out of my Nalgene an hour prior. Is this a coincidence? I don't know. All i know is I felt sick, all i had to eat until that point was matzah brei, jam, and water... water out of my Nalgene...

Apparently there has been lots of research done recently on the harmful effects of reusing plastic bottles, including and especially, Nalgene bottles. What one study found:

"A study that involved researching birth defects and developmental abnormalities that caused miscarriages in mice raised the suspicions on all polycarbonate plastics. The study revealed a sudden increase in aneuploidy, a defect consisting of abnormal loss or gain of chromosomes, which in humans could possibly lead to miscarriages or disorders such as Down Syndrome.

The spontaneous jump in mouse aneuploidy was traced back to a lab worker, who used a strong detergent to clean the mice cages and water bottles. The effects of the detergent resulted in the plastic attaching itself to bisphenol, a chemical that mimics the female hormone estrogen.
Research has shown that low BPA levels have had an adverse effect on prostate development, tumors, breast tissue development, sperm count and enlargement of fat cells in the body.

Scientists have warned against allowing any polycarbonate plastics near your food or water and stated the devastating effects of these chemicals posed the biggest risk to babies during early development. Despite the warnings, polycarbonate plastics continue to be used in a wide variety of products including food storage cans, dental sealants and the Nalgene Lexan bottles."

On one hand i thought there was enough evidence and conversation both ways, lots of people don't think that reusing plastic is harmful. On the other, this discovery was serious enough to cause California legislation to consider passing a bill that bans Bisphenol A (the specific compound used in Nalgene bottles) from children's toys, pacifiers, and bottles.

The other thing about me that lots of people don't know is i'm not the cleanest person. I mean, sure i bathe (although not regularly enough, as my college roommates used to joke lol) and brush my teeth every day, but when it comes to keeping things clean and orderly, I'm not your gal. In fact, what scares me about this is i don't think i've washed my Nalgene more than a dozen times in the few years i've had it. Ok ok I know that's gross and it's another reason I quickly threw the bottle out yesterday as i realized this might have been the cause of all that vomit... Especially since one post says to change bottles when the writing starts to fade. Instead, when the writing started to fade on my Nalgene, i put stickers on the bottle. When the stickers started to fade, i put new stickers over them... i think this was a long time coming haha.

Am i overreacting here? I'm not sure... but with all this talk of the harmful bacteria, toxins, and brain damage, i am a bit scared for my health...

Any thoughts other than it's time for me to get a SIGG bottle? ;)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

National Equal Pay Day

I missed the boat on Blog for Fair Pay Day but today is actually National Equal Pay Day 2008! Thanks to Maggie for informing me of today and for helping with the wonderful events Stony Brook Career Center organized today to raise awareness at their university.

Some Facts:

  • Women working full-time, year-round earn only about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, virtually the same amount women earned in 2005. In 2006, the median annual earnings of women ages 15 and older working full-time, year-round were $32,515, compared to $42,261 for their male counterparts. Via US Census
  • African American woman earned just 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic man, while a Hispanic woman earned only 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white, non-Hispanic male counterpart. Also via US Census
  • There is not a single state in which women have gained economic equality with men. Via
  • As of 2006, Washington, D.C. was the area with the smallest wage gap, at 98%, whereas Louisiana had the widest gap, with women making about 66% of what men earned. Via
  • As women get older, the wage gap for them widens. When women start their careers, the pay gap is relatively small: females aged 15 to 24 working full-time, year-round have median annual earnings that are 94% of what their male counterparts earn. However, by the time they reach the critical years leading up to retirement, that 6% pay gap has increased almost five times: women aged 45 to 64 who work full-time, year-round earn only 71% of what men do. Via

Breakdown of what this all means:

Women in the United States are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Minority women have it far worse. African American women earn 63 cents and Latinas earn 52 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

Female Impersonator wrote a wonderful post on this a few days back to help illustrate the point.

Also, in looking up stuff for today, it took me a while to figure out whether this was for real or a joke. I wish it was for real...

What can YOU do on Equal Pay Day? Here's where you can start:

  • Support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
  • Educate yourself and others (pdf)
  • Start talking about how much you're getting paid. I realize talk of wages is usually off limits, even in conversations among friends, but this is a contributing reason the wage gap continues to go unnoticed.

Bush Humor

Monday, April 21, 2008

An Orange on the Seder Plate

Saturday night marked the start of Passover. For us Jews, Passover means staring at a set table for an hour while going through the Seder, eating incredibly gross looking gefilte fish, and not being allowed to eat any fermented grain products for a week (ie bread, pasta, grain alcohol, anything leavened, etc). Passover also means retelling the story of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt, matzah-ball soup (yum!), remembering back to the days we searched for, found, and got payed for finding the Afikomen, sharing laughs and songs with family and friends, and eating and drinking, a lot. The message of Passover is freedom and ending of persecution, this is a message not unique to the Jews but rather one we should all share and strive for. Passover is the festival of freedom and as such, i write about it here.

I spent the first night of Passover at my parents' house. My mom always makes enough food to feed a small army, even though there are usually no more than a dozen guests. It's an ongoing joke that after everyone is fed, one of the wise-ass children says to my mom, "I am still hungry, maybe we can order a pizza?" No one leaves hungry and no one leaves empty handed. Dinner at my parents' house is always a feast, full of delicious traditional Russian food, good compay, and a little political controversy (they're mostly Republicans... i know, i know) ;)

D and I attended Second Seder at my brother and sister-in-law's new place in Brooklyn :) They recently moved and we were their first house guests! We had an amazing time taking the puppies to swim and play in at the dog beach in Prospect Park and absolutely fell in love with their house! NYC was wonderful but Brooklyn is just as good PLUS so much more spacious, green, and family oriented. Oh and Beans met his twin at the dog run, it was uncanny how similar he and Henry the Beagle/Pit bull mix looked.

Ok, i'll finally get to the feminist part is all this :) I swear it's all sort of relevant! I had the wonderful honor of bringing the orange this year for my brother and sister-in-law's Seder. And here, in the story of the orange, lies the feminist relevance to my ramblings.

Susannah Heschel
, a leading feminist scholar, is the woman responsible for popularizing the custom of an orange on the Seder plate. The story goes that during one of Susannah Heschel's lectures at a synagogue in Miami, an elderly rabbi stood up and said, "A woman belongs on the bimah like an orange belongs on the Seder plate." "To show support for the changing role of women in American Jewish society, the tradition of placing an orange on the Seder plate began, and Heschel became a household name at many Passover celebrations around the globe."

But don't be fooled... this isn't the actual story of the orange. In the early 80's a feminist Haggadah instructed that Jews place a crust of bread on the Seder plate to represent marginalized Jews, particularly Jewish lesbians and gay men, in the Jewish community. Although Heschel liked the notion of reintroducing oppressed groups into Passover, she did not agree that the symbol should be bread. Heschel felt that by putting bread on the Seder plate we would be indicating that gay men and women are violating Judaism like leavened foods (the bread) violate Passover. Heschel instead chose an orange to symbolize the inclusion of gays and lesbians (as well as others who are marginalized and oppressed within Jewish law and tradition). Heschel chose an orange for two reasons: 1. to symbolize the "fruitfulness of all Jews" (aka it's better when EVERYONE gets a chance to participate, and everyone benefits when all are included) and 2. the seeds, as they are spit out, act as a symbol of the homophobia and discrimination we are protesting.

Additionally, Heschel was more than a bit (rightfully) peeved when the story about the elderly male rabbi began to circulate because (she writes) "somehow the typical patriarchal maneuver occurred: My idea of an orange and my intention of affirming lesbians and gay men were transformed. Now the story circulates that a man said to me that a woman belongs on the bimah as an orange on the seder plate. A woman's words are attributed to a man, and the affirmation of lesbians and gay men is erased. Isn't that precisely what's happened over the centuries to women's ideas?"

Next year, don't forget to bring an orange to Seder and especially to talk about the importance of including and celebrating all people in religion and traditions.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hopefully Jason will Burn in Hell

But thankfully he did get kicked off Hell's Kitchen this week...

From my blog you'd think that all D and I watch is reality TV. I'm not gonna lie, we do watch a lot of reality TV...

Anyway, let me recap Hell's Kitchen for you in case i'm the only one here that enjoys Chef Ramsey and his senseless anger... Basically a bunch of "chefs" compete for (usually) a restaurant. However, this season's reward is to work in one of Chef Ramsey's restaurants rather than getting their own... um, no thanks? (He yells a lot...) The reason "chef" is in quotes is because Gordon Ramsey often selects contestants who are not classically trained as chefs but rather have a passion for food. In fact, last season, Bonnie, previously employed as a nanny, made it to the final two.

Anyway, fast forward to this season. Over the past 3 episodes, Jason, one of the contestants, has made nothing but sexist comments. To the point that I'm not sure he can do an interview without saying something sexist...

I made a list of the "Jason Gems" that some of you may have missed. I wish I did this from the beginning of the season but i only thought of it during this past week's episode... which is fitting because it's also the episode at which he was kicked off the show. Here are some great things Jason said on national TV:

"I'm not gonna lose to a woman! Only way I'll lose to a woman is in an ironing competition."

"We're gonna win cuz we're men. This ain't no dustin' house keepin' challenge."

"The girls surprised me, they did good. But we're gonna win cuz we're fuckin' men here, come on! Huntin' and butcherin' meat? That's what men do"

"I hate desserts, they're tedious. Women can make desserts, ya know? That aint my thing."

"If I get put up tonight I'm not gonna put my head down like some bitch"

and his send off quote: "Maybe if I started crying like some ol' pansy, some chick, ya know, maybe I'd be back up stairs chillin' right now. But I can't do that, I'm a man. I sure as hell am not gonna cry about it. I am however gonna go get drunk."

Those should do it for you. Keep in mind these are all from just ONE episode... imagine if i kept track for all three episodes Jason was in.

Doesn't he realize he'll be working with women in the kitchen? There are many famously talented female chefs. I should have realized he was disgusting when he picked his feet before service in the first episode and didn't wash his hands before going back into the kitchen...GROSS!

To be perfectly blunt, this guy seems like SUCH a sketchball. He probably has been rejected by a few too many women in his life and acts this way because he can't get any. I don't usually make snap judgements like that on people, especially such rude judgements but I feel ok saying it because Jason took the first chance he had to go into the hot tub with one of the "hot" female contestants. Ew.

Jason did an interview in which he said his inspiration to cook was his mom - you'd think he'd give women a bit more credit in the kitchen based on that. Here are some other questions he was asked, and his responses:

Did you think it was fair that you were eliminated, or do you think maybe Craig should have gone for that whole chicken thing?

"For the chicken thing, Craig probably, for as much experience as he says he has, he probably should have got eliminated. But I wanted to go... I was frustrated, I had a bad day. I kind of wanted to leave, so I told them to put me up. But if I would have been put up against a guy, I don't think I would have went home. I think I went home because I got put up against a girl."

They showed you saying a lot of things about how men are a little bit better than women in the kitchen.

"They sure did."

Do you think that's true? Is that type of environment just better suited for men, or did the women impress you?

"The women did do some stuff to impress me, definitely. They were working better as a team than we were for the most part. I know they had a little confrontation as well, but that's part of the game. But they were doing better than us overall, I will give them credit for that. I've never worked in the kitchen with a girl who did anything aside from make salads. I had a couple girls come over and try to do what we were doing, and they just couldn't hang, so they went right back over to salads or ended up waiting tables or doing something else. So from the little bit of experience that I've had with that, that's what I based most of those comments on."

Ok, so i get where his "opinions" stem from but that doesn't give him the right to be an enormously sexist jackass on national TV. Good riddance Jason. Please let us all know where you end up cooking so that i can avoid your restaurant like the plague (yes because you're an ass but also because you suck at cooking - and you don't wash your hands after playing with your feet... gross man, just gross).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Race, Class and Gender - A Semester of Frustration

Below is a guest post from a co-worker and friend, Brandi. For me, one of the most interesting things to witness is the formation and development of feminist consciousness in another person. I experienced this in my first WS class during college, some stages that i went through to form my feminist identity included challenging my former beliefs, admitting my own privilege, realizing that indeed there is a problem, outrage, and recognizing the need for collective action. Feminist identity develops during different times in peoples lives and not always out of academic circumstances. Below is an example of a woman who is going through this now and would love feedback on other people's experiences and when to (and how to) speak up for what you believe in.

From Brandi:

Last summer, I had a chance to work closely with Galina. Galina was hired to work for the company I work at about a year and a half ago though we never actually worked together. Fortunately she had some down time in between research studies and she was able to help me out during a time of turnover/trainings, etc. I got to really know her and I’m so thankful for that time – even if it was difficult. I learned that she is strong-willed, is passionate about her views and sticks up for what is right. I don’t think I have ever met someone with such conviction before and it is so refreshing and inspiring.

Admittedly, prior to meeting her and reading her blog, I myself never understood what being a feminist means. Like many other (ignorant) people in this world, I too thought feminism was a “dirty” word and that feminists fit the following criteria: they are always women, are mean, mostly lesbians, have narrow views of the world, and are just out there to cause trouble. I understand now that this is all cultivated by the media. I now proudly claim to be a feminist – if ever I’m asked to describe myself, that is a word that I use.

This semester I enrolled in a class called Race, Class and Gender. Once the end of January rolled around I was excited about all the topics we would cover and the heated discussions that would transpire. I was fully expecting some people to be shocked and a little hurt. What has been happening in class; however, I was not prepared for.

There is a group of females that sit right in the front of the class in a gaggle. I hate to stereotype, but they are all carbon copies of each other – they go tanning, have manicured fingernails, expensive and trendy haircuts, carry Coach bags, etc. Often times in class they are giggling and distracting to both the original professor (we had to have a guest professor come in from now on since someone complained about the class and my professor’s accent – I have good reason to believe it was one of said girls) and the rest of the class.

One day we were discussing patriarchal societies and our professor asked, “Do you think we live in a patriarchy.” I nodded my head as did several other people in my class. The ringleader of the group of girls in the front (we’ll call her A.) said, “I don’t think we do.” My professor was curious as to why – she’s very good at letting us make a case for our opinions. A. said very surely, “Well, I’m ok with how things are so it’s ok.” Clearly, this is not a valid argument. Just because you yourself are ok with how our society is does not a non-patriarchal society make. Until we have equal pay for equal work, we are in a patriarchy. Until a day goes by where the media doesn’t comment on Hilary Clinton showing her emotions or tearing up during a speech, we are in a patriarchy. Until a woman CEO is not compared to her male colleagues, we live in a patriarchy.

Two weeks ago, one of A’s friends did a presentation on an article about teenage girls getting plastic surgery. This lead to a discussion about America’s Next Top Model which I admit I love to hate to watch. Another one of A’s friends mentioned that there is always a “bigger” girl on there but “they usually don’t make it far”. Our guest professor asked, “Oh, you mean she’s like the average woman in America, not just a size 0?” and the friend said, “No, they’re obese.” OBESE?? Whitney who is this season’s token “plus sized model”, if you could call her that, is a size 10! How is that obese? Seriously, look at her photos!

Then A. opened her mouth again and said that she didn’t believe that the teenage girls who get plastic surgery are doing it because of the media or society, they just, you know like want to look good. Well A., who makes them think a tiny waist, small thighs and big boobs make ya look good? SOCIETY.

Last week’s class was the icing on my cake. The same girl who thinks the “plus sized” models on ANTM are obese did her presentation on an article about a boy in middle school who was gay. She ended her presentation with a little gem that tied the article into her own life. She said, “I have a friend who is a lesbian and I just don’t understand how she knows she is a lesbian if she has never slept with a boy.” In her mind you need to at least sleep with one guy before you make a decision to be attracted to girls. Maybe the same should be true to be sure you aren’t gay? I don’t know. Our guest professor calmly turned the tables and asked her “Well, how did you know you were attracted to boys?” The girl turned her eyes upward and thought for a minute and then said, “Yeah, I guess I can see that.” I really hoped this was true and was satisfied with the discussion.

BUT THEN, my original professor said, “Well, there have been some studies to show that many people who are gay have been abused early on and that is why they are gay.” And of course that gaggle of girls in front all nod their heads. So now they are walking out the door of the class thinking that people they meet who are homosexual have been abused and poor them, they don’t know any better! I was seething in my seat and I looked around at my class but no one else had the reaction I had. How could she just make a statement like that without the exact statistics and source to show that?

So, I tried looking them up myself. I couldn’t find anything right away. But then I stumbled upon the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force website and did a keyword search of ‘sexual abuse’. What I came up with was a report called “Love Won Out: Addressing, Understanding, and Preventing Homosexuality”. Basically in 2004 there was a conference called Love Won Out which was sponsored by Focus on the Family (Feministgal interjection: they also promote creepy pro-life fetus comics such as Umbert!). There were several speakers who identified as “ex-gay” and “ex-lesbian” and the conference focused on the prevention of homosexuality and that both change and hope is possible.

“Speakers frequently claimed that childhood sexual abuse is a prominent cause of lesbian orientation” (p. 5). Also, on page 4, “Homosexual behavior is an attempt to “repair childhood emotional hurts” through same-sex sexuality. As such, homosexuality is a kind of reparative drive.” Here for more of these gems (click through some of their “resources”.)

Interestingly, I have not found any actual statistics on the rate of homosexuals being abused in their childhood, aside from a plethora of religious websites. Even the American Psychological Association website states: “There are numerous theories about the origins of a person's sexual orientation; most scientists today agree that sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors. In most people, sexual orientation is shaped at an early age. There is also considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person's sexuality. In summary, it is important to recognize that there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people.

Is Sexual Orientation a Choice?

"No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. Sexual orientation emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.”

This has been a difficult semester for me, and I know that I should feel free to stand up and say “This is ridiculous!” but I need some advice on how to handle this. I thought about emailing both the original professor and the guest professor and ask exactly where these statistics are and explain how I did some research and could not find anything other than Christian websites. You would think Sociology professors would know to question the source, but you never know.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever experienced anything like this?

(PS – don’t get me started on the day in class when A. did her presentation on Abercrombie & Fitch being sued for keeping minority and overweight employees off the sales floor. Guess what her sweatshirt proudly said across her chest. ABERCROMBIE).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Parents: do you know where your children are?

(Because they very well may be beating another girl so that they can post it on youtube... WTF?!)

Sorry to post videos two days in a row, i just had no idea what to say about this (thanks Jess for sending me the story)


Monday, April 7, 2008

Ali G Takes on Feminism

I've been writing some lengthy and topical posts lately... today is dedicated to some good ol' fashion humor :)

(well humor + a very real example of why feminism is still very necessary...)
Below are just two of the comments on the first page of the video:

wouwouhahaha (1 day ago)
women are made for sex, so just give me some pussy and shut the fuck up.

WKShwerz (4 days ago)
men should have the right to ask any woman to give them some pussy and if the woman refuses, she should go to prison....male prison


Friday, April 4, 2008

Thomas Beatie on Oprah

Let's talk about Thomas Beatie. My mom excitedly emailed me yesterday that Thomas would be on Oprah so i TiVoed it... Oprah's show was Thomas' first TV interview.

If you're unfamiliar with Thomas' story, here's a brief recap in his own words via

"I am transgender, legally male, and legally married to Nancy. Unlike those in same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil unions, Nancy and I are afforded the more than 1,100 federal rights of marriage. Sterilization is not a requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights. Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire.

Ten years ago, when Nancy and I became a couple, the idea of us having a child was more dream than plan. I always wanted to have children. However, due to severe endometriosis 20 years ago, Nancy had to undergo a hysterectomy and is unable to carry a child. But after the success of our custom screen-printing business and a move from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest two years ago, the timing finally seemed right. I stopped taking my bimonthly testosterone injections. It had been roughly eight years since I had my last menstrual cycle, so this wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. My body regulated itself after about four months, and I didn’t have to take any exogenous estrogen, progesterone, or fertility drugs to aid my pregnancy."

Lots of people are really bothered by this... let's talk about why.

Before we get into anything, I will preemptively answer some questions that i've either heard or read over the past few days:

Q. But doesn't that mean he's actually a she?
A. Well no. Gender and sex are two very different things. Gender is how you act. It's how you present yourself and how you want to be viewed by others. Sex is your genitals and reproductive organs. (In Thomas' case, just to be clear, he has a penis - his clitoris enlarged as a result of taking testosterone, he does not have a surgically constructed penis - as well as female reproductive organs sans breasts). Maleness and femaleness include many different things such as: reproductive capabilities, the way a person presents him/herself and acts in the world, the person's ability to "pass" and mostly, what the individual feels and believes s/he is. Long story short, No, Thomas is not a woman. Thomas is a man. He is also transgender.

Q. Ew! Isn't that weird?!
A. No. Just because it's not something you have come across before does not make it "weird," "gross," or in any way "wrong." Wrapping our brains around something unfamiliar to us is a wonderful thing, allow this to challenge your notions of maleness and femaleness instead of disregarding it. Also, dichotomous thinking is dangerous, wouldn't it be better if we all viewed life on a spectrum - right Jacks? ;)

Q. Oh my goodness, isn't the testosterone Thomas takes to keep his facial hair dangerous for the baby?!
A. No. Thomas has actually been off testosterone for two years before even trying to conceive. His hormone levels were absolutely normal when he got pregnant and are where they should be as he progresses in the pregnancy. On Oprah, when Thomas' doctor was asked this question she responded by saying, "this is a normal pregnancy." Which it, very much, is.

Q. (All very similar) 1. What about the poor child? This is absolutely sick. 2. What terrible parents! 3. I truly wonder what sort of problems the child will have in the future. This is going to be a mine field of problems I believe. Posted by: Dr. Ray of Cairns...
A. Well since Dr. Ray of Cairns, Australia says so, it must be true... Or not. But for real, folks, "love makes a family." This child is going to be raised in an open minded, accepting, and loving household. Isn't that all we can ask for any child being brought into the world? Nancy (Thomas' wife) has two gorgeous daughters from a previous marriage that were on the show yesterday as well. Oprah asked one of the daughters how she felt when Tracy made the decision to transition to Thomas, the daughter said, "He actually got to be who he is and there wasn't much confusion after that." Honestly, it's pretty simple. The daughters talked a lot about Thomas and Nancy's great relationship and that the they model their marriages after Nancy and Thomas. The daughters, like Nancy and Thomas, were very honest, straight-forward, and sincere. This is the type of family i want a child brought into. I don't think those "worried" about "this poor girl" need to fret, she will be brought up in a loving household where being yourself and being open minded towards others are valued characteristics. She will be loved. She will be educated. And (hopefully) she will be armed with the tools she needs to defend herself and her family's lifestyle from those individuals that can't accept anything out of the "ordinary."

Q. Why on earth would this couple want all this sensationalist publicity? (AKA "Fine, whatever, they're pregnant, but why are they making this such a big deal and going public with it? Couldn't they have just been pregnant in their own home and kept quiet about it?)
A. Silence is never the answer. "Keeping it quiet" may be a fine solution for you but most people are extremely proud of their children and want to share with the world when they are pregnant. Why should this couple be any different? You have no right to silence anyone else simply because they don't fit in your definition of normal. Also, Thomas explained that they went public with this because they rather be the ones to tell their story than to have their story told by the tabloids and gossiping neighbors.

Q. (I don't want to link her post and thus give it more traffic but here's a question i found searching for info on the case) The day she decided to be a male and started artificial interference in her own body was the day as far as I am concerned that she ceased to have the right to carry a child as a mother. if she cared about having a child then she should not have artificially interfered with her sexuality.
A. Who the fuck are you to decide who "has the right" to carry a child and who doesn't? Also, Thomas made a statement yesterday regarding sexuality: "Sexuality is a completely different topic than how you feel, that's your gender. The gender role in society that i felt most comfortable being or gravitating to was the male gender role. It's hard to explain how it is a different issue. When i woke up in the morning, i felt like a man. it was difficult for society to respect me the way i felt on the inside if my outside didn't match it."

Q. Who the F cares? Why is this a big deal?
A. Well for Thomas and Nancy this pregnancy includes political, legal, and social consequences. They are legally married and Thomas is legally male. Because of this, Thomas' pregnancy may set political and medical precedents that don't only effect them but will effect others in the future. They have experienced discrimination not only from the community but also from health care professionals (I believe they said on Oprah that it took 9 doctors before finding one that accepted them and would take Thomas on as a patient). Not only that but Thomas expressed, due to their religious beliefs, "health care professionals refused to call him by a male pronoun or recognize Nancy as his wife."

Now that we got all of that out of the way, what's the problem? Why does Thomas and Nancy's nontraditional life bother so many people? Why is it so difficult for us to broaden our notions of sex, gender, and normalcy to allow Thomas and many others like Thomas (because even though they may not be pregnant, there are many transgender individuals trying to fit into these strictly binary definitions of sex and gender) in to our minds? Let's rewind pre-pregnancy for a second. Before Thomas become pregnant, his friends, family, community, and on lookers did not question his sex for a moment. He "passed" as a man. Why does that now change? Why do so many now disregard this story as, "so what, it's just a butch female having a baby?" My opinion? He is NOT a female having a baby. He is a male - legally, socially, (and for the most part) physiologically. Yes, Thomas may have the physical capabilities of a woman to give birth but he also does not have breasts. Does one outweigh the other? Well no. Thomas is a man. Thomas relates to himself and to others as male. Thomas is legally a male and before Thomas got pregnant, no one denied him of his "malehood." Why deny him now? Yes, i understand it's easier to reject what we are uncomfortable with than to expand our notions of categories but it is important to understand that not all people neatly fit into a category. Like i said, dichotomous thinking is dangerous. Don't deny Thomas the right to be what he is simply because you can't accept him into a binary or a social norm.

Male/Female argument aside, let's especially not ostracize Thomas and Nancy (as well as tons of other "nontraditional" couples) for making the choices that best fit into their lives. My vote is to not only accept and "tolerate" others but to celebrate everyone's differences, after all, isn't that how we all grow and learn from one another?

I'll end with a statement Thomas made yesterday on the show. In response to a question Oprah posed, Thomas asked the world to, "embrace the gamut of human possibility and to define for [yourself] what is normal"

What are some of your thoughts?
Let me just quickly say that ya'll know i moderate comments. Genuine questions and statement are always appreciated but just so you are forewarned, bigotry will not be tolerated.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Obama and McCain Tackle HIV/AIDS Prevention... (or don't tackle it as in McCain's case...)

Obama gave a speech Saturday at which the media harped on his use of the word "punished." Obama spoke about HIV/AIDS prevention through education and safe sex. He said:

"When it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include abstinence education and teaching the children, you know, that sex is not something casual. But it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I've got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16. You know, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information."

In GREEN is what the media mostly cared about.

In BLUE is what i mostly cared about. Yes, comparing a child with an STD in the same breath may not have been a great campaign strategy, but our focus should be on the fact that Obama is promoting comprehensive sex education while so many other politicians preach abstinence.

For example, back in March 2007 in Iowa, McCain was asked a few questions about HIV/AIDS prevention as well, here was his response (via NYT):

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

In my opinion, McCain's idiocy should worry us much much more than Obama expressing he doesn't want his 9 and 6 year old girls becoming pregnant due to lack of education. Right?

UPDATE: Jess from Feministing just put up a post on a survey in FL that found some kids think drinking a cap full of bleach prevents HIV and Mountain Dew is an effective means of birth control... wow... further reason we need new administration and comprehensive sex education...