Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Feel Good

In celebration of my 100th post (yeay!!!) I am starting a new weekly column: Friday Feel Good. There's lots of bad stuff going on that we read/write about daily, sometimes it's important to focus on the good stuff...

Courtesy of Trailer Park Feminist, today's Friday Feel Good is the new Macy's ad, advertising wedding rings and same sex couples!!! :)

Text reads:

"And now it's a milestone every couple in California can celebrate.
Let Macy's Wedding Gift & Registry help you start your new life together.
With hundreds of great brands to register for, we'll make sure
you're happy with your choices every step of the way."

Yes, marriage is still an incredibly patriarchal institution but now we can all equally share in it, at least in California (and a few other states)...



Holy Cow... and i thought my trolls were bad...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Self Love

This post was partially inspired by Dirty Rotten Feminist's Sunday night question: "what are you vain about?" and thus i must give her credit ;)

Today's post is a positive one, leading up to a personal experience I wanted to share with all of you, however vain or insignificant it may seem. It's the experience of how I came to love my body.

I work out, regularly. Have done so for the majority of my life. I have recently begun training for a triathlon that I will complete in September. I belong to a gym with a pool for which I pay way too much money. I realize i'm privileged by this but it's the money I pay every month that helps motivate me to get my ass in gear and not miss workouts. I, unlike lots of people, love exercise. I love using my body and taking advantage of all the things it can do. I love feeling powerful and strong and challenging myself in physical ways. It isn't about looking a certain way anymore. I wasn't always this forward thinking. When I was younger, I would exercise despairingly, desperately trying to fit into some unattainable standard of beauty that was burned into my brain by fashion magazines and the popular girls. As an adult, my relationship with my body and the concept of "beauty" and "sexiness" has slowly developed, but we all struggle with our daemons and this has always been one for me, until recently that is...

Over the past year I have noticed a woman at my gym. She is gorgeous. She is fit. She is powerful (can lift more weight than half the men). I watch her perfect abs glisten with sweat and she stretches, or run, or bikes, whatever. She is perfect. Or at least as close to my perception of "perfect" as i'll ever see.

I've been watching her for months, mustering up the courage to talk to her, to tell her that she motivates me daily. Literally, I stay on the treadmill longer and lift heavier weights if she's around. Unknowingly, she pushes me and I thank her for it daily. Fast forward to yesterday: I walk into my regular Wednesday night spin class and she's there, on the instructor bike, gearing up to sub! The class was great and finally gave me an excuse to talk to her. I asked her some trivial question about her cycling shoes and we got to talking a bit. During the conversation she told me that i was in great shape and had done really well in her class. Me! Coming from her! I wanted to shake her and tell her that i've been watching her for the past year, that she inspires me, that i look up to her, that i think she's gorgeous, that i may have a crush on her, but i didn't tell her any of that. I simply smiled and thanked her. I remembered why i loved my body and that it was nice to be noticed for working hard and staying focused.

When did I start loving my body? I remember the moment vividly. It was Sunday morning and i got up early for yoga. I finally got into a routine of going weekly and hadn't let myself skip a class in 5 weeks. I was finally starting to see improvement in my poses. I was getting good, balanced, and i couldn't believe it. That Sunday i woke up extra early and decided to go for a quick run before class. I got to class just as the instructor was starting and the room was more full than usual. I wasn't able to secure my regular spot in the back of the room (where i could be unnoticed). I was forced to put my mat down in the front right side of the room, surrounded by mirrors. There was no hiding now, i had a mirror in front of me and one to the side. I felt like everyone was watching me downward dog. Ok, I'm sure they weren't. But i did get paranoid surrounded by all those mirrors. Until finally, something clicked. As I glimpsed in the mirror through the Adho Mukha Svanasana triangle created by my arms, torso, and legs I saw the perfect lines of my body as they contorted in the poses i've been working on for months.

I noticed the muscles on my back and shoulders tighten to hold the pose. I watched as they glistened with sweat. I became obsessed with watching myself glide into the poses. In that moment, I became completely vain! I was never one to spend much time in front of the mirror. This was all very new to me, and I loved it.

I especially loved what my body could do. The strength I had to hold myself up and the balance and flexibility to maintain the poses. That's when i realized it: i loved my body. I loved the strength and power my body had and the facility with which i could use it. I loved the lines created by my arms and shoulder muscles and the endurance and awareness i had from using my body regularly. I had done it, I had achieved one of my life goals, to love my body. I never thought this was possible, I was the girl eating nothing but clementines for weeks at a time during high school. I was the girl running 10 miles a day, on a treadmill, getting nowhere (literally and mentally). I was the girl studying body image and feminism in college, trying to convince myself to love my body. I was a hypocrite. And I hated myself for that. But finally, that morning in yoga, over a decade after my battle with my body began, something clicked and i fell in love with it.

I continued the class, sweaty from my run, obsessed with my body in the mirror, giving in to all the poses. Breathing. Relaxing. Challenging myself. It was wonderful. I gracefully moved through the warrior poses into locust, camel, cobra... I had control, I was focused, I felt strong. The class ended, but the feelings of euphoria and self-love that i felt that morning stayed with me, and hopefully will remain for a long, long time.

(no, that is not me in the photo, i just loved the image: the mountains, the water, the cowgirl hat... awesome shot)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Israel, Feminism, & Obama

I'm on the BoltBus headed back to NY from DC after a wonderful long weekend with my bestest friend :) Amazingly enough the bus offers Wifi - this gives me a chance to catch up on some blogging and give one subject the thought it deserves...

I've been putting off writing about Israel here, for several reasons. Firstly, i am positive there are lots of others out there that know much more about the subject than me. Secondly, based on media coverage, Israel was the one issue i couldn't get on board with Obama about.

Luckily, I caught Obama's Israel speech on Thursday. Below is the video.

I have a hard time navigating between my Jewish identity and the beliefs i am "supposed to have as a liberal" when it comes to America's involvement and commitment to Israel.Jill over at Feministe recently wrote a post entitled Israel at 60. She discussed that "the creation of that state [of Israel] came at great expense." Jill mostly focused on Palestine as a marginalized group and the lack of voice they receive in media coverage. The whole post sat wrong with me and left me incredibly unsettled. Still, i couldn't help but wonder how much my Jewish identity played a roll. Would i still be so pro-Israel if i was not Jewish? I always advocate for the marginalized groups, why is this situation any different? I thought about these things a lot over the last few weeks and came to a conclusion. I don't believe Palestine IS marginalized, at least not in the way Jill suggests.

A commenter, David Schraub, pointed Feministe readers to Phoebe Maltz's post where she takes precisely the opposite position. David did a great job dissecting some of Jill's post and other comments in response to the post. One of the things David wrote that really resonated with me was: "It’s not, after all, as if the Palestinians don’t have powerful allies. The Arab World (which possesses considerable economic/diplomatic leverage on the United States) would be the obvious one. One might argue that it’s a little bizarre to say that Israel is advantaged from a state of affairs where they are utterly dependent on the US for, well, everything, while the US is — at the very least — in a complicated relationship with many Arab states from whom we get all that oil. Who’s got the leverage advantage here? Tack on the entire UN, which is nearly universally aligned against Israel to the point where anti-Semitism does begin to come seriously into play (the Conference of the Islamic States is huge in the non-aligned bloc, the non-aligned bloc is huge in the general assembly, ergo….), and you’ve got a significant amount of countervailing pressure against what the United States throws up in Israel’s favor. And of course, Israel, though certainly possessing a very strong military, is still the size of Vancouver Island, which makes it inherently vulnerable even if every IDF soldier was a reconstituted clone of William Wallace."

David goes on to say, "the dynamics of power here are complicated and cross-cut. Simply labeling one group The Oppressor and the other The Victim, and writing policy accordingly, is going to lead you astray, and isn’t going to end up being consistent with a liberationist agenda for all persons. When the risks for Jews isn’t 'loss of privilege' but the sanctioning of organized anti-Jewish violence, justifying differential burdens based on 'asymmetrical positioning' isn’t going to cut it."

(emphasis mine)

Prior to the CT primary i struggled a lot with who would earn my vote. Overall, Obama seemed like the right choice for me but based on what i'd heard and read from media coverage, Obama seemed not to quite grasp Palestine's involvement and direct responsibility in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or understand the complexity of it. Media focused on Obama's commitment to negotiations and peace talks. Trust me, i'm all for working things out with words and especially peace treaties but, IMHO, Israel's been there, done that so to speak. I was glad to catch Obama's speech in a Boca Raton, Fla. synagogue Thursday (video above) when he said, point blank:

We must not negotiate with a terrorist group that is intent on Israel's destruction. We should only sit down with Hamas if they renounce terror, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements. That is what I've said throughout this campaign.

I reject attempts by some of my opponents in this campaign to distort my position. They are counting on fear because they know they haven't told the truth.

The threat of Iran is real and grave, and my goal as president will be to eliminate it. Ending the war in Iraq will, I believe, be an important step towards achieving that goal because it will give us increased flexibility in our dealings with Iran and increased legitimacy in the region.

Obama insisted he would not negotiate with Hamas and respected and supported Israel's right to exist. He also made clear his views on Israel being able to protect itself: "I will make sure that Israel can defend itself from any attack, whether it comes from as close as Gaza or as far as Tehran."

I wasn't alone in my misconceptions regarding Obama's religion, alliances, and view points on Israel. Media coverage and Obama's opponents, as he explained yesterday, led people to believe many fallacies in regards to these issues. Here are several examples via NYT:

Mr. Obama is Arab, Jack Stern’s friends told him in Aventura. (He’s not.)

He is a part of Chicago’s large Palestinian community, suspects Mindy Chotiner of Delray. (Wrong again.)

Mr. Wright is the godfather of Mr. Obama’s children, asserted Violet Darling in Boca Raton. (No, he’s not.)

Al Qaeda is backing him, said Helena Lefkowicz of Fort Lauderdale (Incorrect.)

Michelle Obama has proven so hostile and argumentative that the campaign is keeping her silent, said Joyce Rozen of Pompano Beach. (Mrs. Obama campaigns frequently, drawing crowds in her own right.)

Mr. Obama might fill his administration with followers of Louis Farrakhan, worried Sherry Ziegler. (Extremely unlikely, given his denunciation of Mr. Farrakhan.)

Thinking and especially talking about Israel, the Middle East, and Jews' "right" to the land is at best, difficult. I've personally found it downright impossible given circumstances, extreme opinions, and people's tendentious thinking. With that said, Obama also acknowledged the special bond he himself feels with the Jewish community,
"And I know that I might not be standing here were it not for the historical bond between the Jewish community and the African- American community. I want to make sure that I am one of the vehicles by which we can rebuild those bonds."

I think Obama did a great job in this speech and look forward to more conversations about Israel. We need to keep talking about this and not allowing our fear to dictate our reactions, opinions, and support when it comes to the state of Israel.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Parents' and Psychologists' Different Approaches to Trans-Gender Children

This is amazing. Seriously, go listen...

NPR's two part series: "Two Families Grapple with Sons' Gender Preferences; Psychologists Take Radically Different Approaches in Therapy"

Part 1 and Part 2

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Trolls have been a HUGE problem on this blog lately. Instead of writting my own policy about it, i want to second what Amelia said. (is there something in the water?)

"First of all, I would like to remind all commenters that anonymous commenting is a privilege. I started this blog for the purpose of generating productive discussion... The use of the word 'troll' for me means a person who leaves comments (usually, but not always, anonymously) that are meant to provoke a negative reaction among those who support the authors/ideas of this blog. General tactics used on this blog include: generalizing about all feminists ('feminists hate men!'), assumptions about particular authors ('you wrote about x so you must be like this'), name calling ('conceited,' and 'vain' were alluded to in a recent thread), and others.

Many of the people that I would consider to be trolls on this blog come here, make intentionally aggravating statements, and then try to use the human reactions of other commenters to make a bad name for feminism. It is interesting that they claim to just be presenting an opposing viewpoint. Problem is that there intent obviously does not fit with this. They want to make feminists look bad."

Well said Amelia, and i whole heartedly agree.

Here's the least vitriolic and most toned down example of one that [Anon] has sent me that i moderated:

"Many women do gold dig. And women are manipulative.


It's life. Rather than getting people to shut up about it, why not work to change women for the better?

*gasp* Change women for the better?

I forgot, you're all perfect and never do anything wrong."

At first, i thought it would be educational to start a discourse with my fav trolls (maybe they'd learn something?) but that didn't work out too well... I quickly realized there is no changing these troll's minds and it's better not to engage at all. So although i will still allow anonymous comments because i do value everyone's opinion and encourage discussion, i will continue to carefully monitor comments and refuse to display those that are obviously written by a troll or with a sole purpose of disrespecting or ridiculing others, especially those marginalized.

Friday, May 16, 2008

DQ Me Something Different... b/c your commercial is pretty darn sexist

Each time i see this Dairy Queen commercial it bothers me more and more. I couldn't figure out why it irked me so much, until now...

There are lots of things going on here:
1. Stereotype of women as gold diggers
2. Stereotype of women as manipulative
3. Benevolent sexism

The women = gold diggers stereotype is based on women using their sexuality to get stuff. In the DQ commercial, the girl is flirting with the boy, using her body language and smile to make him think she's interested in him. In exchange, he buys her an ice cream. Translation: women use their only asset (sex and appearance) and men use theirs (resources, esp money).

The women = manipulative stereotype comes into play mostly at the end when the girl arrogantly and with sass says, "It's like shootin' fish in a barrel." Even at age 9 (estimation) she knows what she can get by using her looks.

Now, let's talk about benevolent sexism: "Characterizing women as pure creatures who ought to be protected, supported, and adored and whose love is necessary to make a man complete. This idealization of women simultaneously implies that they are weak and best suited for conventional gender roles; being put on a pedestal is confining, yet the man who places a woman there is likely to interpret this as cherishing, rather than restricting, her (and many women may agree). Despite the greater social acceptability of benevolent sexism, our research suggests that it serves as a crucial complement to hostile sexism that helps to pacify women’s resistance to societal gender inequality."

The problem is that benevolent sexism is often unrecognized and when challenged, called "chivalry." It's seen as men just being gentlemen and women should be grateful for men being nice. Also, it isn't seen as sexism because women often benefit from it. Even if women benefit, it can still be sexist. Although on the outside benevolent sexism seems advantageous for women, it actually keep women from equality. Since benevolent sexism values women on the basis of their gender, men and women remain unequal. Some see this as "female privilege" but when looking at it that way, we ignore the actual problem: benevolent sexism. Roy says it well: "I think that some of the problems that men face now...are a direct result of the flaws a patriarchical system. It’s not that women have more power than men, it’s that patriarchy is an inherently flawed system that sets standards that are harmful to everyone. It’s a double edged sword."

This might be a bit outdated but it's a questionnaire that assesses your level of sexism, hostile and benevolent (via). Here for a breakdown of scores. And here for the PDF of the paper for you academic type ;)

Also Here

Obviously DQ knew what they were doing. Why else did they put the little boy in a "donkey sweatshirt" (aka jackass)? Lots of money, time, and thought goes into developing these commercials to send a particular message, don't let them fool you :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Plus-Sized" Model Wins ANTM!

More good news today! :)

Congrats Whitney for winning this season of America's Next Top Model!!!!!!

No, I don't think Whitney should count as a "plus sized model" because there's nothing "plus sized" about her, but nonetheless, i'm so proud of her for being the first full figured woman to win!!! CONGRATS WHITNEY!!!!!!!! :)

CA Overturns Ban on Same Sex Marriage!

Great news from California!!!!!!!!!

"California Supreme Court just overturned a ban on gay marriage, paving the way for California to become the second state to legalize same sex marriage." via

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dear Anonymous,

I moderate my comments. I do this so that discriminatory and rude nonsense doesn't get through. But sometimes i'll post the ignorant shit that people write because a lot of it is a perfect illustration of the discrimination that still exists today. People like to tell me i'm overreacting. They also say that on average, Americans are pretty "tolerant" and not discriminatory anymore. 1. Fuck "tolerance" we need equal rights, we also need to start celebrating difference; 2. Much of the discrimination now is a lot more subtle. However, here is an example of a less subtle attack.

Someone searched, "men gyped by feminism" and somehow found my blog. Specifically my post on fat-fingering. To which he commented:

Anonymous said...
Instead of complaining about it and crying over it and screaming "no fair".

JUST LOSE THE FUCKING WEIGHT. It's not healthy to be a FAT FUCK anyway.

May 14, 2008 1:45 PM (sic)

Then he wrote:

Anonymous said...
I'm actually not prejudiced against fat people. I dated a fat chick once. But she was on a diet and motivated to losing the weight.

All my comment proves is that I have a problem with WHINY LIBERALS ON A CRUSADE TO MAKE EVERYTHING AN "ISSUE".

The term "fat-finger" is not at all discriminatory against whiny fat fucks like yourself. If anything, it's making fun of people with LARGE DIGITS. IE- Big fingers.

You're fat. And you're a feminist. And you can't seem to have a happy, fulfilling relationship with a man. Your choice- your problem. Not our's. Get off your soap box. You're preaching about shit that makes no sense.

Seriously. Who cares if most men don't wanna date or have sex with a fat chick. Most women don't want to date a man who has no money and doesn't shave. *shrugs* I get off my ass and go to work every day and shave every morning. Maybe you should start your day with a low carb breakfast and some stomach crunches.

May 14, 2008 3:16 PM (sic)

Anonymous' comment is based on so many assumptions it makes my head spin.

I'll try to work them all out for you...

Assumption #1: Because he "dated a fat chick" he clearly cannot be a bigot. Right. Way to tokenize, asshole. Did you also "have a black friend back in college?" I thought so.

Assumption #2: I'm a "whiny liberal"... no comment

Assumption #3: I'm fat. Because I can't possibly care about discrimination against people on the basis of weight unless i'm fat. I also must be black since i hate racists and gay since i can't stand homophobia. Am I "fat", a WoC, gay? It doesn't matter. What matters is i shouldn't be treated differently if i was or wasn't any/all those things.

Assumption #4: I can't "seem to have a happy, fulfilling relationship with a man." Two assumptions wrapped in one, gee wiz. I'm obviously heterosexual and i'm obviously single. Of course since i'm "fat" (assumption #3) i can't possible be in a relationship. And i'm obviously straight because you're a heteronormative asshole.

Assumption #5: Being "fat" is a problem. Um... didn't you internalize any of what the original post said?

Assumption #6: "most men don't wanna date or have sex with a fat chick." Hm... any of my commenters wanna take this one on?

Assumption #7: "Most women don't want to date a man who has no money and doesn't shave." HUH?

Assumption #8: I don't exercise or eat right ("Maybe you should start your day with a low carb breakfast and some stomach crunches.") Physical appearance does not equate how "healthy" someone is. Nutrition and health are based on lifestyle, not on appearance.

That should about do it.

Dear Anonymous, my apologies for not being able to get to your comment sooner but D and I were out celebrating our 5 year anniversary.

UPDATE: I gave all this some more thought... i wanted to pick one main focus for readers to walk away with from all this this... there are actually two.

1. Discrimination based on a person's weight exists. Weightist attitudes exist and they've been referred to as the "last form of acceptable discrimination." Here are some examples. I don't usually participate in the "Oppression Olympics" but Yale did and found that "Weight/height discrimination is prevalent in American society and is relatively close to reported rates of racial discrimination, particularly among women. Both institutional forms of weight/height discrimination (for example, in employment settings) and interpersonal mistreatment due to weight/height (for example, being called names) were common, and in some cases were even more prevalent than discrimination due to gender and race."

2. The reason i don't post pictures or much personal information about myself on this blog is because it doesn't matter. It isn't the point. It doesn't matter how much i weigh or whether i'm gay or straight. It doesn't matter my ethnicity or race. What matters is that people's rights shouldn't be violated based on any of those things. This isn't about me. It's about equality. Which is why i don't entertain (or respond to) personal questions, attacks, or comments. I know i did a bit by adding that it was D and my 5 year anniversary but i only did so because of the irony :) So shoot me, i'm not infallible. Never said i was... The point is, people's rights shouldn't be taken away by anyone just because they don't fit into some skewed notion of "normalcy" that an individual might have.

Mark's Lunch Time Rambling, Oprah

A friend/co-worker sent me this yesterday in an email. He said it would be okay for me to post it as a guest post in my blog. Thanks Mark :)
I know that everyone is supposed to love and/or fear Oprah. I've always been disturbed over her magazine and, since I haven't watched the show in years, that's all I can really use to judge. I just saw this gem on CNN. I thought I'd send it along because I thought you'd understand.

Not only does it completely ignore the roles any father or father figure has in a kids life, upbringing or psychology, it also acts as if qualities such as acceptance, nourishment, instruction and empowerment are exclusive to the mother. Or, worse, not in any way the responsibility of the father. It claims to paint a realistic picture that no mother can be, or should be expected to be perfect, and give good self-help advice about forming positive relationships in your life. However, it falls into the standard, "mother blaming, father shouldn't be expected to do anything" sexist mantra that's really outdated.

I do have to give credit to the article in the general philosophy that we should all be responsible for developing each other to our highest potential, but if we don't start with the simple assumption that both women AND men should be expected to provide a stimulating nourishing environment for the kids, regardless of what happens in their parents relationship (divorce, changed feelings, etc) than how much can we really expect of society to do?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Feminist Fairy Tale

We should have all been read this fairy tale as children:

Once upon a time in a land far away land, a beautiful, independent, self-assured princess came upon a frog as she sat contemplating ecological issues on the shores of an unpolluted pond in a verdant meadow near her castle.

The frog hopped into the princess' lap and said "Elegant Lady, I was once a handsome prince, until an evil witch cast a spell upon me. One kiss from you, however, and I will turn back into the dapper, young prince that I am. Then, my sweet, we can marry and set up housekeeping in your castle with my mother,where you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children, and forever feel grateful and happy doing so."

That night, as the princess dined sumptuously on lightly sauteed frog legs seasoned in a white wine and onion cream sauce, she chuckled and thought to herself: "I don't fuckin think so."

(Thanks Linds for the story)

Also, if you were at all wondering how my Nalgene fiasco was resolved, here is a photo of my new water bottle, a SIGG. Text reads, "Make Love Not Landfill."

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Amazon Woman Award

Last Monday morning i dealt with some work drama surrounding the water cooler... today, the saga continues...

One of the female counselors went to get water and the cooler was empty, the jug needed to be changed. She walked around, unsuccessfully looking for a male counselor, all of whom were busy. She used the overhead to page for "male assistance" to the lobby... (really?!)

I watched all this go down and thought it, annoying, hilarious, and a great depiction of sexism in the workplace. Not because i think she should have changed it herself, but because she paged for male assistance! Maybe she had a bad back, maybe she couldn't lift that much weight, whatever, not the point. In one way or another she wasn't able to do it, which is FINE. What isn't fine is that she asked for male assistance because obviously only men can lift water jugs...

Now the (even more) annoying part. I finally felt bad enough to help her out ("male assistance" was nowhere to be seen) and offered to help. She said, "no that's ok, i'll ask the doc." OK... i was intrigued... She asked the doctor for his help and the doc said that he had a bad back. So i walked to the kitchen, got a new water jug, and replaced the old one. Took me all of 30 seconds. The counselor and the doc stood there, starring at me in wonder until finally the doc says, "You should get the Amazon Woman Award."

Holy sexism Batman.

P.S. If someone would like to send me an Amazon Woman Award, i will gladly give you my address ;)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Quick Thanks :)

Thanks Sarah for the E! Award :)

I wrote a post back in March giving out some of my own but it may be time to acknowledge new/more bloggers!

Awards post to come :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

UConn's "Rape Trail" Earns its Name

Thanks to my UConn friends for sending me the heads up to this story. And i apologize for not being able to write about it sooner. In all honestly, i had to cool off and calm down before i tried to write about it or it would have been an angry, pissed off, jumble of a hot mess.

[Trigger Warning]
In summary, Melissa Bruen, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Campus (the UConn student paper), was sexually assaulted Friday of UConn's annual Spring Weekend. While walking on the Hunting Lodge Road Trail (aka "the rape trail") she was picked up by her shoulders, pinned up against a pole and "dry humped" by a stranger. She, unlike many sexual assault victims, fought back. She pushed the guy off, grabbed him, and threw him onto the ground. She punched him in the face, full force. Melissa describes fighting back: "A small crowd had gathered, mostly men. Now they seemed shocked. I was supposed to have been a victim, and I was breaking out of the mold. I hit him in the stomach, while clenching my legs around him to prevent another man from pushing me off. In all, it took three men to pull me off my assailant. He got up and ran off, yelling at me, as if I were the would-be rapist."

What happened next is even more shocking. As Melissa yelled back to him, "YOU assaulted ME," another guy approached her and said, "You think that was assault?" He pulled down her tube top, grabbed her breasts, and the crowed cheered. Melissa tried to break free but was shoved into others. She writes, "I was surrounded, but I kept swinging and hitting until I was able to break free of the circle they had formed. I started running barefoot toward Celeron, but ended up throwing myself on the ground, crying and screaming hysterically. I saw a friend in the crowd, and all I could do was scream his name over and over. I could see the ambulance and police checkpoint in the distance."

Please read Melissa's full article for yourself.

I graduated from UConn. I worked as a peer counselor. I worked for the violence against women program as a sexual assault victim advocate. I also worked to dispel the "rape trail" myth while i was there by talking about the rarity of men jumping out of the bushes on the trail. I tried to help people understand that it was much more likely that the guy who just took you out on a date would rape you. At Uconn date rape is incredibly prevalent. At UConn (like many other college campuses) people don't realize the definitions of rape and/or consent. Reading Melissa's experience leaves me totally shocked, disgusted, and angered. This story is awful.

Spring weekend is notorious for sexual assaults but this one left me in tears. I can't believe the crowd's reaction! Or rather lack there of. If i saw a woman being sexually or physically assaulted i hope to G-d that i'd step in and do something. And if others were laughing, cheering on the assailant, i would probably want to punch them in the face. I am usually not a fan of violence but honestly, i want to punch these boys right in their face (or "in their wieners" in the words of Juno's dad...)

Also, I have an incredibly pessimistic view of UConn's judicial system and response to sexual assault and rape. I had an experience with them while supporting a friend who was a survivor of rape. Her case was incredibly clear cut. There was no denial that he had raped her. On numerous occasion. With a witness in the room... the guy got off, scott free. He wasn't punished one bit. I hope Melissa goes through any legal system other than the University's, for her own sake. Again and again when it comes to women's safety, I am disappointed at my alma mater.

Melissa was not only incredibly strong and brave during the attack but continues to feel the effects of what happened to her. She's bombarded with comments, insults, and threats that attempt to trivialize her assault and victim blame. "She made it all up for fame" one comment says, "she shouldn't have been wearing a tube top" argues another, and my all time favorite, "maybe she shouldn't have been drinking."

Melissa's assault in general (in front of a crowd), University and police response (keeping the case open thus giving her an opportunity to press charges down the line), and her ability to discuss what happened to her (being editor-in-chief of the newspaper and access/involvement in campus resources) leave me thinking about the women who don't have the same opportunities post assault as Melissa. As well as women who did/do not fight back. Melissa reported her assault. How many weren't reported? How many survivors didn't fight back? How many victims did/do not even realize they were sexually assaulted?

Although disappointed in the UConn community (the applauding crowd) for not coming to Melissa's aid, i am incredibly proud of Melissa herself for sharing her story and starting dialogue. Good for you, Melissa, for getting people talking about sexual assault, violence against women, and civil responsibility.

Melissa ends her article with, "I was raised to fight back, so I made sure to get a few good swings in. My bruises will fade, and I will move on. But if you ever see someone being assaulted, do the right thing."

Also, here are links to the more mainstream feminist blogs that covered this story: Feministing and Shakesville

(Kyle, thanks for the picture)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday Morning Manhandle

6am may be too early for some to tackle sexist language, but not this feminist gal. (wink)

Mondays and Thursdays are my early days. I work at a methadone clinic and since drug abuse is a non-discriminating disease (meaning anyone can be addicted to drugs) many of our patients have 9-5 jobs like the rest of us and get their treatment before work. Anyway, i work 6am-3pm two days a week... 6am may seem way early for some but i actually love being able to get home by 3:30 and spend QT with Beans...

Today, much like any other 6am Monday morning, counselors, nurses, and staff alike stumbled into the building after a not long enough weekend of rainy weather. (Why is it that rain likes to happen on the weekend and as soon as the work week begins again, it's gorgeous outside?) Per routine, first thing i do in the morning is fill up my Mickey Mouse mug with water. Frequently the water cooler is empty in the mornings (because no one likes to change them) and frequently that becomes my in-office work out for the day. I do this regularly, without complaint... because i secretly like the feeling of being able to lift a 40+ lb water bottle 4 feet off the ground.

This morning, a new clinician happened to see me do it. Unlike the other counselors, he doesn't yet know that i "read into things too much." Anyway, he watched me carry the 5 gallon bottle from the kitchen through the hallway, lift it off the ground, place it on top of the water cooler, and then proceeded to say, "hey, you should let the guys do that."
"Why's that?" I replied.

"Because it's heavy." He said. Then another counselor walked through the hallway and he said to her, "Look at the way Galina just manhandled the water cooler."

I snarkily replied, "Is it still 'manhandling' if a woman does it?"

"Don't take it so personally, it's just a term - it's in the dictionary, look it up"

I turned the defensive off and the patience on and responded, "Just because something is in the dictionary doesn't make it any less sexist. Language is often sexist, and most of it is in the dictionary. All that means is that sexism is institutionalized and more ingrained in our way of life than we realize. Sometimes it's good to think about these things"

"Maybe sometimes" he said, "but not 6am on Monday morning."

"Agreed." I smiled, "There's not much i do well at 6am on Monday morning, well, except womanhandle the water cooler" :)

definition via

–verb (used with object), -dled, -dling.
1. to handle roughly.
2. to move by human strength, without the use of mechanical appliances.

Again, male as the default. "Human strength" = male strength, male power.

All i'm trying to say is that language, in itself, is sexist. Since language represents and shapes so much of our daily lives, this is something to think about. And think about often.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Madonna "Diet"

My first interest in feminism and Women's Studies centered around body image, eating disorders, and social standards of "beauty." Jean Kilbourne's work propelled me into the field and focused both my activism and academic interests on the thinness, control, body image, and social influence. I attended a lecture by Kilbourne that taught me not only the importance of media literacy but also of the accessibility of social activism, cultural differences in beauty, and unconscious influence. In fact, when i started this blog i thought i'd be writing a lot more about body image and eating disorders than i have been, primarily because it's where i feel most comfortable and the area i know most about. In retrospect, i realize i haven't touched the subject all that much.

(check out About-Face and Jean Kilbourne's site for more negative advertising)

My undergraduate honors thesis examined body image satisfaction and thin-ideal internalization in relation to feminist identity. I hypothesized that feminists, or women with a stronger feminist consciousness, would be more satisfied with their bodies and would internalize thin-ideals less than women who did not relate to feminism. Some of my findings were inline with that: as feminist self-identification increased, body dissatisfaction decreased. Thin-ideal told a more complicated story. I measured two aspects of thin-ideal: awareness and internalization and found that although awareness of the thin-ideal was impacted by feminist identification, internalization of the thin-ideal was not. What this told me is that raising feminist identification in general may not be enough and although feminist identification raises awareness of negative stereotypes about women, it may not protect women from internalizing these stereotypes. Basically, social messages, images, stereotypes, advertising, etc. may effect us way more than we consciously know and realize.

Feminism taught me the importance of maintaining a critical eye. Whether i was looking through fashion magazines, watching TV, or going about my daily business, applying the feminist tradition of not accepting things as they were totally changed my life (and annoyed lots and lots of people).

Dealing with my own stuff surrounding food I quickly became empowered by feminist theories of "normalcy" and beauty. I also finally understood that a woman's value is not defined by how she looks or how much she weighs. I'm not saying that feminism will cure an eating disorder, if i could prove that i'd be rich and lots of girls wouldn't be starving themselves. What i am saying is that feminism allows women to embrace themselves and their bodies, as they are, and recognize that their value, importance, and position in the world should not be a direct result of how they look. Also, i quickly realized the amount of time, money, and energy women spend on looking a certain way. The conspiracy theorist in me was convinced that this "standard of beauty" for women was nothing more than a way to keep women in their place and far away from equality. As long as there are impossible standards of beauty women will never be equal.

Moving on to what this post was supposed to be about: Madonna. I used to be all about Madonna. I recently had an incredibly interesting intergenerational conversation with an older feminist about Madonna's legacy and influence on women's sexuality. I think Madonna has done some amazing things for the women's movement (intentionally or just as career moves) especially surrounding women's power, sexuality, and freedom. These arguably progressive and positive influences on women's bodies and sense of self have undoubtedly left a mark in music, popculture, and society in general. In fact, Courtney (who ya'll know i love) featured Madonna today on her "Thank You Thursdays" column.

Like I said, used to be all about Madonna. Until this week that is. US Magazine did a piece on Madonna's new "diet." In quotes because it consists of her eating around 700 calories a day and exercising about 2hrs daily... If this isn't an eating disorder guide for girls i don't know what is.

Needless to say, it left me a bit disappointed in Madonna... I won't go on a tangent about the social responsibility celebrities should take for the younger generation that is looking up to them, but for real, come on! Cele/bitchy calculated the caloric intake for some of Madonna's meals that appear in the article. Here is an example of a day in the life of Madonna's diet:

Breakfast: 1 cup Kashi cereal, with ½ cup plain—or vanilla—nonfat rice milk [262 calories]
Lunch: 2 hardboiled eggs with ½ cup each of baby carrots and cherry tomatoes [194 calories]
Dinner: 3 to 5 oz grilled sea bass with ½ cup steamed spinach [240 calories]

[Total: 696 calories]

Combine that with 2 hours of exercise and you have a really unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle that no one would be able to maintain longer than one week. Madonna has a huge influence in both music and pop culture. It scares me to death that girls will be reading that article and replicating Madonna's extreme diet.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. I'll let Pastor Martin Niemöller's famous quote (inscribed at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston) speak for me.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

In light of Holocaust Remembrance Day, here's a NYT article from yesterday.