Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friday Feel Good: Women Owning Property!

Today's post is dedicated to my bestest friend, Jackie, who at 24 years of age purchased a condo in DC!!! She did so independently, with her own hard earned money! This is a huge step for anyone, and, in my opinion, an especially important and momentous one for a single woman. The financial autonomy, ambition, initiative, go-gettertude, and independence oozing out of this makes me go YIPPEE!!!!!!!

The topic of women and property has a long and painful history. In the US and internationally women have been viewed as property in one way or another. An extreme example is that of India where "more than 5,000 brides die annually because their dowries are considered insufficient." Less drastically, hetero women in the US take their husband's name after having their father's name for their unmarried life. Some see this as benign, other see it as first the women are property of their fathers, then their husbands...

Wait, Friday posts are supposed to be "feel good..." Sorry, i get distracted sometimes... Anyway let me quickly talk not about women as property but the history of women owning property. In the early history of the US, women's property was governed by their husbands, following that of British law. Gradually, states began giving married women limited property rights. By the early 1900s most states gave married women control over their property. However, if the marriage ended for whatever reason (though not as common back then as it is now...) the law offered women no rights to the property. Once married, the only way a woman could own property again as a single women was widowhood. Single women during that time had a bit more financial freedom, they had rights to their father's inheritance for example. But while their fathers were alive, their property rights were limited as well. Things have come a LONG way since all this...

I can't help but think of two independent women when i write about this:

1. Virginia Woolf. In her famous novel, A Room of One's Own, the progressive feminist wrote about the essentialness of a safe, private, space for women to do their own work. A space where they are not threatened, bothered, disturbed, objectified or sexualized so they could be capable of producing work comparable to Shakespeare. Woolf eloquently described how women (esp authors) were denied the opportunities available to her male counterparts. Her famous quote states, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Woolf discussed that without money, women were completely dependent on men and without privacy, they were constantly interrupted.

Jacks, i realize you don't write fiction but i hope the new "room of your own" provides you a space for creativity, expression, and lots of bright colors.

2. Miranda Hobbes. A more contemporary, (arguably) feminist symbol of an independent woman unwilling to compromise her values for societal standards. I can't help but think of the episode where Miranda goes to buy her very own apartment. Miranda was the first of the four women to purchase property and is taken aback at all the interegation she goes through trying to purchase it without a man by her side. Her real estate agent asks why she needs this big ol' place if it's just little ol' her. Then the mortgage lender asks if her dad will be helping her with the downpayment... Um no, Miranda made parter at a prestigious law firm and has the money for it all by herself, thank you very much! GASP! haha

Anyway, here's to women owning property! Single or in a committed relationship! Young or old! Good for you and congrats on your independence and freedom! :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Accessibility of Sustainable Food

I have been thinking a lot about sustainability lately. Specifically how accessible a diet of sustainable food is and how much of a role class and privilege play. Speaking with my cousin, Mia, a few weeks ago got me thinking about the image associated with buying and eating local foods. Even Stuff White People Like jokes that farmer's markets are a place for white people to placate "their undying need to support local economies, and the idea of buying direct from the farmer helps them assuage the fears instilled in them from reading Fast Food Nation (and yes, every white person has read this book)." Mia talked about an upper class, pretentious image that is often associated with this lifestyle and the inaccessibility many feel because of this. I agree. Image is definitely one concern, others include actual cost, accessibility, and time.

What is causing healthy food access problems? (via)

Poverty, or the lack of resources with which to acquire food, is the primary source of food insecurity in the United States. However, extensive documentation shows that the lack of access to food in low-income urban neighborhoods — the simple inability to buy it there — is an important additional factor. Compared to people living in higher-income areas, residents of low-income urban neighborhoods have very limited access to high quality food, enjoy fewer options in the variety of goods that are available to them, and pay higher prices for their groceries when they are available.

There have been efforts made to increase accessibility of healthy foods to low-income families including farms that accept food stamps. This is a great start but the vouchers go a lot further at the grocery store than at the local farmer's market. In May, Thomas wrote,"All modern famines are failures of entitlement, not of food production. There’s enough food, but some people due to poverty or other barriers cannot get it." This certainly makes food a feminist issue.

It also brings up healthy* "choices." I write "choices" in quotes because when the decision is between spending a few dollars more on average per meal or filling up self and kids on a tight budget, it is no longer a true choice. When paying bills or bus fare for work is at stake, making a "choice" to eat less than healthy meals is not just easy, but necessary. Time also plays a huge role. Even if someone can find discount vegetables to purchase, and a pound salmon that was on sale that week (maybe slice it up into pasta to make it go further to feed more people?), preparing this meal takes time that not every family has. Especially single parent families. Again, when the decision is between preparing this healthy meal and being late for your second job or grabbing McD's for the same price, it's no longer a real "choice." However, the price we should consider is not just a monetary one. We pay the price in terms of health, and what years of fast and over-processed foods mean for your body. These "choices" are difficult ones and although it's often easy for us to discuss the negative effects of certain choices people make from the comfort of our overprivileged cubicles, there is a lot more at stake for those we are scrutinizing.

Obviously class and privilege play a huge role. Not just in the "choices" we are able to make about our diets but also in access to fresh and reasonably priced foods. This also has a lot to do with location. For example, i was making Sirniki for a special Sunday morning breakfast last weekend and noticed we were out of eggs. I said to D, "can we go to the farm real quick for some eggs?" Then i thought about what i just said. How many people can just "go to the farm for some eggs." We are lucky enough to live 3 miles away from a farm. One with reasonably priced produce. Mostly because they save on transportation costs (when businesses don't need to pay for goods to come in from other states they save on transport and the goods are cheaper for consumers. This also saves on fuel and energy and lowers the overall carbon footprint... but that's a different post i suppose...) Anyway, i make the choice to pay $3.00 for local eggs versus $2.00 for a carton at the grocery store or $1.50 at WalMart (again, an entirely separate post...). I realize the ability to make this choice is due to privilege and not everyone is able to even consider spending $1.50 more on eggs. It's just not an option for some.

I have a difficult time rationalizing to someone the non-monetary cost of the $1.50 eggs purchased at WalMart. If i did try i would discuss the caged chickens with cut-off beaks who are force-fed medicated pellets of growth hormone, the fuel guzzling Semis used to transport the eggs from a CAFO (factory farms) in Idaho to your local store, the underpaid farmers who gave up family farms because they had no other choice, the uninsured and overworked employees that are not allowed to unionize, the environmental effects, the socioeconomic effects, etc... It is difficult to justify eating cage free eggs when they cost at least $1.50 more to someone struggling to feed his/her family, regardless the other costs involved in the decision. Although I am able to consider the other costs, to try to rationalize them to someone in a different position than me forces me to consider my own classism and privilege.

How can someone eat "healthy" on a time and money budget? Wisebread has an interesting article with resources that include: Eating Healthy - It Will Cost You, Why is it so Expensive to be Healthy? (with a wag of the finger at the objectifying photo of a cropped, overweight, body - poor form, Wisebread, poor poor form...) and Eating Locally on a Budget (for example, i bought lettuce, 4 ears of corn, a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, 4 cucumbers, and an eggplant last week at the farmer's market for $9 total).

There is a lot of value in eating sustainable foods. Value that is often easier to consider from a privileged perspective. There needs to be more done to make these choices accessible to low income families and to provide information, resources, and support as to what these choices really mean in terms of our country's cultural, economic, agricultural, and ethical sustainability.

Some other neat stuff i found while writing this:
Food, Farming ... Feminism?
Obesity Inversely Linked to Low Income (just don't read the comments...)
Making Women Farmers “Visible” As They Feed Nations
Guerrilla Gardening
Eat Well Guide
and at the very least, watch The Meatrix

*Weight and health are not necessarily correlated. With that said, any comments that show weightist attitudes will be moderated - just a heads up so don't even try it...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Globalization AND Bad Decisions at Fault

I got into a wee bit debate at Feministing over the story of "Yang Peiyi (on the right) who had the perfect voice, [while] Lin Miaoke (on the left) had the perfect face."

China is doing all they can to impress the world over the course of these few weeks. Sometimes, however, money can't buy image. Even though these are the most expensive Olympic Games in history, they leave a lot to be desired. Not from the Olympians, because, don't get me wrong, they're doing a kick-ass job, but from China as a nation.

First, the homeless are forcibly displaced, fake fireworks, and urging people, "to quit smoking and spitting, and to adopt the Western custom of standing in line for a bus, instead of jostling." Now, it has come out that the beautiful singing of Yang Peiyi was the actual voice behind the adorable face of Lin Miaoke. Don't get me wrong, Yang Peiyi is a very cute girl! But unfortunately, her county did not deem her as "cute enough" to sing the "Ode to the Motherland." The rationale? "The reason was for the national interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings, and expression."

This sends several messages to little girls.
1. Talent isn't enough. You have to have "the look" to get anywhere...
2. If you do have "the look," you will get exploited for it, for the best interest of your country, of course...

We all agree this is disgusting. But the wee bit of a disagreement i got into on Feministing was because i think it goes beyond just China fucking up. I think there's a lot to be said for why they deemed Lin Miaoke "cuter." I argued that the girl who was chosen fits more in line with a Western standard of girlish cuteness. I also said that it's not entirely China's fault but the fault of a Western standard of beauty that has spread through globalization. Brad argued that i was using globalization as a cop-out and MewKunn called me mean and rude for ascertaining that Miaoke wasn't "Asian enough" (which i didn't...)

China is concerned with putting forward a specific image. One that, to some degree, mimics the US. They are working hard to keep up with US's consumption, technology, and urbal living, which is very difficult to do with a population over 1.3 billion people. I'm not saying this as it's a good thing. The US isn't the popular kid here, inviting China to sit at the cool kid's table at lunch... No. Rather as a negative of the traditions and culture lost due to the spread of globalization. I fully realize that China has it's own culture, traditions, and fashion which are unique to their nation. Globalization, however, has vast effects on beauty standards among many other things. For example, Chinese media is saturated with advertisements for eye-widening plastic surgery and skin whitening products. This isn't because the Western and European look is "better" but because it is now being widespread through media, advertising, and globalization. Which leads me back to Yang Peiyi and Lin Miaoke, the two adorable girls taught an unfortunate life lesson at the tender ages of 7 and 9.

For a country so consumed with their current image, this did not make them look good...

IMO, China made a choice to cast the more stereotypically Western looking girl and chalk it up to being, "flawless in terms of her facial expression and the great feeling she can give to people." The pig tails, the big toothy smile, the lighter, long hair... that's all Western little girl "cute." And it's deemed "better" and "cuter" because of the globalized standard of beauty and cuteness. China's attempt to cast the "cuter" girl for the way she looks is intertwined with Western standards of girlishness and cuteness and since all eyes are on China right now, they are trying to fit in as much as possible with these standards.

And to address MewKunn's concern: I don't think it was Lin Niaoke's choice to look the way she does or get chosen for the reasons she did. I also think that it works to her disadvantage too that she was chosen solely based on her looks and not her talent. And it teaches her a lesson that she is not talented enough, but her looks matter. This is a lesson many women learn, early on. That they are chosen, selected, picked, dated, hired, based solely on their looks alone. She is not the one to blame, or target. Who IS at fault are the individuals who chose her based her looks and why they thought her look was "better." She may have not chosen to have the Western standard of beauty features that i discussed but i do believe a big reason she was chosen to appear on screen was because she DOES have these features. There is a difference. And the difference is one that is wrapped up in globalization, childhood, beauty standards, choices, and image.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Transgender Contestant on Top Model

There have been several occasions at which i've loved Tyra for her decisions, but this one made me particularly happy: Pure Awesomeness.

ETA: Looks like Lindsay and I think very much alike :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's None of Your Business...

I have had 116 hits on my blog over the past 2 days from people searching some variant of "is Dara Torres gay?"

People, who the fuck cares? She's an incredible athlete, a dedicated mother, and a passionate woman... To me, those things are so much more interesting than her sexual orientation... No? Why is it so important to you whether she's a lesbian?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Target Women: Sarah Haskins

If you hate Mondays as much as I do, then you can use a laugh today. Sarah Haskins is the most hilarious woman i have seen in a long long time! I tried to find all her Target Women episodes to post here so that i can make sure you get an lol today :)

Target Women: Birth Control

Target Women: Wedding Shows

Target Women: Suffrage

Target Women: Botox

Target Women: Feeding Your F--ing Family

Target Women: Yogurt Edition

Which one is your favorite?!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Feel Good: Dara Torres

Today marks the start of the 2008 Olympics. Whether you're protesting them or not, today i'm asking you to give some props to Dara Torres.

Torres is 41 and the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, Tessa Grace. In 1982, she broke her first of three world records - she was only 14 then. In 1984 (before Michael Phelps was even born,) Torres competed in the LA Olympics and won a gold medal in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. In 1988, she competed in the Seoul Olympics, earning a silver and a bronze medal. Torres retired once in 1989, but came back to competed in the Barcelona Games (1992) where she won another gold for the 4 x 100 free relay. At 25, she retired a second time...

In 2008 Dara Torres is competing in her 5th Olympic Games! She’ll also be oldest female swimmer in the history of the Olympics. The New York Times did a beautiful piece on her back in June.

Dana became pregnant in 2005, she continued to swim. Her daughter, Tessa, was born in April of 2006 when Dana began training once again for the 2008 Olympics!

Today's Friday Feel Good goes to Dara - a woman who is not only physically fit but continues to stay mentally and emotionally in the game. Torres is a perfect example of a woman who knows that getting older does not mean she's out of the game. Good luck in Beijing Dara, i'll be rooting for you!! :)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Female Soldiers, Raped & Silenced

My friend Mark sent me this article last week, outraged that it was "off CNN's front page within 6 hours." He wrote, "I guess we'll see how long the Pitt-Jolie baby picture articles stay in comparison."

Mark is right. Sexual assault and rape within the military is rampant, some even call it an epidemic. Adding to it is just how the assaults are covered by the media. In this article, the headline reads: Army Rape Accuser Speaks Out. Not rape victim (more favorable,) or rape survivor (most favorable,) but accuser. This type of language sets up a dynamic that forces readers to disbelieve her before even reading her story; it contributes to victim blaming and takes the focus and "fault" off the perpetrator and puts it on the survivor. Another news article's opening paragraph states, "Few problems have been more persistent or produced more bad news for the military than the issue of rape within its own ranks." Oh no! I feel so so badly for the poor military's image... Wait, no i don't. Who i do feel for are the countless female soldiers who have been sexually assaulted, raped, silenced, and even murdered. I also feel for those who have spoken out, only to be blamed, not taken seriously, and threatened to be arrested. And, it starts as early in female soldiers' careers as recruitment into the military!

While looking up information regarding rape survivors who spoke out, i found these incredibly disturbing stories: [Trigger Warning]

Sharon Mixon was a staff sergeant, and a highly decorated combat medic during Operation Desert Storm. She was in Saudi Arabia, and about to come home, when she says she was drugged and gang-raped.

"I woke up face down on a cot. I was being held down. And there were six men taking turns raping me," recalls Mixon. "They were U.S. soldiers, and they told me that if I told anybody that they would kill me. But I went and told the MPs anyway. And they told me the same thing."

"They kind of laughed and said, 'Well, what did you expect, being a female in combat? And we will always know where to find you. And if you open your mouth, you know what’s gonna happen,'” adds Mixon, who kept quiet for more than 10 years.

Mixon continued her military career until she said she began having flashbacks and was hospitalized for post-traumatic stress disorder. She has actively lobbied Congress on behalf of military rape victims.

Here's another, if you can bare it...

"They want to brush it under a rug. They want it to go away," says Marine Lt. Tara Burkhart, who comes from a military family. She was serving with distinction as a public affairs officer in Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom, escorting reporters in and out of the combat zone. She and several enlisted men from her unit were invited to a party thrown by Kuwaiti nationals to thank them for all they had done.

"During the course of that evening, the sergeant who was under my command raped me," says Burkhart, who didn't initially report it. "I was afraid. I had seen what other people had gone through when they had tried to report sexual assault or rape."

She didn’t say anything, until allegations surfaced that she and her men had violated orders by drinking at the party, and that she had sex with a subordinate.

"I got my attorney. And he immediately contacted the command," says Burkhart. "'This is crazy, my client was raped.' And my command said, 'No, she’s lying. We don’t believe her. You shouldn’t either. And we’re gonna prosecute her. She’s gonna go to a court-martial.'”

Lt. Burkhart was charged with 19 counts, including sexual misconduct, providing alcohol to enlisted men, making false statements and disobeying orders – charges that could have sent her to prison for 26 years.

The soldier who Burkhart says raped her was later accused in another rape. "He was accused during my investigation," says Burkhart. "The other victim came out and claimed that he raped her in Kuwait, too."

The Department of Defense states that "one in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military." Rape is too often underreported... i can't image an even higher statistic, but it's probable.

Why is the rate of rape in the military so much higher than that in civilians? I think this requires a multi-faceted response examining fraternal militarism, lack of support for survivors, and the history of rape used as a weapon of war. The military is probably the oldest "boy's club" there is and it becomes incredibly easy to "other" women when your ingroup is structured on masculine notions of power, strength, and dominance. This brings me to rape. Rape is an act of power, strictly. Is rape these male soldiers' only form of "defense" when their power is threatened? Obviously i'm using much more snark than i should, especially when talking about such a serious topic. I do so though because i'm imagining the troll comments i will get in response to this post, specifically the, "if women were never allowed in the military, they wouldn't be raped," and, "if they wanna be treated like the men they should be able to handle it." If you are a troll and you were thinking of writing that, don't waste your time.

But because of these attitudes female soldiers have an incredibly difficult time deciding to report, and reporting, sexual crimes committed against them. Because the military is so tight-knit people rarely want to report anything for fear of being ostracized. Combine the fear of social penalties for group betrayal with fraternal militarism and it sets up a hostile situation for any woman raped by a fellow soldier.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) wrote a piece a few months back for the LA Times where she stated, "We have an epidemic here. Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq." Now that is scary.


ETA: I cross-posted this on the feministing community blog, where I got several really thoughtful comments, check them out. One of the commentors, Jen, left this:

"There are people working to bring attention to this which will hopefully also bring results in changing this.

First off, being anti-war isn't enough or a requirement. As a veteran involved in anti-war work militant sexual assault (MST) is often viewed as something not as important as ending the war or even viewed as something totally unrelated...

You can support groups that are working to get the word out about military sexual assault and help the people who are affected by it.
Here are just three:

...Being online so much we can also include information on discussion boards that gets real information out, not just sexist slander.
We can include the CNN report above as well as useful information like:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

She was 14 last year and now she's 16?

Some believe that China has been forging passports for two of their top gymnasts, Jiang Yuguan and He Kexin.

Several online records and reports show He Kexin, the host nation's top competitor on uneven bars, and Jiang Yuyuan might not yet be 16, the minimum age for Olympic eligibility. Both were chosen for China's team.

There is also the question of Yang Yilin, a medal favorite, who may be 14 based on registration records. Yilin's date of birth was changed on the 2007 registration list, making her eligible.

Why is this a feminist issue? Because children's rights are human rights and child labor laws should not be violated, here or internationally. But China is notorious for violating child labor laws.

Monday, August 4, 2008

This is What a Feminist Looks Like

This is what a male feminist and/or pro-feminist male looks like:

Gives me chills every time...


A Must Read

On trust.

Friday, August 1, 2008


The New York Times ran a really interesting article today about trolls. Seriously, check it out, it might shed some light on trolls' behavior.