March 19, 2010

Rule #1, Soldier: No Water After 7 p.m.

By the end of 2010 there will officially be more women in the workforce than men. Both the Speaker of the House and the Secretary of State are women. And, 20% of U.S. armed forces are female. Because of these aberrant shifts we feel like we’ve won the war when the reality is that those are only a few battles. We tend to take for granted the positions that most women in America find themselves in in this “post-feminist” society.

In recent weeks, both Time magazine and The New York Times have published articles on the egregious number of women being raped in the military. Time reported that…

“…a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”

I was shocked to read that female soldiers stop drinking water at 7 p.m. so that they don’t have to go the bathroom in the middle of the night as this reduces their risk of being raped. Though the NY Times reported that the number of assults reported is up 11% from last year, Time statesthat the Defense Department still estimates that 80-90% of sexual assaults go unreported. Additionally, they differentiate an assault from sexual harassment which undoubtedly brings the number of women assaulted OR harassed up exponentially. They may as well just say, “If you’re female and you join the military you will be abused in some way.”

We live in a world where we fight to have universities install campus security buttons and cameras and we teach women how to protect & defend themselves against attackers and we create program upon program for victims of sexual assault. All of the security measures we take only further perpetuate the idea that WOMEN need to learn how to protect themselves. Why aren’t we teaching men how to be respectful and responsible? How do we transform the dialogue from Women’s Issues to EVERY ONE’S issues??

I don’t say any of this to discourage women from joining the military or going to college (or from leaving your house!) or to promote the fear that is already so rampant, I say this because as a woman living in a supposedly “post-feminist” world, I believe we need to inspire more people – NOT just women – to struggle, to act!

There was a great article in The Guardian, the UK based newspaper about men and feminism. In it they mentioned a program that was started by Oxfam called “Gender Equality and Men.” Here is a quote from their page:

There are potential gains from focusing on men and boys. As Kaufman has suggested [1], such efforts may:

  • create a broad social consensus among men and women on issues that previously have been marginalised as only of importance to women;
  • mobilise resources and institutions controlled by men, resulting in a net gain in resources available to meet the needs of women and girls;
  • isolate those men working to preserve men’s power and privilege and to deny rights to women and children;
  • contribute to raising the next generation of boys and girls in a framework of gender equality;
  • change the attitudes and behaviour of men and boys, and improve the lives of women and girls in the home, workplace, and community.

That about sums it up! So, instead of continuing to shake my fist and scream about men not taking responsibility for violence and ignorance – I’ve made a list of some ways in which men (and women!) can become involved in the movement…..which despite those post-feminist doubters…..is still very much moving!

1) Start simple: Read This
2) Take a Women’s Studies class!
3) Join the feminist club on campus or START one!
4) Get involved in community outreach organizations. Lead by example and show young men and boys how to be!
5) Encourage local organization to implement programs like Oxfam UK did!
6) Be creative! Find ways to encourage change through things you like to do or are good at! Activism isn’t the only way. Music and art speak volumes!

And, if you’re still confused and wondering what you can do – come to WAM! Los Angeles next week Thursday, March 25, 2010!

cartoon-feminist     feminst-cartoons

November 21, 2008

Gender, media and politics post election

No one can deny the role that gender played in the recent election.  From the beginning, scores of articles and opublic discussions revolved around gender, race, class and their collective role in the political campaigns.

New York Women in Communications examined the intersection of gender, media and politics at their recent panel discussion on November 13 featuring Geraldine Ferraro, Arianna Huffington, Marie Wilson and Lesley Jane Seymour.

Naturally, a significant portion of the discussion revolved around Sarah Palin and her post-feminist feminist image:

“She isn’t going away,” Seymour said of Governor Sarah Palin. “There is a group of women out there who love her, who think she’s a feminist; she thinks she’s a feminist. Listen to her talk. She is a post-feminism feminist in many women’s eyes.”

“Women are hungry to see people fight, to see people be confident, to see people stand up and say things,” Huffington continued. “Even women who deserve confidence don’t have it.  So, when a woman stands up like she did at the convention and speaks with confidence fearlessly and also has children, it’s very appealing.”

Of course, the panelists stressed that we must remember Palin’s true anti-feminist nature, but the conversations about her did not end. There is something very significant in the fact that Palin dominated a discussion at an event of educated, motivated feminists and it begs the question: Is Sarah Palin setting the agenda for modern feminists?  When did we go from leading the movement to reacting to it? And ultimately, where does the feminist movement stand in 2008?

When the discussion turned to Senator Hillary Clinton, the commentary remained somewhat unsettling. “The way Hillary gave her final speech of the primary was very significant because it showed women, who are so terrified of failure, that you can fail magnificently, that you can fail and still succeed in so many ways,” Huffington revealed. “When she said that there was no resentment or bitterness, despite whatever she may have been feeling, she came across as somebody who was ready to move on and be in the future.”

While it’s true that Clinton’s conduct spoke to women and set new standards, how did she become an example of graceful failure and how is Sarah Palin considered bold, confident and still trying to win?

Feminist ideology, feminism and feminist identity also became a hotly debated issue post-Hillary and in light of Sarah Palin.  The relationship between feminism and the media has a long, sordid history and there was ample discussion on the future of that relationship in the wake of Clinton and Palin.

Whatever you believe, this event spoke to the urgency and relevance of feminism in 2008.  The panel proved one thing — that truly feminist, intelligent women must be involved in drawing up the country’s blueprints and maneuvering the cranes of change in the next four years. Donning political and cultural hard hats is the new feminist imperative. This is our chance to build a future, where all people can flourish equally. And it’s about time to get to work.

Read Maric G. Yerman’s complete article at the Huffington Post here.

November 7, 2008

Katha Pollitt on Sarah's gift to feminism

Filed under: Gender,Media,Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 12:29 pm

I enjoyed this article at The Nation. I’ve been thinking along similar lines lately. Hillary Clinton brought feminism to the round table discussion and Sarah Palin kept it there and allowed feminists to take the conversation in new directions. The articles, interviews and commentary that were produced in response to her presence on the political stage was like a dam burst open. I don’t remember the last time we’ve had that much mainstream feminist commentary. Sarah Palin stirred the pot and enriched our conversations about what feminism is and what feminism isn’t.

Excerpts from Pollitt below:

And so we bid farewell to Sarah Palin. How I’ll miss her daily presence in my life! The mooseburgers, the wolf hunts, the kids named after bays and sports and trees and airplanes and who did not seem to go to school at all, the winks and blinks, the cute Alaska accent, the witch-hunting pastor and those great little flared jackets, especially the gray stripey one. People say she was a dingbat, but that is just sexist: the woman read everything, she said so herself; her knowledge of geography was unreal–she knew just where to find the pro-America part of the country; and don’t forget her keen interest in ancient history! Thanks largely to her, Bill Ayers is now the most famous sixtysomething professor in the country–eat your heart out, Ward Churchill! You can snipe all you want, but she was truly God’s gift: to Barack Obama, Katie Couric–notice no one’s making fun of America’s sweetheart now–Tina Fey and columnists all over America.

She was also a gift to feminism. Seriously. I don’t mean she was a feminist–she told Couric she considered herself one, but in a later interview, perhaps after looking up the meaning of the word, coyly wondered why she needed to “label” herself. And I don’t mean she had a claim on the votes of feminists or women–why should women who care about equality vote for a woman who wants to take their rights away? Elaine Lafferty, a former editor of Ms., made a splash by revealing in The Daily Beast (Tina Brown’s new website, for those of you still following the news on paper) that she has been working as a consultant to Palin. In a short but painful piece of public relations called “Sarah Palin’s a Brainiac,” Lafferty claimed to find in Palin “a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernible pattern of associative thinking and insight,” with a “photographic memory,” as smart as legendary Senator Sam Ervin, “a woman who knows exactly who she is.” According to Lafferty, all that stuff about library censorship and rape kits was just “nonsense”–and feminists who held Palin’s wish to criminalize abortion against her were Beltway feminist-establishment elitists who shop at Whole Foods when they should be voting against Barack Obama to make the Dems stop taking women for granted.

So the first way Palin was good for feminism is that she helped us clarify what it isn’t: feminism doesn’t mean voting for “the woman” just because she’s female, and it doesn’t mean confusing self-injury with empowerment, like the Ellen Jamesians in The World According to Garp (I’ll vote for the forced-childbirth candidate, that’ll show Howard Dean!). It isn’t just feel-good “you go, girl” appreciation of female moxie, which I cheerfully acknowledge Palin has by the gallon. As I wrote when she was selected, if she were my neighbor I would probably like her–at least until she organized with her fellow Christians to ban abortion at the local hospital, as Palin did in the 1990s. Yes, feminism is about women getting their fair share of power, and that includes the top jobs–but that can’t take a back seat to policies that benefit all women: equality on the job and the legal framework that undergirds it, antiviolence, reproductive self-determination, healthcare, education, childcare and so on. Fortunately, women who care about equality get this–dead-enders like the comically clueless Lynn Forester de Rothschild got lots of press, but in the end Obama won the support of the vast majority of women who had supported Hillary Clinton.

October 23, 2008

Campbell Brown calls out the double-standard

I appreciate Campbell Brown’s statement. Watch and listen.

October 4, 2008

Palin Porn: we're just jealous

TMZ and the Huffington Post have announced Hustler’s plan to to release a video with Palin look-alike, Lisa Ann, and porn legend, Nina Hartley, cast as Hillary Clinton.  “Nailin’ Paylin” has been confirmed by a Hustler rep and an excerpt of the script is available via Radar here.

Vanessa, at Feministing, posted a response to an absurd article that appeared in Time Magazine claiiming that women are against Sara Palin because  we’re catty and she is too pretty.

She’s too pretty. This is very bad news. At school, pretty girls tend to be liked only by other pretty girls. The rest of us, whose looks hover somewhere around underwhelming, resent them and whisper archly of their “unearned attention.”

Right, we’re jealous of her hotness factor and that’s why we don’t support her nomination. Grrrr.  Give me a break.

October 2, 2008

Rebecca Traister on Palin: cry me a river. Not.

Excellent commentary by Rebecca Trasiter at Salon.com today after Palin fumbles repeatedly in interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric.

Highlights include:

Where I come from, a woman — and especially a woman governor with executive experience — doesn’t have to rely on any elder or any man to protect her and pull her ass out of the fire. She can make a decision all on her own. (Palin was more than happy to tell Charlie Gibson that she made her decision to join the McCain ticket without blinking.) I agree with Coates that the McCain camp was craven, sexist and disrespectful in its choice of Palin, but I don’t agree that the Alaska governor was a passive victim of their Machiavellian plotting. A very successful woman, Palin has the wherewithal to move forward consciously. What she did was move forward thoughtlessly and overconfidently, without considering that her abilities or qualifications would ever be questioned…

So here it is, finally. And as unpleasant as it may be to watch the humiliation of a woman who waltzed into a spotlight too strong to withstand, I flat out refuse to be manipulated into another stage of gendered regress — back to the pre-Pelosi, pre-Hillary days when girls couldn’t stand the heat and so were shooed back to the kitchen.

Sarah Palin is no wilting flower. She is a politician who took the national stage and sneered at the work of community activists. She boldly tries to pass off incuriosity and lassitude as regular-people qualities, thereby doing a disservice to all those Americans who also work two jobs and do not come from families that hand out passports and backpacking trips, yet still manage to pick up a paper and read about their government and seek out experience and knowledge.

When you stage a train wreck of this magnitude — trying to pass one underqualified chick off as another highly qualified chick with the lame hope that no one will notice — well, then, I don’t feel bad for you.

When you treat women as your toys, as gullible and insensate pawns in your Big Fat Presidential Bid — or in Palin’s case, in your Big Fat Chance to Be the First Woman Vice President Thanks to All the Cracks Hillary Put in the Ceiling — I don’t feel bad for you.

When you don’t take your own career and reputation seriously enough to pause before striding onto a national stage and lying about your record of opposing a Bridge to Nowhere or using your special-needs child to garner the support of Americans in need of healthcare reform you don’t support, I don’t feel bad for you.

When you don’t have enough regard for your country or its politics to cram effectively for the test — a test that helps determine whether or not you get to run that country and participate in its politics — I don’t feel bad for you.

When your project is reliant on gaining the support of women whose reproductive rights you would limit, whose access to birth control and sex education you would curtail, whose healthcare options you would decrease, whose civil liberties you would take away and whose children and husbands and brothers (and sisters and daughters and friends) you would send to war in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and wherever else you saw fit without actually understanding international relations, I don’t feel bad for you.

I don’t want to be played by the girl-strings anymore. Shaking our heads and wringing our hands in sympathy with Sarah Palin is a disservice to every woman who has ever been unfairly dismissed based on her gender, because this is an utterly fair dismissal, based on an utter lack of ability and readiness. It’s a disservice to minority populations of every stripe whose place in the political spectrum has been unfairly spotlighted as mere tokenism; it is a disservice to women throughout this country who have gone from watching a woman who — love her or hate her — was able to show us what female leadership could look like to squirming in front of their televisions as they watch the woman sent to replace her struggle to string a complete sentence together…
Read full article here.
Traister echoes my own sentiments.  I’m tired of this woman.  I’m tired of the gender games and manipulation that has been waged by this campaign and their phony feminist ideology and concern for women’s rights.  Palin’s response to Couric’s question regarding her feminist identity was ludicrous.  How can you honestly state to the people, especially the women of this country, that you are for women’s equality and choice when your record indicates the exact opposite?  I’m tired of the transparency of this campaigns lies which is a slap in the face to the citizens of this country. I’m tired of the stage craft and political drama this campaign has utilized as distraction. I’m sick of hearing the same lame line about this team of “mavericks.”  The fact that Palin and the McCain camp can’t make up their mind about how they want to craft her image speaks to their insecurity, lack of integrity and dishonesty.
I’m ready for the debate.  Unfortunately, this debate, like all of her official speeches, has been careful crafted and she has been diligently groomed for her role.  I hope that people don’t forget who the real Sarah Palin is: the woman we saw unscripted and incapable when questioned by Gibson and Couric.

September 21, 2008

Hillary Clinton's message re: Planned Parenthood

Hillary Clinton and Cecile Richards were featured in the Opinion section of Friday’s New York Times.

“Last month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.

The definition of abortion in the proposed rule is left open to interpretation. An earlier draft included a medically inaccurate definition that included commonly prescribed forms of contraception like birth control pills, IUD’s and emergency contraception. That language has been removed, but because the current version includes no definition at all, individual health care providers could decide on their own that birth control is the same as abortion.

The rule would also allow providers to refuse to participate in unspecified “other medical procedures” that contradict their religious beliefs or moral convictions. This, too, could be interpreted as a free pass to deny access to contraception.

Many circumstances unrelated to reproductive health could also fall under the umbrella of “other medical procedures.” Could physicians object to helping patients whose sexual orientation they find objectionable? Could a receptionist refuse to book an appointment for an H.I.V. test? What about an emergency room doctor who wishes to deny emergency contraception to a rape victim? Or a pharmacist who prefers not to refill a birth control prescription?

The Bush administration argues that the rule is designed to protect a provider’s conscience. But where are the protections for patients?

The 30-day comment period on the proposed rule runs until Sept. 25. Everyone who believes that women should have full access to medical care should make their voices heard. Basic, quality care for millions of women is at stake.”

Many of you have probably received the mass email encouraging donations in Sarah Palin’s name or came across the post on Feministing.com.

If not:

Go here and donate NOW!

Every time a donation is made, a card will be sent to Sarah Palin informing her of the donation made in her name.  You will need to include an address that indicates where the card should be sent. Use the following address:

McCain for President

1235 S. Clark Street

1st floor

Arlington, VA 22202

September 11, 2008

America the Beautiful

Darryl Roberts’ documentary, “America the Beautiful,” is out!  In the never ending and unhealthy pursuit for the elusive image of beauty, we purge, restrict calories, over exercise, smoke, drink coffee, nip/tuck, suck, pluck, wax, shave, exfoliate, peel and pull.  Roberts’ forces us to look in the mirror as a nation and confront our value system.  As women, we are primarily valued by the degree to which we conform to acceptable standards of beauty and our accomplishments as scholars, business women, artists, poets, mothers, activists and politicians fall by the wayside if we are not coiffed, polished and flawless.

At a historical moment in which Sarah Palin has a serious chance at taking the VP slot, we are forced to confront the role her culturally determined and accepted level of attractivesness plays.  Poor Hillary!  That woman could barely get dressed in the morning without getting ripped apart.  Donatella Versace offered her fashion advice and in a political debate she was not evaluated on her policies, she was evaluated on the basis of her looks.  Hillary Clinton was touted as an ugly duckling, a woman too unattractive to have been married to Bill.  Among the other variables that have thrown Sarah Palin in our faces, we shouldn’t downplay the role of the beauty norm which takes on a religious fervor in this country.  For many women, the pursuit of an unrealistic beauty ideal becomes a crusade.

Elizabeth Wellington, a fashion columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, devoted an entire article attesting to Palin’s feminine wiles and her ability to harness and use her femininity. While fashion and pursuits of beauty that are destined to ultimately fail are seen on many counts as frivolous, vapid and superficial pursuits, we can’t underestimate the rewards and positive sanctions bestowed on those that adhere, however painfully, to these definitions. Sarah Palin is proof that a woman’s figure and the way she clothes that figure, will help catapult her into the limelight and project talents and gifts she may not actually possess.  Despite the rewards, let’s not get confused.  This is not a form of empowerment when we become slaves to a culturally defined and imposed male standard of beauty.  It is not empowerment when we loathe the body’s we inhabit.  It is not empowerment when we use our physical assets to manipulate a system for recognition that would be lost otherwise.