Friday, May 25, 2007


Sorry, but that's all I can manage to say after reading this. Seriously, what else can you say?

But, a hearty thanks to Twisty for compiling all of this horrifying news and for the brilliant analysis.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I know what post I'm nominating for best post in the next Koufax Awards

And that would be Mandolin's brilliant post at Alas, where she is guest blogging this month. Expanding on Hugo's post from last year, Words are not fists: some thoughts on how men work to defuse feminist anger, Mandolin examines how this observation becomes even more true the less privilege the "attacker" is perceived to have.
But I want to take it farther than Hugo does. People don’t just say “don’t attack me” as a way of getting feminists to back down. They also say it because they have a sense of being attacked. Criticism is not fists, but people really seem to perceive it that way.

And the less privilege the person who’s making the criticism has, the more it feels like an attack. In this post, Ginmar quotes Amanda Marcotte: “The less right you have to talk in the eyes of the hierarchy, the louder you seem. Which is probably why black women are seen as the loudest people ever.”*

We see this in a lot of places, right? The common sense conviction that women talk more than men cannot be supported, and in fact, people find data that suggests that — in ordinary conversation — men talk more than women. If researchers externally impose a requirement that both men and women speak the same amount, then they both report that it feels like the men hardly got a chance to talk at all.

Women aren’t supposed to talk, so when they talk, they’re seen as talking A LOT. Black women really aren’t supposed to talk, so when they talk, they’re seen as talking REALLY LOUDLY.

Women aren’t supposed to criticize, so when they criticize, it’s not just words — the surprise of their criticism feels like fists. And when women of color criticize? Well, then it’s World War III.

No, really. World War III.

...I’m particularly disturbed by the escalation in the violent imagery that one sees when comparing the examples that Hugo brings up (men talking to women in a gendered environment) to the examples that I’m bringing up (white people talking about people of color in a racialized environment). Men are worried about being beaten up; white people are worried about crucifixion, World War III, having their feet blown off by landmines.

I'm trying hard to not just quote the whole damn thing. So, just go read it yourself.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Not For Ourselves Alone

Maia has a beautiful (albeit recycled) post at Alas in which she uses Jessica Valenti's new book as a jumping off point to discuss what it is that brought her to feminism.
I was once a middle-class girl who was too scared to call herself feminist, the audience of the book. But I didn’t change my mind because feminism seemed easy, but because I realised what how hard the women who had been before me had fought, and I wanted to honour that struggle.


My response to the stories of women’s lives, both fictional and real was: “I have to call myself a feminist, I owe it to all these women who went before me, who fought so hard and gained so much to become part of that struggle.”

And that was the beginning.

Maia contrasts her feminist click moment* with what Jessica is hoping will serve as young women's click moments. (Full disclosure, Maia admits that she has only read the excerpts from Amazon. In addition, I have not read Jessica's book -- so I am not trying to write any sort of review -- condemning or approving -- of the book, only what some of the discussions of the book have brought up in my mind.)

I think that for most women, especially young women, there has to be some balance between what Maia is talking about and what [people say] Jessica is talking about. For most people, there does have to be a personal investment in the issue for them to have any interest in joining up with a social justice movement. They have to see that it relates to them, that the injustices are harming them, that the movement will help them in some way.

However, I think this line of thinking can be taken too far. One commenter in Maia's thread wrote this:
Well, Jessica (and I, for that matter) choose to be feminist because it’s a good and needful choice for us. Oh, it’s nice to honor the feminists that have busted butt before. But that’s not the big reason for me, nor, I suspect, for a lot of people. Because we’re in this for ourselves, as opposed to being selfless and all that. That’s reality.

This kind of thinking is dangerous. Yes, people need to recognize how feminism (or any other social justice movement) relates to them. But I would hope that that recognition would lead to recognizing how we are inter-connected, and how what harms others directly can harm you indirectly. If your "big" reason is what you, personally, will gain from it, you are either not seeing or can't see that inter-connectedness. And it is precisely this sort of thinking that leads to the racism, classism, ableism , etc. that is so often lodged against feminism. If you're "in it for [y]ourselves," you are playing the exact same power-over games that patriarchy beneficiaries are playing.

Feminism is not about making things better for ourselves alone,** it's about making things better for all women. Yes, recognizing that we are a part of that group "women" and we will benefit as well is a great starting point. But it can never be the end all and be all of feminism. If it is, feminism will fail.

*that moment when you realize, "I am a feminist."
**Yeah, I guess that's why the title of the PBS Special on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony is so apt.

Monday, May 14, 2007

What I'm Reading

Heart at Women's Space/The Margins: The 1st Carnival of Radical Feminists.

Ms. Jared at Sinister Sister: Mothers File International Human Rights Complaint Against United States. I got this in my inbox last week, too, and kept meaning to blog about it. But Ms. Jared actually did it. That's why she's a better blogger than me*.

Lost Clown at Angry for a Reason: Besides Bad Coffee. Here's another example of me being a bad blogger*. I've been meaning to write something about this post for almost a month now. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I like my drive-through coffee stands; not only does it provide me a local alternative to overabundance of Starbucks, Peets, and Tullys, but I can do so without leaving my car (when you have my kind of schedule, you need things to be as quick as possible). But "sexpresso?" No, thanks. But pimping out the baristas wasn't enough for one of these "sexpresso" joints -- they use high school girls as their prop (and I do mean that in the most literal sense of the word).

At Best Friend Espresso in Kenmore, baristas go thigh-high. An elevated service window offers customers a nearly full-length view of pretty, young baristas — some of them high-school students — in short skirts, tank tops and high heels.


Occasionally, Best Friend does theme days, such as "schoolgirl" or adding glasses for a sexy "secretary" look, manager Heather Bacon said.


When Ryan Reed pulled up to Best Friend Espresso for his usual, a 24-ounce iced vanilla latte, on a recent weekday afternoon, he knew what to expect.

"The owner [Wayne Hembree] always hires super-hot girls," Reed said. "That's basically his philosophy." [emphasis added]

Rachel at Alas a Blog has a link to an interesting article about Leonard Nimoy's new fat nudes exhibit. In her post, Rachel also asks

While I remember my grandparents making comments about how fat people were, I don’t remember the ire associated with it that you see for so many younger people. It also seemed to me that their definition of fatness was different. . . Do you think there are generational differences around attitudes toward fatness? If so, what do you think they are?

Since I am no longer welcome to respond there, I'll go ahead and post here. My answer...depends on who you're talking about and what their background is, I suppose. As for my experience, well, I had a grandmother who constantly belittled my mother as she was growing up for being "too fat" (she was about a size 16, if that). I can also remember vividly a time when I was 12 -- at which point I was approx. 5'6" 120 lbs. with a 24 inch waist (yes, I did know that, and I do remember, because I was obsessed with weight at that age -- I think you'll be able to understand part of it after this post). My grandmother told me, "If you ever want to fit into my wedding gown, you'd better start losing weight now." I was 12! I was already thin, I didn't need to diet, and certainly not for some unforeseeable wedding that may never happen, and even if it did, would be years in the future!!! I still think that it was this very statement that had a huge impact on me not only becoming fat but never getting married.

Marc at Punkass Blog claims that it's the "patriarchs" who were offended by this billboard. Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm sure he's right. I'm sure there are men out there (including some of the more vocal ones that got the billboard pulled). Certainly there are patriarchal men out there who would feel the need to decry the "sanctity of marriage" upon seeing this billboard, not to mention reject it out of the pure need to express their heterosexual masculinity (read: fear of seeing a man's body). But are those the only reasons that someone could or would be offended by such a billboard. Fuck no. Look, "equal objectification" of both men and women doesn't make objectification any better. Never has. And I've always thought that was a bullshit argument for the over objectification of women (No, Peta's ads wouldn't more acceptable if they simply used more naked men alongside the women). And, hell, I'm right there with you when you want to argue that marriage is a heteronormative function of a heterosexist society. But, that doesn't change the fact that a number of people still form loving commitments to people and encouraging people to leave their partners for "better, sexier versions" is just wrong, to me, and is simply based on the same old misogynist notion that women are objects that can be exchanged and upgraded (and again, adding a man doesn't change that!!). Nod: Hoyden About Town.

Blackamazon has a scathing, but must-read review of Jessica Valenti's book, Full Frontal Feminism. I should say right now, I haven't read the book, so I can't testify to this review's accuracy, but I will say that none of it surprised me. While I do understand BA's reasons for turning away from feminism, it makes me sad that she has done so. I'm sorry that she has been confronted with a particular form of feminism, that while currently the most revered in the mainstream media, does not represent all of feminism or all feminists. I'm not going to pretend that us "other" white feminists aren't racist at times, but I'd like to think that many of us are willing to acknowledge that and to listen and learn from feminists of color so we can change, rather than just deny our racism. And that's why we need women like BA in the feminist movement. But then, that sounds like I want to use and exploit BA for my own purposes, and I don't mean that at all. Just...well...keep speaking, some of us are actually listening.

*In my defense, I am currently working 3 jobs (70 hours a week, not including travel time -- mostly graveyard) as well as volunteering 12 hours a month as a sexual assault advocate.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I'll be on the Today Show Tomorrow

The agency I work for is being featured, and the founder interviewed. The Today Show sent out a camera crew last week and got about 16 hours worth of film...which they will cut down to about 4 minutes. With any luck, I won't end up on the editing room floor.

If you can, please tune in and watch -- or set your tivo, dvr, or vcr. Even if I do end up on the editing room floor, it should still be a good segment (there will be a 3 minute interview with the founder and her sons after the 4 minute film segment, which includes an interview with one of our clients). This agency is the only one of it's kind, and it provides a much needed service for women (and men) who would otherwise have no one. And the founder, Paula, is amazing woman who, instead of getting mad at the injustice of not having anyone to help her, turned around and started providing that much needed service for other women. And she did so while still living in a domestic violence shelter. Not every woman has the vision, the courage, the strength, or the resources to do that. And that's ok. It's just all the more reason to celebrate the ones who do.

So, tune in tomorrow, Friday, May 11th between 8 and 8:30 am (Eastern and Pacific time) to check me and my workplace out.

Update: Yay! I thought they did a really great job. I am in there for a couple of seconds, but I don't say anything -- the focus was on my boss and the agency, which is fine by me. If you missed it, you can catch it here.

Why I don't care what men think of me

In the week and a half since I wrote the last post, I've received several emails from various bloggers (primarily, but not exclusively, men) telling me that they thought the post was interesting, infuriating, and, in general, good. Then they told me that they'd like to link to it, but only if I changed the title. Apparently, it's "too offensive." Whatever. I'd say it just goes to show that men just don't get it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why Men Just Shouldn't Post About the Rape of Women

Simon P. Green, a paramedic with American Medical Response in Portland, responded to a call from a rape survivor. He treated her and took her to the hospital, talking to her about the assault on the way. He then decided to post about it on his MySpace page, providing details just vague enough to not break any laws, but still detailed enough to allow reporters to find the woman and to potentially impede the police investigation.

The survivor, "Jane Doe," has filed a law suit against Simon Green and American Medical Response for violating her privacy. According to the lawsuit, Green posted details about the attack, including the approximate location of the attack (which took place in the survivor's apartment), what Jane Doe said about the knife-wielding attacker, and a description of the attacker. The post, written 2 weeks after the incident, "led TV reporters to her door, prompted neighborhood reconnaissance and may have impeded the police investigation."

As someone who works daily with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, I've debated the merits of posting anything about the stories I've come across. I've debated this with myself and with colleagues. I would never post details (even vague details) about a survivor, or even an abuser. But I've thought about writing about some of the situations I've run across, by changing some of the details and/or writing vaguely enough that even the survivor herself probably wouldn't know for sure if I was talking about her. I haven't done it yet, because I haven't really come to a clear conclusion about the ethics of it in my own head. But I've known colleagues who have written about their experiences with clients, residents, and survivors on their blogs. And I do think it can be both cathartic for the writer and enlightening/educational for the reader. So, yes, I do understand why someone would want to post about this sort of thing. But, IMO, there are limits.

According to Green, he didn't post this to share a vicarious trauma he experienced. He didn't post this because he learned something valuable from the experience. No, he posted this to "'get the word out' so other women would have an opportunity to protect themselves." How paternalistic of him. But his ignorance and appalling lack of understanding doesn't end there.
On his MySpace site he suggested victims should fight off attackers if confronted by a knife or carry a gun.

"My advice: fight. It's only a knife, and any rapist is a coward who will probably turn tail at any resistance," his posting read.
It's only a knife. Seriously? And what exactly, Mr. Green, is your experience with rapists that you can be so "knowledgeable" as to know what the best response for a rape victim should be? And where do you get off, Mr. Green, espousing what a rape victim should do?

Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz summed it up best:

There's no crime in what this guy did, it's just morally reprehensible.