Thursday, January 31, 2008

She Wants Revenge...or.... He Wants Revenge?

One thing I have not talked a lot about on this blog is music (besides Britney Spears, of course). That is in part because I love my music so much and because listening to it is such a personal and intimate experience that it is difficult to be critical of it.

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That being said, I have discovered a new band that I am really, really enjoying. She Wants Revenge is electronic, darkwave, whatever (I am not big on categorizing music) but I just love it. I have watched the video for "Tear You Apart" quite a few times to try to figure out just what is happening. While I am still puzzled, all I know is that this video creeps me out. The suggestions of sexual assault and transphobia are palpable.

I wasn't sure quite how I felt about it until I listened closer to the lyrics and read this Dig Magazine article in which band member, Bravin, said: "I don't think there are a lot of bands out there right now that are men speaking to women."

According to SWR in the lyrics for "Tear You Apart" this is what men want to say to women:

Either way he wanted her and this was bad
He wanted to do things to her it was making him crazy
Now a little crush turned into a like
And now he wants to grab her by the hair and tell her

I want to hold you close
Skin pressed against me tight
Lie still, and close your eyes girl
So lovely, it feels so right

I want to hold you close
Soft breasts, beating heart
As I whisper in your ear
I want to f*cking tear you apart

Now if that does not sound rape-y I don't know what does. Woman hatred is all over popular and even underground/indie music. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is in your face. This is a bit more subtle until you really pay attention to the lyrics and what the band members say that those lyrics mean to them.

This is another of those situations where, as a feminist, I need to take pause and acknowledge the misogyny in my music but then do I stop listening to it? I am not that much of a martyr. I love this music and I still want to listen to it. Sometimes I believe that media consciousness is a huge first step. We don't have to give up the media we love so long as we learn to be critical of it and not just passive absorbers of it. How do we enact progressive change in this situation?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Getting to Know Your Feminist Blogger: Blogging for Choice

I know it is a little bit late but here is my contribution!

In so many of my Women's Studies courses throughout the years I have been asked to write about the formation of my feminism. I will share that story here because it has so much to do with why I vote pro-choice.

My feminism evolved out of my realization that pregnancy should not be compulsory. I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through eighth grade. With no knowledge to the contrary, I assumed that all people were Catholic. Upon entering a public high school, my entire world changed. I met people who practiced a variety of religions and even a few who had no religion. When I encountered my future best friend for the first time, she told me that she was outraged by the continuing struggle for reproductive rights. When she told me what an abortion was, I had a light bulb moment. Being Catholic, sex had always seemed scary and dangerous to me, I knew that it was related to pregnancy and I certainly did not want to be pregnant! Once I realized that pregnancy is not an inevitable part of heterosexual activity, I felt enormously liberated. That is until I realized how abortion and other reproductive rights are consistently in danger. That is when I started advocating feminism. That moment literally changed the course of my life.

Body politics are a huge part of what I discuss on this blog. Why are bodies presented the way that they are in mass media? It is increasingly difficult to tell whether media influences reality or reality influences media or whether it is some combination of the two. It is certainly easy to see how deeply held ideologies play out in media. Control of women's bodies is a theme that advertisers just cannot get enough of. And reproductive control is a large part of that.

I recently got into a heated debate with an old friend about why I vote pro-choice. This friend was upset when I said that it is unlikely that I will ever vote for a candidate who is not pro-choice. He suggested that other issues were more important, like privacy from governmental interference into our private lives. (It will not surprise you to know that he is a Ron Paul supporter.) I suggested to him that as a woman I feel that my uterus is about as private as it can get and that if that is such a pivotal issue, than this candidate is just an enormous hypocrite. Why is bodily sovereignity only a pivotal issue until it is a pregnant body? Why is this enormous hypocrisy so unimportant to Paul's supporters?

Choice is among the most important issues that I consider when choosing a candidate. I know that reproductive control is woman hatred, misogynistic, and backwards. I trust women to make their own choices. And I know that anti-choicers are also anti-contraception leaving women with NO choice. I know that I would never be able to enjoy heterosexual intercourse again if I knew that if the condom broke, if I forgot a few pills, if my diaphragm slipped or we just got careless that there would be no safety net. I believe that sexuality should not be dictated by the government and that without Roe V. Wade the privacy of one's body and bedroom would be no more. I also see major hypocrisies that even so-called progressive people are choosing to ignore because of their (male) privilege.

And finally, I know that abortion rights are not the end all of feminism because so many women do not have access to even minimal health care that choice seems like privileged feminist rhetoric and I think that that is also woman hatred, misogynistic and backwards.

I am thankful every single day for the reproductive rights granted to me by Roe Vs. Wade but like so many other bloggers today, I recognize that a lot of work still needs to be done to ensure that abortion rights are not just a mirage for so many women.

More Guest Blogging for Choice

Another of my fabulous friends wrote a great piece for Blogging for Choice Day. Erika is a friend from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is working on her undergrad. at UWM in Nursing with minor in Women's Studies. I think her perspective is so important because she has a foot in both fields when it comes to the issue of choice.

What Roe V. Wade Means to Me

You want to know what Roe V. Wade means to me? Not much actually, especially if you’re asking me as a Wisconsin woman. Wisconsin is a pretty progressive and accepting state, which is little known to people who live outside of it. The state of Wisconsin in general, allows a woman to have a choice, until you look a little closer. If you live in Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay (and their surrounding areas) then maybe you do have a choice. But for 80% of Wisconsin counties you probably will not have access to this choice because doctors are not licensed (by choice) or clinics where one could have a choice are not there. So you tell me what choice is it for 80% of the young, poor, and immobile women of Wisconsin is there to make? And that is not even half of the battle. Every weekend I can drive down Farwell Ave (in Milwaukee, WI) and see people with giant posters of aborted fetuses chanting about sins and wrongs women are doing just by entering a clinic. How accessible is that? Do I think I would want to walk into that clinic knowing with what I would meet just outside of it?

Roe Vs. Wade was supposed to mean something and should mean something, but does it really? The reason Roe V. Wade will stay in “limbo” amongst politicians, “friendly” debates, and bloggers is because it has somehow found its way in an untouchable place where it can blindly keep both sides happy. We supporters of choice think we’ve won! Aha! We have a choice, and if you don’t agree, too bad we’ve got Roe V. Wade in our hands to prove it to you pro-“lifers” that we have the law on our side. I just hope that excitement and your choice (if you live in WI) will last ‘til you get to the clinic (if you’re fortunate enough to get to one) and are met with people telling you “All babies want to get borned” and that your baby probably “has fingernails” (Quotes from Juno). There is no choice, when there has already been one made for you. This needs to change and not just be a luxury for women who are more privileged.

Why Choice Still Matters

When I started this blog I had hoped that I would have the opportunity to include additional voices. Since I started graduate school and have made fabulous new feminist friends I opened an invitation to some of them to post at my blog. Here is Elizabeth's contribution to Blogging for Choice Day. You can expect to see mine later tonight or tomorrow.

Why Choice Still Matters

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which in itself is a great cause for celebration! Often we hear about abortion discussion coming from the Christian right; however, we often as progressives fail to continue the discussion on our end. We dismiss the evangelical arguments but then fail to let our arguments be known. We assume that because it is legal, it doesn’t need to be talked about anymore.

So, on this great blogging for choice day, it is important to look at the reasons to celebrate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. While this landmark case did make abortion legal in the United States, it is not simply a day to celebrate the option of abortion only. We have to look at what access to abortion means in a larger social context. For women in the U.S. the main rhetoric for making this procedure available is for the choice to have the procedure if wanted/ needed. The point is that a woman should have control over her body and have the means and services available to her to make that choice. It is not about being pro-abortion but about being pro-choice. It is the choice that matters, which is why this case was so important.

While pro-choice advocates celebrate this day, it is important to look at choice for women not only in the U.S. but also around the world. If we look to reproductive justice, which includes access to not only abortion but all reproductive and health services for all women, regardless of race, class, sexual preference, etc, we can gain a better understanding of how the U.S. compares with other parts of the world. With this understanding we can look at examples around the world where women are not given control or choice over their body. In China, women are encouraged to have abortions after they already have one child and fined if they have two or more children. Additionally, the social services available to these women when they have one child are taken away when they have any further children. Likewise, transnational migrant workers from the Philippines in Taiwan face losing their job and being sent back to their home country if they continue with a pregnancy. Again, abortion is encouraged through the system, which again does not give women control over their bodies or a choice of any sort.

When a system traps women into a particular decision, whether to have an abortion or not, there is a problem because individual women do not have control over what happens to their own bodies. So, while we can celebrate that women in the U.S. have access to abortion, we also need to look at the comprehensive idea of reproductive justice and make sure it is available to all women. Additionally, we need to look at what it means in a global context so that we as progressives, do not lose sight of an issue even when it is not our hot button issue.

Happy 35th Anniversary!

Cross Posted at Faithfully Liberal

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Personal is Political: Getting to Know Your Feminist Blogger

I usually refrain from writing about personal things here. I save those for my personal blog. However, as any good Women's Studies student will tell you, sometimes the personal is political. So, on that note:

I have never really been single in my adult life. Since I was in high school I had a string of boyfriends that were pretty much one directly after the next. I spent the past five years in very serious relationships. (One for about two years, the other for about three years.) Anyway, I am single now... really, really single.... pretty much for the first time in my adult life. And I really don't like it.

Sparing you all the details of the heart-wrenchingly miserable break-up of a nearly three year partnership, I'll say that I am sure it has altered my perspective more than a little. But even granting that, I am facing a real ideological crisis here. The crisis of knowing that I should be okay enough with myself to be single while simultaneously dealing with a tremendous heartbreak.

Being raised in a nuclear family surrounded by nuclear families in the suburbs and being indoctrinated by the Catholic Church and American mass media has had plenty of influence on my idea of what adult life should be. But I always thought that my feminism could outweigh all of that. So why am I so uncomfortable and unhappy being single?

I have amazing, supportive friends and family, I live in a fabulous city full of opportunities, I have a job that I love, I am in a graduate program that suits me perfectly, I am passionate about school and my career, basically everything in my life is right on track. But since he left I have felt like I have nothing. I allowed a relationship to really define who I am and that is something that I swore would never happen to me. In fact, I have chastised friends for doing that very thing and have written about how relationships are socially constructed.

Still it happens so easily. Even though I know I don't want to have children and probably will not get married (at least not as long as it is a heterosexist, misogynistic institution designed to maintain women's subordinate social position), in many ways I bought right in to the ideal heteronormative, repressive relationship that I have been so quick to challenge. I feel like a bad feminist for buying in to those ideologies and yet I know that it is nearly impossible to not to be part of that system, at least to some degree.

Normally I wouldn't do this in a blog either, but I feel that Susan Bordo (whom I adore) says it so well in Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body.

"Feminist cultural criticism is not a blueprint for the conduct of personal life (or political action, for that matter) and does not empower (or require) individuals to 'rise above' their culture or to become martyrs to feminist ideals. It does not tell us what to do... whether to lose weight or not, wear makeup or not, lift weights or not. Its goal is edification and understanding, enhanced consciousness of the power, complexity, and systematic nature of culture, the interconnected webs of its functioning. It is up to the reader to decide how, when, and where (or whether) to put that understanding to further use, in the particular, complicated, and ever-changing context that is his or her life and no one else's" (30).

Susan Bordo alleviates some of the guilt. I know that feminism and romance are not inherently at odds but I also know that I bought too much into the ideal and am now suffering the consequences. Do people actually enjoy being single? Do I sound too much like Carrie Bradshaw?

And on that note I'll say, I am sure I am not the only one at home alone on this -20 degree night in Chicago but it sure feels like it.


Not totally unrelated: while I was writing this I was looking up some stuff on feminist relationships and though I didn't find much that related to what I am feeling right now, I discovered this fabulous blog and really felt the need to share. I have high hopes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dr. Phil Duo

I need to get another job. This can be evidenced by the fact that I have been watching too much Dr. Phil. What is so fascinating about this is that I watched episodes on Thursday and Friday which were just so strikingly sexist, particularly in relationship to one another, that I almost couldn't believe it.

On Thursday Robin McGraw, Dr. Phil's wife, had the opportunity to tell women what we need to do to look ten years younger during an oh-so-tired makeover show. Apparently all it takes to be a happier menopausal woman is microderm abrasion, teeth whitening, cellulite reduction cream, velashaping (?), eyebrow sculpting, 'natural' hormone therapy, not eating, a gym membership, working out in the proper (name brand) gear, an iPod, sunglasses, perfume, high heels, bubble baths, a cocktail dress, a crap-load of make up and a haircut. (Seriously, all of these things were mentioned!)

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The show featured five 40-50 year old women who were unhappy with their appearance.
"I've become a frumpy mom... I'm not feeling pretty anymore!"
Dr. Phil's only apparent reason for even being in this episode seemed to be to illustrate the contrast between men and women. Every time Robin named off some inane new beauty treatment he would shake his head in that condescending "oh you silly women" way. He joked many times about how women just like to be pretty and thin, blah, blah, blah. He lectured the women about going to the gym (one of them moaned about weighing 130 lbs!) AND he consistently referred to them as 'girls!' Remember, they were all between 40 and 50!!

Near the end of the show all of the women came out to show their new make overs. The audience applauded vigorously when Robin announced that one of the women was now a size 4. Now all of these viewers have learned that being a size 4 is how women are valued in mass media, this is the only reason that this woman made it onto broadcast television. This revelation sequence was my very favorite part because the first thing Dr. Phil did was ask the women's husbands how they thought that their wives looked. He didn't ask the women how they felt or what they thought. No, he was much more concerned with whether their torturous beauty rituals had succeeded in making their fat, balding husbands' dicks hard. Job well done! And of course, all of this was presented as being some great treat for all of these women.

Another portion of the show was spent at the mall. Robin showed viewers how to shop so that you can look years younger! She did this with her token gay man and her vacuous Barbie-doll-looking daughter-in-law.

Heternormativity, misogyny and class privilege all smashed into one hour long show. Well done!


The show on Friday was seemingly very different in its focus. However, if you pay attention to the subtext the connection becomes very clear.

The first part of the show was about Adam who is $200,000 in debt. Adam's family thinks that he is too concerned with material things. He claimed (and no one really disagreed) that "it's all about image." I am assuming he meant life.

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He would buy himself new vehicles at an alarming rate and he went to the tanning salon and got his hair done before being on the show. These things apparently demonstrate his obsession with his image. Dr. Phil's advice for him?

"Why do you care so much about what people think?
"Why do you need that Hummer to perceive yourself as okay?"
"Don't be that shallow, don't define yourself by that stuff."

Now remember that just one day earlier he and his wife were encouraging women to do those very things!! To absorb themselves in their image, to allow their possessions to define them, to be extremely concerned with their outward appearance. Now when a man is perceived as doing those very same things, he is told that that is unacceptable. He should not be so concerned with material things or with his appearance. No, that is the burden that only women must bear.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Another Sexist and Rape-y Advertisement

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Only days ago, I was a guest speaker in an Intro to Women's Studies course. I spoke to the students about gender representations in advertising (think Jean Kilbourne). I sure do wish I had had this one for my Power Point.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Romance Vs. Career

I desperately want to be one of these women. Or maybe that's just an effect of a messy break up. I really don't want that. And I don't really buy into the idea that they are dichotomous.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Adventures in Wifeswapping: Update!!

I e-mailed a link to my last post to Angie (the 'ultra feminist'). I was glad to hear back from her because she cleared up a few things for me. Teaching Alicia to cook and be a waitress were apparently the only things Angie was allowed by the show to do during the portion where the wives are allowed to change the other family's rules. Actually, I'll just post some of what she said and let her words speak for themselves.

"Another major sticking points [sic] I had was that they only ways I could get Ralph to approve of changing was to allow her to serve and cook- while I enjoy cooking, I certainly would have preferred anything to traditional stereotypical roles- but then again, you saw what I had to work with.

What I really wanted was to take off her make up and let her see what was really underneath and to see what she was so scared of. But she was forbidden by her parents to appear on camera without her full face on..."

I also would have loved to see this child without so much make up. It is really sad that Angie was unable to do anything that might have affected real change in their lives AND in the lives of viewers who have no experience with feminism.

The biggest accomplishment of Alicia (in her own estimation) by the end of the program was that she, a freshman, was going to the junior prom. So we can already see how important male approval is to this poor child.

Another lesson here: 'reality TV' is far from being real. It is, in actuality, whatever will be most profitable to ABC.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Adventures in Wife Swapping

Another perk of being in Green Bay is that ABC's always enlightening "WifeSwap" airs at 12:30 a.m. so in my insomnia I was able to watch it last night. This week's episode featured an "ultra feminist" and a "pageant princess." I valued the opportunity to learn what the mainstream media considers to be feminism and of course I was not disappointed. Angie the "ultra feminist" was also a preacher/stay at home mother (I assume) who homeschooled her three daughters seemed to consider feminism teaching her daughters about women's history, how to take care of a car, and how to stay away from make up, short skirts and those other trappings of femininity. Nothing wrong with any of that of course, but there is NO WAY that is "ultra feminism." If that is ultra feminism what is Catharine MacKinnon?

A few highlights from the show were when the other wife, the pageant mom Karen, told Angie's husband that learning how to wear make up and pleasing men were "Just things she is learning for the future." Of course in our culture she isn't necessarily wrong but rather than challenge that notion at all, she goes to the other extreme and has the most vacuous, self centered, helpless, and frankly stupid child I have ever seen. (Granting of course that this is television and so spectacle is the whole point.)

The word "feminist" was used 15 times in the show (by my rough count) and it was always used as a descriptive word. They never bothered to explain what they meant or why Angie is a feminist, though she does frequently call herself one.

By far my favorite part of the show was the throw down between Angie and Alicia's (pageant princess) father. He seemed to believe that asking his daughter to cook or to be respectful to waitstaff was degrading. Here is what he told Angie:
"I'd like to see your husband... how can he live with you you feminist pig!"
"You are degrading her you feminist pig."
Ouch. And all because she had the audacity to suggest that his daughter is not a piece of meat.

His wife was scarcely better. She tried to get Angie's daughters to 'sparkle' by which she meant put on make up, short skirts and be in pageants. I was pleased to see that Angie's eldest daughter was not easily swayed but it was horribly unfortunate that her middle child fell for it hook line and sinker. AND that by the end Angie and her husband even seemed to approve of it. Remember, she is ABC's version of a feminist. Here are a few things that Alicia's mother told Angie's daughters:
-That being a feminist meant "being ugly and ruling the world."
-That feminism is squashing the 6-year-old's dream
-That feminism is turning them into boys
-And "its not a crime to be pretty"

The most unfortunate thing about this show is that for folks who are not well acquainted with feminism (and being in Green Bay I can say with some confidence, that is most people) this is going to be their introduction. That is frightening. However, I didn't expect much better from ABC.