Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

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pro-lifers can be rendered speechless

July 31, 2007

…when you ask them what would be a proper punishment for women who have abortions if they became illegal. Truly amazing stuff.

UPDATE: I can’t embed the YouTube video anymore, but you can watch it here.

Via Feministe. Read Anna Quinden’s piece and then Jill’s commentary at Feministe. They said it better than I could.

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dudes declare sexual assault funny as long as the victims are men

July 30, 2007

I’m guest blogging at Feministe this week! Check me out. And check out this entry over there for discussion, it’s cross-posted.

It’s humor so this warning may seem strange – this video is potentially triggering.

I was wary of posting this video for fear of directing more traffic to it. When I saw how many people have already watched it (it has nearly three million views on YouTube and counting), I figured it might be worth the attention. “Bro rape” has achieved mass popularity among (mostly) white college students for reasons I don’t entirely understand. Offensive stuff aside – and I’ll get to that in a minute – I actually just don’t find it funny.

The video is supposedly a parody of Dateline NBC’s programs about catching pedophiles. The Derrick Comedy group, made up of a group of NYU grads, write and perform pretty typical white college student humor, involving alcohol and sex jokes and always tinged with tones of sarcasm and self-mocking.

For those of you who don’t care to watch, here’s the opening bit. After a pretty gross fake rape scene, the fake news announcer jumps in (camera frozen on a “bro” being raped by a fellow “bro”):

It’s a type of rape that’s gone overlooked for decades. And it’s risen 44% in the last year. I’m talking, of course, about bro rape. What is a bro? A bro is an 18-24 year old male who wears Birkenstock sandals, watches Family Guy, plays ultimate Frisbee, and wears an upside-down visor or a baseball cap with a pre-frayed brim. You know, a bro. For every suburban house party, four bros will be raped, and only one in seven bros will tell their boys what happened the next day. As a result, most bro rapes go unreported.

The skit continues with the fake news team luring “bros” on the internet to come to “Chad’s place” to do dudely things. The reporter then rifles through each culprit’s bag, finding dudely items like gamecubes, beer, Axe deodorant and always a big black dildo, at which point the bro is considered caught. If someone can fill me in on why this is so funny that three million people have watched it, please do.

The skit ends with another fake rape scene. News flash to privileged college boys: rape is REAL. Men have been and continue to be victims of sexual assault. This is a pretty ugly contribution to the stigma men face around being rape victims. It mocks and silences male survivors of sexual assault, all of whom deal with the same crap as female victims plus all the feelings around not being real men because real men, straight men, don’t get sexually assaulted. And here’s why this video is silencing male survivors of assault – a group of college boys can make a video mocking male sexual assault that millions of people watch and find hilarious and not feel guilty about it because sexual assault against men is somehow not real. It’s almost as if the reason this sort of comedy is allowed is because it is so far from the realm of possibility. Everyone knows it’s not funny to mock sexual assault against women. Men, of course, are fair game. The reason it’s so funny is because it could never happen, right? A straight man could never rape another straight man. Right, except that most of the perpetrators of sexual assault against men are heterosexual. All of this humor rests on the fact that it is mocking something the creators deem impossible. This is dangerous territory for three million viewers.

Is it possible that they are mocking their own masculinity as a performance in and of itself? The opening lines from the newscaster I blockquoted above are some of the funniest lines in the skit, I think. It is a pretty impressive feat to have a group of boys who possess an overly heterosexual masculinity and style be able to step back and mock themselves. But are they simply reasserting their heterosexuality by mocking the idea of male sexual assault? I’m also curious about what makes this college humor among (mostly) white students. There is also be a bizarre race thread in this skit – why are most of the bros white (with one exception) and all the big dildos black? Mocking rape survivors, racism, homophobia, hints of sexism. And huge popularity with little criticism. What am I missing here?

Crossposted to Feministe

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on femme invisibility and street harassment

July 21, 2007

There’s been a great deal of fantastic blogging about street harassment (SH) over at Feministe – first, a post on SH with a focus on queers and one about SH and race/class, both courtesy of Jack, who is guest blogging this week. I don’t usually read the comments underneath the posts – mostly I don’t have the time or the energy. My ears perk up, though, when I see nuanced writing about an issue that is not explicitly queer that includes queer perspectives on it. Jack asks towards the end of her post:

And then I always think – how do visually feminine women, who get way more of this than me, deal? How do femmes and other feminine queer women handle that on the daily?

While I can wax theoretical for hours and hours around other queers about my experience as a femme, I haven’t had much experience doing it with straight women. (sidenote: the vast majority of the women who comment at Feministe are straight – case in point, Jack gives her queer perspective, asks for others to give theirs, but with a few exceptions, the thread ends up being dominated by a discussion of whether a man should be allowed to give a polite compliment on the street – as in, is it a man’s tone or the mere fact that he’s talking to a strange woman that makes me feel degraded and violated?).

Maybe I’m just exercising caution. The differences between straight femininity and queer femininity are pretty huge but nuanced, especially to the naked (i.e. straight) eye. Hell, the differences between how white women and WOC experience femininity are also huge and complicated and I wouldn’t even know how to touch that. I can only talk about my own experiences as a white femme and admit that I share some of those experiences with white straight women. I fear that when I talk about empowerment or “reclamations” of femininity or especially about how I relate to masculine partners, I will hear the dreaded “why is your experience any different than a straight one?”

This is actually exactly what happened at Feministe. I posted this and then got this response. Read it if you like, the gist is that I wrote something about invisibility and about the complications of queer femininity becoming lost on the street and that catcalling further invisibilizes the queerness. The responder rightfully asks, how is your experience any different from a straight one?

I can’t speak for straight women. I don’t know what makes up their personal reaction to catcalling. I would guess that if you are normatively gendered, you don’t necessarily think and obsess about your gender presentation the way queers do and you certainly don’t feel your gender being erased in the same way. After all, I experience my gender as mostly synthetic and unnatural and in that way, it is pretty fragile.

I am not saying that straight women do not obsess about appearance. I’m saying that as a queer feminist, I’ve gone through phases and thought long and hard about what femininity means in the world and the ways that it’s been oppressive and powerful and sometimes both and the ways that I, personally, have experienced it as both. I’ve also obsessed over what it means to have a queer perspective on the world, looking out from inside a body that often passes as straight. And the answer, over and over again, is about invisibility. My answer about SH was not about straight women, it had nothing to do with straight women. And maybe I just need to make peace with the fact that straight women can and do relate to some of my words. (And blah blah identity politics we can have overlapping experiences and still be different people.)

At the same time, queer femmes walk around all day long being taken for something we are not. We’re misread as straight, and of course enjoy the privileges that come along with that, and also are included in the joys of SH. This asshole comes along, “hey baby, hey sexy,” and it’s like boom, again, hit me when I’m already down and already feel like I don’t exist. If the femme experiences of femininity is “empowerment,” there’s nothing more disempowering than a strange man telling you you’re sexy. (And for the record, I hate the word empowerment but I can’t think of anything better. I wouldn’t hate it so much if the fucking Pussycat Dolls and white middle-class pole dancers hadn’t co-opted it.)

And now the navel-gazing must come to an end, please go read and take part in the discussion about SH and race/class issues – namely about why sites like HollaBack seem to be dominated by stories of white women being harassed by men of color.

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a fetus a day keeps the doctor away

July 11, 2007

Remember the story about the “fetus” that was found at a golf course in Queens (which later turned out to be a maxi pad)? This story trumps that one, I think. On many levels.

A fetus was found in a bag in the girls’ locker room at a school in Dallas! OMG! Except it was just a rotten orange. Crazy much? Why is it assumed that teenage girls are promiscuous sluts who are not only careless enough to get pregnant but who would leave the fetus in their locker? Whatever happened to absent-minded teenagers who leave food to rot in their lockers?

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon gives some excellent context:

Anyway, Bush-appointed members of the FDA believe that there’s a likelihood of emergency contraception-based teenage sex cults, so why would it be such a leap to imagine that junior high girls are running around having sex with the boys and escaping the due punishment by with Sapphic abortion parties in the girls locker room? It’s not like the Bush administration would have members that had a poor grasp on reality, right? The way the war is going certainly demonstrates that. Why I bet these teenage girls today with their girl power and their Title IX are able to self-abort by playing Britney Spears records backwards. That’s how far this country has fallen, due to the feminist infiltrators.

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Why I support the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights

June 5, 2007

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In the 1960’s and 70’s, the women’s movement empowered (mostly) middle-class, white women to recognize “the problem that has no name.” The problem, of course, was that domestic work had no intrinsic value. These women did work, hard work, for no recognition and certainly for no pay. It was and continues to be considered unskilled labor. I’d like to revisit Friedan for a minute. Feminist historical context seems key in this discussion, and text always helps me.

Just what was this problem that has no name? What were the words women used when they tried to express it? Sometimes a woman would say “I feel empty somehow . . . incomplete.” Or she would say, “I feel as if I don’t exist.” Sometimes she blotted out the feeling with a tranquilizer. Sometimes she thought the problem was with her husband or her children, or that what she really needed was to redecorate her house, or move to a better neighborhood, or have an affair, or another baby. Sometimes, she went to a doctor with symptoms she could hardly describe: “A tired feeling. . . I get so angry with the children it scares me . . . I feel like crying without any reason.” (A Cleveland doctor called it “the housewife’s syndrome.”) A number of women told me about great bleeding blisters that break out on their hands and arms. “I call it the house wife’s blight” said a family doctor in Pennsylvania. “I see it so often lately in these young women with four, five and six children who bury themselves in their dishpans. But it isn’t caused by detergent and it isn’t cured by cortisone.” (Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique).

Many argue that Friedan’s book sparked the American second-wave feminist movement. The Feminine Mystique urged middle-class white women to get out of the house, to find fulfillment the way that their husbands do. Instead of critiquing a culture that has devalued traditional women’s work,” Friedan put all the value on men’s work, outside of the home and in an office, where training and skill is required and where the boundary between work life and personal life is clearly drawn. I realize I am being harsh on Friedan, but go with me for a second. Perhaps these women felt unfulfilled by their work because our culture is fraught with sexism and does not have the tools with which to understand the importance and weight of domestic work in both our day-to-day lives and in the long-term.

Fast-forward 30 years. Where are we now? The 1970’s into the 80’s saw a dramatic shift in the professional world. Middle-class women were leaving home to work in offices; feminism has won out! But who inherited the burden of the domestic work these women left behind? Children were still being born; homes still needed to be cleaned; dinner still needed to be cooked. And while second-wave feminism certainly left its mark, we continue to have a second-shift phenomenon. Families struggle with day care, cleaning on the weekends, etc. 200,000 households in the New York-metro area rely on outside help from nannies, housecleaners, and elderly care givers. The domestic burden did not disappear after the 1970’s. It merely shifted from middle-class white women to working-class immigrant women of color. And as Americans, we continue to not understand how to value and respect domestic work.

I’ve written about this before extensively so I don’t want to repeat myself. The Domestic Worker Bill of Rights is the only sensible next step in teaching ourselves and each other how to value traditional women’s work. The “problem that has no name” is not bored housewives. It is the continued devaluation of work essential to the functioning and success of New York City and everyone who works here. This city would simply not run without them, it is just that simple. Support the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. If you are in New York, join Domestic Workers United (DWU) this Thursday, June 7th at 6:30 PM at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, for what promises to be an amazing Town Hall event.

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Long Island couple accused of abusing domestic workers

May 17, 2007

Just another reason why domestic workers need a Bill of Rights. A Long Island couple has been charged with abusing, underpaying, and overworking two Indonesian domestic workers. From the NYTimes:

Police and federal immigration agents developed the case against the couple after one of the women, identified only as “Samirah” in court papers, was seen wandering near a Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Syosset on Sunday morning, wearing only pants and wrapped in a towel. Her face was bruised, and when shop employees tried to communicate with her, she made gestures of slapping herself and uttering what sounded to them like the word “master,” prosecutors said.

The police took Samirah to Nassau University Medical Center, where, with the help of an Indonesian translator, she told them that she and a second woman, identified in papers only as “Nona,” were forced by the Sabhnanis to work long hours, given little food, forced to sleep on mats on the floor, kept hidden when company came, threatened with violence, and in Samirah’s case, frequently beaten by Mrs. Sabhnani.

Nice. So now I want the mainstream feminists to pay close attention: there are over 200,000 domestic workers in the NY metro-area – I don’t even know what the numbers look like for the whole country. They are almost exclusively immigrant women of color. And they are not covered by labor laws. Talk about not valuing women’s work.

If we could pull our attention away from the pressing opt-out myth discussion for just a second and wonder who takes the place of these middle- and upper-class parents when they “opt” to go back to work? Where are the rallying cries from the feminists about double-standards, frighteningly low wages for care work (women’s work), immigrant domestic workers being blackmailed by their employers because they don’t have papers?

Plans are under way for a blog for domestic workers day on Tuesday, June 5th. Posts can range from personal stories to theory to political essays or any combination – the idea is to get the stories and issues around this important topic out of the domestic closet and into the public. These women have raised countless numbers of children who are not biologically theirs; they take care of elderly people who might otherwise have to move out of their apartments and into nursing homes; they also clean apartments so that people can work their 9-5 jobs and come home to a beautiful space. They work hard, they support their own families – and ALL of us, whether we are domestic workers ourselves, have a relative who is, were raised by one, grew up in a house with a “cleaning lady,” have elderly grandparents with live-in help, or simply understand that taking care of children and cleaning is difficult and thankless work, we are ALL connected to this issue in some way. Please consider joining me in this important project and check back into saltyfemme soon for updates – by next week, I’ll have pages for linking with the text of the Bill of Rights and information about the Town Hall event on June 7th at Judson Memorial Church here in NYC.

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connecting the abortion dots

April 27, 2007

WIMN’s Voices and Pandagon both have posts about an explosive device found yesterday at a women’s clinic in Austin, TX. If the actual story wasn’t infuriating enough, both posts are ranting about the paltry news coverage that this story received. (a 97-word AP story is about all there was). Keely Savoie at WIMN only knew about the story because a friend in Austin, “where it was covered with all the fanfare of a traffic accident,” passed on the news to her.

Zuzu at Feministe questions the selectivity in American definitions of “terrorism.”

For some reason, terrorism doesn’t count if it’s directed against women and their health care providers. It’s just not news, and the fact that it goes unremarked in the national media — and hell, even in the local media, as in the case of the Austin bomb — contributes to the idea that women are not important and that violence directed at women is not only to be expected, but to be dismissed.

It should be no shock to anyone that terrorism is defined racially and nationalistically – not according to the characteristics of the crime, but who is being threatened and who is doing the threatening. In this case, the lowest of the low – not just women but women seeking abortions – are being threatened. Their lives are clearly of no import.

I just can’t believe the number of newspieces and blog posts I’ve seen lately highlighting how little women’s lives actually matter. I can’t believe the hypocrisy of anti-choicers who go batshit about the lives of zygotes and fetuses and not the women carrying them (who are clearly just incubators). I love the guy who says that ultimately he has more unconditional love for his unborn child than his wife because he shares genetic material with the fetus. Or how about Mississippi, the safest place in America to be an unborn child but one of the worst if you are a low-income woman (and probably a woman of color) trying to access prenatal care? How long will it take until we start connecting the dots and realize that this so-called “culture of life” is a total sham?

I just started reading journalist Eyal Press’ fantastic book Absolute Convictions, a combination history of the anti-choice movement, social history of the city of Buffalo, and biography of his father, an ob-gyn and a colleague of Dr. Barnett Slepian, who was murdered in Buffalo in 1998. Press seamlessly links the closing factories, the declining faith in the labor movement, economic decline, a resurgence of fundamentalist Christianity, and rising racial tensions with the emergence of the anti-choice movement. In the end, women and the medical professionals who care for them pay the price for this lethal combination. Perhaps we need to do more than raise an eyebrow when explosives are sent to a clinic in Austin and start seeing this problem in more systemic terms.