Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category


August 10, 2007

quite possibly the most effective weapon ever developed during the great blog wars (2003-….).


the banality of fantasy

August 9, 2007

(from Idealizing Fantasy Bodies, at the Iris Network)

i hate to admit it, but i play a fair amount of world of warcraft. i’m not ashamed that i enjoy the game – it really is a great way to connect with friends across the country – its just… i feel like i fell in with the wrong crowd. wow gamers are notoriously sexist. and homophobic (not only by player behavior – even game design and blizzard’s treatment of LBGT guilds plays a role).

i find it ironic that fantasy is often a conservative genre, playing with narrow concepts of history and tradition. history, to me, is a robust place, filled with forgotten possibilities. even supposedly simple traditions are the product of diversity that was pruned as a narrow approach won out. it is honestly a shame that these carryover stereotypes go unchallenged.

take the bodies of characters in world of warcraft. it is fairly clear that the designers chose to make models that fit ‘idealized’ human forms. bulky men. hourglass women. even the non-human fantasy races follow these roles – completely ignoring the diversity of body forms between males and females in the animal kingdom, or even the varying gender roles of men and women in human history.

if even our dreams and fantasies are so constrained, what hope is there for our lives?

wish i had said that #105

September 18, 2006

“you cum like a girl”

…comedian cathy carson’s signature line in her acts.  you can even buy it on her website.  this, however, has started an intellectual property war of the strangest dimensions (documented in LA weekly).  carson tried to trademark the phrase, but was denied by the Patrick Shanahan, the investigating US attorney…

Citing Section 2 (a) of the Trademark Act, Carlson’s application to register the phrase “You cum like a girl” had been refused on the grounds of being “scandalous” and “vulgar,” with the phrase’s offending verb defined as a “vulgar slang term for ejaculation at the time of orgasm.” Shanahan provided examples of similar rejections and explained why other attempts to register phrases with “cum” passed muster and Carlson’s didn’t. He also suggested why the word “orgasm” might make a suitable PG-13 replacement.

he also apparently emailed photos of women covered in ejaculate as support for the decision.  which, since the phrase has nothing to do with semen… is odd.

at feministing.   at feminist law profs.

feminism fights jaberwocky, jaberwocky now cuddly

August 17, 2006

since the weekend, i’ve been having a series of interminable debates on sexism in america. among which, i keep being told:

no men truly want to be with feminists. all men really want is to be with a submissive little twit.

this, i think, is like comparing eating Krispy Kreme for the rest of your life, or having only complete and healthy meals, though entirely free of refined sugar. i can understand the attraction for a weekend, but in 20 years? i doubt i’d make it a month.

if that answer seems shallow, it is because a full explanation requires a jaberwocky, several thousand years of philosophy, and a pizza. more below.


why i’m rather picky

August 14, 2006

this weekend was fairly insightful. by late saturday night, i finally realized the source of my dating problems.

on friday, two girls and i meet up with some guys, lets call them torvald and HH. they’re both in their 20s, though neither is that cute (t suffers from early balding). since my roommate wants to sleep with one of them, my job for friday was to play the wingman. (keep in mind, the other girl and i had no idea who they were.)

by the end of the night, the torvald character had me in a virtually loony-tunes level of wrath. (i pictured taking out an oversized acme sledgehammer and shotputting him off the roof of the building). i’d never heard ‘pussy’ and ‘vagina’ used as an insult so many times. the attempted conversation about strippers went on well past the point where it was funny, and just started to make my skin crawl. but what set me over was the joke about sexually assaulting one of the girls we were with. at this point, wingman be damned, i mocked the guy into submission. he remained quiet for the rest of the night. (seeing a sexist deflate: priceless.) the roommate wholeheartedly (and a little drunkenly) agreed.

then, saturday. at the bar, i met a girl who thought many women used abortion as a form of contraception (as in, this was the source of most abortions [wrong]). not a feminist, because sexism is “pretty much over”. literally right as she said this, across the bar, two of the girls we were out with got offered $1,000 each for prostituting themselves. they run back, creeped out, and the anti-choicer doesn’t make the connection. (demeaning? huh?)

at that moment, i realized my problem. i refuse to associate with people who have the sexual politics of a viking raid.  i just don’t want to deal with non-feminists. i can’t stand women who expect me to act like torvald and HH. i don’t (i hope), i won’t, and while i won’t knock what gets people off… just… not with me, ok?


email naming conventions and marriage

July 24, 2006

from my friend group’s forums:

many of us have emails, mainly gmail, that we plan to keep for…well, indefinitely.  and these are often some combination of first name and last name.  i feel like we’re around the first generation getting these things before marriage.  will people who change their names change their emails as well?  Will fewer people change their name b/c of things like email and online identities that are already established?

this is certainly part of a general trend of having a more established adult identity before marriage.  we’re getting married later, farther into our careers, more settled into our lives, and so every change has a new depth to it.  you hear snippets of the light side of this – whose apartment?  whose couch?  its the substance of sitcoms.  and then there are the biggies – whose city?  whose career move?  enter feminist literature and marriage counselors.

but marriage and last names have this special significance.  it is part of identity.  rejecting the idea of becoming mrs “john smith”, my mother kept her maiden name.  but we kids got dad’s surname.  moving another step, my roommate has a hyphenated last name.  which, i hope, is a one-generation solution (because nancy abravanel-greer-…-hoffman is unwieldy).  two of my friends picked a new last name to start their family with, neither being terribly happy with the ones they had.  almost instinctively, upon hearing this, everyone questions their relationship with their families.  i know a few people with their mother’s surname.

of course, on the forums, things had to get more complex:

Guys out there, how open to that idea would you be if your wife proposed [using her surname for the children]?  Some of the guys I’ve talked with seemed to think that was too radical and preferred the patriarchal naming scheme “because it’s traditional”

d’oh.  my instinctive reaction was shock.  i have a strong family identity around our name.  it symbolizes a lot to me, a sense of togetherness that unites a family separated by thousands of miles.  we’ve traced the family back generations (even finding a 15th century relative in italy).  we have an interesting family lore about the name changing when great-grandpa immigrated from greece.  i feel that it is part of our story.

of course, there is no reason that this story should just be traced through the men.  and its sort of delusional, i suppose.  family reunions have at least four (major) last names, and i don’t share a surname with some of the relatives i feel closest to.

in the end, i wish i could say i would be totally fine with it, but i really don’t know.  it isn’t quite as simple as ‘whats in a name’. 

[update: for women in academia, how possible is it to change last names, once your work is known under the maiden name?  given paired names, i suppose one could check how difficult ‘making a name for yourself’ can be, based on citation patterns… hmm.  i know doctors experience lots of red tape for name changes.]

[update2:  doing more reading, and something bothers me.  all this ‘it is easier for the children‘ stuff is junk.  mom and dad have different last names.  never felt like less of a family.  we even have different religions, races, birthparents… still a family.  generally, seems like the consensus is vanity / clerical.  odd, no?  still seems complex to me.]

patriarchy claims another

July 20, 2006

a husband suspects his wife had an abortion and lied, and the advice given is outright amazing:

These are problems of emotion and hope and living, human problems, rather than a problem of whether she did something wrong or not. And this work may require you to think of the connections between your life up till now and your relationship with your wife; things that you consider unrelated may come up unexpectedly. You will need to make a good-faith effort to see how these things are related.

and then it makes it onto pandagon, where it becomes a bit nasty, i think.what purpose does this post serve on pandagon? i don’t know more about feminism as a result of it. its not deep enough for that. this certainly isn’t newsworthy. it isn’t quite a parable. its a witch hunt. a chance for the faithful to stone someone, to affirm who they are. there really isn’t enough here to assume (as some commenters do) that he’s a jerk, and responses seem to be more about assumptions than anything else. its like a slightly skewed rorschach inkblot.

i know communities do this all the time. i have a sense of the psychological functions it serves. still, a little disheartening. at some point, it looks like we’re defining ourselves and our goodness by who we exclude, rather than who we care for and the kindness we offer. i appologize if this post violates my own rules.

[full disclosure: this sounds like a trust/communication issue to me, with a whole debate being grafted onto that.]

satire (the end of it)

July 12, 2006
between the dead baby jokes, racist stories, and sexist comments, my group of friends is pretty hard to understand. for us, every bit of it is satire. the anti-semitic jokes come from my friend who is deeply in love with the daughter of a rabbi (and strongly jewish herself). the sexist comments come from the guys who head to marches for women’s rights and are NOW members. while our weekly thursday party in college was called ladies night, we all understood it as a joke. sure, by senior year it was a pick-up party for both sexes, but we named it sophomore year, when it was 9 guys getting drunk and watching cartoons of talking fast food.

so meeting us now is a bit like jumping in mid-conversation. without the history, none of it makes sense. this happens in all conversations, of course. wandering around town, i pick up bits and pieces of conversations, and its not uncommon to hear just the wrong thing at just the wrong moment, and really start to wonder. especially if you have strong expectations.

on a related note, reading through pharyngula today, i found out that one man’s satire is another man’s reality. i think there is actually much more going on here than is discussed. way back, i wrote an article on hell houses where i inappropriately cited a satirical site as a real hell house (i can’t find the old article). the satire, to me, looked entirely believeable as authentic. it was just one step further than everything else i’d read. at this point, reading the real stuff about hell houses, i was too shocked. it looked like nothing was outside the realm of possible anymore. [i’ll admit, i was also being a lazy writer and should have source checked the article – the fault really is mine, but even my editors and peer reviewers thought it was authentic, which says something about the universality of being blindsided by something so alien .]

i imagine something like this happened to this pete fellow at march together. a bit worse, since most of us know what the onion is. [side note: maybe he’s too close to it, but why not say “honest mistake” and move on? (he didn’t)]. i just wish the whole affair was a bit tempered. as-is, comments are like pointing at a train wreck and laughing.

but this just keeps happening. my college roommate and i have a longstanding debate about Maxim. i think its satire. i just can’t read that junk at face value. he thinks its offensive. i read the articles and laugh, because they’re preposterous from my point of view. i understand that people read them seriously, and i haven’t got a clue what the editor thinks, but its not the material thats offensive (to me), its how people read it that bothers me. if everyone read it and laughed, i’d be quite content. (he thinks its inherently offensive, and that i’m not actually reading it and laughing, but that at some level it reinforces my latent sexist worldview – even though he accepts that i’m a feminist. its a complex argument, with a very different idea of thinking, as i understand him).

i can’t claim to have insight from The Book (of erdos) that locks this one up, but pieces keep falling into place. in college, the super-self-involved theatre crowd became obsessed with the notion of “post-ironic”. not being in the conversation (and thinking they were all pompous jerks anyway), i mocked the very idea of the term. but thinking it over, its a workable concept. more than a few people i know date the death of irony sometime around when henry kissinger was awarded the nobel peace prize. its not just that the joke can’t be topped. we’re just too shocked. most english classes shrug off swift’s a modest proposal. today’s cheers and jeers starts with a letter about the flag and i can imagine it stated earnestly. or this liberty with a cross statue, which is the sort of thing used to mock someone, not something they go and build themselves. same deal with the homosexuality conversation referenced below.

the size of the shock betrays the real cause. when the premises of perspectives radically differ, and when they’ve been developed in isolation from other conversations, satire is effecively DOA. i wonder what other forms of communication are killed too. (abrupt ending, i know, but this is an unwieldy post as-is)


two notes:
(1) the same is pretty much true of contemporary art. unless you trace the conversation the artisitic community is having with itself since WWI (debateable starting point) –> the present, it really looks like senseless garbage. ‘postmodern’ authors are in the same boat (i think).
(2) nothing about this means to say i don’t think some premises belong exclusively to yahoos.