Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cats imitating dogs

My cats have been begging to go outside since the weather got nice, so my partner and I finally relented last week. T (above, in catnip) was thrilled and immediately began rubbing himself all over every new surface before going on hourlong adventures independent of us. After exerting himself, he came back looking like this:

Yup. T pants like a dog. Our vet has witnessed this and doesn't seem concerned, so we proceeded to encourage it, because it's hilarious.

Soon, he convinced August (who is much shyer than him) to join him on one of his escapades. August came back to show us his new trick:


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Women writers

My mom almost never reads male writers. I know she does occasionally – we’ve discussed one of my favorites, East of Eden, recently. But there are so many books by women that are in need of readership and discussion.

As a feminist and a writer, I’ve consistently failed to follow her example– last year, I read 38 books total and only six were by women. This is unacceptable to me. I need to support other women who write and not favor male writers buoyed by critical and commercial acclaim.

This year, I set my reading goals high: 50 books, at least 20 (40%) by women. I expected this to be a challenge, but it’s actually enlivened and encouraged my reading. Since I made this resolution at the beginning of April, I’ve read 14 books, 11 by women. It’s never a challenge to find lively, interesting, original books by women writers in any genre – be it comics, history, fiction, or memoir.

I’m going to try to review at least one women writer every Wednesday. You can see what I’m reading and have read by looking at my Goodreads profile. Later today: The Hemingses of Monticello, by Annette Gordon-Reed.

Illustration for Bitch Magazine by Meg Hunt

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Supreme Court Nomination

Obama picks liberal lady for Souter's Supreme Court opening!

I have loved the Supreme Court for a long time. My childhood hero was Sandra Day O'Connor and my cat is named after Thurgood Marshall. One of the highlights of my senior year was meeting Justice Sam Alito (whom I don't even like, but it was still thrilling). So, yeah, I'm excited for the hearing.

High recommendation from conservative folks:
“Judge Sotomayor is a liberal activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written,” said Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, an activist group. “She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one’s sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”
I'm not sure how one is supposed to extricate things that make up your worldview (such as sex, race, and ethnicity) from one's decisions. Is Ms. Long basically proposing that Sotomayor scrub her judicial and personal experience as a Latina woman and subscribe instead to the (white, male) norm?

I'm also encouraged by this:
Mr. Obama telephoned Judge Sotomayor at 9 p.m. on Monday, officials said, advising her that she was his choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Later Monday night, Mr. Obama called the three other finalists — Judge Diane P. Wood of Chicago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Solicitor General Elena Kagan — to inform them that he had selected Judge Sotomayor.
All four under consideration were women, meaning that this is not a Harriet Miers situation. Obama - unlike Bush - understands the importance of balancing the highest court of the land and reflecting the diversity of our great nation.

[New York Times]

Friday, May 22, 2009

Won't someone please think of the children?

I know you can't get enough of fake bangs for your infant. If you're desperate to entrench beauty standards and gender roles from the cradle, you need this accessory. What's worse than being mistaken for the other sex?

But what about the boys? They're always so overlooked, after all. Whoever will think of their self-esteem? Who will protect them from gender fluidity?

Now, there's a solution:

And for the older boy or sociopath:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Political correctness

Keeping up on one's politically correct terms sometimes seems futile - every term will eventually be pejorative and outdated eventually. As an ally and a holder of most privileges, it's necessary to know about respectful language and terms in attempting to hold a discussion and increase my knowledge on these views.

But it's hard. Terms can go from polite, to being co-opted by schoolkids, to being pejorative in less than a decade - I'm never sure whether I, as a cis, straight person should say queer or gay/lesbian or LGBTQ. In the context of college, where I had a lot of friends identifying as queer, I used queer. But now, living a more vanilla life, I'm more comfortable with LGBTQ.

I saw another example of this in the recently reviewed "Our Guys". Throughout the 1997 book about the 1989 rape of a developmentally challenged teen, author Bernard Lufkowitz uses the term "retarded" to describe the victim. The book is extremely sympathetic towards the victim, and Lufkowitz seems to be advocating from a feminist perspective. But his use of retarded, intended to be medically descriptive and respectful, dates the book immeasurably.

I remember that cisgendered (meaning someone whose gender identification is the same as their sex) seemed particularly silly to me when it was first introduced - alienating, academic, not rooted in colloquial language. I predicted that it would not be long for the PC world - it's good to have a term to describe that particular privilege, but it's not well defined and, as I said, unclear. What, exactly, is a body that's in line with gender identity? Are the only cis people those who were born in the sex that matches their gender? What about intersex persons?

A over at aelphaba today posted a terrific musing on being described by others as cisgendered:

Does the fact that I am currently presenting as female and I’ve never not wanted a vagina (penises are just inconvenient) mean that I am any less gender queer?

No. I have struggled with gender for the majority of my life. I have had panic attacks over it, I have sliced my skin over it, and I am fully aware of the difference between gender presentation and gender identity. The queer community should be too.
I choose to present as female, but female is not an identity that I claim. The problem with the term cisgendered is that it is a term that the queer community is using to apply to other people. This labeling is done under assumptions of presentation. I understand how the term “bio-female” might be taken the wrong way from the transgendered perspective, but I think that cisgendered is not a term that the queer community should be throwing around unless someone self-identifies as it.

I think that the idea of context is important here. It's not that you can't say that Rush Limbaugh isn't cis just because he hasn't formally claimed that term. But one needs to avoid applying this term to others in the context of a feminist/queer/womanist/whathaveyou discussion. Unless someone identifies with a specific group, assume that they are not in possession of that privilege.

A's situation to me is analogous to a light-skinned person of color or a person with a non-outwardly-incapacitating diseases such as fibromyalgia. (Just similar - not less or more or equally oppressive, necessarily). Though folks in this situation may seem to possess a privilege, you cannot assume the details of one's life story.

Read more here.

Vintage fellatio substitute

Via Feministing, here's a great collection of vintage sexist ads. The one above is interesting:

1) Lips = jewels. This is an old idea, but one that commodifies women's bodies/faces as material rather than personal/physical.

2) The lipstick is phallic, and she looks like she's about to go down on it. Why is it stationary and independent of her, rather than in her hands? Why are her eyes closed?

More here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Review: Jimmy Herring Band, 5/2/09, Visualite Theater, Charlotte, NC

Jimmy Herring, the best part of Widespread Panic (one of my favorites bands), performed a relaxed and proficient show with his eponymous band at the Visualite Theater on May 2. Though the Jimmy Herring Band isn't quite as rocking as WSP, they're sure to challenge any Spreadneck to stretch their musical boundaries for the better.

Panic, a bluesy Southern rock jam band, is an acquired taste that I urge you not to judge; their fratty sound is given depth and pathos by Herring's metal-influenced finger acrobatics. But the Jimmy Herring Band involves none of the above adjectives, instead choosing to go in a rock-jazz direction with Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge, keyboardist/vocalist Scott Kinsey, saxophonist Greg Osby, drummer Jeff Zipe (of Herring's other project, Jazz is Dead and Aquarium Rescue Unit), and guest flutist Kofi Burbridge (Oteil's brother). Thought the performance wasn't as compelling as a good Panic show, it was a buoyant show that had a lot to offer in multi layered collaboration between talented musicians.

The Visualite Theater is a small bar/venue in downtown Charlotte that's a major change of venue from the amphitheaters where I'm used to seeing Herring. Tapers, including Charles Fox and Z-Man, the major WSP tapers, took up a good portion of the landing directly in front of the stage. JHB went on very early, at about 9:15 - early because their website and the venue claimed a showtime of 9:30, sending my taper companion into a frenzy as he hit "record" literally seconds before the music began.

The relaxed and unhurried show began with "What If", taking a leisurely stroll around Herring's talents, and ended with Dawn, a sometimes exciting but overall uneven piece which highlighted keyboardist Kinsey's talents. The addition of Kofi Burbridge of the Derek Trucks Band was a mid-show highlight, with the minor-key "New Moon" and comparatively up-tempo "Only When it's Light". The peak came with Scapegoat Blues - the only song I really danced to. Herring and Oteil Burbridge were a delight to see up close, as they alternated intense musical challenges to one another with huge smiles. The entire show had, as they say, "good vibes".

Beyond Herring's acrobatics, Kinsey, Burbridge, and Osby also impressed with their technical proficiency and creativity. Thought the show was short (clocking in well under two hours) and nowhere near as rocking as Panic, JHB made for a musical palate cleanser that will interest any music fan.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Not wearing pantyhose? Not natural.

I love Michelle Obama, and I love the way she dresses. But man, I am sick to death of hearing about her limbs and how they reflect poorly on American Women. Especially from execrable new blog Double X in which Susannah Breslin tells me and Michelle Obama that if we didn't wear pantyhose, we were unstylish, not sufficently erotic, and basically on the level of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan:

Well, what the Obama-struck fail to acknowledge is that there is nothing casual—or natural—about a bare leg in 2009. Not in today’s medicalized beauty culture. Whereas pantyhose are lambasted as being constrictive and a colossal waste of money, going bare means a woman must consider waxing, exfoliation, firming creams, anti-cellulite and stretch-mark treatments, regular pedicures, and salon spray tans or self-tanners—yes, even for women of color...

I'm sorry. Is she saying that not wearing pantyhose is unnatural? And that those excessive treatments are not just an option, but a necessity?

Having cellulite is natural. Leg hair is natural. Stretch marks are natural. There is nothing that says that we must consider these things. I certainly didn't when I threw on a skirt this morning.

You know what's not natural? Pantyhose. If it were natural, we'd be born with nylon netting on our legs. But we're not.

It makes sense that a Double X writer would be so insistent about what's natural and what's not. After all, this is a magazine for natural women - anyone with an errant Y gene is automatically not natural, right?

Beyond that! Pantyhose is not "the ultimate in comfort and convenience". They're hot, and uncomfortable, and you can't wear open-toed shoes with them, and if you're tall (like me & Ms. Obama) they usually make your crotch about a foot long.

Also, citing a plastic surgeon as support? Really? Really? They're the ones we need to pay attention to when figuring out what beauty standards should be? And deciding that Ms. Obama is on the level of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan?

This piece might have been a little more excusable if we actually had to cover our legs for some reason beyond "u needz 2 b a ladee" - like in January, when it is cold. In May? It's about to be June. What sense does it make to stock up on hose now, when most people - probably even in the olden days, when we were proper - would go without hose.

There's nothing wrong with wearing pantyhose, if you feel so moved. I think it does add some polish to a look. But Michelle Obama is plenty polished, and this piece isn't just targeted at Ms. Obama - it's to all of us bare-legged Jezebels.

It's time to stop editorializing like wearing pantyhose is a feminine duty. It's time to stop acting like accessories are natural. They may be comfortable and stylish to some women, but they're uncomfortable for a lot of us. Sing the praises of pantyhose all you want , Breslin - but not in a way that scolds Ms. Obama for forgoing your standards.

Between the victim-blaming, the Friedan fetish, the transphobic name, and the new enforcement of obtuse beauty standards, Double X has about 35 years of catching up to do. Third wave's been around for over a decade now, folks. Let's move it.

h/t to Jessica Valenti

Monday, May 11, 2009

Unsettled sun

Starting the week with some optimistic beauty: The above video shows the never-setting sun's progress over a week of Arctic summer. The colors - blues, oranges, reds, and violets - change the way you see the lush landscape. Sometimes it looks like forests, sometimes like desert, and sometimes like outer space.

h/t [Neatorama]

Friday, May 8, 2009

Candies and the promotion of objectified abstinence

Kohl's in-store brand Candies has decided that the best way to protect against pregnancy is to encourage unmarried women to refrain from a natural bodily process - sexuality. The best way to do this? Wear shirts that promote their sexuality.

Not that virgins can' be sexy, or sexual. But the operative word in "sexy" And I don't think that Candies is promoting blow jobs or masturbation. If you're going to put pressure on women to absent sexuality from their lives, then why pressure them to continue to superficially embody the values of sexuality and sexiness. The emphasis on withholding as a sign of one's worth puts self-esteem outside and subject to male approval, rather than internal.

Candies is encouraging women to act as purely decorative things rather than fully active and adult women. They want them to be the object of male lust without returning the gaze. Candies and Kohls is encouraging women to disenfranchise themselves and trivialize their own sexuality. Rather than being agents in their own sexuality and engaging in an adult choice to be sexual or non-sexual, women should instead neglect their own needs or wants and embrace abstinence for the express purpose of fulfilling the narrow standard of "sexiness" put forth by white, skinny role models.

The sexism of this campaign is reinforced by the fact that Candies is actively targeting women and not men to embrace this doublespeak. Men are not sexy by refraining from sex. The sole responsibility is placed on women by Candies - as evidenced by their choice of exclusively female spokespersons for this campaign, and the shirts in question: they're tanks, modelled only by women. I have never seen a man wearing a graphic tank, ever.

Also, why has everyone decided that Bristol Palin is an appropriate abstinence spokesperson? I mean, seriously. She is case in point that the emphasis on abstinence is a ludicrous expectation of teenagers that does. not. work.

Meghan McCain has this to say:

"There’s an especially unhealthy attitude among conservatives. Daughters of Republican politicians aren’t expected to have sex, let alone enjoy it—as if there were some strange chastity belt automatically attached to us female offspring. God forbid anyone talk realistically about life experiences and natural, sexual instincts. Nope, the answer is always abstinence...

Here’s what I’ve never understood about the party: its resistance to discussing better access to birth control. As a Republican, I am pro-life. But using birth control and having an abortion are not the same at all. Actually, the best way to prevent abortions is to educate people about birth control and make it widely and easily accessible. True, abstinence is the only way to fully prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Still, the problem with abstinence-only education is that it does not make teenagers and young adults more knowledgeable about all the issues they face if or when they have sex—physically and emotionally."

It's nice to see a anti-abortion person who actually makes a speck of sense (unlike some). Most anti-abortion folks actually work against their professed causes by yelling about abstinence, which just doesn't work.

McCain has always served as proof to me that John McCain is usually an reasonable and cool dude for a Republican and just went kamikaze on his good reputation in pursuit of the presidency:

"During my father’s 2000 presidential campaign, a reporter asked how he would feel if I became pregnant and wanted an abortion. He answered that it would be my choice, sending shockwaves throughout the party (because for the GOP there is only one answer, and obviously Senator McCain’s daughter shouldn’t be engaging in sex ever)."

Reasonable! Even though Senator McCain disagrees with abortion, he acknowledges that it is presently legal and trusts his daughter enough to make her own decisions.

Candies - represented by a woman who can currently be heard on your local radio station asking for you to f-u-c her - isn't concerned with women's healthy sexuality. Their primary concern is keeping the standard of sexuality white, skinny, and pure - and ultimately, oppressing women.

h/t to [Jezebel]

Thursday, May 7, 2009

All about my diet.

Today I fit into my skinny jeans for the first time in a couple of years - zipped and buttoned, though they still make me look like a sausage (slash muffin). Immediately after twittering about it, Bitch Magazine's twitter informed me that today is international no-diet day, and I felt like a very silly feminist.

I wouldn't really say I'm on a diet. I overate and overdrank in the second half of 2008, with no exercise. After returning from the holiday break and looking at pictures, I noticed that my face was distinctly chubbier, and realized that my clothes weren't fitting right. I began to realize that I was drinking every day of the week, eating to match my male partner, and eating oily and sugary foods on a daily basis. I simply wasn't treating my body right.

In some ways, this was a good sign. I used to hate my body, but grew to love it prior to and during a 30-pound weight loss in 2006 (which I gained back in 2007 and 2008). I wasn't noticed my weight fluctuation - it felt comfortable, and I still loved my body and felt that I was beautiful. Feminism helped me to maintain high-self esteem, and to understand that weight fluctuates, and it's okay. It's helped me to filter out silly ideas like the Skinny Bitch diet, and appreciate my body every day.

But I needed to change my habits as I aged. I don't want to fall into the trap of making "lifestyle change" a euphemism for dieting, but I needed to eat more fruits and veggies and less processed foodstuff - I'm not calling it crap because it's too delicious - for more reasons than weight loss. After years of happiness, I suddenly hit an emotional rough patch - my OCD cropped up after taking Plan B. My lack of exercise and poor diet was affecting more than just the flab around my belly. There's nothing feminist about resisting change that better my mind and body.

I still felt a need to focus on weight loss as a tangible goal. I joined at the suggestion of a feminist friend, and it helped me to understand and be aware of my caloric input and output. Calorie counting has been demonized by some as overly restrictive, but I like that it brings the focus to units of energy. That's what food is - not sinful, not indulgent, not morally good or bad. It's our fuel - chocolate or carrots. While offers suggestions (too much saturated fat, too little fiber), its calorie counting doesn't tell you "don't eat that chocolate" or "eat an apple instead" - it tells you what kind of weight you can expect to lose, and at what rate. I like that it communicated the trends of my habit and body in a clear and straightforward way without reducing my dietary habits to simple weight loss. There's no quick-loss gimmickery of the South Beach Diet or dismissal of heart issues like Atkins.

I began feeling better emotionally almost immediately, aided by a wonderful exercise plan that helped me feel alive and fully present in my body in a way little else does. And my body, slowly, is changing. And I feel positive about its slow and patient progress. I am not on a diet - I have a diet, like everyone else. On some days, it's high in fiber. On others, I drink the alcohol I want to drink and eat the chocolate I want to eat. Mine is right for me, and it's helping my body to function at the level and for the purposes I want. I cannot dictate or suggest what is right for others. I find my diet tips and trick and incentives on my own, figuring out what works for me physically and psychologically.

Most days I restrict calories - I shoot for about 500 under my caloric output. I have goals for my body, and it's not yet meeting my goals. These goals are not unrealistic - I have attained and maintained them before while enjoying life and looking after myself. However, I think of it more as seeking than shooting for a specific goal. What I want for my body now may not be what I wanted in 2006. There will always be new and different goals for my body and appearance - as with my writing, my career, my relationship, my field of knowledge. It presents new challenges and opportunities on a daily basis. As with all things in my life, I am happy but never more than temporarily satisfied with my body and appearance.

My skinny jeans are a size 12. They showed off my great body once, and will again. Other clothes will frame my body's beauty in the meantime. It's working, slowly, and with many pit stops to enjoy the wonder and glory of the food and drink that I love.

I don't shame myself for the goals I have or the stops I make. I don't hate where my body now or at its highest weight and I don't worship the slim frame I once carried. I appreciate my body's current incarnation and its future possibilities.

Every day is a no-diet day. I am aware of my body and what I want for it, but I love the way it is now. My body today is my ideal, same as tomorrow and yesterday.

I'll be writing about my body and how bodies are viewed a great deal in the future, in another space - but not for another month or so. Though I haven't directly reacted to the laudable goals of INDD, I want to address my body and how my attitude toward it has recently changed, before the moment moves away.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Problematic Kitty Pron!

I'm pooped today, so I thought I'd offer you some problematic preciousness instead of some complex analysis. August is on the left and Thurgood on the right. They are both about a year now (younger in this picture) and they really do love each other that much.

Watch this space for more pictures and videos whenever I need to meet my post quota!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Accessorizing childbirth

This is almost as bad as fake bangs for your infant:

1) Dress (taking "hospital gowns" way too literally)
2) Headband (accessories create memories!)
3) Sheer gloss & mirror (vanity is always applicable)
4) Lemon-scented wipes (to whisk away the first hint of placenta)
5) Massage oil (apparently this may be useful)

Not included:
1) Pushing Push-Up Bra - As if your hormones haven't made them big enough, now there's a bra that give s new meaning to "Push!" let the world know that your newly enhanced titties are not just for feeding your young - they're ornamental, too!
2) C-Section Stilettos - Balance and comfort are secondary to a firm ass when you're hustling to the delivery room. Just because you're pushing a human being out of your vagina doesn't mean that you have to give up your Manolos!

h/t to Miriam at Feministing

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Review: Our Guys

Our Guys, by Bernard Lufkowitz, is about the 1989 rape of a mentally disabled teenage woman by several popular athletes and the subsequent trial of these athletes. Lufkowitz frames the story in terms of privilege: how Glen Ridge was constructed for the benefit of these young men, from athletics to sexuality. As in many towns, sports (particularly football) was an obsession regardless of the team's success. Student athletes received disproportionate glory and adulation from everyone around them: teachers, parents, peers, and girls - including "Leslie Faber", who idolized her rapists even after they debased and humiliated her, as Lufkowitz describes in grueling and possibly triggering language. Lufkowitz is adept at showing how the defendents were raised to believe that they could get away with anything and be praised, and describing an atmosphere in which they believed that they were entitled to enact trauma on a young woman psychologically unable to defend herself.

The mostly linear structure of this book makes for a thrilling read despite its length, especially in the third of the book on the courtroom drama. Lufkowitz's approach to the story is comprehensive, and both the characters and analysis are well-developed. However, in Lufkowitz's laser focus on the privilege of these young men, he sometimes loses sight of the issues of ableism at hand - and indeed, his near-constant use of the outdated term "retarded" to describe the victim reinforces his occasional blindness. Though the book decries their position in society, it still focuses on the defendents to the occasional exclusion of the less identifiable Leslie.

But Our Guys is an important, stellar and staggeringly well-researched book that is worth reading for anyone interested in a brutal critique of a twisted microcosm of the American dream: a place where young rich able men feel free to do whatever they please, unbound by human decency, shame, or consideration for others.

Rating: 4.5/5

Further reading:
[New York Times]

Another staple of this blog will be reviews of the books I read. I read fairly voraciously, so I'm hoping to review one book a week at minimum.

When I think of him, I'm actually thinking of the d-word.

To start off this blog on an irreverent note, I introduce: the LOLDouche.

Why he's a douche: Blogger and misogynist Perez Hilton, acting as a judge for the Miss USA pageant (recipe for success there, right?), asked Miss California if she was for gay marriage, and she said she believes in opposite marriage, which I guess means regular ol' straight marriage. He proceeds to call her a bitch and later a cunt, giving her a greater platform on which to spread her intolerant views.

Not like Carrie Prejean is any better, but seriously, Perez Hilton. Calling a woman a horrible slur isn't really furthering your point.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised considering his usual attitude towards women, but at least MS Paint semen and cocaine isn't delivered from a position of moral superiority.

Further reading:
[Canyon News]

Image made at I Can Has Cheezburger?

Friday, May 1, 2009


I have been a feminist since I was eight, about around the time I began to want to move out of Kansas. My mother was reading Ms., and took the opportunity to explain feminism to me.

"Feminists think that things aren't equal between men and women and want to change that. Some feminists go really far and are against everything men do, but most just want things to be equal, and that's what I believe."

Maybe her summary of some radical feminists was a little dismissive. But I was eight, and her definition convinced me to adopt the latter interpretation into my worldview. Soon after, I began using my mother’s name (my mother kept her name when she married my father and gave me and my brothers her name as a middle name) as part of my everyday name. The name didn’t stick until college, but it was a key shift in the way I thought of myself.

Fourteen years later, I remain a feminist. My use of feminism as a belief system, a coping mechanism, and a method of processing the world is about the only thing about me that didn't change during my identity crisis, which began in sixth grade and should end any day now. But while my identity as a feminist is one of the most core parts of my conscious thought, I find that my life is becoming more and more deeply heteronormative as it becomes more and more deeply satisfying.

I am living very happily with a young man who is everything I want in a partner – smart, funny, kind, and honest. While he is respectful of my beliefs and is always willing to engage in discourse of a feminist nature with me, he does not share that part of my ideology, and he never will. As a primary benefactor of the patriarchy, he doesn’t feel the need to fight the system that feeds him. And as I grow closer to him, I find that my sympathy for the devil grows. I am coming to a feminist understanding and appreciation of patriarchal undertakings – particularly in art and media. I enjoy artists of occasional virulent racism and misogyny like David Allen Coe and less offensive but still status-quo-advocating television like King of the Hill. And while I am glad that I am moving away from the impulse to demonize that which does not immediately adhere to my beliefs, I fear that I am starting down a road that leads to ignoring their threats to equality instead of viewing critically and finding a balance.

I am blogging as an attempt to resist complacency as I embrace happiness.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin