Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This Chick Rocks: Willow

Is your neck sore?  Then you've probably been whipping your hair back and forth with me and itty-bitty singing sensation Willow.

This feel good anthem has taken over air waves and dance floors, as well as my internal soundtrack.  But I'm not complaining.

Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, is only 10-years-old, a little saucey, and quite frankly-- adorable.

She turns her swag on, tunes haters out, and keeps the party jumping.  She shines, shakes 'em off, and whips it real hard.

In a greedy sampling of popular lyrics, Willow has conjured up a familiar recipe for instant success.  But it's undeniably catchy; replicated by drag queens and danced out by birds, inspiring a remix with Nicki Minaj and a YouTube juxtaposition with Sesame Street's "I love my hair" video.

While Willow may not have set out to make a statement about the politics of hair, that's exactly what her debut single is doing.

In a reality check discussion with a trusted collegue, we decided the budding star simply chose her safest asset to highlight while asserting her femininity.  Considering who she is (famous) and where she comes from (Hollywood) not to mention what is age appropriate (and what is not) it seems Willow and her consultants (parents) chose neutral territory that just happened to be more empowering than the average song. 

But the symbolism of Willow's braids bringing color to a bland and sterile lunch room is still remarkable, even if it's debatably intentional.  With paint cleverly concealed in her stereo, she whips her co-stars (and her hair) into a frenzy.  And starts a classroom-dance-party-revolution.

Demonstrating dynamic beauty, Willow rocks a variety of styles, sure to set new trends for young girls' tresses.  She invites "the ladies" (from babies to full grown) to whip their hair along with her; be it long, short, whatever.  Her defiant words are a celebration of self-- that doesn't take itself too seriously.

So my new favorite song is inclusive and infectious.  Whether strategic or coincidental, deep or simplistic, I hope to hear more positive messages from Willow in the future. 

And maybe her next song will give our necks a rest.

But in the mean time, just whip your hair.

Monday, November 29, 2010


In the final number of this fantabulous film, Christina Aguilera asks the audience to "Get your ass up, show me how you burleque."

Because she doesn't know how.  Obviously.

Burlesque was my Thanksgiving-holiday-movie of choice.

And even with fair warning from Feministing asking "Where's the Burlesque in Burlesque?" last week, I decided to witness all the inaccuracies for myself.

As it turns out, their initial complaint was more than valid.

When I think burlesque, I think Dita Von Teese; international performer extraordinaire.  And correct me if I'm wrong, but I always understood her art to be the art of seduction.  Which usually means the slow, strategic removal of clothing.

While the women of Burlesque danced in skimpy costumes inspired by the era of burlesque, they removed nothing.  And they certainly didn't dip in any over-sized glasses of champagne.

Aguilera did pull out a set of feathers reminiscent of the real deal, but it was barely enough to compensate for the rest of the non-traditional numbers.

True burlesque resides in the realm of comedy, reactionary to stuffy Victorian mores.  Sexual innuendo and cheap shots accompanied song, dance, and gratuitous nudity.  These theater parodies re-shaped entertainment, jumping at the opportunity to make a play on words-- or anything else, for that matter.

Fast forward to this Burlesque, which is neither smart nor funny.  "The best view of the sunset strip without any windows," is the tag line of the club and the cleverest double entendre throughout the film.  Except for the doorman's ethnically insensitive "pole" joke.

But the movie never made any promises to be historically factual.  In fact, we should have no expectations, except that Cher and Aguilera will share the stage-- they will sing, and we will be entertained. 

Set in Los Angeles in the 21st century, the acts at this club mostly consisted of lip-synching and modern-ish dancing.  Until Ali (Aguilera) showed up with a show-stopping song in the midst of a stopped show; the climax of the movie and it's titillating trailers. 

As Goddessjaz over at Feministing points out, Burlesque exists somewhere in theatrical purgatory-- it's certainly not Chicago, but it's not quite Showgirls.  Actually, it's more like a West Coast Coyote Ugly whose drama exists solely to string each number together in a semi-coherent musical. 

Christina Aguilera is Ali, the waitress from Iowa who quits her job and sings a celebratory song the moment the movie opens.  She buys a one-way-ticket to LA, checks into a hotel, and wanders the streets all day looking for a job, until she feels the neon heat radiating from Burlesque's sign.

If you stopped for popcorn, you might have missed this 10 minute introductory interlude.  And once seated, hold on tight.  The plot continues to move quickly as it follows the full transition of it's very dynamic lead character. 

So Ali picks up a tray and starts cocktailing, keeping the money she earns in the back of her toilet.

This is a common mistake small town girls make when they move to big cities.  In Coyote Ugly, Violet stashed her cash in the freezer instead of putting it in the bank like the rest of those New York city slickers.  And then she was robbed.

So one day, Ali comes home and finds that she has been robbed, forcing her to move in with her cute-bartender-love-interest.  But he's engaged, which means the sexual tension will reach unbearable levels before a post-wedding reception hook-up sends their roommate relationship spiraling into shared bedroom territory.

Meanwhile, back at the club, Ali gets her chance to audition when another dancer gets knocked up.  But her rival (Kristin Bell) gets jealous and tries to sabotage the number by cutting the music.  Ali's quick thinking saves the day when she decides to sing-- much like Violet stopping a bar brawl by singing along with the juke box in Coyote Ugly.

Tess (Cher) the club-owner is so impressed, she and her sassy gay friend decide to build an entire show around Ali and her newfound talents-- complete with a short, blonde wig.

Does Kristin Bell convince us she's an evil brunette?  Does Cher serve as timeless matriarch?  Yes and yes.  Is there even an ounce of feminism in this film?  Not really.  Is it my new guilty pleasure?  I believe so.

The fast-moving storyline is so predictable it's almost insulting.  And the glitz and glamor will overload your senses while the un-witty bantor will make your brain hurt.

A cheesy Cinderella tale with a happy ending, it might make you throw up a little bit in your mouth.  But the sets, costumes, quivers and shimmies will have your jaw descending to the floor-- if you're into that sort of thing.  So let's not forget; while a few of Burlesque's stars are "triple threats," we bought the ticket to hear them sing-- and their melodies do not disappoint.

Besides, when you own it on DVD you can always hide it in another case.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1) Women's Rights Blog discovers Walgreen's refusing to sell E.C. to men.

2) Feministing wonders "Where's the Burlesque in Burlesque?"

3) Women and Hollywood swears Disney has sworn of princesses.

4) Ms. remembers the migrant hands that feed us on Thanksgiving.

5) The F-Word warns about Anti-Feminism in Switzerland.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thoughts of Thanksgiving

Here's to dysfunctional families, unwinnable arguments, and disastrous dinners everywhere.

And here's to tomorrow...

Season's Eatings and Happy Holidays from Slutty Feminist!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dear World...

Girls Inc. is fundraising on Facebook.  Every "like" contributes one dollar to their campaign.  So do your part to help the voices of young women be heard across the world.  Their dreams are only a click away.

This amazing foundation has been around 1864 and their current mission is to empower women to be entrepeneurs; a common goal for third wave activism.  And I just LOVE their commercials. 

So "Like" Small Business Saturday and American Express will donate up to $100,000 to this very worthy cause.  Don't let Ruthie down-- she wants to start her own business.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Something To Be Thankful For

Originally published in the BG News on Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I suppose it would be appropriate to write this week’s column to the tune of thankfulness.  And I suppose it might be refreshing to be sincere, instead of cynical.  But then where, oh where, to start?
Am I thankful for a day or two of rest?  Of course.  A break from the daily demands of higher education?  Absolutely. 

A day to embrace gluttony, embarking on a feeding frenzy that will surely continue until a half-hearted New Year’s resolution to get fit?  Indeed, I feel it is my right as an American citizen.
Am I thankful to spend time with my immediate family?  I will remind you that Thanksgiving eve is the biggest income generator for drinking establishments across the nation, and this tradition may have something to do with that economic phenomenon. 

Am I thankful for the opportunity to pull myself out of a turkey coma in the middle of the night and wait outside my local Mecca of capitalism in order to obtain needful things at the lowest possible prices before I disperse them to people I feel obligated to please throughout the holiday season-- or perhaps just keep them for myself?  Again, I feel it is my right as an American citizen. 
But this week, there is something to truly be thankful for, and that is justice.  After a long and suspenseful waiting period, ordinances 7905 and 7906 have officially passed. 

12 classes of people are now protected from housing and employment discrimination in our city, including pregnant women, transgender persons and veterans.  Finally, the controversial One Bowling Green campaign can be described as an incredible success in the past tense.
The outcome of the election was postponed to verify a plethora of provisional ballots.  Students were asked to prove their residency to the board of elections and many feared that apathy would sink in, preventing them from taking that extra step. 

As soon as the polls closed, One BG assumed the responsibility of chasing down the very people they had already convinced to vote weeks before.
Strolling through the neighborhoods of our community, one could see that we were rigidly divided.  Red signs matched green signs, yard for yard.  Houses seemed to be arguing, “Yes.  No.  Yes.”  And residents on both sides were beginning to panic.
Homophobic opposition had convinced a considerable amount of people social norms dictating bathroom usage would be destroyed (as would the very fabric of society) if Bowling Green made it illegal to fire people or refuse them an apartment for being gay. 

But in the end, common sense-- and “Yes,” prevailed.  And my faith in humanity was restored.  For that, I am very thankful.
I wrote a column earlier this year explaining the importance of the issue and the crucial part the University would play in passing this legislation.  I’d like to think my urging had something to do with this victory. 

So I am also thankful for the space I have each week to be heard and make a difference the best way I know how—with my words.
But the real heroes are the community leaders that put on a green shirt and handed their lives over to that miserable and demanding tyrant better known as political activism.  No one realizes how hard it is to make the world a better place until they’re actually attempting to facilitate social change. 

So lastly, I am most thankful for the local volunteers who were selfless enough to prioritize ensuring the rights of our citizens over their own hectic schedules. 
While recruitment may have seemed aggressive at times, I feel the ends justified the means.  As much as some you might have hated being approached by people with clipboards, imagine being the one holding it. 

Or imagine a more relaxed approach that might have jeopardized the results.  Now that it’s all said and done, can we agree that it was worth it?
Say it with me—we won.
So Monday, November 22, 2010 will go down in history as the day Bowling Green became a fair and welcoming community thanks to a very memorable grassroots movement.  Perhaps it will get its own holiday, as it is truly something worth celebrating. 

And most definitely something to be thankful for.

Monday, November 22, 2010

This Chick Rocks: Florence and the Machine

Florence and the Machine has been orbiting our world for a while.  But it took a Saturday Night Live appearance for many of us to realize this mesmerizing performer has truly arrived.

Her breakout song "Dog Days" accompanied the Eat, Pray, Love trailer-- earning her subconscious familiarity, along with an invitation to the MTV Video Music Awards. 

And that meant hopping the pond for this Brit, who was unaware her product was quickly becoming unavoidable in the States.

But commanding the coveted New York stage marked a new era for Florence and the Machine.  And while Anne Hathaway was an exceptional host, this songstress stole the show.

Florence Welch is Florence and the Machine, the same way Marina Diamandis is Marina and the Diamonds.  The misleading conjunction implies what follows is the name of a band that simply does not exist. 

However, Florence's machine could be the figurative steam-roller she is driving over audiences suddenly remembering what it's like to be entertained.

She is the total package; appealing to senses of sight and sound.  Her voice and her look are completely unique, yet she's somehow reminiscent of power houses like Sarah McLachlan and Annie Lennox.

With elaborate costumes and lyrics digging deeper than the average song, Florence invites us to feel music again-- something we'd almost forgotten how to do.  In the midst of being force-fed pop sensations, we are starved for women musicians.  But Florence and the Machine could be curbing our appetite.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1)  Gender Across Borders endorses feminist coffee.

2)  Ms. explores the social effects of the social network.

3)  Womanist Musings reacts to "Tangled."

4)  Akimbo reminds us the U.S. still hasn't signed CEDAW.

5)  Feministing promotes privilege denying dude.

*Read Ms. blogger Alexandra Tweten's review of "Made in Dagenham"-- a fight for working women's rights coming to a theatre near you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Finding Feminism

As a student of Bowling Green State University and member of the community with a sense of social responsibility, I often write about local activism.  And we've got a lot going on in Northern Ohio.  Don't believe me?  Here's a map to all the fabulous places where you can find feminism in action-- within the city limits.  You're bound to run into some pretty fabulous people as well.  Take a look...

View Finding Feminism in a larger map

Palins in the News

Courtesy of Flickr user er3465 under Creative Commons 3.0

Shortly after the first episode of their reality show aired on TLC, three of the Palin women found themselves in very hot water.  Look out Piper-- you could be next!

With the recent media attention, it seems Mom's attempt to establish normalcy backfired.  The family has upset conservations, proponents of LGBT rights, and dance connoisseurs everywhere. 
Sarah Palin is in a heap of trouble after the premiere of "Sarah Palin's Alaska."  Apparently, she visibly violated the 30 foot rule that separates humans from protected brown bears in Wolverine Creek.  And rumors are circulating that her outdoor adventures may have cost over $12, 250-- quite a price tag for recreation.  Or a campaign commercial.

But Willow Palin may have outdone her mother with her hateful speech caught on Facebook.  Homophobic slurs (and a little fat hatred) ran rampant across the social network as she fought with other teens about her family's reality show.  Willow became very defensive after another Facebook user said the program was "failing so hard."  The harsh criticism provoked this lesser-known daughter to use other words that being with the letter "f."

And Bristol Palin has people questioning whether votes actually matter on Dancing with the Stars.  While Brandy was an obvious favorite, it was Bristol who made it to the finals.  And many were outraged.  One viewer in Wisconsin shot his TV and found himself in a stand off with police.  CBS reported Steven Cowan, 67, "believed Palin was not a good dancer and was only kept on the show because of her famous mother." 

Bristol has since apologized for her sister's actions, but remains silent about her own questionable victory. 

This week also marks the release of another PSA from the Candie's Foundation, co-starring "The Situation" from "The Jersey Shore," where Bristol reminds us to "pause before you play."  "B. Palin" and "Sit" apparently met on the set of DWTS and would like us to believe that they talk comfortably and casually about sex back stage.  Where her last attempt was classist and insulting, this "situation" was campy and ridiculous.  But every message from this abstinence campaign delivered by Bristol is a heaping helping of hypocrisy.

Obviously the Palins understand a what it takes to be on a reality show-- constant public controversy.

But can we say shit magnet?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Open Letter to Sarah Palin

Originally published in the BG News on Wednesday, November 17, 2010.

Courtesy of Flickr user geerlingguy under Creative Commons 3.0

Dear Sarah Palin,
I told myself I wasn’t going to watch your show.  I told myself it would only encourage you.  And as I made a conscious effort to boycott your folksy shenanigans, I hoped others would do the same.  But then I read Sunday’s premiere of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” broke TLC’s rating records.  And I gave in.
Blame it on curiosity, or voyeurism, but I tuned in for a late night rerun and gave you an hour of my life that I will never get back.  And I couldn’t help but make a few observations.
First, while you refer to yourself and your family as normal, I believe the word you’re looking for is predictable.  You’ve sold us an image and I applaud your dedication to upholding this northern fantasy.
Your reality program is 60 minutes of Tea Party rhetoric in a prop-ish outdoor setting.  And you’ve incorporated more extreme sports than the winter Olympics.  In a delicate balance of neoconservative politics and national parks, it felt like an episode of campaigning woman versus wild.
For instance, you took your family salmon fishing, and ironically encountered the iconic Mama Grizzly.  That same episode, you admitted lacking virtuous patience.  Understandable.  I too hate delaying gratification.  However, had you waited to showcase your beloved bear it may have been less transparent.   
Also, your children’s robotic responses to your leading questions do not constitute real dialogue.  Haven’t they been exploited enough?  Piper’s full of spunk.  Willow’s quite the tenacious teen.  Although you portray them as stereotypes, I’m almost positive they’re real girls with dynamic personalities who desperately want the “normal” life you keep insisting you live.   
It’s too late for Bristol, whose busy dancing with the stars.  And we’re promised she’ll make several appearances.  Funny how you accuse the tabloids of invading your privacy when just months ago you handed US Weekly an engagement exclusive on a silver platter.  And while we’re on the topic of antagonist baby daddies, I’m hoping Levi will stop by for an awkward demonstration of teen shared parenting; the disastrous result of abstinence only education. 
But honestly, the most convincing character thus far is your neighbor-- the author writing a book about your comings and goings.  You claim he will be “bored to death” and wonder who would want to watch your very "normal" family routine.  Good point.  But then why do you have a reality show?
In the middle of your ordinary day, you put on a power suit for a television appearance with Bill O’Reily from your home.  As soon as the broadcast ends you’re hopping in an RV and taking off for Denali for a little glacier climbing.  It’s as if every minute filmed inside must be compensated by two minutes of footage outside in the elements.  I see what you’re doing.  And so does everyone else.
I watched you suit up for your next stunt.  Then I watched you berate your elderly father because he won’t be able to scratch “climbing McKinley” off his bucket list.  And I wondered-- if it’s truly an Alaskan badge of honor, why did you wait until now to do it?  As I witnessed you dramatically straddle that crevasse, I couldn’t help but think falling in would be a wicked dose of instant karma.
Your poor dad.  I can’t tell what he regrets more; missing his opportunity to climb or agreeing to participate in this sham of a reality show.  And your poor kids.  They’ve made the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to help you attain your personal goals.  It’s not fair.  So please, stop putting your family through these wilderness adventures to uphold the false persona created by your campaign and perpetuated by the media. 
You promised viewers four wheelers, kayaks, chainsaws, rifles and dog sleds in the future.  I’m hoping for an early cancellation.  Otherwise, TLC owes your 2012 opponent a reality show under the equal time rule, because this is nothing more than an extensive political commercial, heavy on the hockey mom.
Finally, no matter how many times you claim to live an average, relatable life, please understand-- it’s just not.  The more you say, the more it’s not.  In fact, “every time Sarah Palin says normal” would make a hell of a drinking game.  And from now on, that’s how I’ll be watching.  You betcha.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Boyakasha Feminism

And now, more from my favorite feminist.

"Surely you should try something before you decide it's bad."

But seriously, give the whopper a chance.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Backlash-- On Reactions and Critics

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know that I am also a columnist for my college paper.  For those of you who do not, you do now.  Fantastic. 

So, just to be sure everyone is on the same page-- I am a columnist for the BG News.  I post my published articles here every Wednesday.  And I would venture to say that I am the only feminist voice, besides the occasional falcon screech- an open forum for campus complaints.

I've had this gig since last March and there've been plenty of good times.  Like the column I wrote about the mock trial on campus, educating students about the repercussions of sexual assault, complete with a "thank you" from the Student Wellness Center for my review of their event.  Or the other day, a friend told me about a student bringing my column into their Women's Studies class to quote me as a source for their group project, as though I were some sort of expert.  And the many e-mails that complimented my opinionated coverage of pop culture events, like Ines Sainz's jeans or Katy Perry's breasts

What warm, fuzzy memories.  But they can't all be postive.  I hesitate to call it backlash (except in an attention-grabbing headline) but I've noticed an increase in critical reactions to what I have to say.  Especially this past week. 

First, I got an e-mail from a professor who was offended by my column defending young girls rights to a sexuality.  And it wasn't what I'd said, but how I'd said it.  He felt "compelled" to tell me that one cannot express their sexuality through movement, clothing or song because one is singular and their is plural. 

At first I conceded, a little caught off guard.  But then I remembered that gender neutral language was purposeful and widely accepted, so I sent a second, more assertive e-mail.  He responded, half-accepted my argument, and mentioned "a think-piece by a mature, avowedly feminist woman professor interrogating the problematically slutty attire of certain students formerly known as 'coeds,'" which, after reading, seems like "I totally get that feminism stuff, but some chicks are still asking for it."

Now he could really be concerned with pronoun agreement.  And the insight of an instructor who teaches seminars about civilizations may be relevant.  But it still feels like it came from a snarky, condescending place.  I mean, why correct my grammar before you attempt to have a conversation about an issue if not to give yourself the upper-hand from the start?  

The same week, someone went so far as to write a response column to my column.  While making my case against fat hatred and discrimination, I said that fat is NOT a consequence of over-eating or punishment for being lazy.  Negative attitudes towards fat are often defended by "they did it to themselves" and while that is not always the case, even if it was, it does not give anyone a free pass to taunt another human being.

Anthony Bryson is not related to Pebo Bryson, but he does write columns for the BG News.  What's his shtick?  Health.  Apparently he took my words very literally, and out of context.  He was so horrified that I had told the world that more eating and less activity would not result in weight gain he had to write an entire column dedicated to correcting my faux pas.

But I have a second beef with Mr. Bryson and that is that he continuously referred to me as "Ms. Noftsinger" in his response.  Weird.  There is a tendency for journalism students to refer to women sources by their first name or as Ms. Whats-her-face, when both are incorrect.  All sources, once named fully, should be referred to by their last name. 

For instance-- Anthony Bryson took me too seriously.  Bryson misunderstood what I was saying.  Putting Mr. or Ms. in front of someone's last name is patronizing, as evidenced above.  And because it happens frequently to women, it's understood-- at least in the world of journalism-- as blatantly sexist.

Was this columnist truly concerned that I could single-handedly alter the eating habits and activity levels of readers everywhere?  Perhaps.  But the structure of the argument and the way he used my name felt a little more like he was jumping at the chance to prove that uber-opinionated feminist chick doesn't know as much as she thinks.

Two isolated incidents, both thought-provoking, especially when you line 'em up.  Is is anti-feminism?  Nah.  Douchebaggery?  Kinda.  But you're always going to have opponents, jerks, critics, or people who just don't get it.  And as I told another intern in the Ms. office last summer as we commiserated over the daily news-- if they didn't keep doing those things and saying that stuff, we wouldn't have anything to write about.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1)  Ms. shows some love for "Freedom and Fashion."

2)  Fbomb admits own silence and reminds us all to "Speak."

3)  Womanist Musings reviews Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls."

4)  Women and Hollywood celebrates the "Athena Film Festival."

5)  Akimbo honors Glamor's "Woman of the Year"-- Dr. Hawa Abdi.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Come On and Take a Free Ride

With LGBT members of Bowling Green's community under attack in the midst of very tense election, and non-discrimination ordinances hanging in the balance, a few students are getting together every Tuesday to make patrons of Uptown's "Gay Night" an offer they can't refuse.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Taking Sexy Back

Originally published in the BG News on Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Courtesy of Flickr user watchwithkristin @ Creative Commons 3.0

“Did you see those Glee kids on the cover of GQ magazine’s November issue?  It was downright pornographic.  And what about that Miley Cyrus, pole dancing and kissing 26-year-old men in her music videos?  Terrible.  She’s headed straight down the same path as Britney Spears.  And don’t even get me started on that one.”
Sound familiar?  So here’s my next question—why do we care?
For starters, we are a society that loves to criticize women’s appearances.  But this phenomenon runs much deeper than that.  The aforementioned women are “teens,” celebrities, and role models.  They’re a special brand of femininity under much stricter scrutiny.   
The American Psychological Association describes women’s sexuality as trickling up and trickling down.  Young girls are often made up to appear older than they really are, whereas older women use every weapon they have to combat aging.  Both are normal and supposedly sexy because they drive women on either end of the spectrum to those golden years of attractiveness; 16-22, give or take. 
Consider JonBenet Ramsey, or any “pageant girl” for that matter.  Now think about Amy Poehler’s character as Regina George’s mom in Mean Girls, or any older women dressing youthfully.  See what they mean?  One is creepy.  The other is comical.  But why does it continue to happen?
I could write an entire column on cougars, botox and aging— but that’ll have to be later.  Today, we’re focusing on the “trickle up” that’s suddenly made Miley Cyrus “untamable.”   And for the record, Cyrus isn’t that great of a dancer.  Actually, she could take a lesson from Ms. Spears who perfected gyrating with snakes and on chairs—you name it, she’ll dance up on it.  But Cyrus’s strategic distance from the platonic “Best of Both Worlds” echoes Spears’s transition from the court side girl-next-door in “Hit me baby, one more time” to a sweatier, sexier “slave for you.” 
When it comes to pop stars, it’s always uncertain whether these sudden changes were decided in bedrooms or boardrooms.  Why?  Because sometimes corporations and the media, like GQ or MTV, not to mention managers, agents and a whole plethora of production personnel try to make little girls look sexy to sell things. 

Sexualizing young girls is wrong because it objectifies them before they understand sexuality.  It makes them objects of lust, usually for a much older male gaze.  And it fetishizes under-developed bodies with narrow hips that aren’t ready for reproduction anyway. 
Obviously, having sex with prepubescent girls is wrong—that’s why we have laws against it.  Finding them attractive is not necessarily illegal, but still problematic. 

But here’s the thing.  Those Glee girls are really adults.  And the characters they play are in high school.  Our beloved Miley Cyrus is all of seventeen now.  So I must ask, at what point are women allowed to be sexy? 
To be clear, I said sexy, not sexually active.  So let’s not have that tired abstinence versus reality debate.  (Again, another column for another day.)  But one can be sexual without actually having sex.  One can express their sexuality through clothing, movement, song—you name it, it can be sexified.  At what age is that appropriate?
Science might argue the stage at which the body begins preparation for reproduction, better known as puberty.  Average age girls are hitting puberty?  According to Our Bodies, Ourselves, somewhere between 9 and half and 12 and half.  Exploration of one’s sexuality is simply part of constructing one’s identity, not to mention a necessary process of development. 
Puberty is a tumultuous time in anyone’s life.  Mental changes accompany physical changes, indicated by clothing and behaviors that display an adolescent’s very fluid individuality.  And even young girls are aware of the rigid categories that confine women’s sexuality.  They may try on the virgin and the whore before they choose one.  Realistically, they’ll settle somewhere in the middle—but not before they’ve had a little of both.
Blogger Sarah Seltzer wrote a piece for Alternet that also grouped Glee stars Lea Michele and Dianna Agron with the likes of Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears.  (The Disney products are common touchstones in any discussion of sexualization.)  But after drawing the familiar parallel, Seltzer introduced readers to SPARK, which stands for “Sexualization protest; action, resistance, knowledge.” 

The organization includes familiar feminist voices for this topic, like Geena Davis and Jean Kilbourne.  Seltzer explains that the movement is attempting to “take sexy back,” and their message “is about rejecting a standardized, commercialized and denigrating take on what girls ought to do to be sexy.”  Women need to be making conscious choices about their self-expression, not assuming the position with the usual accessories.   
With this in mind, Glee’s biggest crime is unoriginality.  How overdone is the “sexy schoolgirl” fantasy?  Spears already exhausted it as her entry-level performance back in 1999. 
Anyway, the cover of GQ shows a fully clothed man gripping the nearly bare derrieres of his scantily clad classmates.  (Shouldn’t he get naked and join the party?)  Once inside the magazine, the brunette is licking a sucker provocatively at her locker in her underwear and thigh high socks—an obvious dress code violation-- while her male counterpart plays the drums in a letterman jacket.  The blonde kneels in spike heels and a poor excuse for a skirt over a cheerleader’s megaphone, red bra matching her red shoes. 

And for the grand finale, the brunette straddles a bench in the locker room.  Apparently, she waxes.
The male to female skin ratio of “Glee Gone Wild” is very telling of our culture.  But the solution to this problem isn’t simply to cover up.  Sexualization is wrong because it’s done to someone for someone else’s profit-- instructing a woman to wear this, stand like this, hold a sucker like this, etc.  But condemning all sexual imagery won't solve anything. 

Young girls should be allowed to determine their own sexualities in wide open spaces, far away from plaid skirts and stripper poles.  And no one should be denied the opportunity to grow up with a healthy attitude about sex, spotlight or not.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I H8 W8ing

7905 and 7906 are still being verified.

In the mean time, watch this--

So.  If you live in Bowling Green...

Get to the board of elections and verify your vote!

FCK housing and employment discrimination!

And marriage is next-- FCK H8!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Women of the Elections

And the headline read "Sexism remains a problem for women seeking office."  Bummer, for sure.  But is it really news?

More like deja vu.  And the media coverage seemed a little naive.  Or maybe hypocritical, when the problem they exacerbated throughout this particular race only become newsworthy once the results were in. 

While watching the "Women of Saturday Night Live" last Monday, I was reminded of the inexplicable awesomeness of this epic opening sketch:

A Poehler-Fey-tag-team at its finest.  Palin's a M.I.L.F. and Clinton has cankles; the gender dynamics of the last election, in a nutshell. 

Fast-forward to 2010, full of Mama Grizzlies, relatable witches, Halloween one-night-stands, and photos too scandalous for any Christmas card-- what's the common thread?  When it comes to women, politics are extra dirty and super sexy.  But more people are noticing.  And some even intend to do something about it.

The Women's Media Center, founded by Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, started the "Name It, Change It" campaign to raise awareness about sexist commentary surrounding women candidates.  The also served up the "Would you say that to your mother?" Awards for this years most appalling coverage. 

Conservative blog Virginia Virtucon was slammed for publishing Ball's infamous Christmas party photos as well as the Boston Herald, awarded for nominating women candidates for make-overs.  And the Gawker was recognized for their Enquirer-esque exclusive published with a blast-from-O'Donnell's-past.

Evidenced by these examples, and the Palin-Clinton-dichotomy, society still insists on either hyper-sexualizing women politicians or punishing them for not being sexy enough.  Megan Tady, of progressive magazine In These Times, believes the country is suffering an extreme case of gynophobia.  Tady blames this fear of women, especially in leadership roles, for the blatant sexism that keeps the focus on women politicians' physical appearances or sexual histories, rather than their political promises or actual credentials.  And I blame this sexism on the recent loss of women in the legislative branch of our government.

Less than a week ago Christine O'Donnell was defeated in Delaware and we all breathed a sigh of relief.  Perhaps sanity was restored after all?

But then national data revealed that women, in general, would be holding less seats than the previous Congress.  And this was the first time in 30 years that number has declined.  Siobhan Bennett, president of the Women's Campaign Forum Foundation, stated the obvious; "It looks as if we're going backward rather than forward," and many are suddenly wondering-- what's up with that?

Were the midterms full of O'Donnells?  Not exactly.  While Republican Carly Fiorina was a Senate loser, she was beat out by Pro-Choice Democrat Barbara Boxer, making California one of 17 states with a woman Senator. 

Meanwhile, the House is struggling to maintain 73 women, expecting to lose at least two more as states finalize their decisions.  And the number of women governors is holding fast at six; three of which are new Republicans.  Sexism is hurting the credibility of women across the political spectrum.

But what's more upsetting; the lack of women in government or the lack of representatives who will speak (and vote) on behalf of women's issues?  It was a sad year for feminism, with the nation becoming increasingly red.  The year of the donkey apparently peaked after Dems Barack-ed the vote back in 2008.  With "hope" wearing thin, the pendulum has swung back in favor of the opposition, adversely affecting women and their reproductive rights.

To be sure, women like Christine O'Donnell (and fellow Tea Party-er Sarah Palin) do not support women's sexual freedoms or choice.  So a sigh of relief for O'Donnell's loss is followed by a sigh of exasperation as women lose their political footing in a media circus that can't separate gender from platform and affiliation.  It's one thing to critique someone's experience.  It's quite another to critique her pubic hair.  

Even the most ridiculous candidate (O'Donnell) doesn't excuse the manner in which all women's political endeavors are challenged (sexy pictures).  But like I said-- this isn't news.  At least not in the sense that the tactics are new.  However, given the consequences of the last election, it's time to ring the alarm about sexist attacks on women politicians before we lose any more of the representation we've worked so hard to secure.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1)  WMC reports that Oprah bans the word BITCH on new network.

2) BUST reviews the "Women of Saturday Night Live" special.

3) Fbomb finds only 27% of young women are voting in the midterms.

4) Wominist Musings wonders who speaks for Muslims?

5)  RH Reality Check offers an important message about teen sexting.

*Bonus-- Words of wisdom from Gloria Steinem over at Big Think*

Thursday, November 4, 2010

One BG Election Update

The Bottom Line?  It's still too close to call.

And time to begin verifying the provisional votes.

So all you provisional voters out there (STUDENTS!) find a current utility bill, bank statement, or paycheck information from the BGSU Bursar with your Bowling Green address and return it to the board of elections.  Otherwise your vote won't count.

We have until next weekend to put this anti-discimination legislation into effect.  So get it together with some proof.  We've come too far to lose this on a technicality.  For real.

With anticipation killing all of us, what's the best way to pass the hours?  Dance it out. 

One Bowling Green threw one hell of a party at the Clazel as soon as the polls closed Tuesday night.

The crowd anxiously awaited results that simply couldn't be produced that evening.  Is it illegal to discriminate against LGBT persons for employment or housing in our city?  Not yet...

At first there were whispers that with 75% of the vote in, a certain loss was in the future.  Moments later, rumors spread of a guaranteed success.

Attendants held on tightly while riding an emotional roller-coaster and no one was sure what to think.  In the midst of the confusion, community Organizer Jane Rosser commended everyone for their efforts in a truly grassroots movement. 

With special thanks to Bowling Green State University's Campus Team, tirelessly soliciting the support of the student voters so necessary for passing both Ordinances 7905 and 7906.

The final word from Campaign Manager Kim Welter?  "We think we're gonna win!"  But only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Maura Kelly's Hatred of "Fatties"

Originally published in the BG News on Wednesday, November 3, 2010.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Onizuka3 at Creative Commons 3.0

Fat is the last safe space for hate, as evidenced by the Marie-Claire incident last week.
Freelance “journalist” Maura Kelly wrote a scathing critique for the beauty authority of the new CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly.”  The show features two lead characters, romantically involved, that are—gasp!—not thin.  Her argument was that fat people showing affection towards one another, makes everyone else uncomfortable.  And then titled the piece, “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room (Even on TV)?” 
Offended yet?  Just wait.  It gets better.  Kelly answers her own question:
Because being fat and occupying space is “just like” abusing substances in public-- long live the Queen of Analogy.  Kelly insists she’s not some size-ist jerk (when she is) and she understands how hard it can be (when she can’t) and goes on to discuss something she clearly does not understand as if she were an expert. 
I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
Because being fat and occupying space is "just like" abusing substances in public. Long live the Queen of Analogy.

Kelly insists she's not some size-ist jerk (when she is) and she understands how hard being overweight can be (when she can't) and goes on to discuss something she clearly does not understand as if she were an expert.

“But ... I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It's something they can change, if only they put their minds to it,” said Kelly.

She even offers a list of suggestions for anyone who just realized they are obese—nothing like a personal attack in self-help packaging.  Receiving “diet tips” at this point is like virtual salt in an internet wound.

The story was pulled, and her statements were retracted, along with an “official” apology and the (reaching) justification that she’s struggled with anorexia in the past and has her own body image demons to battle.   
Oh.  It’s not her fault.  She has a disease that makes her hate fat-- which is why her comments came off as cruel and evil, while she, herself, is not.
Well, I still think you’re a mean girl, Maura Kelly, and I’m not buying it.
But the eating disorder rationale flirts with a popular women’s issue and has already won over some sympathetic feminists.   A few even excused Kelly’s behavior as the sad internal monologue of a sick woman and placed sole responsibility on her editors for not controlling the content of their publication.  Others thought Marie-Claire was counting on Kelly’s opinion, illness or not, sparking an online controversy, accruing page views and dollar signs.  Airing their writer’s discriminatory dirty laundry was merely a monetary trade-off.     
While these are certainly factors to be considered, Maura Kelly must be held accountable for her actions.  But more importantly, there are two very important women’s health issues that must be addressed from both sides of the discussion.  
First, eating disorders are not about weight.  According to the National Eating Disorder Association, “People with eating disorders often use food and the control of food in an attempt to compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem over-whelming. For some, dieting, bingeing, and purging may begin as a way to cope with painful emotions and to feel in control of one’s life, but ultimately, these behaviors will damage a person’s physical and emotional health, self-esteem, and sense of competence and control.” 

Many feminists believe more than 5 million women suffer from eating disorders as a response to the sexism and injustice they experience in their daily lives, not just media images that tell them to be thin.   

To be sure, anorexia is more about personal feelings of inadequacy that manifest in physically obvious ways than an overall fear of fat.  And symptoms have never included hateful word vomit about other people’s size.

Secondly, there are several misconceptions surrounding fat.  For starters, fat is not necessarily unhealthy.  Plenty of people are active and strong, meeting other requirements of health beyond visible muscle definition.  And fat is not a choice.  Most of our physical characteristics are genetically predetermined.  But society has been duped by a very lucrative diet industry that tells us we can practically think ourselves thin, as long as we’re using the right products.  Lastly, fat is not a consequence of over-eating or punishment for being lazy. 

A complex issue has been over-simplified and people have been empowered to make unfair assumptions about the lifestyles of strangers.  By medicalizing fat, we’ve created a platform for judgment and enabled the last form of discrimination tolerated by the majority.  Which is why Maura Kelly thought she had the authority to say those horrible things about Mike, Molly and everyone else that doesn’t fit her small-ish mold.   

There’s a movement to use the word fat instead of overweight, because overweight implies that somewhere there is a perfect weight that we should all aspire to be.  However, the word “fatty” is obviously insulting and wrong.  And many people take liberties with the word obese, which also creates a narrow depiction of health.  Kelly’s choice to use both, almost interchangeably, is telling of her overall contempt for a considerable percentage of our population. 

But while testing and terminology is being reconfigured, no one deserves criticism for being “aesthetically displeasing,” because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  And when someone chooses to use derogatory language, like “fatties,” they’re saying more about themselves and the fact that they’re a size-ist jerk.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why Vote?

We're going to try something different--

Rather than continue to run this blog like a slutty tyrant AND because I'm truly inspired by the smell of democracy in the air, I want to hear the voice of the people.  In comment-form.

So.  Tell me why you're voting today... or not.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Don't Forget to Vote

A Friendly Reminder from the Students of BGSU...

And the One Bowling Green Campaign...

To Vote YES on Ordinances 7905 & 7906--

For a Fair and Welcoming Bowling Green!