Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1) BUST-- plastic surgery brings us one step closer to Stepford.

2)  RH Reality Check-- Glee's gone wild!

3)  Woman and Hollywood contemplates "The Black Swan's" perfection.

4) Bitch weighs in on that "fatties" piece at Marie-Claire.

5) Echidne of the snakes defends "public" hair.

Take Back the Night


Last Friday-- October 22, 2010, was Bowling Green State University's Take Back the Night, presented by the Organization for Women's Issues (OWI).  Take Back the Night is an international resistance campaign that raises awareness about all forms of violence against women, using education as a form of prevention. 


Precious Stones
 OWI was joined by their collaborators in the Women's Leadership Coaltion; Precious Stones, Sisterhood in Serenity, the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), and the Graduate Women's Caucus (GWC).

GWC
 GWC brought a banner to write encouraging words and positive messages about women.  It was a terrific idea that several participants took advantage of, and balanced other negative, but necessary imagery elsewhere.   The event seemed to be a constant compromise between dire reality and hope for the future.

HUE
 Other co-sponsoring organizations included Vision, multicultural sororiety Delta Xi Phi, and Honoring, Empowering, and Urging-- known around the University as HUE.  Overwheleming support for Take Back the Night came from a variety of outlets around campus.

Student Wellness Connection
 BGSU resources the Link and the Student Wellness Network, as well as community refuge the Cocoon  Shelter, all came out to remind everyone that when violence does manifest, women have somewhere to go.

The Clothesline Project

The Clothesline Project hung itself around the audience tent.  This unique visual advocacy creates a space for victims voices to be heard, one T-shirt at a time.


(From Left to Right)
Kate Noftsinger, Shayna Noonen, Bekka Lirot, Michelle Morris, Stephanie Bush
 The executive board members of the OWI reviewed the history of Take Back the Night as well as the shocking statistics that make domestic violence and sexual assault issues world wide.

Natural Di'saster
 The most memorable part of the evening was undoubtedly slam poet Natural Di'saster.  Her performance left everyone with their jaws firmly on the ground.  Not only did her moving poem completely capture the spirit of the event, but she sang accapella; a pleasant surprise for even the coordinators of Take Back the Night.

(From Left to Right)
David Denison, Rob Koob, and Aris Kaleps-Clark
 Effectively preventing violence against women requires the committment of both men and women.  Speakers David Denison, Rob Koob and Aris Kaleps-Clark lent their voices to remind everyone it is not the responsibility of victims to protect themselves from assault.  It is the responsibility of society to guarantee the safety of all people. 


The Men's Pledge

To ensure Bowling Green's committment, as an entire community, the men in the audience were invited to participate in a men's pledge against assault.  Here, it was stated that yes means yes, no means no, and neither substances nor coercion can be used to obtain consent. 


Marching Downtown to Take It Back

The evening progressed, from the trademark march [down Court Street, across Main Street, and back up Wooster Street] to an intimate speak-out in the Women's Center.  All in all, a great success.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween

What?! 

Halloween's almost here and you still need a costume? 

Why don't you stop by the Girls's Costume Warehouse?



And once you decide, don't forget to vote. 

Come on Sexy Mustard!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Favorite Movies about Witches



Wow.  What an important lesson about tolerance from our friends Casper and WendyI think we all just learned a lot.


But not all media is that obvious.  Movies can teach us a lot about the world we live in.  And most contain messages that work on multiple levels.  But some times even we don't know what we're receiving. 

Inspired by last week's discussions surrounding Chritine O'Donnell (and the proximity to Halloween) I've crafted a list of my favorite movies about witches, complete with a brief feminist analysis of each.  Pay attention-- there might be something you've missed. 


The Baddest Witch: Winona Ryder
Also Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Joan Allen and Jeffrey Jones (Yes, Mr. Rooney.)
Oh my Goodey!  This re-make of Arthur Miller’s classic book is an obvious jumping off point.  Drawing a parallel between the McCarthy Era and the Salem Witch Trials, history repeats itself yet again.  But this time, the discussion surrounding sexuality should be provoking thoughts about archaic beliefs.  And ponderings of race concerning Tituba's crime and punishment-- not to mention her role as the ultimate instigator.  Strange, how a black woman brought black magic to Salem. 
Suddenly, everyone's a suspect.  It’s a showdown amongst the righteous and accusations are flying.  With all this dancing, lust and adultery there’s bound to be evil afoot.  Who will survive?  Who will be burned at the stake?  The purity myth comes to life as virtuous wives take on the town harlots and viewers realize the worth of a woman’s reputation.  This movie begs the question-- "what sort of witch hunts do we take on today?" 
The Baddest Witch: Nicole Kidman
Also Starring: Sandra Bullock, Dianne Wiest, and Stockard Channing (Yes, Rizzo.)
While Nicole Kidman is cute as button in Bewitched, she and her co-stars are absolutely enchanting in this movie that’s got more sisterhood than traveling pants.  These witches are modern and relatable, stirring up midnight margaritas in their cauldrons. 
Really, it’s a good movie about good witches attempting to co-exist with humans while suffering a terrible curse.  Downfall?  The plot centers on tragic romantic interests, not to mention the sisters’ virgin/whore dichotomy.  Redemption?  The film has underlying messages about family values, i.e. the value of family, and tolerating differences in communities.  This movie not only puts the lime in the coconut, but the power back in empowered. 
The Baddest Witch: Fairuza Balk
Also Starring:  Rachel True, Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich (Yes, two Scream-sters.)
Can we say evil Clueless?  Four Catholic school girls unlock the secret to getting everything they ever wanted in an uber frightening “careful what you wish for” scary-movie-with-a-moral.  A motley crew of outcasts, these amateur witches cast a spell on the entire school, delivering justice to racist mean girls, sexual assaulters, and domestic abusers. 
But with great power comes great responsibility.  And as the oppressed become the oppressors, they soon find that some magic is good, and some magic is bad.  Very bad.  While there are cat fights of epic proportions and some abominable 90's fashion, these can be forgiven for the semi-coherent depiction of Wiccan beliefs; the closest thing to accurate (which is still pretty far off) in this context.
The Baddest Witch: Anjelica Houston
Also Starring: Rowan Atkinson (Yes, Mr. Bean.)
Based on the book by beloved children’s author Roald Dahl, this movie gave me nightmares for years.  Think Little Monsters, with a British twist.  And these aren’t your typical broom-riding, potion-stirring, seductress-types.  In fact, the lead characters of this movie are downright ugly. 
Anjelica Houston’s portrayal of the Grand High Witch would leave Morticia Addams shaking in her pointy-toed-boots.  Kudos to puppet-master Jim Henson for cutting back the sex appeal and focusing up on the scary.  These hideous creatures are unveiled at a hotel convention, where they peel back the layers to reveal their true forms.   It seems this gathering of unsightly, child-loathing spinsters could be confused for a feminist conference-- Zing!    
The Baddest Witch: Bette Midler
Also Starring: Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker (Yes, Carrie Bradshaw.)
The ancient Sanderson sisters need the souls of children to stay young and beautiful, because otherwise they are unattractive and irrelevant.  Replace “souls of children” with over-priced-beauty-products, and this movie would just be called “Life.”  But who doesn’t love Hocus Pocus?  It is my guiltiest October pleasure, and an obvious favorite for ABC Family's 13 Nights of Halloween
So watch it again, but this time pay special attention to the way even Disney pokes at male virginity.  Or how the black flame candle brought back three witches, as well as three female stereotypes; the slut, the bitch and the fatty.  Consolation?  The amazing Bette Midler’s “I put a spell on you” is quite possibly the best theatrical performance of any Disney movie.  Ever.
The Baddest Witch: Susan Sarandon
Also Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Cher (yes, Cher!)
Did Susan Sarandon just out-diva Cher?  Is this Jack Nicholson more horrific than Jack Nicholson in The Shinning?  Yup, and you betcha.  Three women; single, divorced and widowed, are targeted by Satan himself to unleash their natural powers and bear his children.  (Obviously, with no husbands, they were ripe for the picking.)  He’s particularly convincing, using reason and a strong dose of feminism-- heavy on the cultural feminism
Lesson here?  Never trust a “feminist” man.  (Just kidding.) 
Nicholson references the movement against midwives, the repression of female sexuality and the problem with no name to win over his harem.  This late 80’s production was released at the tail-end of the second wave and sends conflicting messages about dominance and submission, not to mention domesticity.  For instance, sexual harassment is wrong.  Agreed.  But then we see that deep down, every woman wants to be a mother, even to demon spawn.  Huh? 
The gender politics of this movie are unavoidable, and Nicholson’s rant—“were women a mistake?” seems to echo the majority opinion about the f-word at a time when feminists were being accused of trying to have it all.  Kind of like when women were accused of being witches.   

Monday, October 25, 2010

BGSU-- "It Gets Better!"

Last Wednesday found the campus of Bowling Green State University blanketed in purple.  Pourquoi?  To demonstrate visual and emotional solidarity, supportive of the LGBT community.



Emotion surged as Cherno Biko spoke of his own struggles with suicide, hoping to lessen the stigma and give it a face.  He explained “just because BG has not lost a member of the community, nothing says that it won’t happen to us.”




The bittersweet event ended with an uplifting bang and left everyone feeling things really could get better.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1) Michael Kimmel schools that Yale frat for Ms.
(Does anyone else have a huge Kimmel crush?)

2) The Fbomb helps Justin Bieber escape from the Gender Police.

3)  Lisa-Frank-Style-Robot-Unicorn-Attack initiated by Bust.
(Sigh.  Remember when school supplies used to be awesome?) 

4) Womanist Musings finds vampires guarantee violence against women.

5) Combining beauty and brains at Gender Across Borders.
(Feminists are still insisting that women can "have it all"...)

VAG Magazine


Vag Magazine Episode 1: "Fumbling Toward Ecstasy" from Vag Magazine on Vimeo.

I think I worked there over the summer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An Invitation to Take Back the Night

Originally printed in the BG News on Thursday, October 21, 2010.



Did you hear what happened at Yale?  About a week ago, pledges for the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity surrounded the Women’s Center on their Ivy League campus, chanting “no means yes,” and, “yes means anal.”  And guess what—people are outraged.  But it’s not just feminists.  There’s been a consensus of disapproval and a frenzy of media coverage because sexual assault is a serious issue.
The actions of these young men seemed to be channeling an important event meant to end violence against women.  I’m talking about Take Back the Night. 
There, you will see men and women gathering to assert that everyone has the right to occupy public space, no matter what time of day, without fear.  There is where you will hear the original “yes means yes,” as opposed to the Yale remix.
“No means yes,” and, “yes means anal,” shouted outside the Women’s Center, is offensive, to say the least.  Sociologist and masculinity expert Michael Kimmel found those words in that place to be sending a very specific message about women’s safety and men’s domination. 
In his response to Yale, Kimmel said their antics are reactionary to advances feminism has made with things like consent laws and women’s sexual autonomy. 
He reminds us that “Thanks to feminism, women have claimed the ability to say both “no” and “yes.” Not only have women come to believe that “No Means No,” that they have a right to not be assaulted and raped, but also that they have a right to say “yes” to their own desires, their own sexual agency. Feminism enabled women to find their own sexual voice.” 
So file this last episode under predictable backlash.
Is it any wonder why we still need Take Back the Night?  A masculine attitude of conquest and entitlement, not to mention privileging one’s pleasure over another’s, is still prevalent in our society.  What hopes are there for have equal rights if we can’t even have equal sex?
If you looked at the front page of the BG News yesterday, you know Bowling Green’s Take Back the Night will be this Friday at 6pm, brought to you by the Organization for Women’s Issues (OWI) and it’s many co-sponsors who share a commitment to a more egalitarian society.  The rally will be held on the lawn of University Hall, kicking things off with some entertainment and education. 
But what this event is really known for is the marching and chanting that Yale was imitating.  Members of the Bowling Green community are invited to bring a sign, or borrow one provided by OWI, and join us as we reclaim what is rightfully everyone’s, one street at a time. 
Afterword, a speak-out will be held in the Women’s Center, where victims can share their stories with supportive company or speak privately with a victim advocate.
A rally, march and speak-out to raise awareness?  Is all that really necessary?  Umm, YES!
There were three instances of sexual assault on University property in September alone.  Three times last month I received an e-mail from campus police explaining that another young woman had been victimized in her dorm.  McDonald, Offenhauer and Harshman; each building has seen violence against women already this year.  Isn’t it time to do something about it?
Take Back the Night has a long tradition of raising awareness about all forms of violence against women.  The first was held in 1975, when Philadelphians pulled together to protest the murder of a young woman that occurred just one block from where she lived.  Susan Alexander Speeth was walking home, alone, and she was stabbed. 
But it was not her responsibility to take a cab, walk with a friend or any of the other advice we offer women about preventing violence.  It was the responsibility of her attacker not to stab her, because women have a right to live, no strings, mase, or rape whistles attached.
Makes sense, right?  Then come out and support this event on Friday.  And let’s show the world that our University is far more progressive than Yale.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sabrina's Body Image



Yes, even Teenage Witches struggle with loving their bodies.

But Sabrina, and everyone, learned an important lesson.

So remember, especially today-- "It's the 'neath that counts."

Love Your Body Day



Love your little head.  Be OK with having a nose.

A "Supportive" Response to Yale Fraternity

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Exactly one week ago, pledges for the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Yale University marched to their campus Women's Center and raised their voices to let the community know a little more about their beliefs.

This controversial act of speech, expression and assembly was caught on video, posted on YouTube, and covered by every media source available.  Thanks to the Internet, their message reached a much larger audience than they were anticipating.  Jezebel was kind enough to post the words on their website so we could all join the chanting.  And it goes a little something like this:

My name is Jack
I'm a necrophiliac
I fuck dead women
and fill them with my semen

No means yes
Yes means anal

Fuck Al Qaeda
Fuck Al Qaeda
(repeating)

Fucking sluts
Fucking sluts
(repeating)

USA
USA
(repeating)


Confused?  Don't be.  The objective is right there in the first two lines.

Apparently these men were pursuing rights for necrophiliacs- an underrepresented percentage of the population, to be sure.  But they went about it all wrong.  So I'd like to take this opportunity to offer the Yale Delta-Kappa-Epsilons a little advice.

Guys-- if you’re going to stage a protest, you need to be clear about your grievances and your demands.  And when seeking inclusion, I would think it better not to be explicit about the sexual practices that place you outside of societal norms.  The "in your face" approach is just going to make everyone uncomfortable, decreasing the likelihood that you will rally any support for your cause. 

On to the next stanza.  No means yes?  In the case of dead partners, I would assume silence means yes.  And critics should be sensitive to the fact that some people are not confident enough to initiate a conversation about consent, forcing them to seek sexual gratification outside “the living.”  But-- yes means anal?  I mean really.  Whatever you and the deceased are doing behind closed doors is your business.  And again, I must warn you that over-sharing in your chanting may drive some people away. 

Moving right along.  Fuck Al Qaeda?  This is where you lost me.  However, I will assume you mean dead Al Qaedans, because you’ve already established your group as having a necrophiliac interest.  But then why are Al Qaedans sluts?  Perhaps this is the self-loathing surrounding your sexual preferences— because you’ve been labeled bad, or wrong.  But that's no reason to lash out.  Especially at the people you care about.

Obviously, you are in desperate need of a support structure; an asylum where you can be open and  honest about your feelings.  A safe space, much like the Women's Center where you held your demonstration, for Al Qaeda-loving necrophiliacs at Yale.  This leads me to believe you positioned yourselves strategically out of envy.

No matter.  You too, deserve a refuge from oppression.

And lastly, USA?  I get it.  Even though your nation has turned its back on you, you still hold a special place in your hearts for the red, white and blue.  You are patriots, but you are ashamed that you are attracted to the corpses of terrorists that plague our country.  I applaud your bravery and thank you for bringing this issue into an open forum.

.....    

So, while the uproar against their actions was understandably a knee-jerk reaction, I would caution others to not pass judgment on these poor souls.  Sure they’re disgusting.  And their slogan wasn’t that clever— seriously, it didn’t even rhyme—but we can’t hold that against them.  Our founding fathers believed that all men are created equal.  Who are we to say whether anal sex between an Ivy league student and a dead Al Qaedan is appropriate?

In closing, I would like to personally reassure the men of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon that they have been heard and they have my support.  Your Al Qaedan-preferring necrophiliac organization will live in secrecy (behind the front of a college fraternity) no more!  But before you take to the streets again, might I suggest tweaking your campaign because some people found the first round of chanting rather offensive.  And remember; always be clear about your grievances and your demands in your quest for social change.

Otherwise, people might think you were endorsing violence against women or something.  Wouldn’t that be embarrassing?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Witches and Feminism

Courtesy of Flickr user dawnzy58 at Creative Commons 3.0
While Christine O'Donnell was publicly denying allegations that she was a witch, I was remembering that traditionally, women accused of witchcraft were guilty until proven innocent.  And back in the day, nothing could have saved the Delawarean from a heaping helping of archaic Christian justice.  Even "dabbling" in witchcraft would have landed her in the middle of a New England-style-barbecue. 
 
Fast-forward to now, when caricatures of women once perceived as a serious threat are incorporated into a commercialized national holiday.  Perhaps the fear-factor surrounding these so-called witches is worth some consideration?  I mean, how did victims of religious hysteria evolve into staples of popular culture associated specifically with the this time of year

And what constitutes a witch anyway?  While some are old hags and some are sex-pots, all supposedly hate children.  And most seduce men, while hating them too.  They cook up potions instead of food.  They use their broomsticks to travel, instead of clean.  They dance in the woods, singing and cackling.  Just who do they think they are?  Feminists?

Strangely enough, the witches of the past share communal ground with feminism.  Many of the women tried for mystical wrong-doing were simply midwives and natural healers.  But pagan beliefs challenged patriarchal Christianity and so they were condemned.  

Certain facets of feminism continue to nod to witches--The Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, or W.I.T.C.H, was the clever name of a network of socialist feminists.  And Lilith; the controversial first woman and well-known feminist icon, is believed to be both a goddess and a witch.
So was "witchcraft" as we understand it ever real?  Or has it always been a stigmatization for  radical women who don’t conform to society’s rigid norms?  The matter is certainly up for debate.  But if witches were living next door, it would still be necessary for them to assimilate like Samantha-the-nose-wiggler, and convince the masses they're "just like us."  

What do you think-- are witches fact or fiction?  But more importantly, are they feminists?

Christine O'Donnell is NOT a Witch




The fact that a woman too Christian to masturbate would dabble in witchcraft is almost as funny as her "official" clarification that she is not a witch.



Slow down, O’Donnell.  We all enjoyed your ad, but the Western world has a long-established process for determining whether or not someone is a witch.    



But seriously.  Didn't we used to burn witches?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Silent Witness Project


What does it mean to be a silent witness to intimate partner violence?  And what does it mean to lend them your voice?


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and contains one of the most poignant events of the year.  On Thursday, emotional participants filled the Zoar Lutheran church in Perrysburg, Ohio to lament loss and celebrate survival. 


Bowling Green State University's Women's Center hosted it's 10th annual Silent Witness Project, part of a national campaign to end violence against women and increase the visibility of domestic homicide, while inspiring collective action for social change.



The Northwest Ohio chapter of the Silent Witness Project was established by BGSU's Women's Center staff in 2002 in response to the 2000 murder of a BGSU graduate.  The body of Michelle Rizzi was found on campus in 2001.

This chapter is affiliated with the Silent Witness National Initiative,creators of the remembrance ceremony.  And to call the presentation "powerful" is an understatement. 


The room is filled with black shrouded silhouettes.  A reader stands in front of each, and one by one, as their stories are told, the shroud is removed, revealing a red figure.  

Each represents a woman killed by intimate partner violence. 


In Northwest Ohio, 49 figures were in attendance.  This number is astonishingly high, and unacceptable, because even one is still too many.



BGSU graduate Megan Gerken is the Silent Witness Project Coordinator; a service position arranged through AmeriCorps.  With a degree in social work, she will hold the position for a year.  So far, she's really enjoyed it: 

I love that the Silent Witness Project's focus is to remember girls and women as more than another statistic, but as real people who lived and loved and whose entire life was not just about the abuse she suffered, but it is something that unites all of the Silent Witnesses together and can be used to help other women and prevent tragedies like that to happen again.



Gerken started things off, welcoming everyone and introducing the key players. 

Then Dr. Mary Krueger, the director of the Women's Center, spoke briefly, reminding the audience that "Why didn't she leave?" is a judgement, and not a question.  Responsibility for intimate partner violence can no longer fall on the victim-- we need to hold abusers responsible for their actions and the law accountable for protecting women's safety. 




Dr. Sarah Rainey of BGSU reading for Charlotte Evans
The keynote, and last speaker of the evening was Mary Lauterbach, mother of Maria Lauterbach; the marine who's disappearance gained national attention before it was "swept under the rug." 

Once police arrested the same man who had raped Maria just eight months earlier for her kidnapping and murder, Mary watched her daughter fade from the media and become another statistic.  Realizing how the system had failed Maria, she successfully passed legislation that would allow for a base transfer after filing sexual assault charges in the military; a simple procedure that may have saved Maria's life.



BGSU student Anissa Mahmood, 22, attended the event for the first time.  “I knew what the event was about but I don't think I expected how much it would affect me, emotionally. It is sad, but I think it really raises awareness about domestic violence and pays tribute to those women who lost their lives,” she said.


BGSU student Stephanie Bush, 22, has attended several Silent Witness presentations.  “It is important that these victims and their struggles are not forgotten, these were people with families and lives,”  she said, stressing the event's connections to the past, present and future.
Silent Witness is also important because hearing the stories may spur someone into action, whether that be leaving or supporting a friend who is with an abusive partner. Every year, I leave Silent Witness very angry. That was too many victims, too many opportunities for someone, anyone, to take action and help.

BGSU student, Shayna Noonen, 19, was taking a women’s studies class about interpersonal violence where she was asked to be a reader.  She took on the part of Michelle Mielecki, a 21 year old University of Toledo student, and made a very personal connection.
It was an incredibly emotional moment when I realized that both Michelle and I loved the Cleveland Indians. Before then I could distance myself, feel as though this violence was something that other people experienced, but when I read my witness's biography I knew there was nothing different between her and I. This same thing could happen to me.


The Unveiling Ceremony raises awareness for those who don't know how problematic intimate partner violence is, begins a healing process for those who do, and proves there is strength in numbers.  Most importantly, it personalizes the issue with women who have already been affected in the community. 

While 49 is just a number, Michelle Rizzi, for instance, is an unforgettable name.  And as the words of the event's closing song ask, "Remember my name.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1) AfterEllen remembers the women on National Coming Out Day.

2) A modern rant on modern feminism at Fbomb.

3) Jezebel's keeping tabs on women's golf and transgender discrimination.

4) The economics of thin, by Feministe.

5) Ms. found an app for sex-trafficking.  Seriously.

The Sexist Network



Apparently, the Facebook movie is sexist.  And leave it to my favorite feminist, Stephen Colbert, to bring it up.  Women and Hollywood posted the transcript from The Colbert Report, which has everyone wondering if writer Aaron Sorkin (or Mark Zuckerberg, for that matter) is a real-life misogynist.  After mentioning the opening scene with Zuckerberg's past girlfriend, Colbert asked Sorkin-- "Why are there no other women of any substance in the movie?"

The Daily Beast wondered the same thing, and comments carefully, making two very strong points.  First, while nerds are often portrayed as lovable underdogs, there is certainly a sexist element to nerd culture.  But we never think of the Geek Squad as a traditional boys club because it isn't somewhere women necessarily want to be.  The second point then, is that women have basically "opted out" of the most powerful positions in today's economy, from Silicon Valley to Wall Street.  Whether you agree or not, it's an interesting consideration.

It seems everyone has written about the sexism in The Social Network.  Seriously-- just google it. 

So I decided to check it out for myself, fully planning to put in my two cents.  And what I found was a really thoughtful and relatable movie about a young boy's journey from Harvard-nobody to becoming a bonafide billionaire.  Just your typical Cinderella-story.  And while he was pulling himself up by his bootstraps, there were plenty of messages about love and the human condition to take away from this cinematic experience.  So many, in fact, that I thought it might be helpful to consolidate them into a list.  Here now, is what I like to call "Lessons about women to be learned from The Social Network, at least, as far as I could tell"--

1) Mark Zuckerberg had a smart and sassy girlfriend.  She dumped him because he belittled her.  He's spent every moment since pining for her and trying to win back her affection.  Even Facebook had a muse.

2) Women want to have sex with rich and successful men.  The will travel, by the busload, to meet even potentially rich and successful men.  And have sex with them.  That's because the only way for a woman to gain wealth or recognition is take it from a man.  With her vagina.

3) Women don't understand technology.  Or computers.  And certainly not coding.  No women were involved in the making of Facebook.  They only had sex with the men involved in the making of Facebook, while majoring in things like French.  Because women can understand foreign languages.  But not coding.

4) Women are afraid of snakes.  Fearful enough to jump out of a running shower.  However, they will willingly have sex with a "snake in the grass," because they are terrible judges of character.

5) While women don't understand technology, they are easily impressed by it.  Women become slutty when they are impressed.  When they are really impressed, they will have sex with men on the first date.  Even in a public restroom.

6) Any woman, no matter how seemingly cool or attractive, will become insane once you enter a relationship with her.  She will break into your apartment, invade your privacy, and even set things on fire.  Bitches are crazy.  Change your relationship status with caution.

7) Underage girls are more fun than full-grown women.  Especially when exposed to illegal substances.  This includes marijuana, cocaine, and even alcohol, because alcohol is also illegal for girls who are underage.

8) Women make excellent secretaries and they will handle your packages with care.

9) Women can also make pretty good lawyers.  And sometimes they even give sound legal advice.  However, in the midst of a career, the most important thing is for them to stay thin and attractive.  They will accomplish this by eating salads for lunch and skipping dinner.

10) All Mark Zuckerberg really wants is for his ex-girlfriend to accept his friend request.

With all the negative press, "Mark Zuckerberg" stopped by SNL to clarify some less than accurate depictions in the greatest movie ever made.  Andy Samberg's portrayal was spot on.  And he left Weekend Update with a pearl of wisdom that might actually be the moral to the Facebook story.  "Why does anyone do anything?"  To meet girls.  Duh.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Breast Cancer: The Key to the Cure



Have you checked the calendar?  We're nearly halfway through Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Yes, October means it’s time (once again) to save the boobies.  Considering this is one of the most popular afflictions ever, am I going to tell you how important this issue is and how we must all do our part by patronizing large businesses that donate money to breast cancer research?  No.  Quite the opposite, really.  I’m going to tell you how this campaign is just a bunch of pink-washing that is highly publicized, while almost completely ineffective. 

Ah, pink-washing.  Qu’est-ce que c’est?  Pardon my French, but often times, when products are specifically marketed towards women, companies will clue them in by making the item pink.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve noticed a needful thing because the color indicated it was just for me; a woman.  But if you really want to see this demographic buying with a sense of urgency, you’ll have to take it a step further and, like Barbara Ehrenreich said, “Slap on a pink ribbon.”

The unmistakable logo is everywhere, indicating a portion of the proceeds are going to breast cancer research, treatment and education.  From Yoplait yogurt to Mead office supplies, you would think we would have a cure by now.  That is, until one realizes this selfless contribution is usually an inconsequential fraction of the donor’s profits-- which undoubtedly increased with the additional branding. 

Take for instance, Go Girl energy drinks; the pink can that keeps breast cancer and this suspicious beverage on everyone’s lips.  When you investigate the financial commitment on the Go Girl website, it seems that only 50 cents from every case is making its way back to the cause.  But that doesn’t keep consumers from showing their support with their purchasing power.  Breast cancer is being used as the ultimate pusher and it’s time we questioned who is really benefitting from this over-exposure.

Let’s play a game.  Not that I endorse Wal-Mart, Meijer or Super K-Mart, but for the sake of argument, let’s say you are at one of these over-grown grocery stores for a justifiable reason, like investigative journalism.  Give yourself about 20 minutes to wander the aisles and try to pick out the most ridiculous article “benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”  After my own field research, I would declare an official tie between the Revlon hair dryer and Duck bubble wrap, both unapologetically pink.

There’s also a noticeable trend in the sports department.  From mini footballs to yoga mats, to golf clubs, to pedometers, every sporting good seems to have a pink-lady-version, complete with breast cancer endorsement.  Planning a camping trip?  Be sure to grab your over-sized mesh chair and 6-can cooler (you could fill it with Go Girl) before strapping on your “Hope” iPod armband and back pack for your outdoor adventure. 

With all the talk about ta-tas, it’s also important to remember this is the most hyper-sexualized awareness campaign ever.  Perhaps that’s why it receives the steady attention it does?  A few months ago, Facebook told women we could combat breast cancer by posting the color of our bra as our status.  More recently, we were told to put the preferred location of our purse in the newsfeed— with innuendoes greatly appreciated.  And so an entire day of posting read like this; I like it on the floor.  I like it on the kitchen counter.  I like it in the backseat of my car.

At some point, the cynics have to ask-- "how is this helping?"  My favorite cynic, the aforementioned Barbara Ehrenreich, did just that after her own brush with breast cancer.  Almost a year ago, Ehrenreich wrote a piece on how the nation’s favorite women’s issue has been conflated with feminism.  She argues that rather than stay complacent in a race for the cure, there needs to be a full-scale women’s health movement taking the whole body into consideration, not just the sexy parts.  

You see, more women are dying from heart disease than breast cancer, but that's not very conducive to suggestive slogans or titillating T-shirts.  With women’s overall health in mind, what we should really be promoting this month is awareness about breast cancer awareness.  There’s an entire body at risk because of the carcinogens women willingly expose themselves to everyday.  And there’s an entire list of diseases more likely to kill women than breast cancer.  So let’s make an effort to raise awareness about the other things we should be paying attention to, instead of keeping our eyes fixated firmly at chest-level.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Adventures in Feminist Dating

Photo reprinted with permission by Alexandra Tweten

Studies show that feminists have better sex.  But studies also show that women hesitate to identify as feminists when they want to be seen as attractive.  The constant scrutiny surrounding women's rights and romance prompted Cristen Conger at the Huffington Post to ask, "What heterosexual woman in her right mind would dare broach the topic of feminism on a first (or second, or third...) date?   

Well, how about Alexandra Tweten for starters?  This feminist launched a three part online dating experiment for Ms. Magazine--an assignment that resulted in some hilarious (but necessary) rejections, a few life lessons, and finally, a serious relationship.

Episode 1 gave us what we were all expecting-- a list of trolls.  After posting an explicitly feminist ad on Craigslist, Ali estimated "Out of 68 replies, only four were spam, two included pictures of penises, and two or three were anti-feminist," including the one who responded, "I hope you wrote that ad from the kitchen, where you belong."  Ah, douchebags.  Where would feminism be without its unworthy opponents?

Episode 2 countered with good news.  And feminist readers everywhere let out a sigh of relief.  Social democrats and pro-choicers had our undercover subject swooning.  And besides the fourierist, whom she suspected only began using the title after googling feminism, Ali was meeting compatible men and even went on a few enjoyable dates.  "They didn't all say that they were feminists, but for the most part, they agreed with it."  Ali noticed that many of them were interested and willing to learn more, which also made feminism a great conversation starter.

Episode 3 took us to OK Cupid.  At the urging of Jezebel readers, she left Craigslist and entered a new forum for hip, young online-daters.  It was at this point that I met Ali at the Ms. office and, intrigued by her research, stepped in for some first-date-third-wheelage.  Nobody seemed to mind.  And I'll never forget what I learned as I tagged along.

After making a commitment to being forward about her personal politics, she couldn't turn it off.  Whenever, wherever, Ali described herself in terms of feminism.  Her confidence was unshakable, even when the feedback was less than positive.  I listened to potential suitors talk circles around issues like sexual violence and ask incriminating questions about what was left to fight for-- one guy even asserted that he was down with the f-word because he worked with women.  In the same building?  How very progressive.

Eventually, Ali met Mr. Right and while I promised not to disclose the details of her personal life, I can assure you that they are in a serious, happy and healthy relationship-- shall we say, Facebook official?  And while his gaydar may be a little off (a skill most feminists pride themselves on) Mr. Right passed our litmus test with flying colors.

After reviewing the empirical evidence yielded by her very scientific experiment, Ms. Tweten said she won't be wasting any time skirting the issue ever again.  So neither should you.  And don't get discouraged.  Ali found "there are indeed many pro-feminist and feminist men looking for dates."  It's not like she bagged the only one.

Empowering moral of the story?  Never keep your motives for world domination a secret. 

Gotcha.  The real lesson is, even though "dating while feminist" can be difficult, it's totally worth it.  Always be open and honest about your hopes for a more egalitarian society.  Otherwise, you might find yourself faking it for a troll.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday's Five Feminist Friends

1) Death and Taxes extends a Tea Party invitation to Wonder Woman.

2) Riot Grrrls are all the rage over at The Advocate.

3) The exclusive WMC interview with The Style Rookie.

4) New mommy Jessica Valenti shares the story of her difficult delivery.

5) Broadsheet questions the Forbes criteria for powerful women.

Sarcastic (Vegas) Slide Show

Because one post couldn't contain the awesomeness.  And you were begging for more.  Here, now, are the rest of the photos from my trip to the desert.  Notice the fear and the loathing.  Complete with commentary only a cynic could love...

Well, That's Vegas, Baby!

Originally printed in the BG News on Friday, October 8, 2010

Photo by Jessica Dennis, October 2010

“Whack.  Whack.  Whack.”  That’s the sound of temptation as it follows you down the Vegas Strip, littered with business cards advertising a variety of services in the flesh industry.  Men and women, mostly minorities, line the street wearing t-shits that offer tourists “Girls!  Direct to your room,” while snapping pornographic brochures at passersby.  And in public, few accept. 

But don’t be fooled.  Vegas is an equal opportunity exploiter.  I came across an average-looking gentleman for the low, low price of 32 dollars—for the whole night!  Call me old fashioned, but I didn’t take the man-whore up on his pimp’s proposal.  I mean really; that’s the same amount as one of the nicer buffets.

Yes, I am writing from Las Vegas while staying at the Planet Hollywood hotel, which is hosting this year’s Society of Professional Journalists' national conference.  And so far I’ve resisted the temptation to stumble through the lobby declaring myself a doctor of journalism.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m networking like Mark Zuckerberg, while shaking the glitter off my clothes like Katy Perry.  So this week, I thought I’d take this totally random opportunity to let readers view the sights of the city of vice through my always critical eyes.
What’s this feminist columnist’s first impression?  For starters, everything is over-priced.  Nothing here occurs in moderation.  Nevada has more senior citizens than Florida.  Gambling is for suckers.  And this has got to be the highest concentration of sex work in the country.
Inside Planet Hollywood’s casino, you’ll find “The Pleasure Pit” where strippers crawl atop the bar as soon as the sun goes down.  But the cocktail waitresses and game hostesses are so scantily clad, they give the dancers a run for their money.  
If you follow the flashing lights to the Miracle Mile mall attached to the hotel, there is a plethora of restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages by the yard.  Yes, the yard.  And the obvious favorite, demanding the attention of passer-bys with a 60 foot stripper in 30 foot go-go boots, is cleverly named “The Stripper Bar.”  Go figure.
The Planet is also home to Girl-Next-Door Holly Madison’s Peep Show.  It’s “ultra-hot” and “all the rage,” claiming that it “modernizes the classic Vegas topless show.”  But I wanted to see classic Vegas, un-modernized, so I went to Bally’s premier hotel and casino. 
While their main attraction, “Jubilee,” presents a variety of performers adorned with an abundance of rhinestones, the showgirls definitely steal the revue.  Like something out of a Bob Mackie hallucination, these women could be confused for human peacocks.  And with more on their heads than their hineys, it’s no wonder why. 
Several of the numbers are topless, but if you can get past the boobies, you might realize these are some truly talented dancers.  I wondered how many headed west after being inspired by Elizabeth Berkley’s notorious portrayal of Nomi Malone- the showgirl with a heart of gold.  And then I wondered something else. 

Years ago, I learned that Las Vegas shouldn’t even exist.  And if it wasn’t for the Hoover Dam, it wouldn’t.  Was anyone else aware?  This oasis in the desert is literally a mirage.  But no one’s talking about water shortages or resource wars while musical fountains dance in a neon paradise.  Distraction ensures that reality is out of sight and out of mind. 


Vegas will infiltrate your pores and overload your senses with more than secondhand smoke—because it’s supposed to.  Escorts fill magazines that fill boxes that fulfill our expectations.  We are promised debauchery and shenanigans.  The precedent has been set and visitors would be disappointed if their experience did not include at least four of the seven vices humanity usually tries to avoid.

A wise man once said, “I eat too much.  I drink too much.  I want too much.  Too much.”  One can’t be sure, but Dave Matthews might have been talking about Las Vegas and its inability to appease an artificial appetite that fuels capitalist over-consumption.  Had I said I was going to the desert to pay three times the market value for goods and services that would sound crazy.  But when I say “I’m going to Vegas,” the reaction is encouraging, if not envious. 
See how hype can make something less than ordinary strangely extraordinary?  Well, that’s Vegas, Baby.