Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner's Feminist Conundrum

Caitlyn Jenner looks amazing. That was the headline on Monday, and it was well-deserved. Even if we hadn’t seen her before, we probably would have said that, especially if we had known she’s 65 years old.

As a secular humanist/liberal/commie/whatever you want to call me, I’m happy that we’re becoming what seems to be a society that’s more accepting of people’s choices (as long as there’s not a fetus involved). The male-female continuum has always been murky, and I’m glad that we’re starting to realize that.

I also think it would be horrible to have to live in a body that I felt I didn’t belong in, and I’m glad there’s surgery that lets people project what they feel on the inside to the world at large. But my feminist heart is troubled.

It makes sense - no one is going to have surgery to become an average looking person. If you’re getting fake boobs, you’re not going to get small weirdo boobs, you’re going to get really great ones. Same for your stomach and your hips. Everything down under is going to line up as nicely as it possibly can. You don’t just want to be a woman, you want to be a WOMAN.

But the perfect nipples, the raised cheekbones, the nips, the tucks, I have the same problem with those that I do for anyone getting plastic surgery. They continue publicizing this impossible ideal that (I thought) we were slowly starting to shift away from. 

The Lena Dunhams and Amy Schumers of the world, the chronic loud and proud use of the word ‘feminist’ (Thanks, Taylor Swift! Thanks, Beyonce!), the celebs standing up (or down) to Cannes about their high heels rule, the Lane Bryant #ImNoAngel campaign, Rookie Magazine - I was starting to believe that mainstream feminism was the future.

At the same time, society is becoming more accepting of the transgender community. So where does feminism fit into that? I’ve never been a transgender person, so I don’t know. The way I understand it, transgender people are straddling the gender continuum - they're wired on one side, but look like they’re on the other side. With surgery, you're closing your legs, so to speak, you're meeting yourself on one side of the continuum. You are one thing and not the other. That immediately conflicts with second wave ideas that gender is a social construct, but this isn't my issue - as a third-waver, I believe men and women are different, and that's okay. That's good.

In a society that judges people on how they look, I get wanting to remove the extraneous parts - the penises, the boobs. I get growing your hair out or cutting it short, dressing in jeans or a skirt.

But Caitlyn Jenner didn’t stop there. She turned herself into an impossibly beautiful woman. I know that she’s got to live how she feels, but does a 65 year old woman really feel like THAT on the inside? I don’t feel like that and I’m 32. In fact, if I had surgery to reflect how I really feel on the inside, I would probably look more like Bruce Jenner than Caitlyn. I understand that Caitlyn is a woman, and that the Vanity Fair shoot was "about who [she] is as a person," but it makes my feminism sad that she became such a society-driven ideal of a woman. How honest is that?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Roe v. Wade!

On the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I want to remind everyone that there's a reason we pro-choicers use the word "choice." And that reason is what (I hope) we're fighting for.

It's not about abortion. It was never about abortion. Find me someone who actually LIKES abortion. We're not for more abortions, we're for freedom. For trust. For choice. For autonomy.

The moment abortion becomes illegal, that freedom, that choice has been taken away. The nation is effectively saying, "Women shouldn't be trusted to make this decision for themselves."

When pro-lifers frame the argument around the potential for life, they de-rail the focus. We're not automatically on opposite sides of the argument, because they're arguing apples and I'm arguing squares. It's not an either-or argument. It's this-and-that. And this is why we all end up nowhere. Pretty soon, the argument becomes about pinpointing where life begins, and we're in a hamster wheel of cyclical arguments where no one trusts anyone with any decision and both abortion and masturbation end up illegal.

I'm firmly pro-masturbation, for the record.

But back to my point. Pro-choice is not pro-abortion. If you're pro-choice, you're most likely for any method that WORKS (I'm looking at you, abstinence-only education) to decrease the number of abortions. Like almost everything else in this world, it starts with education, continues with availability of resources to enable women and men to make smart decisions, and ends (in my dream world, anyway) with a world full of WANTED children and happy people, both pregnant and non-pregnant.

For this world to become a reality, abortion needs to exist. It needs to be accessible and safe, because accidents happen. Stupid decisions happen. And that's what makes abortion a necessity.

I've met people who can't quite bring themselves to accept the "pro-choice" label. I get it. Labels suck. But sometimes, like abortion, they're necessary. We're in a fight, and we need you. You may be morally opposed to abortion for yourself, but if you believe people should maintain control over their bodies, you're on this side of the line, I'm afraid. Come join the picket line.

Monday, April 13, 2009

OBSERVE and Report...a confession

I was shocked...outraged...pissed. I hate shock comedy and hate movies in general, but a film that mines date rape and serial flashers for comedy is NOT a film I want to see. Observe and Report is all of these things. Here's the R-rated trailer:

And here's Seth Rogen's explanation of why his rape scene "isn't" rape:

SETH ROGEN: when we’re having sex and she’s unconscious like you can literally feel the audience thinking, like, how the fuck are they going to make this okay? Like, what can possibly be said or done that I’m not going to walk out of the movie theater in the next thirty seconds? . . . And then she says, like, the one thing that makes it all okay:

BRANDI: “Why are you stopping, motherfucker?”

Never mind that she passes out after saying it. And forget about how messed up she is. We won't even mention her vomit-covered pillow.

This is obviously rape. Funny rape. Cue feminist outrage.

Then I remembered: I haven't seen the movie. I've read a bunch of reviews and feminist analysis of the TRAILER, but I haven't actually watched it. I forgot to observe before I reported (ha ha ha).

In short, I have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.

This isn't a movie for everyone. Obviously. Reviews range from rave to pan. I THINK I'll be on the pan side, but I don't know. I forgot to think for myself. I used other people's words, other people's outrage. And that makes me sad.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Barbie Confusion

According to Deadspin, "The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has awarded its first TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award to Mattel's 'Barbie Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Doll.'"

I always hated "playing Barbie." It would be cool if I could say that I was conscious of the way Barbie made me feel about myself and my body, but I just hated her. She was too perky. And my friends sounded stupid when they tried to make her speak.

I voted for video games over the large-breasted plastic dolls.

But once I found my feminism, I realized that there was a lot to hate about these dolls. The unrealistic proportions, the pink theme of it all, the outfits... Despite some efforts to the contrary, Barbie is not a cool, normal chick.

And she's not supposed to be. She's supposed to be glamorous, skinny, hot, pink...whatever. That's what our society aspires to. Don't believe me? Take a look at some of the "hottest" movie stars around today.

Blaming Barbie for instilling an unhealthy body image or unrealistic expectations in young girls is like blaming GI Joe for aggression in boys. Barbie is just a symptom. Yes, there's a problem, but complaining about Barbie or even discontinuing the doll (never gonna happen) isn't going to fix it.

So that's why this random award for a particular Barbie in a "skimpy" outfit puzzles me. What is so different about this Barbie? And how, exactly, does it oppress anyone? That's a lot of power for one plastic doll.

Look, I get where these people are coming from. I hate that there's a doll out there who wouldn't be able to stand if she was a real woman. But there's a reason these things sell so well. I think it's misguided to blame a toy for our problems.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sexist Ad of the Day: Ikea

"Every woman needs her space."

Find more videos like this on AdGabber

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Medicaid Family Planning State Option FAIL

Yesterday, Obama caved to Republicans and facilitated the removal of family planning from the stimulus package. I find myself thinking about many scenes from The West Wing (again):

"This is about getting votes from white men."

I wish Amy Gardner was a real person. (I know we have women like her out there...I'm just feeling mopey right now.)

Planned Parenthood lays it out better than I ever could:

The Medicaid Family Planning State Option is a simple way to make health care affordable for millions of Americans. It would do two important things:

1. It would allow millions of women to obtain basic health care. It would extend safety-net health care coverage for millions of people, including many who are losing their jobs and health insurance in the economic downturn. Studies estimate that 2.3 million low-income women would receive coverage under this provision by 2014, and 500,000 women would be able to avoid unintended pregnancies.

2. In these difficult times, this provision would save states money. State budgets are being squeezed by the economic downturn, just as millions are losing their jobs and health insurance. The Medicaid Family Planning State Option not only would help states extend their coverage, it would generate savings for states and the federal government by expanding access to preventive care.

Please, take two minutes now to help us raise a public outcry.

Call the White House (202-456-1111). Let them know that during this tough economic time, expanding access to basic health care is more important than ever for women and families.

For more details, click here.

Conundrum of the day: Shin Saim-dang's picture on a South Korean bank note

According to the LA Times, the decision to put Shin Saim-dang's picture on the 50,000-won bill is controversial, both because she's a woman and because she is known as the "wise mother."

So...basically...no one is happy. A convenience store worker doesn't want "a woman's face on [his] money." A university student hopes "people don't think she represents women in this culture. She doesn't."

From the LA Times article:

While some applauded the move as an equal rights gesture in a country where men control nearly every facet of society, others say choosing Shin reinforces sexist stereotypes about women's roles.

Known as Eojin Eomeoni, or "wise mother," Shin for 500 years has been a model of both excellent mothering skills and filial piety, according to Bank of Korea officials.

Shin was the mother of seven children, including Yi I, a famous Confucian scholar whose image adorns the nation's 5,000-won note.

The officials point out that Shin was a respected female figure in Korea's Joseon Dynasty, which ruled from 1392 to 1910.

Shin's success in fulfilling her duties as a mother, wife and daughter while succeeding as an artist has brought her great respect in modern-day South Korea, the proponents add.
I don't know enough to have an opinion on this one (hence the heavy quotage), but I thought it was an interesting story. Any thoughts from people with more knowledge on the subject?

The Bright Side: Iceland appoints openly gay, lefty woman as PM

Yay, Iceland! It's only a matter of a bajillion years before a former flight attendant-turned socialist lesbian becomes president in the US. That's right...I think Iceland's a bajillion years ahead of us on that front.

Of course, Johanna Sigurdardottir will only be PM until the general elections in May (the former PM stepped down because he so royally screwed up the economy...or because he was sick...right...that's it). And she's got an economic disaster on her hands...

But still...this is awesome.

You MUST be joking: Dating a Banker Anonymous

Dating a Banker Anonymous is a support group for women who are "stuck" dating a banker. Here's the full text from the intro:

Are you or someone you love dating a banker? If so, we are here to support you through these difficult times. Dating A Banker Anonymous (DABA) is a safe place where women can come together – free from the scrutiny of feminists– and share their tearful tales of how the mortgage meltdown has affected their relationships. DABA Girls was started by two best friends whose relationships tanked with the economy. Not knowing what else to do, we did what frustrated but articulate girls have done since the beginning of time - we started a blog. So if your monthly Bergdorf’s allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life, lighten your heart with laughter and email your stories to dabagirls@gmail.com. Warning all stories sent will be infused with our own special brand of DABA Girl humor.
The "humor" they mention is the Gossip Girl/Sex and the City "look at me, I'm really spoiled and unhappy" brand of wit. To be fair, they've found a niche and they're running with it. Fine. And if they have emotionally and/or physically abusive boyfriends (or 'FBFs' - financial boyfriends), then they should have a support group.

But most of these women are talking about everyday depression. Their boyfriends are watching their lives disintegrate and it's "not what they signed up for." Their rich boyfriends aren't making money anymore and they're all mopey and "clingy." What's a girl to do?

How about...be a good partner? Everyone goes through bad times. The nice thing about being in a relationship? Your other half wants to make you feel better. They...you know...CARE about you. That's comforting when everything else in your life is turning to shit.

I could continue with the appalling quotes, but you get the idea. This is a group of selfish, whiny women. They act like they're victims of the recession. If they're so unhappy, just BREAK UP with the guy. It'll probably be better for him in the long run. Of course, then you'd be forced to change your "facebook status from 'in a relationship' to 'I ain’t saying I’m a gold digger, but I ain’t messin’ with no broke banker.'" THE HORROR!!!

Talk about false victimization. I wish these women would either grow a pair and help these guys out, or get out before they do any damage to their "FBFs."

UPDATE: Here's the NYT story about these ladies.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

RIP "Feminist"?

I'm tired of writing about Palin. Really, I am. But she did pose an interesting quandary for those of us who call ourselves feminists. Because...you know...SHE called herself a feminist.

A Feminist for Life.

That's a feminist who doesn't believe women should have a choice about what they do with their own bodies. A feminist who believes equal rights is being "one of the boys."

For a long time, I've believed that anyone who identifies as a feminist IS a feminist. Who am I to say they're not a "real" feminist? And then Palin came on the scene.

I don't think she would've kept the feminist thing going if it hadn't come out that she was a member of Feminists for Life. But it did, and she took it and ran with it. Smart.

Still, I don't think, as this article suggests, that she killed the word itself by "eliminating the taboo."

I don't want people to be scared of the word. I want everyone who truly believes in equal rights to be able to proudly say that they're a feminist. We don't need a taboo to keep us going. We need people on our side.

And that's what bugs me about Palin. I don't think she's on our side. Obviously, feminism means something entirely different to her. She can call herself a feminist, but a politician who believes "that women certainly today have every opportunity that a man has to succeed, and to try to do it all, anyway" is not someone who is fighting for women's rights. It seems like she just wants to maintain the status quo. And that's not enough.

But the KKK didn't kill the word "Christian" and Palin didn't kill the word "feminist." She can call herself whatever she wants, but she doesn't represent feminism. She doesn't speak for us. And terrorists who call themselves Muslims don't speak for Muslims everywhere.

I'm not, in any way saying Palin is comparable to a terrorist or a member of the KKK, I just think people can use words to describe themselves without changing the definition for everyone.

I don't think Conservative Christians are anywhere near co-opting the word. I think it's still scary, just not AS scary. And that's a pretty good place to be.

Michelle Obama is not ready to call herself a feminist (she "doesn't like labels"). And I think that proves the point. People are still afraid of the word. I would love for that fear to end, but it hasn't.

It isn't time to read the "feminist" obituary, but when that time comes, it will be because it's second nature to believe that men and women should be on equal footing. (That's why we don't call people man-ists.) The death of "feminist" won't come from some female good ole boy, it will come from hard work and revolution. When everyone's a feminist...THEN it will be time to retire the word.