Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Should I Start a New Blog?

Items of consideration:

I have too many labels already, and I don't want to add a dozen more because it will throw off the system I have going. On the other hand, probably half of my posts now are about feminism or some kind of activism, and just "feminism" is a little too broad a category. I'd like to make it more specific.

Well, that's really the main thing, and I'm obsessive enough that it bothers me. I don't especially want to start another blog, though, because I don't think I'll keep up with two and this one will probably get neglected. Maybe it's just time to switch?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

There's a Basic Rule in Hollywood:

Women will watch things about men, but men won't watch things about women. There's a similar rule in advertising, have you noticed? It seems to go like this: Every ad is aimed toward men, except the ones about cleaning products.

"Don't movie producers understand women are consumers too? 'Pirana in 3DD' How un-clever. I'm def #notbuyingit! #MissRep @RepresentPledge" via @NutritionArtist on Twitter


Women's fragrance...

"Hey Papa Gino's, try not being sexist shitheads when I'm eating." via @aprilpants on Twitter


via @lizzymayhem on Twitter

Domain names...

"Infantilization of women...I'm #notbuyingit @Maybelline Baby Lips? Really?" via @JacquelynJoan on Twitter
Lip balm...

via @sardonyxjade on Twitter

Cars that look like a VW beetle...

"American Apparel has every color of misogyny available, right in stores! #notbuyingit" via @moh_in_college on Twitter
Women's apparel...

"Ok, why does this woman need to be topless for a Vitamin Water ad? #notbuyingit" via @catdelbuono on Twitter
Vitamin Water...

More cars...

Hair dye...


And so on. The next time you're watching television, pay special attention to commercials for lipsticks and lip glosses—I think they might be the worst.

Advertisers are using objectified women to tell other women they need products in order to be acceptable and desirable to men. These commercials are supposedly about us... but somehow it's really all about men. Except for these:

Bonus information: Doing dishes isn't a chore anymore, ladies! Just for if you weren't sure. Now you really have no excuse.

Why are we letting that happen? If you'll remember, advertisers spent over $235 billion dollars in advertising in 2009. And according to Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of The Paley Center for Media and former president and CEO of PBS, women have 86% of the purchasing power in this country. So... Let's use it.

I'm going to stop here, because this post has probably already broken the internet and caused your computer to melt down. (Sorry about that.) But if you want a little more comedy with your cleaning products, check out this Sarah Haskins video in the Target: Women series. It makes me laugh every time.

(Just kidding—one more video because it's funny. And because a commercial that switches gender stereotypes without being offensive is always a win.)

Now I'm done.

Philosophy Series: Internet Communication

"I really prefer to have this kind of conversation face-to-face." "Maybe this is a conversation we need to have in person." Have you ever noticed how often this kind of phrase is used to shut down a discussion that has extended into difficult territory?

I've had this post sitting in my drafts for a while now, I think because I forgot I had written it. But today a friend posted an article about having political conversations on Facebook, and I half-rewrote this post in the comments I made when I linked to it on my wall. Now I'm just going to combine them.

There are legitimate reasons why people are afraid to have serious conversations online. For one thing, it's easy to misunderstand someone without body language and facial cues to give you context. And without the accountability of a face-to-face conversation, people will sometimes be far more rude or insulting than they normally would. These are real concerns. But I disagree with the idea that real conversations should never take place online.

In the first place: There are plenty of benefits to online conversation to balance out the drawbacks. You have time to think about what you're going to say instead of just blurting out your every thought. If you're like me, and have very strong emotional responses to things, writing also gives you time to calm down (and a conversation will always be more productive when your response can come from rational thought, not overwhelming emotion). Most importantly, or close to it—when you're online, you can research something before you comment on it. You can provide references for your arguments, so we can actually learn things instead of just disagreeing with each other repeatedly. You can check out Snopes before getting into an argument that didn't even need to happen because the basis of it was totally made up.

A downside (for me), but a partial solution to the first problem I mentioned above, is emoticons. I have always hated emoticons, and I've had to start getting over that. You need to be able to convey your emotions in an online conversation; you need to do what you can to bridge the gap created by the lack of body language. If something is said tongue-in-cheek, and people can't actually see the smile on your face, then you need to give them a hint. You can be a snob (like me) when you're writing an article or novel or blog post. But if you want to have healthy conversations about touchy issues on Facebook, you need to consider throwing in a smiley now and then.

In the second place, I think we need to stop being afraid of online conversations just as a matter of principle. The internet is not going anywhere. You do your banking online; that's where half of us get all of our news and current events. Important things happen here now, and it's time to get used to it. And the truth is that I think it's an amazing opportunity. If these weren't happening on the internet, most of them wouldn't be happening at all—because ‎"there is no place in real life where your grandma and your barista and your best friend and that guy you went on two OkCupid dates with are going to sit around and have a conversation about gay marriage."

Yes, that can make things difficult. It's a new social dynamic, and it's going to be tricky to navigate at first. But it also makes it that much easier for us to expand our views and learn about more of the world than just the neighborhoods we have physical access to. I have family members and friends all over the world right now, in Israel and China and England and France and Italy and Norway and spread all over the United States. Most of you probably do, too. Should we limit our online relationships to videos of kittens and useless email forwards? If online is the only way you can have a relationship with someone, does that mean you must keep that relationship completely superficial? Never talk about anything important, just because you can't talk about it in person?

Finally, ultimately, I think what "I prefer face-to-face" often comes down to is just conflict avoidance. Sure, maybe you really do prefer to sit down in real life. But probably you didn't bring that up at the beginning of the conversation; probably you have no intention of actually picking up this conversation the next time you see me. For most people, this phrase is just a way of bailing on a conversation that got complicated, trying to blame it on the internet rather than dealing with difficult issues. And I'd rather not do that.

These issues aren't going away. The world is smaller than it used to be, and you can't reasonably expect to limit political conversations to real life forever. We need to learn how to communicate better online. We need to learn to communicate better, period. That's all there is to it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mars, Venus... Is There a Third Option?

Right now I'm going to go back to a point I made toward the beginning of the first post—that I don't think there really are traits that belong solely to women or to men. Back in March I saw this comment posted on a blog post I was reading, and I thought it was so fantastic that I saved it in the draft that became this post.

ifrit says: March 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm My theory is that nearly everyone feels that they are an exception to the Gender Rules, whether in a good way or a bad way. Some of us realize that those rules can’t even be realistically followed for most people on this planet, and feel no guilt about it. Most of us either a) realize that there’s a difference between the rules and reality, but still feel guilty that we don’t “do things the way we’re supposed to”, or b) think that the rules are the one and only way to go, and entirely attainable for everyone, and generally end up feeling guilty and/or judging others who they don’t see as following the rules. I think all this is very silly, and that if everyone would just speak up about the way they actually live their lives and how they feel about the Gender Rules in relation to themselves and their own family, we would all realize that they’re silly and stop trying to do things that don’t make sense for us. 

Here's the thing I don't get about gender essentialism: If your argument is that men are different from women because the brain of the human male is biologically different from women's and always has been, then how do you explain the people who just aren't what you say they should be? You can't say it's because of how they were raised, because... Well, that is the argument against gender essentialism. 

I saw a Cracked.com article just a couple weeks ago about six gender stereotypes that are supposedly backed by science, and I compared myself to it. Well, science, I don't know what to tell you. I am actually not great at driving, that's true, but I am an excellent parker. In fact, I am much better than Mike is—when we were dating and I lived at Belmont, he would get out of the car and have me parallel park for him, because I was so much better at it. I thought you had me with "men are slobs", because Mike is very messy and I am compulsively neat. But then I kept reading and it turns out you weren't talking about messiness, you were talking about sense of smell, so now you're out of luck, because Mike has a much sharper sense of smell than I do. He's always asking if I smell something, and I don't. Besides which I haven't always been neat; when I was a teenager the floor of my room was inches deep in clothes I didn't bother to put away, and that was how I liked it. Then there's the pain question. "So, to recap, yes women have crazy strong pain thresholds right around childbirth, but any other time of their lives their capacity to endure pain is far less then men's, due to the way their nerves are wired up." Rather than go into specifics about this, I will just say... Nope. I have never experienced childbirth, but I handle more pain on an everyday basis than a lot of people do, and I can be in severe pain for a long time before Mike hears about it. (And he's the only one who will hear about it, besides maybe my mom if she's around.) All he needs, on the other hand, is a minor headache for the whining to start. 

For the record, the article explains many of these stereotypes using the hunter/gatherer "science" that is debunked in Same Difference (like that men have better spatial skills and are better at driving because their testosterone used to guide them home from hunting). According to SD, it is highly unlikely that in those dangerous prehistoric times, women sat around campfires all day waiting to be fed and protected and impregnated. They would have all died. In fact, both women and men gathered, and both hunted. It was almost never big game like mammoths, either, because they just didn't have tools to take down that kind of beast—it was small animals like rabbits, closer to home, and probably largely with nets. Inuit women hunted birds (and wouldn't that develop their spatial skills just as well as hunting big game?).

Then there's this Cracked article, which is a lot more accurate because it's based in recent observable history, not speculations on a past tens of thousands of years ago (and also maybe because it's written by a different person). It's a list of five gender stereotypes that used to be the exact opposite—like girls wearing pink. That's a popular one, so let's address it. Why are people trying to tell us that girls just naturally like pink and boys naturally hate it? Pink wasn't a "girl" color until World War II, and before that, many people specifically said it was a boy color! Only one hundred years ago, boys wore dresses until they were six or seven years old; now people freak out about the "perversion" of Iggy Pop in a dress. You know who that pervert is in the photo? (Yeah, you probably do. It's a popular picture.) But if you don't: It's two and a half year old Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This was considered gender neutral clothing in our great-grandparents' time, but put a toddler boy in a dress today and see what happens to you. Put a slightly older boy in a dress and see what happens to him. I'll give you a hint: It will probably be violent.

Do you know how many studies I've read in which the researchers put kids in a toy room and told them they weren't being watched? and do you know what happens? When there aren't adults around, boys play with baby dolls just as much as girls do. When there aren't adults around, boys paint their nails (and they often ask their moms to paint them, too). The Fisher-Price play lab is where the company tests out their toys, and the manager of the Child Research Department mentions that "kids cross gender boundaries more freely at the Playlab than they do elsewhere" because it's a "safe environment". Parents are often responsible for the segregation of toys—both boys and girls loved the fire truck that pumps water, for example, but parents buy it for boys. Boys "lingered over the stove [in a toy kitchen set] even longer than girls," but "mothers are buying it for their daughters." Parents are more likely to take a little boy outside to play than they are a girl. More than mothers, fathers treat their boys and girls differently, including giving them different toys to play with. Until they're about three years old, both boys and girls play with all the toys equally; it's only as they get a little older that they start going for the stereotypes. That sounds a lot as though learned expectations have something to do with their choices.

And here's the thing: Reading about all the "natural" differences between men and women has made me feel sort of weird. Because there are an awful lot of things that just do not describe me. Is there something masculine about me? Am I somehow not feminine enough? I'm fairly confident that I wasn't secretly raised as a boy for the first years of my life (although even if I had been, according to gender essentialism that shouldn't have any effect on me because it's nature, not nurture, that produces the differences). So... What's the deal?

Women are supposed to be better at "precision manual tasks", like sewing. I have never been able to learn to sew, crochet, or knit, though I've tried at multiple points in my life; it generally takes me about ten minutes to thread a needle, and has always been really hard for me to work with tiny objects. (Incidentally, if this is true, why aren't all the surgeons women?)

According to popular culture, women are better at baking and cooking and those kinds of domestic things. I am pretty near incompetent in the kitchen. I like cooking sometimes (sometimes), but it is really hard for me to do. I make huge messes and my baking never turns out right. In fact, the times I feel my stupidest are generally when I'm in the kitchen. (If you watched the video I linked to—the guys in the kitchen? Yeah, that's me.)

Women are supposed to be very emotional, and we love to talk about our feelings and spend hours on the phone and share all the most intimate details of our lives with our girlfriends. I am not like that. I am emotional in that I feel emotions very strongly. But I am terrible at expressing them. Mike is the only one I can share my feelings with, and even that is really hard. I'm generally pretty good at putting words together, but when I'm trying to explain how I feel, it's like I've lost all my language skills. I absolutely despise, with the fire of everything that is hot, talking on the phone. I don't answer the phone probably 75% percent of the time because I don't feel obligated to do something I hate just because someone else decided to call me.

Women are supposedly not competitive or aggressive, which is why mothers are better nurturers (proven false) and how people explain the "trend" (non-existent, but I'll write more on this later) of women "opting out" of their high-powered jobs. (The women who are "opting out," incidentally, were forced to choose between their families and their work because their jobs wouldn't cooperate with them in any way. They took a temporary break. That doesn't sound like "opting out" to me.) It happens that I am very, very competitive, so much that I often have to avoid games like Risk—which I love—because I am such a terrible loser. My sister-in-law is very competitive, too, and she's one of the most traditionally "feminine" women I know. In fact I'd say probably half of the women I know are just as competitive as any of the men I know.

Women are supposed to be relational, which is why single-sex schooling has become so popular. Girls learn better in groups, apparently. I don't. I hated every single group project I ever did in school, no matter how much I liked my group members. I much prefer to learn on my own, through reading and research, than through hands-on projects (also something girls are supposed to prefer).

Remember the Gender Genie? How it analyzes your writing and identifies whether you're a man or a woman based on research about gender differences in communication? The Gender Genie was wrong about fifty percent of the time in analyzing my blog posts. So apparently I write like a man.

Women use landmarks to give directions. I don't. I don't use the cardinal directions either, like men are supposed to, because I can't identify them without mountains to orient me. I like to use street names and the words "right" and "left". If the person I'm talking to doesn't know the area; if I know that a particular street sign isn't clearly visible; if the landmark is something like "a gas station with an enormous dinosaur out front", then I might throw in a landmark to help clarify. But I do not, as Leonard Sax says I should, talk like this:
Go down King Street till you see the McDonald's. Then make a left, go past the hardware store and the Exxon station until you see the elementary school. Make a right just past the elementary school and go down Scottsdale Boulevard. Their house is the fourth from the intersection, on the left. It's a split-level house painted lime green. You won't believe that house. The shutters and trim are painted fuchsia. Lime green and fuchsia. It looks like a gingerbread house after some kind of glow-in-the-dark mold has started to grow on it. That's their house. Just please don't tell them what I said about it. About the gingerbread and the mold, I mean. 

Since we're talking about it, I'm just going to point out that I also don't know any men who give directions like this:
Go south on King Street about two miles, then turn so you're heading east on Duke Street. After about a mile on Duke Street, turn south again onto Scottsdale Road. Their house is half a block down Scottsdale, on the east side of the road. They just painted it. Green and pink, I think.

Besides the fact that this characterization is utterly absurd (assuming that all women would jabber on like that in the middle of giving directions, regardless of to whom they are speaking or what the other circumstances are; pretending that a man wouldn't even be sure of the house color when apparently it's lime green and pink)... Really? Do you know any men who would say "turn so you're heading east" instead of "turn left"? If so, please tell them to learn how to give more specific directions. You do not have to be a woman to know that "turn left" is simpler than "turn east". One is dependent on where you are, and one is not.

Anyway, tangent over. I could go on for a while, my friends. The list of ways in which I do not fit the mold of this "gender science" is extensive. But I'll stop here for now. In another post I'm going to talk about how I see gender stereotypes represented in other areas of my life.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Censoring Angels

In other news, I saw this the other day and was not a fan.

This is fine art, and it has been censored for inclusion in the Ensign. I think that's... really lame. The wings are bad enough, but the shoulders are what really kill me. Do you look at the first picture and think, "Those are some provocative lady angels"? Do we think the angels would be wearing garments if they'd been painted by a Mormon? (And can we really deny the modesty double standard right now, since apparently it's only the females who needed those two inches of skin covered while Jesus is allowed to go half topless?) Are we truly so incapable of seeing the human body without sexualizing it?

I understated things earlier. I don't think this is lame; I think it is very, very inappropriate. I don't care who you are or what your standards of appearance are—there are rules about art. This isn't Where's Waldo, and my aunt going through with a Sharpie coloring in all the women's bikinis. This is historical religious art, being published in an official church magazine with worldwide circulation. And you don't just stick sleeves on angels. You just don't. 

Friday, May 18, 2012


I just had my first moving-related breakdown. We're moving away from my family in four weeks and I've been trying not to think about how much I'm going to miss them. I've been doing really well, but not tonight. :( My eyes are burning from crying. Putting on my Harry Potter audiobook to distract me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Same Difference

I've been really interested in theories of gender essentialism lately. I keep seeing articles online that relate to it, and I just finished reading a fascinating book called Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs. This is one of my very favorite topics, and there's a lot floating around right now about it, so I thought I would share some of it with you—probably over the course of several different posts. 

Gender essentialism is, essentially, the idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. It's the belief that men and women, boys and girls, are innately, biologically different in their communication, ways of learning, relationships, personalities, interests, and talents
—the belief that our gender is what makes us who we are.

I don't think this is true. Of course there are differences between men and women, that's obvious. There are things that many women have in common, and vice versa. But I don't think you could come up with one single trait that all women or men actually exhibit, or a trait that only women (or men) possess
. And I don't think the differences between genders actually matter very much. To me, there's a very important point that gender essentialists miss—which is that there is a lot more difference within each group than there is between the two. If you have a large group of women and a large group of men, there will be differences between the women and the men. But they will actually be very small; the really big differences, the significant ones, will be between some women and other women, between some men and other men. 

Look at these graphs, for instance, that show the results of some large studies I read about in Same Difference. One is about math ability (based on the gender essentialist belief that men's brains are simply wired to be better at math than women's are); one is about self-esteem (based on current popular theories like those in the book Reviving Ophelia, which say that girls undergo a huge self-esteem crisis in their teen years); one is about differences in verbal ability (based on the gender essentialist theory that girls have better verbal skills than boys. You know, boys are good at math and science and business; girls are good at the humanities, art and music and language). 

Look within the bell curve of just girls, and see how far apart the girls at the top are from the girls at the bottom. But how far are the girls at the top from the boys at the top? So it is true that the ones who do the very best on the verbal tests are girls, the ones who do the best on the math tests are boys, and so on. But is that really the important information when you look at those graphs? When I look at them, I don't see confirmation that boys are better than girls at math. What I see is that the vast majority of boys and girls are all lumped in there together, and only the outliers—the very few at the top and the very few at the bottom—are segregated by gender. And given what I know about how boys and girls are often treated differently, encouraged toward different things, I think it's very likely that even the differences we do see aren't necessarily "natural".

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This Feels Familiar...

Feeling some deja vu? No, don't worry, it's not just you—we actually have been here before.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Photographic History

Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America—9/10

Life: The American Immigrant8/10

So many amazing photographs and paintings, plus really interesting (and honest-sounding) accounts of history. No white-washing of crap like Columbus, Japanese internment camps, ethnic divisions in the Civil War, and so on, but it wasn't trying to make everyone sound horrible either. Fascinatingly, this book still comes off as highly patriotic and expresses a lot of pride for America. Proof that you don't have to lie about history to love your country.

The 1920s (Images of the 20th Century)9/10
Oh, I hope my library has more of the books in this series. The photographs were amazing, and all the text was duplicated in German and French, which was really cool. I'm just in love with this kind of thing.

Also read, from a series by Catherine Gourley (nonfiction writer of social history, national director of Letters About Literature and principal curriculum writer for The Story of Movies, a visual literacy initiative of The Film Foundation, Los Angeles and New York City):

Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918
Flappers and the New American Woman: Perceptions of Women from 1918 through the 1920s
Rosie and Mrs. America: Perceptions of Women in the 1930s and 1940s

Reading now: Gidgets and Women Warriors: Perceptions of Women in the 1950s and 1960s

Next (and last book in the series): Ms. and the Material Girls: Perceptions of Women from the 1970s through the 1990s

I give them all an 8 as well. They seem to be written for teenagers, as they include definitions of words most adults wouldn't need explained—but then, many of the definitions are useful for adults too, since they come from different time periods and aren't necessarily still in use. The books include some really great photos, ads from magazines, posters for movies, and other memorabilia from the time. And it's just such a novel experience to read about the history of women and realize just how much they are left out of regular history books. These are fantastic books for learning a more realistic and inclusive version of history.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Medieval Stories

Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman—8/10

Catherine is the daughter of a minor lord in medieval England—which, to her, is even worse than being just a villager, because at least the villagers can choose their own marriages. Birdy's greedy father keeps trying to arrange marriages for her, but Birdy is too clever and tricks or scares her suitors away. She's such a fun character, and I don't know, maybe it's just the phase I'm in, but I'm really loving the stories of girls in the thirteenth century right now. The life is so fascinating and these two writers have a wonderful style that makes it a lot of fun to read.

The Book of the Maidservant, by Rebecca Barnhouse—7/10

My Goodreads review: This book was lovely, and became even more so when I read the author's note at the end. It's based on The Book of Margery Kempe, the first autobiography in English, which details Kempe's religious pilgrimages. When she read that book, Rebecca Barnhouse paid attention to how Kempe described her maidservant and thought it sounded a little fishy. This is the part I love—that Barnhouse was able to see through Kempe's own words and imagine what Kempe was like from the maid's perspective. Johanna is a likable narrator and her story is at times so painful and frustrating that I just kept wishing, over and over, that the next sentence would have her hauling back and punching certain characters right in the face.

For me, the description of life in the fifteenth century was wonderful and so fascinating to read. And unlike many other YA books I've read, this one is very well-written; I loved the style, and didn't have to keep reminding myself, "it's written for kids, it's written for kids" (*cough*Rick Riordan*cough*). I loved the chance to see what the life of a young girl in Europe in the 1400s was like.

Alchemy and Meggy Swann, by Karen Cushman—6/10

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cokie Roberts, Esther Peterson, and a Spotlight

You might not know Esther Peterson's name, but you know her work. She's the person who, pretty much single-handedly, is responsible for the nutrition and ingredient labels on the food you buy. (She was also Mormon.)

In a time when it was very rare for women to work in politics—in "the Washington of smoke-filled saloons and snuff-filled spittoons"—Esther Peterson was a lobbyist for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers union (taking her toddler around with her when she went around getting people to join). She was the legislative representative of the industrial union branch of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, while she was pregnant with her fourth child. She worked in the U.S. Department of Labor and on several presidential commissions, put there by her good friend President Kennedy. She lobbied to raise the minimum wage, and she got the Equal Pay Act of 1963 passed. That year she was the highest-ranking woman in government.

Peterson proposed the idea of a Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, which President Kennedy created; she was named director, and Eleanor Roosevelt was the chair. She was the first director of the Consumer Affairs Bureau, created by President Johnson, which was when she took on the issue of food packaging and advertising.  She worked with four different presidents throughout her political career: She received the Medal of Freedom from President Carter and was appointed a representative to the United Nations by President Clinton (after having worked with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in previous Democratic administrations).
Peterson with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1962
She grew up in Provo, graduated from BYU with a degree in physical education, raised four children, and was married happily until her husband died in 1979. She died in 1997.

Most of this information I learned from We Are Our Mothers' Daughters by Cokie Roberts, which is a great book that highlights the lives of several influential American women—Michelle Rhee, Billie Jean King, Laura Bush, Dorothy Height, and others including war reporters, athletes, doctors, and members of her own family—while examining all the roles women play in modern life. It's part memoir, part history—some contemporary, some historical—almost an anthology of women who've had an impact wearing all the different hats an American woman wears. Definitely worth picking up.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"When men have medical issues, they're medical. When women have medical issues, they're political."

Sigh. I avoided watching this video because I knew it would make me furious, but it was time. I'm annoyed now that I didn't realize how ridiculous the outrage against Hilary Rosen was. If you actually listen to the whole comment, her point about Ann Romney not working a day in her life was obviously, specifically in reference to the economic question of holding a paid job in America. People made it about stay-at-home moms when it was one hundred percent not, and I'm really irritated that I was taken in by that.

Ultimately, aside from the punch in the face that Alex Castellanos desperately needs, my takeaway was the point Rachel Maddow was making whenever he'd shut up long enough to let her finish a sentence: It's about policy. It's not about whether you have women on your side, whether some of you have "even married some of them" (could you BE any more condescending?). It's about whether your policies discriminate against women. And they do.

Remember all those unbelievable bills we keep seeing about taking away women's reproductive health rights? The ones about allowing employers to fire you for taking birth control, allowing doctors to lie to you if they think you might have an abortion, allowing hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion even if it will save your life? Over ONE THOUSAND of them have been introduced since that glorious Republican coup of 2010 (and yet freakin' Congresswoman Rodgers thinks that's just a "distraction" away from the real issue of gas prices).

Women, do you know that YOU are the ones whose bodies will be affected by this legislation? Why are we still electing these people?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

FAQ and Misconceptions and Logical Fallacies, Oh My!

I've put together a collection of misconceptions, logical fallacies, and frequently-asked questions (or frequently-heard arguments, as the case may be) that I've run into in discussions about feminism. This is the first group of them; please feel free to add your own in the comments, or tell me what you think about the ones I've mentioned.

Misconception: Feminists hate men. 
Patriarchy isn't men, it's a system. Feminism isn't man-hating. This graphic gives excellent clarification, despite the excessive typos and language:

Logical fallacy: Exposed thighs, shoulders, and backs are modest when in a swimsuit but "sexual" when in clothing. (For the record, I'm using the term "logical fallacy" loosely here to indicate that I don't agree with the established logic concerning this particular issue.)
Within the context of Mormon modesty, I never understood why we didn't wear Amish-style swimsuits. All the modesty rhetoric seems to lead very logically to that conclusion. So why do we wear regular swimsuits like others do? Because we think it's reasonable. And that means that shoulders and thighs are not inherently inappropriate to show in public—it's only context, and some people (who?) have decided that one context is acceptable and the other is not. It means that our modesty measurements are arbitrary, because if those parts of our body were inherently sexual they wouldn't be kosher in swimsuits any more than breasts are (and we'll ignore the fact, for now, that breasts are actually not inherently sexual). To me, if something is arbitrarily decided upon, then it is unimportant and unnecessary, to God and to anyone.

Misconception: "pro-life" means thinking abortion should be illegal; "pro-choice" means supporting abortion.
Those are the names given to two camps in a political debate, but they are misnomers. I am pro-choice, and I am against abortion. I am very, very pro-life. In fact I am much more pro-life than many pro-lifers, because I am also against war and the death penalty. I am anti-colonialism, anti-Crusades, anti-every kind of violence that gets glorified in a militaristic society. I am pro-the life of a woman whose pregnancy might kill her, unlike certain "pro-life" politicians I could name. I am pro-the life of a girl who has been raped and I am pro-imprisoning someone who thinks they have the right to force her to carry a child that was put in her body forcibly, because that is nothing more than another form of rape. I am just as anti-abortion as I am anti-trying to control other people's bodies. Being pro-choice means that you believe whether or not to be pregnant is something for a woman to decide herself. The end. You can disagree with that statement all you want, but your certainty will not make you right. You cannot tell others what they believe.

FHA: The argument that "a woman's body is her own" is an "absolute misconception" because a woman's body is a gift from God in the first place. 
When people say "a woman's body is her own", they mean it is her own as opposed to belonging to other humans. The fact that it's a gift from God doesn't give other humans the right to control it. This statement is a fallacy.

FHA: "They don't just want to get married, they want to force us to accept their lifestyle." 
Why shouldn't they? Why don't they have the right to make their own choices and be treated like adults and children of God, even if others don't approve of what they do? It's not our place to make judgments on anyone else's lifestyle. Even someone's "love" and "acting in their best interest" is trumped by a person's agency. Their choices are not up to you. Fighting to keep their unions from being called "marriage" helps not one single person, and it hurts many. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Her Story

I found a really, really fantastic book at the library several weeks ago, during Women's History Month and before I took my internet break—it's an illustrated timeline of the women who have changed America.

It's easy to read, it includes photos and paintings—which I love—and it's full of the stories of incredible women who did amazing things and have largely been forgotten. I'd never heard of at least half of them, and I guarantee you haven't either.

Patience Wright, for instance, was America's first professional sculptor—and did you know that in 1769 she put together a traveling waxwork exhibit of the famous people of the time, thirty years before Madame Tussaud became famous for the same thing?

Statue of Sybil in New York
In 1777 Sybil Ludington rode all night in heavy rain, knocking on farmhouse doors to warn of the British approach. She rode 40 miles—more than twice the distance Paul Revere had ridden two years earlier—and she was sixteen years old at the time.

Mary Katherine Goddard was the appointed postmaster of Baltimore for almost fifteen years. She also ran a bookstore, released an almanac, and was a printer and newspaper publisher; in 1777 she issued the first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence that included the names of the signers.

Jane Colden was the first female American botanist; she catalogued more than three hundred species in 1757 and discovered and named the gardenia (which is my mom's favorite flower).

Prudence Crandall became Connecticut's state heroine in 1995. She established an academy for black girls (which had originally been a school for white girls, whose parents began removing them when Crandall allowed a black girl to attend. Prudence closed the school, then reopened it only for black girls).

Queen Kaahumanu Center, Maui
Ka'ahumanu became queen of Hawaii in 1819 and worked to make the law more fair. She eliminated many of the restrictions against women (like being forbidden to eat publicly with the king); implemented Hawaii's first laws against murder, theft, and fighting; established trial by jury; and ordered that schools be built for all people to be able to learn to read and write.

Maria Martin Bachman painted the details—the insects, plants, and backgrounds—in John James Audubon's famous Birds of America.

Sarah and Angelina Grimk√©  were affluent Southerners who moved to Philadelphia and became Quakers and staunch advocates for abolition and women's rights. Angelina was the first woman to address a legislative body in America, speaking to the Massachusetts legislature about ending the slave trade in the state. They were some of the first women to be active in social reform in their work with abolitionists, and the negative response they received from the public for being women is what led them to the early women's rights movement.

If your library has a copy of this book, I would absolutely recommend checking it out as soon as possible. I think it would be an amazing resource for high school history classes, too; I wish mine had focused half so much on women (you know—the other half of the population). And it's done beautifully. I love the font used for the names in each entry, and the illustrations and photographs make it so much more interesting than just text. I'm probably going to want to own a copy as a resource for myself.