Thursday, October 24, 2013

I've Moved!

My blog can now be found at thefeministcritic.com

Follow me there!

Peace!
Juli

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Sex Object Test

My few followers know I've been planning a media literacy conference for the last year. It came to fruition this weekend.  Over 125 attendees attended the 16 workshops, two panels and a keynote.  The keynote was informative, compelling, depressing, and educational.  For those of you unlucky enough to miss it, I'm going to recap some of the information passed on to the group over the next few weeks. 

Dr. Caroline Heldman is a professor of Politics at Occidental College and bad-ass feminist. She is also a political commentator for MSNBC, Fox Business News, RT America, and Al Jazeera English.
Professor Heldman earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University and specializes in the American presidency and systems of power. She previously taught at Whittier College, Fairfield University, and Rutgers University. Professor Heldman graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Business Management from Washington State University, and has worked extensively in the private sector, including as the General Manager of Bio-Energy Systems and Research Manager for Consumer Health Sciences. Dr. Heldman’s work has been featured in the top journals in her field, including the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, Political Psychology, and Political Communications. She co-edited the popular book, Rethinking Madame President: Is the US Ready for a Woman in the White House? (2007). Dr. Heldman’s work has also been featured in popular publications, including the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Beast. She has also been active in “real world” politics as a congressional staffer, campaign manager, and campaign consultant. Professor Heldman drove to New Orleans the week after Hurricane Katrina to assist with rescue and relief efforts. She co-founded the New Orleans Women’s Shelter and the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum.

One of the major points of her talk "The Sexy Lie" was the notion that young people have been so saturated by women's bodies being used as sex objects that they cannot discern when it is actually happening.  So she (and some colleagues, I believe) developed The Sex Object Test.  Use this to critically examine what you are seeing on TV, in the movies, and particularly in advertising.

1.  Does the image show only part(s) of a sexualized person's body?
2.  Does the image present a sexualized person as a stand-in for an object? 
3.  Does the image show a sexualized person as interchangeable? 
4. Does the image affirm the idea of violating the bodily integrity of a sexualized person that can't consent?
5.  Does the image suggest that sexual availability is the defining characteristic of the sexualized person?
And lastly,
6.  Does the image show a sexualized person as a commodity (something that can be bought and sold)?
If you can answer YES to any of these questions, you are looking at a person as a sex object and thus someone who is not a whole human being.  The prevalence of this type of advertising and marketing leads to not only women's self hatred, but a continued dismissal of women's power and leadership abilities in our culture.

If you find this fascinating, see her full talk here:  


We were blessed by the feminist goddesses to get to see her live and in person!

To see Tweets on the conference, search #educating4change. 



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Educating for Change

It's probably cheating, but I am one of the group of amazing feminists blogging for Soapbox now and did my first one last week on the Educating for Change conference coming up this weekend.  I have had no time to blog at all the past two weeks, so I post this in case you missed it!  


My first blog post with Soapbox!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Policing Women's Sexuality

Last week I helped oversee a program at First Year Orientation.  (Most of my colleagues still call it Freshmen Orientation even though the University has had an inclusive language policy for years.  It's one of those battles I just can't seem to win.  When I went to the University of Maine in 1992, they had already stopped using the term Freshmen.)  At Orientation, the students participated in an educational theatre program where short skits were performed and then students could interact with the actors in character about the topic being introduced.  The four skits included one addressing racism and sexism, one addressing alcohol, one on the combination of alcohol and sexual assault, and one on consent.

In general the students responded as one in my field of student affairs and social justice would hope.  Yet there were a few outliers that left me with a sick feeling.  After the consent skit, two different women, in two different groups, stated that the woman deserved what she got because she was "teasing" her boyfriend. The story goes that a young couple return from a party.  The young woman's roommate is gone for the weekend.  They begin kissing and the woman states she doesn't want to have sex that night.  The boyfriend misses every possible clue and forces himself on her.  The woman makes multiple signs of no, including saying no, pushing him away, removing his hand and telling him that they don't always have to have sex when they are together.

I left this day thinking a lot about these two women who have been socialized by our media saturated society to honestly believe that if they are kissing a guy that means they have to give it all the way up.  Whatever happened to the bases analogy?  And those of us who are old married folks KNOW that kissing certainly doesn't always lead to sex, it often leads to a good night's sleep.

One woman even said to the actress playing the rape victim "You deserve what you got and you should get off the floor crying like a little bitch."  It took everything in my power not to pull this young woman out of the audience and give her a pile of books to read and an old fashioned talking to! 

Then last night I went out to dinner with a friend who told me she had seen a mother and two little girls at the beach this summer, all wearing bikini's.  The mom had a lower back tattoo (referred inappropriately by our sexist culture as a "tramp stamp") and the little girls had fake matching tattoos in the same place.  Her immediate response was that this was wrong and the mother was a horrible mother for allowing it.  I suggested that maybe the term "tramp stamp" much like the term "slut" was the policing of women's sexuality by patriarchy.  Yeah, I know that's a wee bit theoretical, but it makes a lot of sense.  Her comment begged the question of where the term "tramp stamp" even came from.  And oftentimes we don't take the time to question origins of cultural expressions we take for granted.

Then we talked about whether those girls wearing fake tattoos on their lower backs was sexualizing them.   I said they were just trying to look like their mom and that it was only sexualized if we allow it to be.  What is the difference between putting a fake tattoo on your lower back or your arm?  If we allow for a certain body part to be sexualized, then yes.  When The Vagina Monologues first cam e out, everyone was freaked out about that word.  Now it's commonplace. Isn't that the whole issue with breast feeding in public?  Women's breasts have been sexualized by the policing of our sexuality by male supremacy that women get flack for feeding their babies.

At the very core of this analysis is a history of oppression of women's bodies.  To be too comfortable in our skin and free to express our sexuality is something that must be controlled and prevented.  I attribute the whole Brazilian waxing phenomenon to this and to the porn industry.  Women have been policed to the point where they think that having pubic hair is dirty.  And men (and other women) contribute to this policing by talking badly of women they suspect having hair. 

I am happy to be a middle aged married woman who doesn't have to live in a world where my body is constantly being policed to fit into a narrow spectrum of sexuality.  I mean there's that whole "you must be skinny" culture, but at least I don't have to look like an 8 year old girl. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Miley Cyrus: A ReCap

I'm not much of a television watcher these days.  Partly because I am getting ready to dump my cable that has gotten too expensive and partly because our TV lost the color red and everyone is green so we have to watch this tiny flat screen meant for our workout area. Thus, I did not see the VMA's.

But I certainly followed all the hubbub about Miley Cyrus, former child star sweetheart, and so-called slut.  And I can't say anything from a feminist, anti-racist point of view that has already been said, but I can put together a montage of my favorite commentary.  This is my favorite, sent to me by my feminist friend in Switzerland.

 
And here is another:

A Comedian's Take On The Miley Cyrus Debacle Completely Changed What I Thought Of It

And lastly, one of my favorite sex bloggers, "Sex with Timaree," writes this:  Sex with Timaree.

As you can surmise, from my favorite posts, there has been way too much slut shaming of this woman and very little discussion on who produces the VMA's and who directs them.  This is a theatrical production, in many respects, that is choreographed and directed.  Ms Cyrus might have some artistic choice in what she gets to perform, but you can be sure that it was not her sole decision.

Now, let's move on to the more serious issues of the world.  Bombing Syria? 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Solidarity is for White Women: A Re-cap

This past week, via Twitter, originally started by blogger Mikki Kendall, the hashtag "solidarityisforwhitewomen" trended as a statement that white feminism leaves out women of color.  (History behind solidarity is for white women hashtag).  (NPR Story) The hashtag went global.  I picked up on this trending and then got to watch it and learn.  I recommend you search #solidarityisforwhitewomen, but I have included some great examples. 






This story is nothing new.  This dialogue was part of my education in Women's Studies, that women of color did not have a voice at the so-called feminist table.  Women of color were left out of this very white "problem that has no name" movement.  Women of color were left out of the suffragist movement.  Look around the tables where you sit.  What do you see?  I see that we are still not doing a good job at being inclusive.  My workplace is a microcosm of the world.  There are very few women of color on our faculty, or men of color, for that matter. 

Many of the tweets include great examples from media and pop culture that reinforce white privilege, power and white supremacy.   As someone who considers herself a social justice critic of media, I know, as a white women, I notice sexism instantly, but I have to continue to push myself to see the racism. This hashtag, this trend, is asking white women to do just that.  Push yourself, learn, and LISTEN.  Actively listen. It was listening to my friend Cynthia that got me interested in the drama Scandal.  When I learned the history of how few black women had held the lead in a network drama, I was shocked and appalled. (My take on that subject). 

I often criticize an artistic director friend of mine for not producing enough plays by women and people of color.  His response is that he produces a lot of shows by gay men and that he "can't cover every cause."  This is the kind of non-intersectional thinking that we get stuck in and one that gets perpetuated in our society. Last year I decided I couldn't subscribe to theatres who don't make an EFFORT, even just the slightest effort, to diversify their seasons.  What does this mean?  It means I'm not supporting the arts with my dollars.  I'm picking and choosing what shows I see instead of subscribing.  It means I'm not watching much television today because I've become too wary of watching something that misrepresents people. So what else can we do as white feminists who want to eliminate racism and end white supremacy? 

When I was teaching Women's Studies, one question I always asked my students was "what if the women's liberation movement of the 70s and the civil rights movement of the 60s had joined up?"  What if groups representing oppressed people weren't divided up and given pieces of a pie to share? 

Mikki Kendall has a great article in XOJane this week talking about next steps. 

What this hashtag trend has done for me is to challenge me to be even MORE intersectional in my work with student and in my own thinking.  We're starting out the semester by doing a privilege worksheet to lay this stuff all out on the table at once.  We're running a social justice media literacy conference and I'm asking all the presenters to keep an intersectional analysis of race, gender, class and sexuality as the foundation for all their talks/workshops.

And I'm looking in the mirror, constantly reminding myself to pay attention and to call out that misrepresentation wherever I see it:  the workplace, the media, and in the theatre.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Two Axes to Grind

Two things on my mind this week.  Well, three actually.  First, feeling guilty that I didn't write a blog last week.  It's strange how I have to be motivated, pissed off, or concerned about a topic to cover it here.  Kind of like now that I'm in my 40s, I can't go in the pool unless I am really hot.

So my guilt is now off my chest and I will continue to work on being a human who doesn't feel guilty.

Yesterday I read an email by a colleague about a campaign on campus encouraging students that it's ok not to drink.  Part of the campaign will involve staff and students wearing t-shirts that express this notion.  My colleague asked us to sign-up with our t-shirt size. I called her and asked her what type of t-shirts they were.  She replied "non gendered t-shirts."

First I have to say that this colleague, and dear friend of mine, is most definitely a radical feminist.  I would never question this.  However, I have been someone, over my almost 22 years in higher education, who has become a true hater of the "non gendered t-shirt."  Let's deconstruct this.  These t-shirts, first of all, are NOT non-gendered.  They were designed for men, plain and simple.  If you are a woman with no boobs and no hips, yeah, sure, you can probably look okay in a small or a medium, but if you have a woman's shapely body, in anyway, you're in trouble.  First, the t-shirts are always too long.  If you try to fit one according to length, they probably won't fit your chest, or you'll look like a pancake.  If you try to fit one according to your chest size, it's probably going to look like you're wearing a mini-dress or a mu-mu. 

I'm not sure why a men's t-shirt is somehow considered the "neutral" t-shirt, particularly in student affairs where we buy t-shirts all the time.  All my colleagues think I'm over-the-top, but this is another way, as a society, we expect women to conform to what we think is neutral or normal, like all those gendered words:  freshman, chairman, mankind, etc.

There are so many other examples of this.  Cars.  Cars are made with men's bodies in mind.  There is no place to put your pocketbook.  It comes slamming off the passenger seat if you have to stop suddenly.  Seat belts that aren't adjustable cross by your neck if you are a petite woman.  I'd love to hear more examples of this from my followers.  Even my desk at work is designed for a man.  For me to sit properly at my computer I have to keep my feet on a foot rest because they can't reach the floor.  And I'm not THAT short!

And we buy these men's t-shirts in the name of cost-savings.  We frugal student affairs practitioners say "I can't afford to order two TYPES of t-shirts.  It would be too expensive."  I'm just asking that we think about how what we often call non-gender is really gendered. And as for me, I'll wear a men's t-shirt if only I can re-purpose it to look cute. (Repurpose a men's t-shirt) 

My second Ax to grind is really about AXE Body spray, gel, soap, cologne, or whatever they encourage boys and men to wear.  Their commercials are so sexist they make me want to puke.  The latest one explains that women, I mean, GIRLS, are getting hotter and hotter, which is a world crisis.   There are so many things wrong with this commercial.  First of all, to equate women's attractiveness with a world crisis when there are people being slaughtered in the Middle East is ethnocentric.  Second, they refer to women as girls, which shows they are marketing to a young male market.   And I'm shocked more men are not complaining that not only are these advertisements sexist but that they make men look like idiots and bumbling fools.  Seriously.   Make sure you're not having breakfast or lunch as you watch this.  


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Philanderers, Sexual Harassers, and Johns! Oh Boy!


--> --> -->
Rob Filner.  John Edwards.  Bill Clinton.  Eliot Spitzer.  Mark Sanford.  David Vitter. Larry Craig.  Anthony Weiner.  

What do these names have in common?  They are all white men, first of all.  They have law or business degrees, except for the fine Mayor of San Diego who has a Ph.D.  in the History of Science and was a History Professor at San Diego State before running for office.  They are all philanderers, sexual harassers, or Johns.  Oh!  And, they are politicians.

With Anthony "Carlos Danger" so present in this month's media and Filner taking his two week intensive “re-hab” for assaulting his female colleagues, I spent some time researching the men who came before them in the long tradition of philandering politicians.  

Filner’s two week hiatus from his job as Mayor is "to address his 'intimidating conduct' and failure to respect women" (http://www.10news.com/news/mayor-bob-filner-begins-behavioral-therapy-at-undisclosed-location-080513).  Let's deconstruct his so-called "intimidating conduct." 
Of the ten women who have come forward, their allegations involved him asking them to work without panties, grabbing their asses, kissing them, touching their faces and asking if they will sleep with him.  See the detailed disgusting list at this link, but be sure to have an empty stomach: Accusations.

What he has done is not simply "intimidating conduct" but sexual harassment and in some cases, sexual assault. Whoever his Olivia Pope is who decided that to come out and say he was going to get two weeks of intensive therapy for decades of "cringe-worthy" behavior is brilliant.  He should not only step down from his job, but he should be sued for his behavior and possibly charged with assault.

In my humble radical feminist opinion, women should be screaming for him to step down.  The fact that these men --and yes, these politicians with issues are men-- (we don't hear about female politicians behaving this way) continue to "serve" as public servants makes me sick. 

Out of the list at the top, many of these men, after their falls from grace, continue to pursue public service jobs.  Eliot Spitzer is running for Comptroller of New York, which seems like a big step down from Governor.  Mark Sanford just became a U.S. Representative of South Carolina in a special election, after serving as Governor of that state.  David Vitter is a U.S. Senator from Louisiana.  His involvement with the DC Madam scandal merely affected his run for Governor of Louisiana.  Larry Craig no longer serves in office but opened a consulting firm that deals with energy issues, a.k.a., he's a lobbyist.  Bill Clinton has become a major philanthropist and supporter of his wife, Hilary Rodham Clinton.  And it appears that John Edwards is gearing up to get back in the so-called political saddle. 

None of these men have had their lives ruined by their so-called inappropriate behavior nor their, in some cases, illegal behavior.  I'd like to be Superman, turn back time and put women in their places and see what kind of after effect shows up with women harassing, cheating and buying prostitutes.  I would bet their lives would be touched forever by those indiscretions.  The double standard starts in high school and continues long into our lives.  

But how do we as a culture accept this behavior?  I'm shocked that these ten women are just NOW coming forward to call out the lewd and illegal behavior of Filner.  I can't even look at his picture without gagging and seeing the spittle on the cheeks of women who are Deans, College Administrators, Rear Admirals, and businesswomen.  We need to speak up when we see, hear or experience this type of behavior and call it unacceptable and illegal. 

But I know how institutions work.  And often, when someone cries out, the institution does everything in its power to cover, hide or sweep the truth under the rug.  When I was 21, I worked at the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club as a waitress.  The Assistant Manager sexually harassed me one night as I was walking through the closed dining room.  He motioned to his leg and pointed out how long his penis was.  I complained to the Manager, a woman.  She said he was “just kidding.”  I was too young and naïve to know I should have gone over her head.  Plus this was two years before Anita Hill spoke her truth.  We live in a culture where sometimes it’s not worth the headache and the struggle to speak the truth, particularly if you won't be believed nor get any redemption for the crimes against you. 


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Media Vacation

Last Tuesday, we loaded up the camper and took off for the 23rd Annual Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance in Trumansburg, New York.  The drive takes six hours and for most of it we listened to music on the radio or on my iphone.  That evening we swam at the pond, had dinner with my family and sat around a campfire  talking and laughing.  No TV was watched that day.

The next day we hung out by the pond some more.  (It was in the high 90s).  And later that day my husband and I went out for an early dinner with my brother and his lovely partner at a restaurant called Stonecat in Hector, NY and off to play nine holes.  The night ended, again, by the campfire by the pond. My birthmother's husband built a pyramid style campfire that night.  I began to avoid social media as well.  No TV was watched that day. 



On Thursday the men in my group (my husband, brother and a friend) biked the three miles into town where our cars were lined up to get into the festival.  I got dropped off a few hours later.  We were in and set up at the festival by 12:40pm.  The next four days were spend by our campsite at the festival, seeing live music at one of the four stages, eating at the vendors, or heading out to the pond for an afternoon cool down.   No posts to Facebook.  No Tweeting.  No TV was watched those four days. 

We didn't read any newspapers.  I left my iphone in my camper top drawer merely so I could hear if I got a text from someone local, usually asking if we needed anyone to pick up beer or ice.  We saw some great music.  My top three include DriftwoodThe Mad Tea, who I have loved since first seeing them at the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival in 2005, and Spam Allstars, who "blend improvisational electronic elements and turntables with latin, funk, hip hop and dub to create what they call an electronic descarga." I always love seeing one of my favorite bands Donna the Buffalo

We leisurely packed up the camper on Sunday to make it back to the pond for dinner and a final campfire before we took off on Monday morning.

A week without any media (other than live music) is something more of us should experience.  Most of what I write about for this blog is about critiquing what I see on the TV or hear about in the news.  I didn't have much that pissed me off all week except hearing the stories from my family of the Pro-Fracking folks in the area.  Perhaps I would be less pissed off if I was less engaged with the media.

As I drank my coffee Tuesday morning and watched a bit of the Today show with my nieces and in-laws, I wanted to throw up.  The two big news items were that the Pope's car  had been surrounded by people in Rio, as his driver took a wrong turn, (surrounded by Catholics dying to get a blessing?  Oh my God!) and the new baby of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  These two examples were enough to make me want to throw out our TV.

Spend a day or two away from media and see if it changes your perspective a bit.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

To Speak Badly of One Woman is to Speak Badly of All Women

As you will see from the following link, a lot of very mean men wrote horribly misogynist things about Marion Bartoli, the French woman who won the women's singles at Wimbledon this year.   (Marion Bartoli).

In my line of work, I spy sexism all over the place.  And racism.  And heterosexism. But this incident has me particularly pissed.  Serena Williams may be tall, but she isn't blonde and one would NEVER see those same kind of comments made about her very awesome athletic self.  There are numerous so-called "ugly" men who play tennis who would never be called sluts or fat because they weren't tall and blonde. 

One of the biggest problems with this open world of social media is that people can actually tweet comments or write comments they would NEVER say in public.  For a few years I felt that homophobia, heterosexism and fat hatred were the last vestiges of public (meaning people DARED to say stupid shit in public about other people) oppression remaining in our culture, but lately, I feel like sexism and misogyny is getting a resurgence that makes me want to vomit.

Perhaps it is all connected to the War on Women.   The attacks by republicans on women's BASIC human rights to control her body and her fertility might be setting a bad tone.  I mean, if those rights can be attacked, why not call us fat sluts at the same time.

If you can stand it and you scroll further down into the "Public Shaming" article you will see tweets that go from calling her a slut to calling her a dyke and saying she has a penis.  I mean, god, can you imagine a female athlete being a lesbian, being tough, and being strong?  What is this world coming to?  Jeez. 

For me, I want to organize and have a strategy to fight this.  Couldn't the corporate executives who own these social media have policies about racism, heterosexism and sexism?  Couldn't they have language about what types of hate speech will not be allowed?  Call me crazy, but we know the FCC has rules around what words can be said on the radio and on TV.  If those same misogynists and homophobes who spoke so horribly of Marion were using racial slurs, would there have been a different backlash or comment?  The twittersphere and blogosphere went nuts when The Onion called Quvenzhane Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild a cunt.  Is it because she was a Hollywood actress, a child or is it because women's athletics doesn't get that kind of attention?

What makes all of this worse is that even the BBC reporter John Inverdale remarked that Ms. Bartoli was "never going to be a looker."  What does THAT have to do with her playing tennis?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Who is his boss?  Do any women producers work for the BBC who might clue him in that Bartoli is an athlete and her looks have NOTHING to do with her talent? 

Seeing blatant sexism like this, 22 years after I decided to be a feminist makes me feel old, sad, frustrated, and disappointed.  First, I'm disappointed that we are still raising men, HUNDREDS of them, as you'll see from those tweets, who feel that way about women.  Who are their mothers and sisters and daughters?  Do they not get that to speak badly of one woman is to speak badly of all women?  I'm frustrated that we have an educational system that does not address sexism and misogyny at a young age.  I'm sad that the progress I have dedicated most of my career to seems to be slipping backwards. 

And for those of us with really good men in our lives, take a moment today to thank them for not being an asshole like all those jerks who tweeted so negatively about a champion.  Apparently it takes a lot more effort to be a good man these days than to just tweet that someone is a slut. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sexism and Racism and Classism, Oh My!

This past week has been one that in the words of my student "my parents did not raise me to be a queer feminist filled with the wrath of a thousand enraged dragons and yet here I am."  Here we'll recap all the awesome oppression taking place in a country which, on the cusp of it's "birthday" still doesn't get it.

Sexism:  I want to think this is internalized sexism, but it might include a little class privilege along with it. Serena Williams comments about the victim in the Stuebenville rape case were appalling. 
"Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don't know. I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don't take drinks from other people," Williams said to Rodrick." She's 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn't remember? It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously, I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different." (quoted in http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/serena-williams-steubenville-rape-victim_n_3462519.html).  My question is why this topic was even being discussed in a Rolling Stone article. 

Sexism Two:  Texas.  My favorite quote by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, "Lawmakers, either get out of the vagina business or go to medical school."  

Racism:  Cheerios put out a commercial with an inter-racial couple http://youtu.be/kYofm5d5Xdw.  Apparently inter-racial couples are controversial and there was so much hate speech about it that Cheerios disabled comments.  I continue to be amazed that in 2013 people actually have the balls to write out racist comments in public. Maybe I shouldn't be shocked.  I get socialization, I get all the theory behind oppression but I don't get people who hate. 


Racism Two:  Paula Deen. 

Classism:  Why does a millionaire sports figure like Aaron Hernandez decide to commit murder when he could afford to hire an anger management therapist? What a sad moment for young children who look up to athletes like him.





Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Now THIS is a Whale of a Tale

Yesterday on a friend's Facebook status, I saw that a local music and arts festival, called The Whaling City Festival of New Bedford, was partnering with a local radio station, WHJY, to hold a contest called "Show Us Your Whale Tale"  (Whale Tale Contest).

A "whale tale," for those of you who did not know (like me!), is when a woman's thong rides up her low riders so you can see it.  The contest page provides a link to examples of "whale tales."  (This was the least offensive one I could find). 

The mission of The Whaling City Festival is, "To host the biggest and best family oriented event in the Whaling City. With 44 years experience and a new President we have fresh, innovative ideas to help grow and improve with each year."  I guess the new President's "fresh, innovative ideas" involve some family-oriented butt cracks. 

The Director of Tourism, from the Town of Fairhaven, was called a "Puritan" for complaining about the contest.  All the comments on the WCF's page link, above, are incredibly negative. 

The WCF posted this on their FB page, 8 hours ago, in response to the negative criticism.

"In light of recent development, we have reconsidered our sponsorship of the Whale's Tail contest with 94 HJY.
Ultimately, the Whaling City Festival cares more about the family oriented activities, and brand than a marketing campaign. We also do not want to alienate anyone. We apologize to those we offended, as it was not our intention to do so. It was a bad mistake and we take full responsibility for it.
This decision was made in the past hour, and 94 HJY's offices couldn't be reached, so there may be a delay in the mention of WCF as a sponsor. Rest assured, it will cease.
In the future, we will maintain congruency with our advertising and marketing. We will make sure the promotions reflect our core values and something families can be proud of.
As always, we genuinely consider all feedback, criticism, and comments. We hope you will continue to provide these, so that we may continually improve.
Sincerely,
-WCF"


What is most appalling about this entire tale, is that 1) the organizers of the WCF thought this was a good idea to market their event; and 2) that the WCF  has a board of directors or staff that include very few women, as they most likely would have said "hey, that's not such a good idea" (WCF Contacts) and 3) that this type of contest is even considered acceptable marketing for any organization, including a rock n roll radio station.  

One of the best things about Facebook is how quickly word can spread on any issue.  But even while the WCF has decided to discontinue the sponsorship with WHJY, the radio station has not yet taken down the link connecting the contest to the WCF.  The delay alone is another 8 hours or more of bad press.  And this supposedly 42 year old festival must be struggling anyway, as their entertainment schedule includes a blank calendar, less than a month before the festival is to open.  What's that about?  

While the WCF has taken down their sponsorship, even though it still lingers on the WHJY page, feel free to drop the President a line asking how decisions like this even get made.

ARichard@WhalingCityFestival.net
  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

BDD or Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I often write about the media's effect on women. I rarely write about my own feelings about my body. This past week, however, I had a very interesting conversation with a group of women about their bodies. To avoid naming names, I will describe them this way.

·      Woman one I'll call Betty. Betty is probably a size 4-6 and probably 5 feet 7 inches or more.
·      Woman two, I'll call Jane. Jane is a size 2 and about 5 feet 4 or 5 inches.
·      I'll call woman three Sally. Sally is probably a size 4-6 and is probably the same height as Betty. I'm not good at judging height.
·      And there's me, woman four. I wear a size 10-12. I'm 5 feet 2 inches. In a nutshell, I'm the big-boobed girl with a belly in the room.

All of these women are smart and have very good professional jobs. One runs a large nonprofit organization, one is vice president of a financial institution, one was her college class valedictorian, and I have a doctorate.

Betty hates her body. She says it's lumpy. She has two children who are mostly grown up. But she is very insecure about her belly. She goes out of her way to snack all day long on specific types of food in order to keep her belly from feeling bloated. What she nibbles on all day would leave me nauseous because I would be so hungry. And she is very self-conscious about the way she looks. In my eyes, she is a skinny, pretty woman.

Jane, like Betty, is very careful about what she eats. She's a vegan, so not only does she eat very little, she only eats beans and veggies. She is also very concerned about feeling bloated. She is less "dysmorphic" than Betty but is very attuned to her body's changes and strict with her diet.

Sally loves her body. She thinks her boobs are too small but she knows she'll never have the "perfect" body as it is a myth. She's cute and comfortable in her skin. And I will add, out of the four of us, she is a woman of color.

And then there's me. So there's a lot I love about my body. My legs. My hair. My ass is okay, while a little flat. I'm told I have great tits, but they are definitely a little too big to be lugging around my whole life and have certainly contributed to my shoulder issues as I've aged. My stomach is the source of my "dysmorphia," but we have had a bad relationship since I was in high school and was what one would call skinny. It is what it is, although as I have moved into my 30s and 40s, I've certainly had to be more careful about WHAT I put into my body as gaining weight comes much more easily than it did in my 20s.

So what's the point of Jane’s, Betty’s, and Sally’s body hatred you might ask? I guess what is most illuminating about this conversation is how obsessed these very smart women (particularly Betty and Jane) are about their bodies. They spend a good deal of time fretting over how they look and what they eat, and when I look at them, I see very smart, beautiful women. I just wonder how much time they could spend doing other things to change the world if a little less time was spent worrying about their body size or the size of their bellies. 

A simple search of "body dysmorphic disorder" this morning yielded three quizzes. I've included them below if you want to take one and see if you, too, might be spending too much brain time on your body. I had a revelation when I was in my 20s that if women spent less time thinking about how big their thighs are, what kind of radical change could happen in society? Perhaps it is a patriarchal conspiracy against women to keep us obsessed about our bodies so we have no time to run for office, question authority, demand equal pay, fight for reproductive rights, or even, maybe, take over the world???



http://www.ocdla.com/bdd-test.html
http://www.pamguide.com.au/anxiety/bdd_test.php
http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/sclark68.htm

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Sad Story of Miss Kaitlyn Hunt

Kaitlyn Hunt is an 18 year old high school senior from Florida.  She was arrested, once she turned 18, for statutory rape, or what they are calling lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years of age.  The police taped a conversation with Kaitlyn and her girlfriend.  The relationship occurred, according to Hunt's father, when the two were 14 and 16, but the younger girlfriend's parents waited until Kaitlyn turned 18 and had her arrested.  They have offered a plea deal "that would allow her to avoid registering as a sex offender if she pleads guilty to lesser charges of child abuse. State Attorney Bruce Colton said he would recommend two years of house arrest followed by one year probation if she takes the deal."

There is a lot going on in this case.  And I'm not sure where I stand on it, except that I know I had two relationships with seniors when I was a freshman in high school.  One of those seniors turned 18 while we were dating and my parents could easily have accused him of statutory rape (if they knew we were sexually active, which they didn't, at the time).  But they never would have done so.  I was in love.  They knew that.  They knew we were teenagers, even though one of us did turn the "official" age of 18.

I do not think statutory rape laws were put in effect to disallow teenagers from having relationships with each other.  They were put in effect to keep young women from being prayed upon by older men.  I think of the 21+ year old and the 15 year old.  

Or is this just about a young girl's parents being totally freaked out that she's possibly a lesbian?  I think so.  To go and ruin her "friend's" life without ever even talking to her or the parents seems very strange.  An intelligent, caring and mature parent would have asked the Hunt family to come over and discuss the issue and tell Kaitlyn she couldn't see their daughter again until their daughter was 18 or something like that.  Now that would make sense.

The whole situation seems very sad to me and I can only hope the Judge who hears this case sees it the same way.  See more here.

What do you think?  Is this rape?  Do 18 year old seniors need to only have intimate relationships with people their age or older?  Realistically how often does this happen? 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lay Down and Take it

I spent a day in Boston this week.  And while I have been considering writing about this topic, I hesitated (yes, I hesitated!) as I think it is a wee bit controversial.  I am troubled by the lack of criticism regarding the closing of an entire city for a day.  Terrorism has a unique effect on people from the U.S.

For example, a friend of my father's who was "locked down" in Watertown, wrote an article about how great a job the police did and how safe they all felt, being protected under what I would call martial law.  I humbly disagree.  The unarmed, injured 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found BECAUSE people were allowed out of their homes and into their streets.  He would not have been spotted had this man not been allowed to check out his boat.  And this was in an area outside of the section the police had been searching. 

The cost of shutting down a metropolis like Boston was estimated by one analyst in The Washington Post  "between $250 million and $333 million per day."   http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/19/the-entire-city-of-boston-has-shut-down-how-much-will-this-cost/

Others have suggested that closing the city for a one person manhunt demonstrates to terrorists that their individual acts of smaller bombs can have a long range effect of putting an entire city in fear, a tactic that might appeal to them.

I question all of this behavior in response to terrorism.  First of all, abortion clinics have been sites of bombings for years and years.  Do you recall Boston being shut down in 1994 when the Brookline shootings happened?  "According to NAF, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 41 bombings of abortion clinics."  (NAF)

These 41 actions do not include murders, arson and acid attacks on clinics.  But I do not recall any "shut down" of a community, town, or city after one of these attacks.  An anti-abortion fanatic can bomb abortion clinics all day long with no massive police presence.  

 
My concern for all of this is how easily U.S. citizen, who value freedom, I think, above all else, gave that up so quickly for one 19 year old boy.  It was easy.  It was quick.  No one questioned what was happening.

I expect much more from this country and from our citizens.  We are not the "lay down and take it" kind of people.  We fight for our beliefs, we debate, we value liberty, but maybe we should begin questioning much more how the media can get us to "do" anything or to "believe" anything, even if they are reporting a request from a Governor or the Chief of Police.  Police searched homes, without a warrant, all day long and people allowed it.  Protecting us should not mean we are locked in our homes for a day or that we are giving up our 4th amendment rights. 

While what happened in Boston was tragic, so were the 41 bombings, 175 acts of arson, 100 butyric acid attacks, 191 assault & batteries, 524 incidents of stalking, 17 attempted murders, and 8 murders.  In all violence against abortion clinics, the total is 769 incidents to date. (NAF) This type of terrorism, while ignored by our media and many in our culture, far outweighs what happened in Boston on April 15th.





Friday, May 10, 2013

Hey, Neighbor!

Tuesday three women were released from 10 years in captivity in a suburban neighborhood in Cleveland.  If I lived in Cleveland right now I would be throwing up.  How can three teenagers go missing and the police just give up?  Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I think if they were three young men, the search would've been a bit more thorough.  What's three less women on the planet anyway?  Girls go missing every day to human trafficking, right? Who needs girls?

We don't think this happens in the United States. And maybe fifty years ago it wouldn't have.  That was back when neighbors talked to each other and knew each others comings and goings.  I have a neighbor who we jokingly call "Mrs. Kravitz" from the old sitcom Bewitched because she knows all the comings and goings of the neighborhood.  In fact, she knew our next door neighbors were moving before I did.

Do you know your neighbors?  Take a step outside.  Look to your left.  Know them?  We were friendly with our neighbors to the left, they moved and new neighbors moved in.  They were nice, but we didn't click the way we did with their predecessors.  But even though we didn't click, we still were nice to each other.  We picked up their newspapers when they went on vacation. And they've gotten our dog George in when he's left the back yard.  Look to your right.  Do you know them?  For me, it's a Pickling Factory, so I'm good on that one.  Look across the street.  I know both sets of neighbors whose houses are across from mine. We hang out with the neighbors directly across to the left.  We'd all do anything for each other, from watching dogs, making dinner, having after-work drinks, and getting together to play our famous game of washers, or Pennsylvania horseshoes as some call it. When we have our annual summer party, the houses adjacent to mine and two houses down all get an invitation. The people across the street always bring a cooler of beer and leave it for the night.  I want to build community while alerting the neighbors that there will be lots of cars and really awesome music playing. 

All the news I heard yesterday on this case was how quite a few people claimed to have called the police on suspicious things happening in this house over the years.  What kind of a neighborhood is it?  Is it one where the police avoid?  We know there are "those kinds of neighborhoods" in this racially charged world.  Class and race play out in the criminal justice system in such an expansive way we cannot even begin to analyze how people in poorer communities get arrested for minor infractions or ignored for major needs, like this very case.

One can only hope this blip in our history is a teachable moment.  One can only hope that these young women (who aren't girls anymore, by the way, media!) get the psychiatric help they need to heal from this horrific decade in their young lives.  And one can only hope that people will begin to look out for each other in a different way.  A bystander is someone who is neither a victim nor a perpetrator.  It is someone who can call for help, stop an action, intervene.  We need to build a community of bystanders so that a story like this is never told again.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Praise Jesus! NBA Player Comes Out of the Closet!

So this week our FIRST NBA player came out as gay.  Oh Hallelujah! A few people sent me links about this, that I should be just so pleased.  Should I really be pleased that in 2013 an industry that has supported homophobia and perhaps encouraged a wee bit of misogyny has finally accepted ONE person who is gay or should I say allowed for ONE person being gay?  A colleague of mine posted this on her Facebook that day:  "things I give absolutely no sh*ts about today: athletes. gay athletes. gay athletes coming out of the closet. why? I'm really unfazed by unchecked athlete-worship, especially among folk who normally keep a close eye on institutions, athletic and otherwise, that promote and sustain racism, rape culture, and homophobia." She has a point.  Then a friend from college posted this article from BuzzFeed on Women Athletes.

And both their posts gave me pause.  

Why is it whenever men do ANYTHING that is the RIGHT thing, they get all kinds of accolades?  Let me list some:  the dishes, parenting, crying, "helping out" at home, taking out the garbage without being asked, supporting women, speaking up for women, helping stop rape, coming out as a gay athlete.  Women who are constantly trying to find balance in a world of inequality are rarely given any accolades.  How many women get accolades for working their asses off in a professional career and raising children who then contribute to society?  There should be a fucking prize for that.  Especially if the other parent in the picture was one who had to be asked to do anything that really was in his original job description of a parent.   

So maybe it is momentous that an athlete in the only sports that really get any attention in our culture, aka MEN's sports, is out and gay.  But what is the larger question here?  I think it is about why professional athletic teams are only those that men are part of.  Women's professional sports exist on a very minimal basis.  How many college women graduate hoping to continue to do their sport are left with minor league regional teams or the Olympics?  Sure, the WNBA exists, but it exists and does not have the kind of support the NBA, the NHL, MLB or NFL does.  Not even close.  

This is one of those "so-called" momentous moments in life where instead I feel like I'm lying under a pile of rocks weighted down by the immense cultural changes needed in our culture from equality for women athletes, and even their basic representation to the ways in which women in this country will never achieve balance or stress free lives if they choose to have children.  Never.  

And as for Jason Collins, I hope you take some of that privilege as an NBA player and do it to help other gay young people of color be supported in their communities, their schools and their homes, regardless of whether they are athletes or are part of the theatre club.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Week from Hell

It was one of those bizarre weeks in the life of a person or a community.  The good news came from France that they had legalized gay marriage, yet the response by their divided community seemed so out of place, for France.  To have that many people riot in the street against gay marriage didn't make sense to me.

Rhode Island passes gay marriage making them the 10th state to do so.  But there are 50 of us.  That leaves 40 to go.  Will that all change with a repeal of DOMA?  Should be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Then we come to a week ago Friday.  My story goes like this.  I take the dog to the groomer and hear about the middle of the night manhunt for Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.   I had just gotten back from the groomer and was getting ready to go to breakfast with my brother and his wife at this lovely woman owned place in Somerset called Lina's.  I got an alert text that the university is closed.  I'm confused.  Boston is pretty much shut down on a manhunt for the Marathon Bomber so it doesn't make any sense why we are closed.  I text my boss and ask her to call me when she has a chance knowing she must be very involved with whatever is happening there.  We turn on the TV.  A ticker underneath one of the channels says that the suspect who is still alive, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to school "somewhere outside of Boston."  My brother jokes and says "maybe he went to UMass Dartmouth."  We both laugh, but mine has that kind of nervous undertone to it.   Then I get another alert text that the university is being evacuated.  I try to log into the website but it won't let me.  I later learn this was from too much traffic.  When I finally get in it states that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a registered student. 

We go to breakfast and when I get back I am glued to the tv.  I get an email from my bosses boss stating if  we are already on campus, can we come to a meeting.  Thankfully I'm not already on campus.  I reply I am not on campus as I was planning to go in later that day but I can.  My boss calls me and tells me she is not sure if they need me yet.  She texts later to say no and less than 15 minutes later calls and asks if I can go work at the area high school to meet the students who are being evacuated and have nowhere to go, primarily international students. 

I work at the high school for about four hours helping students get set up at a local hotel.  What I learn about how close my connection was to this young man is that he is on the intramural soccer team who we played recently in the Kick the Silence, Stop the Violence event.  I also learned, later during the week, that if the FBI had released the photos earlier, like on Wednesday night, the hunt that went on in Watertown could have happened on campus instead. 

On Sunday I worked for five hours answering parent phone calls, mostly about the safety of campus.  And I went to a meeting with the Muslim Student Association regarding their safety on campus.  Many of them, particularly the women, were afraid of a backlash against Muslims. 

On Tuesday we hosted almost 200 students to campus for our annual GLBT Youth Symposium.  This was, as usual, an uplifting event.  

So for this week I critique nothing.  I feel good about gay marriage passing in another country and another state and I feel sad that a young man is going to lose his life or spend it in jail for reasons we do not yet know.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Culture of Violence

I remember vividly, age 10, and Dad taking me on vacation.  In Houlton, Maine, where we lived, school started in mid-August so that the last week of September and first two weeks of October school could close for Potato Harvest.  I had lots of friends who picked potatoes.  I never did.  It was a good excuse to stay with my mom for a week or two in Massachusetts.  But this year, Dad decided he would take time off and take me to Boston and to see my Grandparents (his parents) in Worcester.  He got tickets to see The King and I with Yul Brynner.  He had the lead in that play forever, playing the King 4,625 times. I was not impressed with his acting.  Clearly that part was too familiar to him.  I couldn't understand a word he said. (A theatre critic at age 10, who knew?)  He's also the guy who filmed a commercial about the dangers of smoking before he died that went something like "'Now that I’m gone, I tell you: Don’t smoke. Whatever you do, just don’t smoke."

During this trip, we also saw my first 3-D movie, some strange western. 3-D tumbleweed rolling toward us. The point of this whole trip was really to show me Boston. Dad loved Boston.  He grew up in Worcester and to this day loves every Boston sports team. That is a story for another day.  He spent a good amount of time teaching me the importance of offensive driving in a city. While I was 5 years away from getting my license, he wanted to show off his city driving skills.  He also drove me through the "combat zone," explaining what all the XXX signs were about.  At one point, we were crossing the street and he pointed to a woman and said "that's not actually a woman."  Who knew back then that I'd be advocating for transgender rights as part of my work?

Suffice it to say it was a memorable trip to Boston, mostly because my Dad was so passionate about it. 

A few years ago my brother and I spent two nights in Boston seeing the Dave Matthew's Band at Fenway.  We did all kinds of touristy things like the Duck Boats, tried to figure out the T, took a pedi-bike after dinner, ate on Newbury Street, walked along the Charles.  It was really fun.  We stayed on the Cambridge side at the Hyatt Regency with a gorgeous balcony looking over the city. 

Two days after the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, I feel like I cannot write about anything but Boston, even though I want to write about how sad I am that we live in a world where people want to kill each other, where people want to slaughter innocent people to make a point about something or to express their own anger and rage.

I often tell my students and my friends that I don't watch any of those CSI shows (that often have strong female characters) because I cannot support the culture of violence.  These so-called detective shows are all about women --mostly-- being murdered.  I don't need to spend my day dealing with rape on my campus and then come home to watch women be murdered.  Real life violence is too much for me as it is, I don't need to veg-out on fictional violence.  I don't watch horror movies either.  These movies always slaughter women.  

So maybe we should take a pause from these events in Boston.  Stop wondering who is behind all this and ask ourselves, what have we done to promote, ignore or remain apathetic to a culture of violence in our world?  Yes, someone needs to take responsibility for the killing and maiming of hundreds of people, but we live in this world too.  We need to look in our own mirrors and think about the ways we promote and support a culture of violence.  What do you watch?  What do you read?  What video games do you play?  How do you talk about people?  Do you say about a hot young thang, "I could hit that?"  That's violence.  How does your language perpetuate that culture?  How do you support a culture of violence?  Mull that one over.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Simply Devine Review

I vowed months ago I would critique restaurants as well as culture, I mean, food is culture, right?  But I need to be more consistent.  Isn't that a them for life, the need to be more consistent?  Anyway, I am going to try once a month to write about food.  We have no kids so we do eat out a lot.  We also eat out with people to be in company with them.

Simply Devine is a restaurant in Warren, RI in the old Nathaniel Porter location.  Simply Devine was opened by a couple in 2012 who also run Simply Devine catering.  We went late on a Sunday afternoon before seeing a play at the local theatre.  We were sat by an old fireplace that now runs with gas.  It was charming.

I ordered the lobster risotto and Jeff ordered the lasagne.  You can check out their menu here.  The first thing Jeff always does when we go to a restaurant is to look at the bottom of the flatware to see where it is made.  I have no clue, in general, on what is "good" flatware versus bad. I love fiesta ware! He said the flatware was average and the silverware even lower grade.  White tablecloths, candles and fireplaces require a nicer flatware.

We were brought bread, warm pieces of cut french bread that were good, with hard pats of butter.  I think a place like that should always serve whipped butter.  I ordered a side Cesar salad, which was good.  My lobster risotto was served with saffron, cremini mushrooms and peas.  The mushrooms were very hard to chew, suggesting they came dried and were not softened up enough before cooking.  They had the texture of leather.  I thought the amount of lobster in the dish was moderate.

Jeff's lasagna, on the other hand, was served in a stainless steel casserole dish, over a plate of baby arugula.  The arugula had no dressing on it, was almost there as a decorative piece, but it was strange.  He said the lasagna was nothing compared to mine.  He felt the noodles were overcooked and it had very little flavor.

We ordered the berry tart for dessert with was good.  He had coffee and a grand marnier.  I finished my Sauvignon blanc.  He said the coffee was excellent.

Our take out came in a plastic bag, which didn't seem to fit with the environment either.

Overall, we'd give this restaurant a 5 out of 10, meaning we'll go back for a drink and appetizers as the bar was very quaint, but we're on the fence on whether we would order dinner here again when there are so many other sure things in the area.

I can say, the play that followed, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, at 2nd Story, was, according to Jeff, "one of the best plays I have ever seen at 2nd Story," and I have to agree.  For a show with some clearly misogynistic undertones, the acting was top notch and the directing excellent.