Category Archives: Feminism

Young Lakota Fights for EC for Native Women

Sunny Clifford, on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Thanks to the efforts of reproductive freedom advocates, emergency contraception — a pill or set of pills that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy — is legally available to all women 17 and older over the counter without a prescription.

But for many Native American women, this right simply isn’t a reality. According to a new report by Native American Women’s Health Resource Center (NAWHRC), women who access health care via Indian Health Services often face barriers to getting the drug. Some are told they have to see a doctor in order to get it. Others simply find that the medication isn’t in stock on their reservation.

This is especially alarming in light of the fact that 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetime. Survivors of rape and sexual assault report being turned away at IHS clinics when they go to request the drugs. Even worse, other women told NAWHRC that they were blamed and shamed for their own assault by the service provider they trusted to help them.

Today is National Back Up Your Birth Control Day and advocates across the country are spreading the message that having EC on hand in case of a birth control failure is the responsible thing to do. But Native women can’t even start there — they’re having to fight for the right to get it at all, in any situation.

Leading the online charge is Sunny Clifford, a twenty six year-old Lakota woman living on the Pine Ridge reservation. Like many people on her reservation, she doesn’t have a car and has to rely on the IHS clinic in her community for all of her health care needs. She worries that if she or one of her sisters needed EC, she wouldn’t be able to get it. And she’s furious that Native women are being denied a legal right by the Indian Health Services, the very institution that’s charged with protecting Native women’s health.

Sunny has started a petition on asking Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, the Director of Indian Health Services, to immediately issue a directive to service providers on all reservations that emergency contraception must be made available to any woman 17 or older who asks for it, on demand, without seeing a doctor. Sunny believes that if enough people shame Dr. Roubideaux for denying basic health services to Native women, she’ll be forced to make real changes in how IHS distributes emergency contraception.

Will you sign Sunny’s petition and share it with your friends to help demand equal access to emergency contraception? Below are some sample Facebook and Twitter posts to help get you started.

FACEBOOK: 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped. But Indian Health Services is blocking Native Women from accessing emergency contraception when they need it. Will you stand with Indian women to demand equal access to basic reproductive health care?

TWITTER: On #BUYBC day, a young Lakota woman,@SunnyClifford, is fighting for access to #EC for Native women

Fannie Lou Hamer said, “nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” And a right guaranteed isn’t really a right at all until every single woman can access it. On this Back Up Your Birth Control Day, please stand with Sunny and Native women across the nation to demand equal access to emergency contraception.


Filed under Feminism, On The Ground

A Feminist Live-Blogging the Super Bowl

If I were home in New York, there’s no way – unless I were co-hosting a feminist counter Super Bowl Show, like I was last year- I’d be watching the Super Bowl. I don’t care much for football in general and the ritual around this game especially elicits shows of hyper-masculinity that often cross into downright misogyny. But this year, a speaking gig has landed me in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas, in my parent’s house – and the combination of a white-out blizzard outside and tasty Southern game day food inside are making my usual boycott a little hard.

So, I decided to take to the internets to live-blog the misogyny and rape culture promotion that will captivate most of America for the evening. Below, a list of warm-ups to fill the hours before the game – check back here at 6:15 EST for live-blogging to begin!

Feminist Super Bowl Pre-Game

Click on the link below to launch the Cover It Live window in which the live-blogging will take place. You can add your comments by commenting directly from the window or using the #femsuperbowl tag on Twitter.

Feminist Live-Blogging the Super Bowl


Filed under Feminism

Introducing The Radical Women’s History Project

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that each morning I do a series of “this day in women’s history” tweets, marked with the #wmnhist tag. What you might not know is that each morning I open ten different tabs in a window to comb through pages and pages of HIStory to find the couple of morsels pertaining to women that wind up on my Twitter feed.

I started doing this Twitter thing a little less than a year ago and I didn’t initially mean for it to be a regular thing. Frankly, I looked up women’s history for myself on days I felt I could go no further, claw no harder against overwhelming inequalities in their overlapping, insidious forms that just keep popping up all over. I looked up the lives of the women before me because I needed to know that women before had faced obstacles seemingly as insurmountable (and most often much more so!) and come out triumphant. I looked up the lives of the women before me because I needed their sisterhood, their guidance, their solidarity, their example.

The more I did this, the more I realized how much of my history as a woman I’d been denied – I would have seen myself as so much stronger so much sooner had I been taught about the goddess religions, the matrilineal cultures, about the female warriors and peace makers, business people and inventors, healers, scribes, and artists. The more I was nourished by my history, the more I realized sharing the lives and voices and stories the patriarchy wanted silenced and disappeared was a revolutionary act. (And no, this is not an original thought – reappearing women’s history has been a feminist project for years. There’s just nothing like your own mind-blowing, wonderful and sometimes enraging “AHA!”)

BUT. I’ve realized this year of hunting down women’s history facts that the “women” in that phrase are most often white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, and Western. Just as women have been mostly left out of the broad discourse we call “history,” women of color, indigenous, queer, trans, disabled and non-Western women (and women living within all the intersection thereof) have been further marginalized, mostly left out of or tossed in as an afterthought in feminist attempts to add women to existing history.* This is as damaging as leaving women out entirely, servicing kyriarchy by silencing the very voices deemed most threatening and marginalizing the women most threatened due to that fact. These women, ALL women, have a valiant and complicated history – one that women and men of all identities would be better served by knowing.

All these words are to say that the ten sites I go to a day that celebrate mostly privileged white women don’t cut it. I want a real women’s history. I need it and so do a lot of other women and men. It shouldn’t be radical to want ALL women to get equal and deserved credit for adding to this planet we share but it is right now so I’m calling this the Radical Women’s History Project. What that means is that every day this year, starting on January 1st, 2011, I’m scouring the internet and books and any other source I can find to chronicle the lives and the accomplishments of the world’s women, explicitly centering women of color, indigenous, queer, trans, disabled, and non-Western women, and I’m posting them here for whomever would like to use them.

Let’s face it – this isn’t going to be easy. For one, most of the easily available sources  focus on that white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, Western woman. And two, perhaps more importantly, the woman spearheading this project claims most of those privileges in the previous sentence – I only speak one other language (Spanish, badly) and my privileges has certainly made me blind to some sources that are right there in front of me. So I need your help. Send me sites that chronicle daily women’s history. In whatever language, I’ll get it translated. Send me one fact on one date with a source. Go do some digging in your library and send me book titles. Tell your professor there’s this obsessed girl on the internets doing this thing and ask if they could please share their research. Ask your mom and grandma and your great-grandma to reach back and think of the women who stood out in their lives.

I believe with all my heart Gerda Lerner, a pioneer of women’s history, when she says “women’s history is the primary tool for women’s emancipation.” And I believe that means ALL women and this collective history is not only the key to women’s emancipation but a primary resource for all men and women and those who don’t identify with this arbitrary thing called gender in our journey toward whole humanity. So, I invite you, let’s see where this journey takes us, together.


* There are wonderful notable exceptions that I know about in English, mostly by feminists and womanists of color. Alice Walker’s In Search of My Mother’s Garden is a beautiful examination of not only Black women’s history but what an effect searching for and discovering one’s feminine lineage has on the searcher. Audre Lorde also explored Black women’s history, in her poetry and while sorting out her relationship to her mother in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Paula Gunn Allen wrote the feminine back into Native American history with her book Sacred Hoop: Rediscovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions.


Filed under Feminism, Herstory, RWHP

Successful Women Are Scary, Single: Part 7599

The International Herald Tribune and the New York Times are concerned. Concerned about women. Specifically, concerned women who are successful will fail to fulfill their ultimate goal and purpose in life, which is obviously to attach herself to a man so that he can fulfill his ultimate goal and purpose in life of taking care of her. This is how the world is supposed to work and now that feminism has messed everything up, women are paying the price of being SINGLE FOR GOD SAKES and men’s EGOS ARE BEING CRUSHED and we should all take a moment to bemoan this new modern reality because, really, the world just might end.

Or, at least that’s what I took from Katrin Bennhold’s ridiculous contribution to the International Herald Tribune’s ‘The Female Factor,’ which endeavors to explore where women stand in the early 21st century. In pursuit of this goal, all Bennhold could manage to ask was, “Is female empowerment killing romance?” Of course, the backlash to feminism isn’t new and if we looked hard enough and had a strong stomach, we could find the exact same question asked by some concern troll columnist every decade since women got the vote. (I’d rather keep my lunch down – if you do the research, goddess bless you and send me a link!)

In this 2010 incarnation, Bennhold takes us through horror stories of the various ways that successful women scare away men and introduces us to a few men, kind souls, who are willing to make the sacrifice to date successful women as long as they get to drive. But, THANKFULLY, Bennhold also lists three things women MUST DO order to mitigate the impact of their bank balance on their love life:

Leave the snazzy company car at home on the first date; find your life partner in your 20s, rather than your 30s, before you’ve become too successful. And go after men who draw their confidence from sources other than money, like academics and artists.

Ok, ew. I’ll drop the sarcasm for a minute to say that, yes, there certainly are men who shrink at the thought of dating a woman who makes more than him. While it might be easy to write these guys off as unenlightened douches, this inferiority complex is a good example of one of the many ways that sexism and gender roles hurt men too. In this case, men are told their worth is based on their ability to financially support a woman rather than on being emotionally supportive and an egalitarian partner or an equal parent, if one choose the have children. In reality, these experiences should be open to and encouraged in all humans of both genders and the fact that some men miss out on them is yet another reason men should be clamoring to sign up for the feminist revolution.

If the question must be asked how the fact that some women – usually white and straight and a far smaller percentage than authors of these articles are ever willing to mention – are now making more than men impacts on heterosexual courtship, the focus should be on why we hold so tight to the gender roles that might make the question relevant in the first place. Why are men still made to feel they have to be the breadwinner and women feel they have to downplay their success? How can we change these patterns at a personal, political and social level? Are the women who are making more than their male partners still working the double shift (in many cases, yes) and are men becoming more equal inside the home as women become more equal outside of it (in many cases, no)?

I also can’t help but note that while Bennhold’s piece is centered around European experiences, the New York Times gave it credence less than two weeks after the US Senate refused to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and rectify the fact that white women make 77 cents, Black women make 61 cents, and Latina women make 52 cents to the white male dollar. And while Bennhold and many others tout the fact that women have overtaken men in college enrollment, few ever note that this in large part due to the fact that women are more likely to go back to college because they’ve found that they need it to support their families, because it’s still harder for women than most men to find higher paying employment without a college degree. So, along with being pointless, condescending, and based on the assumption all women want to find a man, it’s yet more column inches devoted to a few straight, (mostly) white women and their romantic problems rather than the far more pressing problems stemming from inequality faced by the majority of women.

Sigh. In answer to the question as to the state of women in the early 21st century: both women AND men still have a long, long way to go.


Filed under Feminism

Update: Women of Wired Respond

This morning I posted this piece in response to two separate actions by Wired Magazine. There has been quite an angry response on the part of those associated with Wired to both, so I’ll take them one by one.

The first issue is Wired’s decision to use a photo of two shapely, whole breasts on the cover of their November issue to advertise what is a truly wonderful, smart, and serious piece on tissue regeneration as it pertains to breast cancer survivors. It’s my opinion that using this very sexualized image of breasts to draw buyers to the magazine on the newsstand undermines the importance of this story and trivializes the trauma experienced by the women whose breasts are disfigured due to cancer treatments. If the editors truly wanted to convey what regeneration technology could do for breast cancer survivors they could have chosen an image of an “aesthetically irreparable breast,” which is what researchers say is what current technology has to offer most women who undergo lumpectomies. The editors could have placed this next to a Photoshop version of what the scientists hope they could achieve for that woman’s breast with their new technology.

But, disfigured breasts don’t do so much to lure in male readers and they scare away a female readership that’s already trained to be terrified first of losing a part of their body to cancer and, sometimes secondarily, of dying of the disease. The same line of thinking underlies much of the pinksplosion during October: breasts are sexy to men, women need breast to attract men, breast cancer maims breasts, let’s all focus on saving the breast. Many times, but of course not always, the actual woman attached to those breasts is an afterthought. So it seems with the disembodied image of boobs with no head on the front of Wired’s cover.

Agree or disagree, I take issue with this. Chris Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine and therefore the person to whom to direct complaints. Even if he didn’t personally choose the cover, he signed off on it and I therefore have no qualms about naming him here on my blog and sending those who have similar issues to his Twitter feed.

The second issue is this photo that appeared both on the Wired Yourself tumblr and on a blog called ‘Not So Serious’, although the post on the second site has been taken down:

The ‘Not So Serious’ blog named the young women in the photo as “interns, staff, and freelancers.” I’ve since been contacted by several of the young women in the photo who feel maligned by my earlier post. In addition to several personal emails, I received this comment on my blog, which was also posted on the Wired tumblr site:

I understand your frustration. Wired Yourself was conceptualized, produced, and maintained by we, the women posted in its inaugural pictures. Not our bosses. And certainly not by coercion, prompting, or suggestion. To assume so would miss the perhaps-too-subtle-for-the-internet-when-boobs-are-involved point. Also, it hurt our feelings a little. Our intent was to stand behind (literally) the magazine cover by reclaiming the anonymous image as our own, in celebration of the idea that she is all women and we are all her. The breasts on Wired are emblems of an era when post-masectomy reconstruction won’t mean the choice between an artificial implant and scar tissue. So, read the article, and learn about the amazing, liberating future for breast cancer survivors. If you’re like us, it’ll make you want to stand up and cheer.

-The ladies of WiredYourself, acting, as always, on their own volition. (Here’s the link:

In my original post, I said that if the women were told by their bosses to do the Wired Yourself shoot, it would be a form of sexual harassment. It would be. I’m glad to hear that it was not, in fact, the result of coercion and I do apologize to the women in the photo for assuming they have less agency than they actually do. This was NOT very sisterly or feminist of me, I agree. If there is any defense for my mistake, which there really isn’t, it’s that I usually find when women and sexualization and selling things are concerned, there’s a man in the background driving it. I apologize to Chris Anderson on this point because he had nothing to do with the picture of the female staff. However, my criticism about the cover and suggestion similar criticism be directed to him still stands.

BUT. I am not one of those feminists who believe that just because a woman does something out of her own agency it is automatically feminist or good for other women. Even if the breasts on the cover are supposed to be, “emblems of an era when post-masectomy reconstruction won’t mean the choice between an artificial implant and scar tissue,” I still believe sexualizing breasts in the context of breast cancer minimizes the reality of the disease as experienced by a whole woman. Since the women of Wired and I disagree on the message of the cover, it would be hard to agree on an appropriate response to it.

We do agree that the Wired Yourself contest might be “perhaps-too-subtle-for-the-internet-when-boobs-are-involved.” Sadly, we live in a world where 99% of the time you see a young woman posed suggestively, boobs bared, it’s not about solidarity or raising awareness or anything other than selling her sexuality. I personally don’t believe we’re at a point at which playing into this very harmful, alarming pattern for any reason can be subversive. This is where the women of Wired and I see feminist activism differently and since it’s a big tent with no membership office, that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s a good thing!

My apologies for offending and, as some claim, maligning my sisters at Wired. No such harm was intended at all – if any of the women of Wired would like to have a private convo, please email me. If you’d like to do a Q & A about the activism behind Wired Yourself, even better!

In solidarity,



Filed under Feminism

Feminism’s New Young Leaders at 92Y Tribeca!

As I sat in the audience at the 92Y and listened to feminist leaders Gloria Steinem and Marie Wilson talk about the election in September of 2008, I wondered if, by the time I was 74, I would get the opportunity to opine about my favorite topic at that iconic venue. Turns out I don’t have to wait 50 years – and for that I’m incredibly honored, humbled, and slightly intimidated!

On November 10th, 92Y Tribeca will host ‘Naomi Wolf Talks with Feminism’s New Young Leaders,’ a conversation featuring myself, Feministing founder Jessica Valenti, Ivy League sex blogger and organizer extraordinaire Lena Chen, and Allison Kasic, who works at the Independent Women’s Forum and, I assume from the event modifier “voices from the left and right,” will be representing the Sarah Palin version of feminism. The panel was put together by More Magazine, which is featuring all the panelists and a host of other great new faces of feminism in their Novemeber issue, which will be on newsstands October 26th.

If you’re in NYC, stop by and say hello and submit your questions about the now and future of the movement. If you’re not in NYC, no worries! I’ll be posting a detailed recap, as I’m sure will the other bloggers on the panel. Event information is below – hope to see you there!

Voices from the left and right: Lena Chen, Allison Kasic, Shelby Knox and Jessica Valenti. Moderated by Naomi Wolf and More editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour

Where are all the young feminists? That’s the frequently asked—and loaded—question that inspired More editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour to feature 14 young feminists in her November issue (on news-stands Oct 26). Bestselling author Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth) joins Seymour and panelists Lena Chen, Allison Kasic, Shelby Knox and Jessica Valenti for a provocative discussion: How do the young leaders define feminism? Is blogging the new march on Washington? What do the conservative feminists believe? And will the intergenerational clash ever end?

Date & Time: Wed, Nov 10, 2010, 7:00pm

Location: 92YTribeca, 200 Hudson Street Venue: 92YTribeca Mainstage

Tickets ($12) available online at the 92Y event page.


Filed under Feminism

Levi’s New Ad Campaign Falls On Its Butt

Alright, Levi’s, I gotta give you some credit for trying to make both a product and ad that appeals to women above a size 2.

Scratch that. Actually, no, I don’t. Why? Because first of all, whose ass is not equal? Mine, because it’s a size 12 instead of a size 4? Your very tagline undermines your whole campaign by implying the same “some butts, i.e., smaller butts, are more deserving of jeans than others” trope that you’re claiming to subvert. Fail number one. Let me help your ad agency out: All asses of all shapes and sizes are created equal.  Muuuuch better.

Fail number two: all the models in the ad are the exact same size and that size is small, smaller than the average American woman you’re supposedly trying to reach. If you put the words ‘Bold Curve’ next to a woman, I expect her to have, um, bold curves and preferably legs that don’t look like toothpicks.

Speaking of the average American woman, your target audience, do you only imagine her as white? Some women of color have just as hard a time finding jeans as some white women and I’d assume you would agree their asses are just as equal, right? RIGHT??? Take a step into the 21st century and cast your models to look a little more like America. Fail number three. You’re out!

It’s true that women who have curves sometimes have a harder time finding jeans than women who have “ideal figures,” whatever that disgusting term means. That’s because companies like Levi’s design for a mostly unhealthy, mostly unrealistic ideal for women and spend little time thinking about those who don’t fit that mold. We’re not grateful, Levi’s, that you’re finally making jeans for us non-models. This curvy girl, for one, is pissed at your demeaning, unrepresentative ads and pissed it took you this long to recognize me as worthy of your product.


Filed under Feminism

Unicorns and Young Feminism

This post is one of 37 submissions in the ‘This is What a Young Feminist Looks Like’ blog carnival. Head over to our host, Fair and Feminist, for a list of participating blogs.

Today, I’m declaring my solidarity with the unicorns. After all, I’m also part of a marginalized group that many insist doesn’t exist and upon which many more impose their hopes, dreams and fears. We don’t have horns but, at least in my personal opinion, we have magical powers that can and will change the world in ways no one can yet imagine.

I am a young feminist. Once and for all, I am a very, very real. And I am far from the only member of my pack.

Every couple of weeks another well-known older woman publicly bemoans the extinction of feminism in my generation.  And unfailingly, after each speech I give about my nine years in the feminist movement, someone stands up to ask why young women are unwilling to take up the banner for equality. Each time, it feels like a personal jab. I know or have met many of the older leaders who propagate this myth and I wonder, “Did you forget the conversations we’ve had about organizing in high schools and on college campuses? Are the young women who run your websites and table at your events and stuff packets for your conferences really invisible or do they just mean that little to you?” To those at my speeches I want to scream, “Did you tune out the last thirty minutes of me talking about college feminists in Colorado getting their peers to vote against anti-choice ballot initiatives and immigrant young women in California helping nail salon workers form unions and brave young women teaching comprehensive sex education in the South?”

But, I don’t say any of those things. I go back to my herstory and try to remind these older women, often veterans of the Second Wave battles, that one of the reasons some young women fail to see gender equality as a main issue in their life is because their work eradicated many of the overt oppressions against women that, before, were simply known as “life.” My generation has never experienced segregated employment ads or “men only” signs or been unable to get credit without a male co-signer. The feminists of the 1970’s dreamed and labored into a reality a country in which little girls are told they can be anything they want to be and have far more role models to prove it. If we seem ungrateful, it’s because we can never truly know how bad it was and, I believe, most of the women’s liberationists wanted it that way.

I also find myself trying to explain why, for very valid political reasons, some young women don’t identify as feminist. I feel my older colleagues pain on this one – I, too, feel my life was saved and radically transformed by this thing called feminism and I can’t think of a better way to describe my work and worldview than the f-word. Yet, my ability to love and use this word is strongly tied to my privilege as a white, middle-class, educated, able-bodied, cisgender woman. People who share these privileges have historically and continue to control the mainstream women’s movement and that movement has a history and often a present of silencing, shaming, and/or marginalizing women who don’t fit into that privilege set. For these reasons, many young women of color, queer women, disabled women, and trans women don’t consider “feminist” a safe or useful term.

That doesn’t, however, mean that these women are not working for gender equality and working in ways that extend the scope and impact of social justice organizing like we’ve never seen before. For example, young women doing their activism under the umbrella of the woman of color led reproductive justice movement are expanding the fight for reproductive rights from a legal and political struggle to a community conversation about economic access to services, the rights of incarcerated mothers, and the impacts of often intersecting identity-based oppressions that influence individual ability to parent, get health care, and use those hard won legal rights. To discount these young activists as apathetic or uninformed because they use a different label or refuse a label at all is to replicate the silencing that drove many away in the first place and that has splintered social justice efforts for centuries.

Of course, there are some young women who don’t identify as feminist because they don’t like the connotations of the word or they think, falsely, that women have achieved full equality. This is the “I’m not a feminist but” crowd and, yup, that’s a frustrating implication of the backlash against feminism that we’ve been talking about since Susan Faludi named it in 1991. Instead of dwelling on it, I choose to look on the bright side. When 18-25 year old women were asked in a 2007 Harris poll if they believed in the goals of the women’s liberation movement, 90% responded in the affirmative. Young women all over the country and the internet are talking about and doing activism for gender equality and they are doing it at an age when the pressures to sexualize themselves, find a romantic partner, and assume the role of “woman” as seen on TV is at it’s highest. Many are doing it in educational institutions that act as bubbles of perfect equality before that bubble pops upon entering the workplace. Instead of asking why more young women aren’t identifying as feminist, why aren’t we remarking on how many are, against all odds?

Some older feminists do that, of course. I have many wonderful older friends and colleagues who’ve never denied my lived experience and who have worked with me on feminist projects for years. This speech is not to them or about them but to the small part of their group that, like the actually apathetic “I’m not a feminist but” part of my group, has it completely and utterly wrong. If you’ve found yourself here as a skeptical older feminist or a skeptical, “women are equal, right??” young non-feminist,  go check out the 30+ posts in this young feminist carnival. See what this whole newfangled thing is all about. Get inspired, get excited, get pissed off and take action. That, after all, will change the world far faster than sitting around debating the existence of unicorns.


Filed under Feminism

Bristol Palin’s Speaking Fee is Beside the Point

Yesterday, news broke that Bristol Palin will be receiving $14,000 to speak at a fundraiser for LifeHouse, a Christian home for unwed mothers in Louisville, Kentucky.

I can’t say I didn’t roll my eyes at that dollar amount. As someone who has for seven years been speaking on the opposite end of the spectrum, advocating comprehensive sex education and the right and ability for women of all ages to choose motherhood, adoption, or abortion, I can’t imagine raking in a sum that large, especially for a fundraiser. Most of the fundraisers I’ve keynoted across the country have been on a volunteer basis and I’ve never been paid more than $5000 dollars for a speech. Of course, my family and I are not as famous as Bristol and her family. And, of course, activists on all sides of all issues deserve to be paid for their work. Both Jessica Valenti and Monica of TransGRiot wrote eloquently earlier this month about the monetary value of activism and how the expectation that speakers be unpaid not only devalues that work but propagates an environment in which only the voices of those who are privileged enough to do it for free are heard. In any movement, this is a huge problem.

Today, Jezebel responded to the news with a post titled ‘Should Bristol Palin Be Paid This Much?’ in which Sadie Stein wonders how fiscally responsible it is for a non-profit organization to shell out such a sum when it’s desperately trying to raise money. Good point, perhaps, but questions about the dollar amount are sidestepping what I see as the real issue: the immeasurable amount of shame, misinformation, and propaganda this young woman is set to disseminate to other young people across the country.

Bristol Palin stepped into the spotlight as the pregnant, unwed, 17 year-old daughter of then relatively unknown vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.  The elder Palin used her daughter’s pregnancy, and the eventual birth of her grandson, to highlight her extreme anti-abortion policies and to advocate for more funding for the same abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that failed her daughter. For a brief moment, it looked as if Bristol might speak truth to power and her mother to expose the failure of the “just say no” approach when she told Fox’s Greta Van Susteran that abstinence is, “not realistic.”

Sadly, that didn’t turn out to be the case. Bristol has fashioned herself into an advocate for abstinence-only-until-marriage as a spokesperson for the Candies Foundation and has publicly advocated that all young women, without regard to their individual situations, choose young motherhood over adoption or abortion. This is undoubtedly the message she’ll carry to Lifehouse and similar groups willing to shell out the bucks to the famous teen mom.

As a reminder, despite a multi-million dollar federal tax dollar endorsement, abstinence-only programs were a resounding failure. The rates of unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections rose during those dark years and teens who’d been exposed to the programs were found to be less likely to use contraception or protection upon engaging in sex. The programs deny young people medically accurate information about sexual health and often use gender stereotypes of the ‘men are raging hormonal beasts and women are prude’ variety to shame young people into abstaining, which, as Palin said herself, is often unrealistic. They deny not only information about safer sex to gay students but also deny their very existence, maintaining that the only “correct” sexual partnerships are those within a monogamous, heterosexual marriage. One more advocate for these programs, at the moment the federal government has finally decided to fund comprehensive sex education, is disheartening news for young people across the country.

Bristol Palin has also shown a startling ignorance of the reality of the lives of young women who become pregnant who do not have a famous, wealthy family.  Unlike Palin, many young women don’t have sibling and nannies that can help them care for a new addition. Some are pregnant by family members, or their families are absent, or would kick them out of the house if they were to carry the pregnancy to term. Others don’t have any financial means at all to care for a baby. Others simply do not want to be mothers, maybe just not now or maybe not ever. Bristol and the organizations that will ask her to speak revere the concept of fetal life far more than the rights and concerns of real, living young women. What message can she possibly send to them other than, “If you don’t make the choices I did, shame on you.” Unless, of course, she’s talking about abstinence until marriage, in which case it’s, “do as I say, not as I do.”

I’m not saying Bristol Palin doesn’t have the right to be an activist speaker. Of course she does, even though I’ll probably disagree with everything she has to say. I’m saying that instead of focusing on the money she’s making, those of us on the side of reproductive justice need to be focusing on highlighting how harmful and yes, unrealistic, her message is. We owe young women who are pregnant accurate information on all their options and financial, emotional, and legal support for every single one of them. We owe them real depictions of the struggles, joys, and hardships of young motherhood. We owe those who’ve made different choices as much respect and support as Bristol seems to have found.

I don’t care how much I get paid to do it but this is my work. And me and the army of other young women who do the same will be countering the young Ms. Palin every step of the way.


Filed under Feminism, Sex Education

Gucci Ads: Dead Women Are In for Autumn

Here we go again with the high fashion obsession with beautiful, dead women. Gucci’s fall ad campaign was shot in the Marrakech desert but the photos look like something from an episode of CSI.

Hell, if I wore an ostrich motorcycle jacket and velvet pants into the middle of the Moroccan desert, and brought along a $2400 bag instead of a canteen, I’d probably drop dead too. But “dead in the dirt” is creepy and unsettling, no matter how high the heels. In this photo, Raquel Zimmerman and Joan Smalls lie prone and limp while a man circles them like a vulture, taking in the grotesque view.

Same models, same prone poses. Is that their car in the background? Did the expressionless man highjack and kill them? What’s he going to do with them now that they’re sprawled on his hood?

Of course, you can’t do a beautiful corpse ad campaign without at least one picture that expressly hints at violence and rape. In this shot, Nikola Jovanovic is perched upon his golden throne leering down at Raquel Zimmerman, whose skirt is hiked up to her thigh, legs askew. His foot positioned strategically over her throat makes it disgustingly clear he can do, perhaps already has done, whatever he likes to the motionless model.

Gucci certainly isn’t the first to use female dead bodies in their ads. Beautiful corpses are an extension of the almost universal objectification of women in advertising combined with the trope that says helpless, silent women are the best kind. Rendering women dead, or at least disturbingly unconscious, strips them of their agency and sexualizes violence against them. Gucci’s glorification of violence normalizes something that’s already far too prevalent – in the United States, 3 women per day are murdered by their intimate partners. Something tells me those crime scenes are decidedly less picture perfect.


Filed under Feminism