Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day!

First, let me get one thing straight: I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. It’s not in the ‘FEMINIST BYLAWS,’ if they were to exist and we could actually all agree on them which we couldn’t, that those of the pro-equality persuasion must hate this holiday of love. It’s just that the heteronormative nature of the thing, chock full of gender stereotypes – all women want and need to be happy is a big strapping man with a penchant for commitment and all men need to be happy is sex, sex, sex and they should just buy up all the flowers and chocolate in town to get it – makes my heart drop rather than swoon. (And I really, really could live my whole life without another jewelry commercial telling me that blood diamonds are a symbol of love.) (And I certainly could have done without Katy Perry dangling from a swing at the Grammy’s last night with photos from her wedding playing on a big wedding dress silhouette. But that’s probably because Katy Perry grates on my last feminist nerve anyway.)

Of course, many people can and do celebrate their love – heterosexual, homosexual, polyamorous, or otherwise – without buying into the stereotypes or buying anything at all. Others choose to be more politically subversive with the holiday – Sarah at Champagne Candy is telling Nancy Pelosi she’s breaking feminist hearts by supporting the DCCC, which wants a $100,000 ‘Emergency Fund’ for women’s health but spent over $3 million to re-elect the 10 anti-choice Democratic sponsors of the “redefine rape and pretty much ban insurance coverage of abortion in the process” bill and the “kill pregnant people” bill. There’s also The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s For the Love of Birth Control Campaign, which asks that you sign a petition to tell HHS that birth control is prevention and should be completely covered by insurers – with no out of pocket cost – under the new health care law. Today is also the last day of Freedom to Marry Week, marked with a petition to Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.  And of course, there’s V-Day, the global movement to stop violence against women and girls that’s often marked with performances of The Vagina Monologues at colleges and community theaters. And finally, today is the first day of National Condom Week!

But February 14th is also the birthday of one Reverend Doctor Anna Howard Shaw, a leader of the US suffrage movement, one of the first female physicians in the United States, and the first woman to be ordained in the Methodist Church. She also served on the National Council of Defense and was the first woman to win a Distinguished Service Medal! Anna Howard Shaw Day is celebrated officially within the United Methodist Church on the Sunday before Valentine’s Day – so, yesterday. But, feminists and women’s history nerds like me often celebrate it on the actual day to signify that true love is really about justice and equality, whether it be on the global movement scale or in the bedroom. (And yes, 30 Rock did an episode on Anna Howard Shaw Day last year, hence the photo above. Here’s the required link – I never saw it, don’t watch 30 Rock, or Mad Men, and you can judge me and my feminist credentials on both however you like!)

How are you celebrating today? Let everyone know about your subversive traditions, events, or actions in the comments. As for me, I’m going to go actually get dressed and record a video for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which is next week. Lots of love to you all!

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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

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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.

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MTV’s Abortion Show Was…Actually Good

Like many of my colleagues in the pro-choice feminist blogosphere, I’m pleasantly shocked at how well MTV handled the topic of abortion during their special that aired last night, called No Easy Decision. (Click here to watch the full show and here to read the live blog I did with feminist superstars Jessica Valenti, Steph Herold, Lynn Harris, and Jamia Wilson during it. Also, Lynn’s post on the show and Jessica’s piece on the show.)

Yup, there were a lot of really great things that happened during the show, including:

- Dr. Drew provided medically accurate information about both abortion and birth control with minimal shaming!

- The powers that be refrained from editing the two main characters of the special, Markai and James, into race and gender stereotypes and instead offered a (sadly and unfairly) rare portrayal of a strong, supportive African American family!

- Markai shared with the audience her call to the clinic counselor to get more information about abortion, thereby sharing with MTV’s audience the different types of abortion and the non-judgmental compassion characteristic of most real providers (read: as opposed to fake clinics, called crisis pregnancy centers)

- Markai and two other women who joined her on a panel to discuss their abortion experiences, Katie and Natalia, honestly discussed the range of emotions they experienced after their procedures, from sadness to relief to pride. Katie described poignantly described her choice to end her pregnancy, “a parenting decision.”

- MTV allowed the young women to illuminate different barriers to abortion for young women. Natalia pursued and was granted a judicial bypass to a parental notification law, a process she described as “begging for permission to make your own decision.” She also explains the economic barriers, relating how she sold her prom ticket to help raise the $750 she needed for the abortion. In an extended online version, she also discussed the pain of being forced – by yet another law – to view an ultrasound before the procedure.

As I write this list, I realize that I’m sad and more than a bit angry that the portrayal of these very basic things – accurate information about reproductive health matters, nuanced portrayal of young people, frank discussion of the basics and the barriers to accessing one of the safest and most common medical procedures, as well as the wide range of experiences of the one in four women who do access it – gets us SO EXCITED. This should be the norm in real life and on television, not a hush hush exception that came on late at night, with no advertisement beforehand, and no plans to be re-aired or followed up or extended into a longer, multi-episode conversation.

But it’s not in either sphere and while we keep working to make it so, we’ve got to start somewhere. No Easy Decision was a first step toward reducing the stigma around abortion and normalizing via television respecting and trusting young women’s choices. Huge props go to whomever at MTV greenlighted the project – here’s hoping this success encourages the network to move in a similar vein, perhaps by for the first time allowing characters on their show 16 and Pregnant to at least talk about abortion as an option and, hey, even show some of them following through with it.

Also exceptional was the online space created by Exhale, a multi-lingual after abortion counseling talkline, called 16 and Loved. The site’s sole purpose is to support Markai, Katie, and Natalia and other young women who’ve chosen abortion. Exhale got ahead of the inevitable anti-choice shenanigans and focused most of the conversation online, especially on Twitter during the special, toward loving and accepting the young women rather than arguing the politics of abortion rights.

Of course, the real sheroes of No Easy Decision are Markai, Katie and Natalia. Because of their courage, young women who saw or see the show who’ve had abortions know that they’re not alone and they don’t have to be ashamed. As feminists know, that realization – that you’re not alone, you’re not crazy or bad for doing what you’ve done or feeling what you’re feeling  and you’re even a bit pissed that you were ever made to feel you were – is quite revolutionary. Thank you, sisters, for speaking your truth so others may know and embrace theirs.

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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.

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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: http://wiredyourself.tumblr.com/post/1398796500/a-clarification-necessitated-by-angry)

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,

SK

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Wired Mag Has Interns Show Off Breasts

****This piece has been updated following a response by the women of Wired Magazine. Please click here to see the new piece, which corrects misinformation stated below. I chose not to delete this post entirely because I believe it is responsible blogging practice to keep my f**ck ups where people can find them instead of pretending they never happened. It holds me accountable and maintains a public history of an event for people looking to reflect back on it in the future. Please cease any harassment of Wired staff, as I am the only one deserving of blame in this situation.****

If you’re a tech mag running a serious, scientific piece on tissue regeneration as it pertains to breast cancer survivors, what’s the tackiest, most sexualizing, undermining-of-the-science thing you could do?

Wired magazine knows!! Put two shapely breasts on your cover — sans the owner’s head because who cares about her face or brain when you’ve got BOOBS?! — right next to the words ’100% Natural.’ Classy.

Now, if you wanted to stoop even lower in using women as sexualized objects to sell your magazine with a story on breast cancer, what might you do? Wired is on it again:

This photo of Wired interns, staff, and freelancers, appeared on October 22nd on the Wired tumblr blog above this text:

To stave off some inevitable, ideology-based critique, here’s a 9th wave post-feminist Gloria-Steinem-meets-Cindy-Sherman-meets-Kim-Kardashian approach! (Overt, knowing sexualization in tension with a confrontation of the lens’s implicit Male Gaze and all its objectifying power, according to what we learned in liberal arts college)

Aw, you made an oh so original ‘feminists don’t have a sense of humor/whine about stupid things ‘ joke! Ha. Ha. Ha.

But since you practically invited me to go all women’s studies on it I will, not because I don’t have a sense of humor but because we’re not post-feminist because of exactly this kind of thing. There’s no subversion of the Male Gaze or reclamation of female sexuality in this photo because these young women were asked by the people whom they depend on for jobs to self-objectify for an immature internet plea for more women to self-objectify by sending Wired similar photos. Even if they’re aware of the sexualization, even if they agreed to it, the power imbalance implicit in an employer asking a subordinate to do something of a sexual nature is too great to be seen as anything short of sexual harassment. Which it was, if any of these women felt for even one moment that if they refused to be boob frames they would suffer retaliation, whether it be office teasing or fewer assignments.

Wanna let Wired know what you think of their cover and that it’s never acceptable under any circumstances to sexualize female staff? Send a complaint via their feedback form and direct your Twitter complaints to the mag’s main handle, @wired, and to the editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson, @chr1sa.

***CORRECTION*** This post orignially listen Evan Hansen as the Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine. He is in fact the editor of Wired.com and had nothing to do with this incident. The blog author extends her deepest apologies for flooding his Twitter feed!***

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