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Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

My best friend recently got married. She’s leaning towards not taking her husband’s last name, mainly because, as she puts it, “did you realize what a pain the ass it is to legally change your name?”

I’m not against women taking their husbands’ names — there are a lot of good reasons to do so. But there are also a lot of good reasons not to do so, especially with women getting married later in life and, consequently, having professional identities based on their own names. For branding purposes, a name is important — all the more so in these Google-rific times.

Anyway, come wedding time, my friend had not quite made her decision yet, and thought, whatever, there’d be plenty of time to think about that when she returned from her honeymoon. Her office-mates, however, thought differently:

I think by the end of the month I will decide. It’s a difficult choice, in my opinion, which is why I was pretty offended when I came back to work and my mail box had been adjusted to reflect my husband’s last name and I was told “…don’t worry, we put in to have your cubicle name plate changed as well.” I never talked to anyone at work about it. I had to think for a while to figure out how anyone even knew how to spell (my husband’s) last name. I guess it’s a nice gesture, but just assuming seems weird and kind of rude.

People talk a lot about the social pressure put on women to do things like, well, get married in the first place and, once married, adopt a number of traditions and behaviors and attitudes. I think this example is interesting, because it manifests itself in the most benign of ways. Of course the people at my friends’ office didn’t want to pressure her into changing her name. They were just trying to do something nice. And of course it’s not that big of a deal for her to tell her office-mates ‘No, I’m keeping my last name.’ A little awkward, maybe (I’m assuming there are probably follow-up questions to these sorts of things, like “Why?” and “What if you have children?” and yada yada yada). But it’s not that big of a deal at all. Of course, after a while, all those awkward moments have got to add up, don’t they?

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Ugh. In the grand scheme of intense angry blog fights that seem omnipresent in certain circles and make it damn hard to forget that it’s only about .000005 percent of the US population who has any indication that this is going on, — we’ve got quite a doozy on our hands.

Here is the summary, from what I can gather: A woman named Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff, age 55, (who also goes by the name “Heart”) started a blog and forum called Women’s Space. Heart does seem a bit, uh, odd – she’s running for presidency on the “Free Soil” ticket, for one thing. And she’s that kind of old-school-hippie-feminist who kind of makes you cringe a bit because dear-god-no-wonder-people-get-such-misconceptions-about-feminism-when-you-have-people-like-her-running-around. Still, off-kilter or not, she seems intelligent, as well as harmless and well intentioned, and her Women’s Space community obviously fills a need for like-minded souls, and that’s fine. Great. Good for them.

Except ….

A woman named Biting Beaver – the kind of person that also makes me cringe because she refers to women as “womyn” and such — wrote a post on one of Heart’s forums about how she was very upset to find her teenage son looking at porn on the Internet, and sometimes she wishes she would have aborted him. What we can see here is a woman who is clearly (if not a parody) somewhat mentally and emotionally disturbed. A few commenters make some disturbing comments as well.

And that’s that, right?

Well … no. I don’t know where the attacks began, but somewhere in the dark nether-regions of those-people-who-give-Internet-geeks-a-bad-name, someone coordinated an “attack” on Heart’s Web site, presumably to teach her a lesson for having positions they don’t agree with and allowing other people to post in her forums with positions they don’t agree with (the horror!). They sent enough traffic to her site to shut it down, and they filled the comments section with frightening remarks such as this:

Heart, this is horrible. I’m sorry that this is happening to you. These people want nothing to do but to hurt you and your cause. I feel for you. In fact, I want to feel you now. I’d like to tie you down, take a knife, and slit your throat. I’d penetrate you over and over in all orifices, and create some of my own to stick myself in.

Begging the question of Um, really? Really? Who is more nuts in this situation????? One emotionally disturbed woman makes a post on a site run and frequented by a group of slightly kooky individuals, and they are met with a coordinated Internet attack and hundreds and hundreds of threats containing truly disturbing and graphic descriptions of violence? Who is more nuts, a woman who says she wishes she’d had an abortion or a person who says they’d like to slit someone’s throats and penetrate all their orifices?

Of course, people are chiming in now and trying to say that the words of Biting Beaver and a few of her supporters at that site constitute proof that ALL FEMINIST BLOGGERS ARE MURDEROUS MAN-HATING HARPIES. For instance, the comments at Riehl World View read mostly like this:

At any rate, the batshit behavior exhibited by Biting Beaver is considered nowadays to be normal and protected by the feminist groups who share similar conditions. Meanwhile, legions of young men held in the crossfire of these womyn’s rage and anger will grow to be mentally and emotionally dysfunctional creatures who will either self-terminate themselves or be removed from society after fulfilling the very prophecies embedded into them by the very womyn who raised them.

And God help us all if they stumble upon Islam as a way to reclaim the manhood stripped of them by these womyn. If there is ever a growing trend for disaffected males to turn to the Religion of Peace in lieu of a patriarchal figure, the feminists will be responsible for condemning their fellow womynfolk to a religion which views them in the same regard that the womyn viewed the “evil rapist” men. Just notice how Islamic cultures don’t have the “rabid feminist” problem. And there is a very good reason for that.

And again, I ask you, what is loonier? Some old-school-hippie-feminists still using the term “womyn” (which is something they harp on in a good majority of the comments there), or someone who believes that “rabid feminists” are going to lead to Islamic jihad committed by America’s own children?

[I love this, though. Riehl asks in the post’s title, “Are some radical feminists child abusers?” to which Jill replies “Uh, yeah, probably. Lots of different kinds of people are child abusers — being an asshole certainly crosses ideological lines.”]

A Web site called Encyclopedia Dramatica has a round-up of the whole thing, although I warn you, this place is like the dark unkempt labyrinth of hatred, hysteria and lameness. It seems to be an entire wiki documenting Internet memes and flame wars while simultaneously spewing insults at women, gays and liberals, with links upon links that take you to more and more weird wiki entries, like the 7th Circle of Wingnut Internet Hell.

Update: According to Shakespeare’s Sister, a lot of the original “quotes” from Biting Beaver that provoked such outrage and such weren’t even real quotes, but from a parody site. (Edit 2 — which, as someone in the comments points out, may or may not be true).

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The L.A. Times has an article today titled “Democrats shift approach on abortion.”  Here is how it opens. 

Sensing an opportunity to impress religious voters — and tip elections — Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail have begun to adopt some of the language and policy goals of the antiabortion movement.

The rest of the article seems to be about different policy inititatives to help women who want to carry their pregnancy to term without affecting their ability to get an abortion if they want one. 

I don’t see how this has anything to do with the goals of anti-abortion movement.  Many Democrats and some Republicans are trying to address the issues that lead to more abortions without touching the right to have an abortion.  The anti-abortion movement has been doing the exact opposite. 

Here’s a part of the article which represents a more accurate summary of what the Democrats are up to and should have been the lead. 

“We are willing to talk about anything that helps women make good choices,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-chairwoman of the bipartisan Pro-Choice Caucus. Preventing unplanned pregnancies, she said, “is not the whole story.”

The problem with this article is the framing.  It makes it sound like the anti-abortion movement is “winning over” Democrats and, even worse, Democrats are motivated solely by political gain.  Not actually addressing the needs of those who have unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. 

But conservatives also accuse Democrats of using abortion rhetoric to sell the right on traditional liberal priorities, such as healthcare funding. Democrats have rejected other ideas that conservatives consider highly effective in reducing abortions, such as requiring women to view ultrasound images of the womb.

Right.  Because the issue is addressing the needs of these women.  Not shaming them.  The overriding goal of the anti-abortion movement is to make abortions illegal.  There may be some pro-lifers more willing to except the Clinton framing of making abortions “legal, safe, and rare” but the movement’s goal is getting rid of the choice altogether. 

So anything that does not affect or restrict a woman’s right to an abortion fits snugly within the pro-choice movement and is not a “shift.”  The pro-choice movement has never been just about terminating pregnancies.  It’s about making that choice a choice. 

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I’ll admit it.  I saw the headline of this column (“Pretty Formidable in Pink“) and I was so ready to pounce with my snark claws extended.  Here comes another vacuous article about the fact that Hillary is a woman and whether the country is ready and the other day we saw cleavage and did we mention she’s a woman? 

But then I read it.  And laughed.  And nodded my head.  And thought, amen. 

[Elizabeth] Edwards’s specific criticism of Clinton was misplaced, but her general point is important. Clinton has a three-decades-long record of working on issues related to women and families, and she’s seeking the presidency at a time when national security is paramount. If she’s talking more about Iraq than family and medical leave, that’s less about trying to overcompensate for the inconvenient fact of her gender than what issues are at the top of voters’ agendas.

But as a columnist who happens to be a woman — you may have noticed, there aren’t too many of us — I understand what Edwards means. In fact, I initially resisted writing about her comments, reluctant to be pigeonholed as a “woman columnist” and not taken seriously by the Big Boys.

Clinton faces that challenge on a grander and more complex scale. Any woman in the post-Sept. 11 world faces an extra hurdle in convincing some voters that she’s strong enough to be commander in chief. Clinton has the extra challenge of appearing simultaneously formidable and likable, commanding and not cold, smart and approachable.

Indeed, even as Clinton was getting slapped by Edwards for playing down her gender, she was being dissected by Post fashion critic Robin Givhan for showing cleavage: “It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity peeking out of the conservative — aesthetically speaking — environment of Congress.” Givhan contrasted Clinton’s decolletage with the more abundant display by Jacqui Smith, the new British home secretary, and her complaint seemed to be that Clinton was showing too little, too unassertively.

Might I suggest that sometimes a V-neck top is only a V-neck top? As a person of cleavage, I’d guess that Clinton’s low-cut shirt simply reflected a few centimeters of sartorial miscalculation, not a deliberate fashion statement.

Breasts may be an advantage in certain settings; the Senate floor isn’t one of them. If you’re giving a speech on higher education, as Clinton was, you don’t want Ted Stevens thinking about — and you certainly don’t want to think about Ted Stevens thinking about — your cleavage.

The upside of all the attention Clinton gets as the most serious female presidential candidate ever is all the attention Clinton gets as the most serious female presidential candidate ever.

I do not know many people who consider Clinton to be their top choice but I do know many who are starting to respect her on a level they never did before. 

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Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon comments on the passive aggressive nature of Cary Tennis’s advice/response to this letter

Basically, a women writes in to complain about her catch of a boyfriend who has a habit of oogling other women when she’s around. 

Cary Tennis warns the letter-writer not to get too nagging by trying to discipline him or resentful by ignoring it.  The best course of action in his opinion is to join in the fun of checking out chicks. 

To be honest, as a man, I’m having a hard time understanding what the hell Cary is getting at here. 

However he responds, the fact is that you are attempting to cross over into his realm. He may want to deny you entrance. But he may also feel a tingle of excitement, as though you had suggested an activity you read about in the Kama Sutra.

And what the hell does this mean? 

Checking out chicks with your boyfriend is tricky, however. You may want to discuss it with your girlfriends to determine if it is allowed under the terms of your membership in the sisterhood. It may not be.

I just feel there’s a psychology here beyond my comprehension. 

And here’s my answer and advice to that letter-writer.  It’s about respect.  Your respect for you and his respect for you.  It means different things to different people and you don’t have to agree with everyone else on this issue.  But you and your boyfriend should be on the same page.  Talk to him.

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Keep reading — this post is not as self-indulgent as the title may lead you to believe, I swear!

One of my favorite libertarian button/bumper-sticker slogans is, “Libertarians: Pro-Choice on everything.” Libertarians, as a whole, like choice. Know who else likes choice? Feminists. In fact, “choice” forms the basis for a lot rhetoric for both groups. So, you know … why do so many people seem to feel that libertarian philosophy and feminist philosophy are completely incompatible?

On Friday night, I was told by a libertarian friend that feminism is, at best, too laden with misconceptions and connotations to be useful as a word/movement and, at worst, a bunch of stupid whiny women who think women are superior to men and want special rights because of it.

On Saturday, I was told (or read a blog comment , rather) that while feminist libertarians might very well exist, we should probably give up on the term “libertarian” because it is too laden with negative connotations.

Besides thinking that if one more person tries to tell me how I should or should not define myself I may punch them in the face (or at least write a very angry blog post about it!), my mind has also been reeling the past two days with the parallels between these two statements and the arguments surrounding them.

Tonie Nathan
Tonie Nathan, co-founder of the Association of Libertarian Feminists, is the first woman to have recieved an electoral vote in a U.S. presidential election.

In the argument Friday, one of my friends argued that, basically, feminism was a stupid word, in that nobody could identify with it anymore because it had been too tainted by 1960s feminists. I can at least stomach the argument that feminism, as a word/movement, cannot be reclaimed from all of the negative stereotypes associated with it, although I disagree with this sentiment. But I was also told, by my libertarian friend, that not only was the word feminism stupid, but the concept of feminism and people who call themselves feminists are stupid. Feminists hate stay-at-home moms, I was told. Feminists want all women to be 80s-style-shoulder-padded-career-women, I was told. Feminists all think that women are somehow inherently better people than men, and that women should now take their rightful place running things because girls rule and boys drool, or something like that. Feminists need to stop whining so much about pay equity, because all they really want is for the government to step in and fix everything for them. It was every straw-feminist myth, one right after another. Have you ever really read any modern feminist writers? I asked. No, my friend said. But she had “talked to some feminists,” and she knew what it was all about.

The libertarian argument at Pandagon started in response to a “libertarian bingo card” that Amanda Marcotte posted (that had originally been made/posted by sabotabby at punkassblog), with descriptions of common libertarian stereotypes on every square. The card itself I found amusing (especially “Take the World’s Smallest Political Quiz!”). But the comments thread really kind of annoyed me. Libertarians are all misogynist white males, people said. Libertarians are just all rich and selfish and don’t want to share their money, people said. Libertarians always vote for Bush and conservative Republicans. Libertarians reap the benefits of things like public roads and local policemen but don’t want to pay for them. Libertarians are all gun-toting nutjobs who can’t hold coherent or logical conversations. A lot of the commenters were frantically arguing against wildly inaccurate versions of libertarian political philosophy based on a conversation they’d had with some guy at the gun store or something they’d read some libertarian commenter say on a blog somewhere. I’m not talking about all the commenters (or Amanda or sabotabby), obviously, but it seemed most had never read any classical liberal writing or any modern libertarian writers. But it didn’t matter. They just knew what it was all about.

In both cases, people were vehemently arguing against things they really knew fuck about. And it kind of pissed me off.

As I was reading Jessica Valenti’s fabulous new book, Full Frontal Feminism, yesterday, this one passage in particular made me sort of have an aha! moment. Jessica was railing against several states’ efforts to ban the sale of vibrators and other sex toys. Did you click on the link I just used to explain these bans?. It’s from libertarian magazine Reason. You see, you see the intersection of interests here? Neither feminists nor libertarians want the government to ban vibrators! Now that’s some common ground, right? And it doesn’t stop there!

Okay, okay, what I’m about to launch into is mostly an exercise in pointing out the obvious, and it’s not as if I didn’t think about any of this stuff at all until yesterday, but the whole sex toy business made me start trying to compile all the places where libertarian convictions and feminist convictions intersect. So here goes … (please note that while I refer to “libertarians” and “feminists” as some sort of homogenous groups, I realize that within each groups, people have various opinions; however, I’m just trying to talk about the most common positions).

Keep your laws off my body: one of feminism’s major causes is reproductive rights, the right of women to determine whether and when to be bear children, which includes (but is of course not limited too) having legal abortions. Libertarians, in general, are also pro-choice, believing the government doesn’t have the right to intrude and tell anyone what they can and can’t do with their body. So, see, here is a major point of agreement right here. (Conversely, I don’t know that feminists in general have any sort of consensus on things like markets in human organs, which tends to be a libertarian issue, but using the feminist logic that women should be trusted to make decisions concerning their own bodies, it would seem reasonable that feminists should also support the idea that all people should be trusted to make decisions concerning their own kidneys, and therefore support organ markets and the like. So, see, there! Two birds with one stone!).

Keep your religion out of my government: One of feminist’s major complaints is about the sorry-state of sex education in this country. Instead of learning about condoms, contraception, and STDs, teenagers are taught abstinence-only curriculum that espouse sexist ideals about purity and are often wrapped up in religious values. Libertarians are also not big fans of faith-based and abstinence only education in public schools, believing that religion has no place in taxpayer-funded public curriculum. Libertarians also aren’t big fans of religion trying to replace science in public-school curriculums, and rail against “intelligent design” and the like. Realizing it’s the same anti-sex fundies pushing ID and abstinence-only sex ed, most feminists aren’t too fond of anti-science curriculum either. Religious fundamentalism = common enemy for feminists and libertarians.

Fight for the right to buy dildos: As I mentioned above, both feminists and libertarians are against ridiculous attempts by state anti-sex conservatives to legislate morality by banning private businesses from selling things such as sex toys. Plus, in Jessica’s book she insists that feminists are better in bed. And, uh, according to a facebook group I just saw today, libertarians make better lovers. So, you know ….

Prostitution should be safe, legal, and rare: Or at least safe and legal. Feminists recognize that strippers, prostitutes, porn workers, etc., are not somehow less human because they work in the “sex industry,” and shouldn’t be treated with any less dignity and rights. While feminists will argue whether these industries will always ultimately hurt women, believe they empower women, or just realize that sometimes they’re the best option women have under their particular circumstances, feminists want to make sure that women working in the “sex industry” are able to do so safely, and without unnecessary punishment or harassment. Again, libertarians are against the government trying to legislate morality, and intruding on private business, so tend to oppose government attempts to shut down strip clubs and the like. And libertarians believe that it is the black market that makes things such as prostitution so dangerous, but that if it were legal, it could be monitored and therefore safer for all parties involved.

Sexuality should not be a basis for denying rights: Feminists support gays’ right to marry just like any hetero couple. So do libertarians, for the most part. Some libertarians will argue that the government should stay out of marriage all together, that it should be up to religions. Which is fine. I don’t think anyone’s really arguing that the government should mandate that the Baptist church marry gays in a Baptist ceremony. But a justice of the peace, without any religion involved, can marry hetero couples and gays should enjoy the same civil right; I think most libertarians agree. Plus, both libertarians and feminists think Bill O’Reilley’s “Roving-Lesbian-Gang” theory is ridiculous.

So there … for starters, that should give feminists and libertarians enough common ground, right? I think the most important thing is that underlying both philosophies is the rhetoric of choice. Feminists believe in choice. Libertarians believe in choice. Both believe that people – men and women – should be trusted to make their own choices; that we do not need legislators to tell us what to do or buy or think, who to marry, when to have kids, etc. And, sure, there will always be things that most feminists and most libertarians will disagree on. Health care is the big one that comes to mind. A lot of feminists (although by far not all) believe in “universal” health care (and child care), which is anathema to most libertarians. So, yeah, that’s a point of contention. But health care is in no way CENTRAL to either belief, and in light of all the areas where libertarians and feminists agree, I don’t think this disagreement over health care should be the basis to claim that there is no common ground.

P.S. I’ve been talking as if you have to be one or the other, but just for the sake of hashing out group identities. There are plenty of people out there now, I know, who are down with both libertarianism and feminism already.

P.P.S. Apparently, there is an Association of Libertarian Feminists. Who desperately need a Web site not created in 1996. But still worth checking out.

P.P.P.S. I would probably be remiss to not point out that there is (and has for some time been) a fair amount of academic discussion of all this, some of which is synthesized here.

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Food & Feminism

Jennifer Jeffrey explores whether the “eat local” movement is anti-feminist in that it places undue expectations and burdens on women. Now I’m sure there are people who would immediately leap to point out that, duh, men cook too! Which, you know, obviously. But women — especially married women and women with children — are still disproportionately likely to be making their families’ meals (and shopping for those meals). Working mothers are already under a lot of stress (and societal expectation) to be able to work a full day and still prepare a home-cooked meal for their families, lest they be deemed a bad parent, contributing to the obesity “epidemic,” yada yada yada. The whole “eat local” and organic movement, with all its inherent class and moral connotations, provides another expectation for working women/mothers to feel stressed or guilty about not living up to. Jeffrey writes:

My flexible schedule is no small advantage when it comes to putting locally grown meals on the table (heck – even meals on the table at all), a fact that becomes crystal clear on weeks when I suddenly have more projects than I can handle, and What To Make For Dinner is the very last thing on my mind. If eating local is still a challenge for me, what about women who, voluntarily or not, log 8 to 10 hours a day, five or six days a week, in an office or hospital or courtroom? What about women who, in addition to working long hours and commuting back and forth, also have children at home who need love and affection and help with homework? What about women who, in addition to work and kids and a significant other, also think it might be nice to hit the gym two or three times a week? Or have a social life? Or read a book or take a judo class or become a better photographer? How do those women get it all done? How on earth do these same women have time to plan balanced meals, let alone meals composed of organic, in-season ingredients… grown locally?

I wonder. I wonder if the slow-organic-local food movement is truly sustainable for and friendly to the larger community of women.

Well, no, obviously not, which is why it gets labeled as classist. And it is. Erin might argue the nuances of this statment (and there are, of cousre, nuances), but I think you can’t get around the fact eating “sustainably” is a luxury. Doesn’t make it a bad thing, per se. To the extent that it carries over into more “working class” options — fresher produce at WalMart, for instance, or the awesome sushi you can get at Krogers — it benefits everybody, in that healthier options are more easily and widely available all around. I think this “pro” outweighs the “con” that it may place new stresses on working mothers, but that doesn’t mean that these stresses shouldn’t be considered, which is why Jennifer’s post is interesting. Jennifer asks:

Can we call ourselves feminists (simply defined here as people who desire the equality of all women, everywhere) and still suggest that an ideal dinner consists of handmade ravioli and slow-simmered marinara from vine-ripened, hand-picked tomatoes and a salad composed of vegetables that (let’s be honest) are Not Available at Safeway?

Sure you can, as long as you realize that’s YOUR ideal dinner, not everybody’s. Jennifer gets this, and notes that women career equality has been helped in no small part by convenience foods.

Virginia Woolf famously wrote that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is going to write,” and I would further argue that a woman must have convenient food preparation options in order to be truly independent.  The relative convenience of our grocery system has been an invaluable partner in the quest for equality and choice.

(she offers more thoughts in a Part 2 post)

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Shock and awe. Feminists aren’t all supportive of Hillary just because she’s a woman.

Um, duh.

Because maybe feminism really isn’t all about man-hating sister-solidarity. Maybe it really is about equal treatment of both genders, meaning you judge a person (or a politiian) based on who they are, rather than on their genitals. Imagine that!

I’m not meaning to criticize the author of this article, because she’s really just reporting on what is already a common conversational thread, and I think she does a good job pointing out various themes of it. But she does opine that Hillary doesn’t have a “woman problem,” she has a “feminist problem,” which I also think is a little simplistic. Just like you can’t say ALL women feel this way or the other about anything (although damned if people don’t try), you can’t really say ALL feminists feel one way or another about a political candidate. There are far-left feminists and moderate-left feminists and libertarian-feminists and even Republican feminists. I’m guessing the reasons why any of these groups would or would not vote for Hillary are pretty varied.

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I can’t imagine what incentive a college administration would have to lie to incoming students about the number of rapes occurring on the campus by inflating this number. Colleges deflating crime (including rape) statistics to make their campuses appear safer? Sure. But I doubt there are many administration officials out there who just can’t wait to make students and their parents feel less safe and less secure about choosing that school.

Independent Women’s Forum, however, thinks this is the case.

Each September, thousands of new students join college campuses for the first time. Many have to sit through orientations and hear grossly inaccurate rape statistics.

And why are these college administrators lying to incoming students about rape statistics? Because they’ve been indoctrinated by radical feminists, of course!

Radical feminists use this scare tactic to present men as the enemy and women as victims.

I can’t believe some people get radical feminists at their freshman orientations. All I got was a woman putting a condom on a banana with her mouth.

Anyway, how these so-called radfems permeate their influences into the college administrations, IWF does not explain. Nor do they explain why exactly feminists want to make college women think men are the enemy, other than that, you know, OBVIOUSLY they do, because they’re feminists, duh. But luckily, IWF informs us, there is hope! Donate money to IWF, and all women’s studies classes will be replaced with home economics and instead of teaching women how to protect themselves against rape, colleges will instead teach women how to close their eyes and think of England.

    For as little as $100 a year, you can ensure that this little girl gets back in the kitchen where she belongs.

(Photo from CC)

As a bonus, your contribution also harms the Democrats!

Your contribution will be used to help IWF combat the women-as-victim, pro big government ideology of radical feminism on campuses, in the media, and in Congress. We now have Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton telling us that they know what’s best for women and then promoting proposals that include higher taxes, more spending, and attacks on our values.

All feminists hate men is one of those tried-and-true straw-feminist axioms, but all feminists want to raise taxes? That’s a new one to me. Sure, feminism is a liberal movement in that it’s not conservative in the social sense of the word … but IWF totally twists it and tries to make it seem that, at its core, feminist ideology is somehow inextrically tied to big government and higher taxes and the like. It’s really kind of brilliant. Equate feminism with everything Democrats stand for? Then you can use feminism to degrade Democrats and Democrats to degrade feminism and never mind that one doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other most of the time.

P.S. I like the Source-Watch definition of IWF: IWF members include academic women who are paid to write papers that denigrate the idea of equity for girls and women in education. (one could also add that IWF members include mothers with high-paying jobs outside the home who denigrate the idea of mothers having jobs outside the home).

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I’m a bad blogger, because I’m always so late to the game responding to anything going on. But that’s okay, because the people who read this are mostly my friends who don’t read a lot of other blogs (which is neat, because then they actually think I have something novel to say!), or the 20-or-so people who come here every day searching for “emo bangs” (you make one post containing the word emo bangs in the title, and you get 15-year-old hipsters for the rest of your life).

I’m also a bad blogger because I bury the lead like this every time, but I’m getting to the point now, I promise: Garance Franke-Ruta’s dust-up over the age of consent for porn. It started with a WSJ op-ed in which she proposed that the age of consent for appearing in pornography should be raised to age 21, which I guess led to minor outcry from, like, everyone. Franke-Ruta somehow seems to have gotten the impression that it’s because everyone LOVES BARELY LEGAL PORN!, but most of the arguments actually centered around much more sensible, if mundane, things, such as the fact that if we consider people old enough to vote and join the military, etc. etc. at 18, they’re probably grown-up enough to make their own decisions about porn.

Franke-Ruta’s main concern seems to center on potential regret, the idea that 18-year olds are too young to realize they’ll later regret appearing in pornography:

Yglesias pretends that a young woman’s “decision” to have nude pictures of herself floating about without her consent is no different than picking a college major or “getting tattoos.” But he’s wrong. People don’t lose their jobs – or become permanent public spectacles – over “buying lottery tickets” or choosing to major in chemistry rather than physics.

Maybe people don’t lose their jobs over getting a tattoo, but there sure are a lot of other decisions they can make at 18 that they’re just as capable of regretting as appearing in porn. Joining the army for instance — you make that decision, you’re capable of, well, not even really having the chance to “regret” it, because you might be dead. Does Franke-Ruta really think a decision that might possibly result in the loss of your life is not as serious as a decision that might result in the loss of some potential future job? As Julian notes (and you should just read this whole post, because it’s hilarious):

Perhaps most jaw-dropping, she considers Matt Yglesias’ observation that treating 18-20 year olds as adults means recognizing their right to make all sorts of choices they might later come to regret, then asserts that getting photographed nude is somehow uniquely harmful, uniquely damaging. This, apparently, in contrast to trivial choices like whether to bear a child or drop out of school or join the Army.

The problem with an argument like Franke-Ruta’s is all its logical extensions, especially for women. Right now, women at 18 have the legal ability to make the decision to be on birth control, if they want, and to get abortions if they want, and to marry or not mary, if they want. Using Franke-Ruta’s logic, wouldn’t it be possible that they will later regret the decision not to carry a child to term, or the decision to block conception in the first place? Or the decision not to marry someone their parents tell them to? Maybe we should raise the age of consent for contraception and marriage and abortion to 21 too!

Considering this, I was surprised to see Amanda Marcotte somewhat defending Franke-Ruta’s proposal:

I think raising the age of consent to be in commercial porn to 21 could have to potential to protect youthful sexual experimentation. At least in the case of “Girls Gone Wild”, the presence of Joe Francis and his cameras has turned things like Mardi Gras from occasions of joyous debauchery to mean, misogynist events that aren’t nearly as fun as they used to be. It’s a shame that there’s no space for kids to experiment with some public debauchery anymore without some dick shoving a camera at them in the process of making porn movies that are punitive in nature.

This quote (in Franke-Ruta’s article) might be taken somewhat out of context, as Amanda is usually all about trusting women to be smart enough to make their own decisions (and she does some hemming and hawing in the rest of her full post), but I think it’s interesting to look at the whole porn-age-of-consent thing from a feminist perspective. I guess it all depends on whether you’re more of an all-porn-is-exploitative feminist or a women-should-be-able-to-make-their-own-decisions feminist (or, god forbid, a porn-empowers-women feminist). But Jill had a really interesting post at Feministe earlier this week about the new-wave of anti-abortion-activism oozing with faux-concern for how “abortion hurts women,” and should therefore be banned because women don’t even realize what’s good or bad for them. On the some-women-regret-their-abotions front, Jill writes sarcastically:

But since women may regret a choice that they made, we should clearly take away the right to make that choice! The 1873 Court could see this one coming from a mile away — if you give women choice and freedom, they’re gonna just go and muck it up. Better to just make their decisions for them.

I say we take this a step further and really ensure that women don’t regret anything ever. We should institute a fresh new system wherein women are property of their fathers until their father chooses who they marry (wouldn’t want her to mess that up and have to get a divorce — just look what happened when we gave women full divorce rights!), and then their husband controls all of the money, property, progeny and decisions. Obviously she would stay home and raise the children — in the manner dictated by her husband, of course, since the children would be legally his. Wouldn’t want her to make a bad parenting decision and regret it forever! And we definitely wouldn’t want her to regret going to school or getting a job.

Extreme (but fabulous) snark aside, this can really be applied to Franke-Ruta’s argument. We start not trusting 18-year-old women to make decisions about porn, we open the way to not trust them to make decisions about anything else. Regrets are a part of life. Trusting women, or young adults (or anyone for that matter) to make their own choices means that some people will inevitably make some choices they will regret. That doesn’t mean the government should make those choices for them, or that we should limit the choices of everybody else, just to offset that off-chance of regret.

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books, a crazy-new-age-hippie-manifesto I found in the back of the-people-my-mom-used-to-work-for’s-druggie-son’s room when I was 14:

Don’t ever start thinking you know what’s right for the other person. He might start thinking he knows what’s right for you.

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just admiring

Jill at Feministe defends Jessica Valenti’s new book, Full Frontal Feminism, against criticisms of it being too “fluffy” or patronizing to young women. I haven’t read the book yet. But I thought this paragraph in Jill’s post was beautiful and spot-on:

The fact is that feminism is a wide movement that encompasses a wide range of thought and theory. And, if we ever want to be successful, we’re going to have to work on a variety of levels. We need the intense academic feminists to push the movement theoretically forward. We need the feminists who are willing to engage with the political establishment, and who can take what we’ve got and try to make it better. We need the feminists who are trying to scrap the establishment and start anew. We need the feminists who don’t make feminism their career, but who do bring feminist thought into various aspects of their daily lives — into raising their kids, into the boardroom, into the classroom, onto the subway and into the street. We need the younger feminists who bring a fresh perspective to the movement. We need the seasoned feminists who have a wealth of wisdom and experience to share. We need feminists like Jessica who do the very tough work of reaching out to women who are otherwise uninterested in feminism — feminists who are patient and generous, and who listen to the concerns and experiences of younger women without branding them stupid or not feminist enough.

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People are going to begin to get the idea that I’m obsessed with Laura Sessions Stepp. I’m not, I swear. It’s just that damn woman keeps coming up everywhere i go. Yesterday, she snuck up on me in a conversation I was having in the computer lab up at school. A classmate is writing her thesis on social norms on college campuses, and she was raving about a great interview she’d had with a writer from the washington post about college students and sex. “Oh, that’s great,” I said. “Who was it?”

Why, Laura Sessions Stepp, of course.

“She wrote this really interesting book called ‘Unhooked,'” my classmate said. “Have you heard of it?”

“Yes,” I replied, then quickly got re-engrossed in the excel spreadsheet on my computer. I had neither the inclination nor the heart to get into a debate about Unhooked with this well-meaning classmate who was basking in her post-Stepp-interview glow. But, alas, the conversation continued without me. Others had joined in, and now the classmate was detailing her interview, espousing the Unhooked party line with much zeal.

“She interviewed all these college women about their hookups and the sex they were having, and she found it was making all of them really, really unhappy,” the classmate was explaining to the computer lab, as she proceeded to go on about how maybe there should be more efforts on college campuses to tell girls they don’t have to have sex because maybe “hooking up” really does make young women unhappy.

Well of course it does! Sex makes a lot of people — women and men! — unhappy. Relationships in general make people unhappy. People get confused and hurt and rejected all the time; it’s a big mess all around and, dear god, especially in college. It’s also great fun, too. Which is why people keep having relationships and having sex, even if they do get hurt sometimes. It seems silly to me to take the premise that sometimes women get hurt in sexual relationships to the extension that they should therefore forego sexual relationships.

But what’s even stranger about the conclusions drawn by Step and the book and people advocating the book — and I should point out now that I haven’t actually read the book, so fault me for that if you will, but I feel like I’ve read and hear endlessly about the book — is that they point to what seems like the obvious and exact opposite of the right solutions.

The women interviewed in the book lament that “hooking up” isn’t leading to a relationship. They are hurt because they hooked up with someone and that person never called. They are hurt because they hooked up with someone then the person didn’t fall in love with them. They are hurt because they had a “friends with benefits” situation that contained no benefits they saw worthwhile. So Stepp and the advocates of this book will point to how sadly over-sexed our culture has become and how the evil feminists made women think they could just have sex like this and then be okay but they are not okay so what we need is less sex and less feminism.

What seems like the obvious conclusion to me (and a lot of other people who have blogged about this; I know I’m just regurgitating what’s been said time and again and better by others, but allow me my own unhooked-rant-time, okay?) about all this is that what it really means is we need more feminism and more sex. Or at least more openness about sex.

Because all the problems women in this book are having when it comes to sex come not from having sex per se, but from having sex for the wrong reasons. They are having sex when the don’t want to with people the don’t want to because they feel like it’s what they should be doing, or they are having sex with the expectations that it will land them a boyfriend or a relationship or prestige or love. They are using sex in order to try and get some sort of other benefit from it, and then getting upset when that other benefit doesn’t materialize.

It seems like what we should really be teaching young women, then, is not ‘you should not have sex because it will make you miserable,’ but ‘you should not have sex independent of your own wants and desires.’ (if it was 1995, I would type the word ‘duh!” after that sentence. Maybe even ‘no doy’). You should not have sex as a means to an end. You should have sex because you want to have sex. And if you do not want to, that’s okay. And if you do want to, that’s okay too.

Because another issue in this book seems to be guilt. From the clips and quotes I’ve read, a lot of these women seem to be expressing a lot of guilt for having casual sex, or a lot of shame from outside parties, which leads them to think they need to be in a relationship to have sex. This is another unfortunate byproduct of a culture that is not open about sex, and exactly the sort of thing we should be discouraging. Young women would probably be a lot more capable of enjoying sex for its own merits (and on their own terms) if they didn’t feel guilt and shame — from the outside world, and internalized from the messages they get all around them. The reason young women Stepp interviewed feel guilty and miserable about “hooking up” is because they and the world around them have not come to terms with female sexuality outside of using it to entice love or marriage or fraternity pins or whatever.

Stepp’s theory that “hooking up” in college and high school is entirely destructive is questionable in its own right, but even if we give this the benefit of the doubt and say that it is destructive — that it really is making hoards of women unhappy — then it seems the answer should be to figure out why it is making them unhappy and how we can change this, not just tell them to stop doing it.

Boomers these days …

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Because of school projects, my printed word diet lately has consisted solely of a strange combination of articles about copyright and 1990s issues of Us and People magazines (and, as a break, Elements of Style by the late great Wendy Wasserstein), but today I finally got around to catching up on some news/blog reading. Things that I have found particularly interesting:

1. Via Kerry Howley at Reason, Camille Paglia, professional misguided orator of cultural wonkery, blames the Virginia Tech shootings on “the crisis of masculinity in America” and “the snobbery of the upper-middle-class professional.” Apparently, according to Ms. Paglia, Cho wouldn’t have shot all those people if only he could have worked in a factory or hopped on a freight train, and if those uppity girls he was stalking would have just been flattered by his attentions and had pity sex with him, and maybe it’s somehow tied to Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.

Julian Sanchez points out that “hidden amid all this swill is actually a moderately interesting question, to wit: How does greater sexual openness in a culture affect those who, for whatever reasons, aren’t getting any?

The problem is that the least productive imaginable way to approach that sort of question, guaranteed to yield precisely zero generalizable insights, is to use a deranged mass murderer as your starting point.

2. Rainbow Girl provides a useful misogynist/trolls guide to talking to feminists.

Step one: Cite Essential Difference.
The conversation may have started on unequal pay, sexual violence, or discrimination, but it is your duty to immediately direct the conversation to the fact that women are inherently different from men. This first step is crucial, because everyone knows that essential difference legitimizes and therefore neutralizes oppression.

Step Four: Incite Fear.
Ok, she may be have reasonable requests, like not to get raped, or not to get called a slut for getting raped, or whatever, but don’t forget about those other feminists. You know, the real man-hating ones that are really militant and violent. They are true representatives of the movement and The Feminist, by sheer taxonomy, must be part of this group if she defines herself using that word. Be careful not to actually cite specific examples of man-hating feminists, firstly because it will expose the fact you don’t know of any, and secondly because it could create an uncomfortably detailed tangential argument for you in which you are exposed to even more feminist theory.

3. Snarkery at its finest: This American Life Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence

In what cultural anthropologists are calling a “colossal achievement” in the study of white-collar professionals, the popular radio show has successfully isolated all 7,442 known characteristics of college graduates who earn between $62,500 and $125,000 per year and feel strongly that something should be done about global warming.

“We’ve done it,” said senior producer Julie Snyder, who was personally interviewed for a 2003 This American Life episode, “Going Eclectic,” in which she described what it’s like to be a bilingual member of the ACLU trained in kite-making by a Japanese stepfather. “There is not a single existential crisis or self-congratulatory epiphany that has been or could be experienced by a left-leaning agnostic that we have not exhaustively documented and grouped by theme.”

4. Addison from Grey’s Anatomy is getting her own spin-off. This guy says its a good thing, because all the other characters have begun to suck:

The backdoor pilot for the spin-off, which will also feature Tim Daly, Taye Diggs and Amy Brenneman in its cast, airs next week. While I’m naturally skeptical of spin-offs, I hope this one is good, and that Addison can bring the chief, Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Karev (Justin Chambers) with her, so I no longer have any reason to watch “Grey’s” proper. What began a few years ago as a fluffy, entertaining mash-up of “ER,” “Friends” and “Sex and the City” has become a show so deeply in love with itself that it no longer notices or cares how the rest of the world views it. It’s still the hottest thing on television that doesn’t involve Ryan Seacrest, but the emperor has no scrubs.

He points out that Meredith’s character is too self-absorbed and “was never that interesting or appealing to begin with,” and that Izzy is currently “shattering all TV records for irrational, judgmental, horrid behavior.” I like Meredith, but that’s because I always fall for the spoiled, narcissistic waifs.

And, yes, I know, I’m ending on a Grey’s Anatomy note here. I said things I find interesting, not earth-shattering, okay?

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Oh, wow. Sometimes that’s all there is to say about things like this, a Concerned Women for America op-ed penned by Janice Shaw Crouse, a senior fellow at CWA who was also a Bush-appointed delegate to the 2003 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and “is not hoping to join the ranks of the women who are only indispensable to their boss at work.”

When I saw her, as she headed to work on the train early one morning, her hair was still damp and she looked slightly worn and only half awake. Nonetheless, she was quite beautiful. Not beautiful in the dewy, fresh-faced way she probably looked when she arrived in Washington a few years earlier, but very attractive all the same. In spite of her still hard-body figure and smart, slightly provocative clothes, there was a hint of vulnerability in her body language – a certain tentativeness. She was obviously “with” the young man she sat beside, but there was something missing. And it was not just the wedding rings that neither of them was wearing. It was something else.

There was, for instance, a notable absence of any of the little instinctive non-verbal gestures of connectedness on his part that two people in love can’t help but exude. There were no hints of affection or any warmth toward her coming from him. Certainly nothing you would mistake for tenderness. From the looks of him, you might have guessed that they were strangers. And in many respects, they probably are.

She, however, was another matter. Several times, she seemed about to reach out and touch his arm, but she didn’t. She didn’t seem confident about doing so, even though they were pretty obviously “friends with benefits,” as they call it these days. They looked to be about 30, though it was hard to be certain. What they obviously were not was anything like we were at that age: married and so madly in love with each other we couldn’t stop making contact and being together. Watching them exit the train, it was pathetic to see him stride off leaving her to catch up and come along side . . . but not touch. Can’t act possessive, you know. Don’t want to scare him off.

Oh, geez. That “like we were at that age” is telling. Kids these days! With their “hookup culture” and “friends with benefits!” Because, certainly, prior to recent years, no woman over 30 ever had a casual sexual relationship, and ever single person 30-and-above was married and in love.

And besides, Crouse sure does make an awful lot out of watching two people on the metro, which seems sort of presumptuous and slightly preposterous. Maybe the couple is very much in love, but they were just in a fight that morning, or tired, or preoccupied thinking about their day ahead. Maybe they just think it’s tacky to show PDA on the metro. Public fondling and being all kissy-face on the train isn’t generally the surest indicator of lasting love.

But no — for Crouse, there is surely another reason why this young couple isn’t making out up and down the orange line — because they are brazen careerist harpies who thought they could come to DC fresh out of college and make a name for themselves and wait to think about marriage and kids years down the line. This, Crouse points out to us, if patently false. Their “biological clocks” are ticking, and they must now “dull the senses” with alcohol to forget about the torment of their barren wombs and diamond-ring-less orgasms. Oh, the horror! She begins to look at the “talented, experienced and respected” professional women around her and see that they are actually just sad, pathetic hags who are lacking in “the big romance that girls dream about.”

Via Kerry Howley at Reason:

Dammit! My girlhood dreams of marrying Scott Baio in a Strawberry Shortcake and/or My Little Pony-themed beach wedding are doomed. Never mind the, you know, data, which shows that high-earning women are as or more likely to marry than their low-income counterparts. I think we can all agree that math class is tough.

It’s a good thing Crouse is here to warn all us sweet young things about the error of our ways. I will be sure to publicly declare my affection for those sitting next to me on metro rides from now on, lest we all end up “talented, experienced and respected” but sans magical my-little-pony weddings.

P.S. Crouse also has the ability to read minds. The girl on the train?

She can feel the lack of commitment of the young man sitting beside her, and she doesn’t know how to break through. The sex, great as she tries to make it, isn’t working for her like she’s seen on the screen. He isn’t bonding with her. She can sense it. But she doesn’t want to face it. She is in emotional limbo, trapped with nothing left with which to close the deal.

Man, if only she’d used her vagina as a bargaining chip! Then she’d have unrealistic, movie-screen sex all the time!

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Check out this article about a huge hike in the cost of birth control at colleges. I direct you to it as I almost missed it entirely. It’s in the ‘Student News’ section of the Education section of today’s CNN website. Even though, per the article, 39% of undergraduate women are on oral contraception, so this affects several million people about as directly as something can affect a person. I think it’s news, but maybe that’s because it affects women of a similar age and sensibility to me. Whatever the reason, if I can muster a fair degree of outrage on topics that I’ll likely never have first-hand experience with, this is worth discussing. If you read the article, the price increase is attributed to a change in Medicaid policies, causing big drug companies to abandon the deals they used to give colleges. Since the universities themselves aren’t going to be helping out, it’s going to cost undergraduate women at least double what it used to cost to get the same prescriptions.
Which leads me to… when I was your age. Honestly, when I was an undergraduate on the pill, I didn’t know where the price break was coming from. I just knew that it didn’t cost much to maintain my lifestyle. It was a noticeable dent in one week’s drinking money and that was about it for the quarter. Money worries were confined to tuition, rent, food, books, incidentals…maybe confined isn’t the right word. But no one was panicking over the cost of the pill.
Of course, when I graduated, I bounced around to no less than 6 jobs (it’s been not quite 3 years since I was in college), and at various times I had lousy insurance, no insurance, or was just plain unemployed. I ended up paying a lot for birth control. Probably five times what I was paying on campus. But here’s the one constant, and why I’m not worried about today’s college-bound or college-enrolled women: it still beats the alternative. No one who’s committed to being childless (for however long) is going to let prescriptions lapse because it costs a little more.

A personal tip from me: where I went to school anyway, if you let a balance from the clinic (or their pharmacy) remain unpaid, they would tack it on to your tuition bill as a benign ‘medical center expense’. Maybe your parents pay that bill, or maybe you have loans. Either way, doing this about one quarter a year will ease your current out-of-pocket costs.

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The March/April issue of Columbia Journalism Review has an amazing article about “the opt-out” myth (thanks to Feministe for steering me toward the online article, even though I have a damn hard-copy of the magazine sitting on my table collecting dust — why do I even bother with non-Internet magazine subscriptions?).

E.J. Graff points out that the “opt-out revolution” — the idea that well-educated women are suddenly choosing to flee the work-force in droves in order to become full-time mommies, and the subject of inches and inches of newspaper editorial coverage — is, well … silly. And not really a “choice,” per se. And not really a “revolution” either. And, most importantly, lacking in one of those markers we generally expect journalism to live up to — you know, the truth.

As Joan C. Williams notes in her meticulously researched report, ‘Opt Out’ or Pushed Out? How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict, released in October 2006 by the University of California Hastings Center for WorkLife Law, where she is the director, The New York Times alone has highlighted this “trend” repeatedly over the last fifty years: in 1953 (“Case History of an Ex-Working Mother”), 1961 (“Career Women Discover Satisfactions in the Home”), 1980 (“Many Young Women Now Say They’d Pick Family Over Career”), 1998 (“The Stay-At-Home Mother”), and 2005 (“Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood”). And yet during the same years, the U.S. has seen steady upticks in the numbers and percentages of women, including mothers, who work for wages.

Graff points out that, as with any good urban legend, there are truths contained in the narrative.

The problem is that the moms-go-home storyline presents all those issues as personal rather than public—and does so in misleading ways. The stories’ statistics are selective, their anecdotes about upper-echelon white women are misleading, and their “counterintuitive” narrative line parrots conventional ideas about gender roles. Thus they erase most American families’ real experiences and the resulting social policy needs from view.

I think what’s interesting about the fact that these types of stories seem to only reflect the realities of certain sects of upper-class, educated women is that it really backs up a neo-marxist interpretation of the mass media — that because media is owned by the “ownership” or “elite” classes, it disproportionately reflects the interests of these classes. But because it presents this viewpoint as the sort of normative societal viewpoint, people are sort of lulled into accepting this as the true reality, and are thus disinclined to act in ways that might change their circumstances. Put like this, it sounds sort of extreme. But here, try it like this:

Here’s why that matters: if journalism repeatedly frames the wrong problem, then the folks who make public policy may very well deliver the wrong solution. If women are happily choosing to stay home with their babies, that’s a private decision. But it’s a public policy issue if most women (and men) need to work to support their families, and if the economy needs women’s skills to remain competitive. It’s a public policy issue if schools, jobs, and other American institutions are structured in ways that make it frustratingly difficult, and sometimes impossible, for parents to manage both their jobs and family responsibilities.

… such articles focus excessively on a tiny proportion of American women—white, highly educated, in well-paying professional/managerial jobs. … But because journalists and editors increasingly come from and socialize in this class, their anecdotes loom large in our personal rearview mirrors—and in our most influential publications. Such women are chastised for working by Caitlin Flanagan (a woman rich enough to stay home and have a nanny!) in The Atlantic, and for lacking ambition by Linda Hirshman in The American Prospect. But such “my-friends-and-me” coverage is an irresponsible approach to major issues being wrestled with by every American family and employer.

Read the rest of the article. It’s good, and it covers — point by point — all the major flaws with this opt-out storyline in much more detail.

P.S. The article mentions this book, which I am very excited about reading, due out in April: Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women, by Caryl Rivers

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I haven’t read any blogs in about a week and a half, so I’m going back through my favorites and trying to catch up and getting overwhelmed reading and thinking about things (do you people all have to be so damn smart and witty?), so I’m just going to post approximately 8.7 billion links right now.

More fun with conservapedia from Kyso at Punk Ass Blog, complete with a hilarious conservapedia debate on cheesy potatoes (I’m for the Kellog’s cornflakes on top, not potato chips, for the record).

Jill at Feministe has a long but really interesting post on this awful ordeal her and other female law students have been going through where their classmates and colleauges have been raiding their Flickr and Facebook photo caches in order to enter them in Hottest Female Law Students contests and comment on their tits; posting details about where they live and go to the gym and go to school, etc.; and then harassing them when they object.

Ilyka on why it’s good for all of us to remember sometimes that things don’t necessarily exist to make us feel good about ourselves.

Or, okay, three links. That’s considerably less than 8.7 billion. But dammit, I must stop reading blogs now. Must. Stop. Must. Do. Schoolwork.

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a feminist book review in WaPo?

WaPo has a whole series of book reviews on love-romance-and-sex books up right now, called “Down With Love: Our Grouchy Valentine Issue.”

It covers “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both” by Laura Session Stepp (which seems similar to another book that’s gotten a lot of attention lately, “Uncovered,” by Miriam Grossman). Stepp is one of WaPo’s very own, having contributed such illustrious pieces to the paper as this piece from last May about it’s just no fun for college boys to have sex when they don’t get to pressure and coerce and terrorize the girls into it, and therefore sexually aggressive women are making the poor boys dicks go limp (oh, oh, oh, and best part? The piece is titled “Cupid’s Broken Arrow”. AND quotes Weezer lyrics!).

Stepp follows three high school girls and six college women through a year in their lives, chronicling their sexual behavior. These girls and women don’t date, don’t develop long-term relationships or even short, serious ones — instead, they “hook up.”

Stepp is troubled: How will these girls learn how to be loving couples in this hook-up culture? Where will they practice the behavior needed to sustain deep and long-term relationships? If they commit to a lack of commitment, how will they ever learn to be intimate?

The question is how will these girls learn to be in loving couples, practice relationship behavior, etc., obviously. This “hook-up culture” (eek, what a horrifically lame phrase) should not lead us to asking the same question of college boys, because, duh, boys will be boys, and everyone knows that is the girls who will grow up to be women who need to know all this relationship stuff so they can trick the boys-grown-into-men into it!

But — bestill my heart — the reviewer, Kathy Dobie, refuses to take Stepp’s questions at face value either.

These questions sound reasonable at first, until one remembers that life just doesn’t work that way: In our teens and early twenties, sexual relationships are less about intimacy than about expanding our intimate knowledge of people — a very different thing. Through sex, we discover irrefutable otherness (he dreams of being madly in love; she hates going to sleep alone ), and we are scared and enraptured, frustrated and inspired. We learn less about intimacy in our youthful sex lives than we do about humanity. And of course, there is also lust, something this very unsexy book about sex doesn’t take into account.In fact, Unhooked can be downright painful to read. The author resurrects the ugly, old notion of sex as something a female gives in return for a male’s good behavior, and she imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use. She advises the girls, “He will seek to win you over only if he thinks you’re a prize.”And goes on to tell them, “In a smorgasbord of booty, all the hot dishes start looking like they’ve been on the warming table too long.”

It seems strange to have to state the obvious all over again: Both males and females should work hard to gain another’s affection and trust. And one’s sexuality is not a commodity that, given away too readily and too often, will exhaust or devalue itself. Tell girls that it is such a commodity (as they were told for a number of decades), and they will rebel. The author is conflating what the girls refuse to conflate: love and sexuality. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not. Loving, faithful marriages in which the sex life has cooled are as much a testament to that fact as a lustful tryst that leads nowhere.

And perhaps as this generation grows up, they will come to relish other sides of an intimate relationship more than we have: the friendship, the shared humor, the familiar and loved body next to you in bed at night. This is the most hopeful outcome of the culture Stepp describes, but no less possible than the outcome she fears — a generation unable to commit, unable to weather storms or to stomach second place or really to love at all.

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Punkass Marc has the best response to conservative hand-wringing that women who go out Drinking! in Bars! and Clubs! and dare to be in public after dark! are really just asking to be raped:

Yep. Drinking is dangerous. Problem is, the conservatives never ask themselves what’s worse: drinking which puts you in danger of being raped, or drinking so that you release your inner rapist and actually rape someone. If anyone should be chastised for imbibing so much alcohol that you can’t control yourself, it should probably be the violent offender. Wacky pinko liberal theory, I know. But hey, when a drunk driver hurts someone, we usually blame the person who got hit for being out in the road, don’t we?

What’s that? We don’t? Oh.

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Why does it seem that Dawn Eden is everywhere lately?

In America’s Future Foundation’s latest issue of Doublethink, Cheryl Miller interviews Eden, along with two other virginity cheerleaders I haven’t heard of before but who apparently also have wrangled book deals by spewing oh-what-have-the-radical-feminists-done-to-us rhetoric about how some combination of the “sexual revolution,” Seventeen magazine and, of course, Sex and the City, has conspired to deprive women of their natural inclinations to be housewives and endless baby incubators.

The article is called, of course, “Sexless in the City,” and opens with a nod to Carrie Bradshaw. I don’t understand why the show is still being trotted out as the be-all-end-all of deprivation and evil feminist ploys, especially since the handful of episodes I ever saw made me want to puke with their horrible stereotypical portrayals of what women must really talk and think like. But, like I said, I’m no Sex and the City expert, so I can’t really say too much about it, except how long has this fucking show been off the air? You’d think the anti-sex-brigade could at least find a timelier scapegoat. Grey’s Anatomy, for instance, has plenty of pre-marital, extra-marital, casual sex; Meredith Grey is always involved in multiple sexual relationships at once! Or what about Desperate Housewives? Boston Legal? Perhaps, as a commenter at Feministe recently said, all the conservative ire really does stem from the fact that the show has the word “sex” in the title.

The whole AFF interview with Eden is just … bizarre. It begins with a rolling stone style first-person interview account of Dawn’s attire and love of tape recorders:

I’m running late for my interview with New York Daily News editor and blogger Dawn Eden at Japonica, a hip sushi bar in Greenwich Village. I finally make it to the door and take a quick look around. I spot her immediately. She’s wearing a feather boa, a black leather cap and some sparkly silver jewelry — a get-up I recognize from pictures on her blog, The Dawn Patrol. When I sit down and take out my ancient Sony tape recorder, she coos over it: “I just love seeing an old-fashioned cassette recorder.” She is not at all what you would expect a Christian author who has just finished a book about the virtues of chastity to be like.

… then delves into the requisite Dawn-used-to-sleep-with-rock-musicians and-loves-60s-music background, as Dawn complains about being pigeon-holed as being “too-far-right,” while she compares Planned Parenthood to Nazi eugenicists and gay marriage proponents to Mussolini.

The other two women interviewed in the article, Carol Liebau and Jennifer Marshall, actually seem a bit more level-headed, and Sex and the City is hardly discussed at all throughout the piece, so, again, why the need to bring it up in the title/lead paragraph, I don’t know. It’s almost like the requisite I-don’t-want-to-think-of-a-hook-to-write-about-anything-having-to-do-with-women-sex-feminists-christians-etc-so-I’ll-just-insert-a-line-about-carrie-bradshaw thing to do, I suppose.

Anyway, I’ve discovered Dawn Eden’s latest protégé, who touts herself as The Unlikely Feminist, “a conservative-bleeding-heart-pro-life-feminist-catholic-emo-loving-cynical-hopeless-romantic-vegetarian,” who is “defining the next wave with compassion … because contrary to popular opinion, we don’t all come from the same mold.”

In her latest post, “unlikely feminist” writes:

… my roommate and I were watching Sliding Doors the other night and I found this quote particularly amusing:Gerry, I’m a woman! We don’t say what we WANT! But we reserve the right to get pissed off if we don’t get it. That’s what makes us so fascinating! And not a little bit scary. (Lydia)

Sigh. I know I’m sounding kind of feminism-police-y here, but, geez … using one of your first blog posts to quote a horribly stereotypical movie line about how women are mysterious flighty creatures who don’t say what they want but expect men to know and that’s the glory of womanhood does not exactly scream breaking the mold, or whatever it is she’s going for.

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