Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Feminist Picks of 2008

If you believe in celebrating human made measurements of time, then New Year's Eve is one of the most exciting days of the year. Beside the usual parties and rallies in the street, it's a time of reflection, when many take the opporutunity to do life inventory and take vows to better themselves, their lives, and environment.

One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year is to put an arbitrary measurement on feminist news; events or people that changed me or the feminist movements for the better. We all know it's not difficult to find the bad, so, I wanted to take the opportunity to showcase the brightest beams of light, the things that made a feminist smile wider this calendar year. There were many great moments in a feminist reviewed year, but here are my top three best feminist moments of 2008:

3. Beginning the Obama Era

There's no question that this campaign year was historical. Most of mainstream media focused on the fact that Barack Obama is the first president-elect of color. And while that certainly brings a rush of excitement to my cheeks, there are underlying hopes I hold for the next president that surge past the color of his skin or multicultural background. I'm more fascinated by his intellect and the possibility of having a president who reads and LISTENS to both sides. Who knows what might happen to the Global Gag Rule or the Hyde Amendment now that we may have a leader who may understands that the not all issues are black and white, and need to be analyzed with a compassionate ear toward ALL women.

I'm not conflating Barack Obama with a miracle worker. I believe that leaders of our communities - local and national - prove wise when their ears are open to all sides. So far, Obama has shown a glimmering promise to be an advocate for the people; someone who believes in comprehensive sex education and sees that spending 1.5 billion dollars on abstinence-only programs may not be the best plan
for preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing abortion rates by first educating our youth.
The future looks slightly better with Obama in the Oval Office. Here's hoping.

2. VIVA LA Independent Media

There's nothing that spells awesome more than feminist driven independent media. If you want to take a look at 2008 and search for evidence of feminism going strong, look no further than this very foundation of B-Word that surpassed their goals and succeeded in their fund raising. Same can be said for In Other Words, a feminist bookstore in Oregon, which recently raised enough money to keep their doors open.

While their futures remain uncertain, one message is abundantly clear: when organized and in need, feminist media can not only survive, but THRIVE during economically difficult times. It begs the question: how and why is that? How in these times do these organizations push through and successfully fund raise?

Perhaps for US media consumers, times of financial crisis bring rare opportunities to recognize the valuable from the dispensable, the educational from the unnecessary. When push comes to shove, most feminist consumers of media identify independent media as a necessary and vital arm of the feminist movements. Without Bitch, ColorLines, Make/Shift and other independent publications, the stories of women are shoved further into dark corners. Emerging journalists, poets, and writers would have fewer opportunities to express and document the world from their fresh eyes without these outlets. Without In Other Words, Women and Children First, or feminist bookstores, the spaces for activists, musicians, community groups, and writers shrink even more. The tales of growth and sustainability of these independent publications and book stores give testimony that despite hard times, feminists support avenues of independent communication and want to hear the voices outside of mainstream media.

1. Melissa Harris-Lacewell

It's hard for me to pick just one, but if I'm hard-pressed, here's my opinion: the best moment for US feminists came from the undeniable Melissa Harris-Lacewell. If you're wondering who exactly this woman is, well, let me refresh your memory. Almost a year ago, in January of 2008, the year started off with a feminist bang in a debate heard around the world. Gloria Steinem, a pioneer of second-wave feminism and "icon" in mainstream feminism, dipped her toes in a political pool to go swimming with Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University, a powerhouse of legal and political vernacular. This debate was aired shortly after Steinem wrote an article in the New York Times entitled, "Women Are Never Front-Runners," in which she wrote about the limitations and division of Hillary Clinton's gender and the unifying effect of Obama's race. Steinem endorsed Hillary Clinton in her Op-Ed and called for unity:

The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be
uprooted together. That’s why Senators Clinton and Obama have to be
careful not to let a healthy debate turn into the kind of hostility
that the news media love. Both will need a coalition of outsiders to
win a general election. The abolition and suffrage movements progressed
when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that.

Harris-Lacewell - prepared, articulate, and calm - carefully and thoroughly challenged and ripped Steinem's arguments about race and gender and dismounted the feminist icon's with quotes such as this:

What I do agree with is that we ought to be in coalition. But I think
we’ve got to be in coalition on fair grounds. Part of what, again, has
been sort of an anxiety for African American women feminists like
myself is that we’re often asked to join up with white women’s
feminism, but only on their own terms, as long as we sort of remain
silent about the ways in which our gender, our class, our sexual
identity doesn’t intersect, as long as we can be quiet about those
things and join onto a single agenda. So, yes, I absolutely agree, we
must be in coalition, but it must be a fair coalition of equals.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell spoke more fervently and convincingly about the twisted agenda of mainstream feminism as any other feminist of 2008 (as I read or came across) in the US and brought to the table a voice so clear that it rocked the boat of feminists everywhere as they debated between Clinton and Obama. For that, and for the multitude of work she has done as a writer, professor, and advocate, Melissa Harris-Lacewell was the *best* moment and feminist for me in 2008.

Who or what moment made 2008 a great feminist year for you?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Time for Rape, A Time for Voice

Like so many others, I've been overwhelmed with December.

It's not just the holidays, but the buzz and speed of the year ending, the economic crisis, family gatherings, and holiday obligations all combine to make December one big TO DO list.

I thought about what I wanted to write about this week and began reading some of my favorite feminist bloggers for inspiration. As I clicked on my usual suspects, a surprise settled over me, "Is there a reason why so many blogs are posting about rape?" My brain, in lightning speed, reviewed the month themes and reasoned that September promotes Women's Health Awarness, October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, March is Women's Herstory month, and April is Sexual Abuse Awareness month.

The only December theme I could think of was World Aids Day, which was December 1.

I couldn't think of any direct tie to sexual assualt.

Was there a reason I was finding so many posts about rape?

As a sexual assault advocate and educator, a field I've explored for several years, I quickly felt shame as realized I had forgotten a very simple lesson about sexual violence: there is no specified time for sexual assault awareness, every day is a day of rape for women in the world. Why should there be an allotted month to focus solely on this issue when it happens every few seconds of every day, holiday or not, December or July, sexual assault occurs. Why should I not be fiercely glad that on any given day, a no-name day like today, I can find this issue being discussed with resolve, strength, and bravery. There is no time for rape. It happens in the brightness of days and darkness of night. I've heard the stories from my friends and listened to strangers in emergency rooms before undergoing a rape kit. Everyday, too, is a time to heal and a time to speak for someone, somewhere in the world. In the age of accessible media making for everyday women - the face of sexual violence - we are capable of understanding more than ever the complicated and painful road of admittance, healing, and sharing one's experience for the world to hear.

I quickly reminded myself that I should not be so worried if I had "missed something" when I read so many posts about violence against women in one day. I am thankful that so many brave women are utiliizing media to get their stories out, creating voice when there was once silence, and committing to put an end to rape.

Joan Kelly and Brownfemipower have their say (and thank goodness they do)

Latoya at Racialicious: The Not Rape Epidemic

-->(H/T to Sylvia)

Womanist Musings posts: I Cried As If I Was His Daughter

Feministing discusses a disturbing video about a cartoon, The Rapeman

Crossposted at Bitch Magazine

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Letter #3

Dear Veronica,

It's Saturday morning and two days since my surgery to "spiff up" my ovaries to someday have you.  Darling, I feel like someone rammed a spatula into my stomach and starting smacking everything red.

What was supposed to be an hour and fifteen minutes took over two and a half.  Much to my amusement, I learned that your father was devouring any reading material possible in the lobby and then switched to TV when NO ONE came out to tell him why I, his wonderful wife - the mother of his future children - was still in surgery.  Poor guy.  You know how he hates to be out of control.

Alas, Dr. Liu came out and told him these words, "It was complicated, but successful."  Apparently, there was enough scar tissue to wrap all of eastern Europe in its own casserole and needed to be removed from my insides.  That extended as south as you can go in my uterus and ovaries into my northern stomach region.  The stitches around my belly button are as sore as sore can be.  It feels like they reorganized my entire reproductive and digestive system.

On a funny note, I am passing gas like it is my job.  To see as much as possible through a small camera and light, the doctors blew up my body during surgery.  Some was still in there after the procedure which is why my belly looked like I was 7 months pregnant when I left the hospital, and it leaks out every 20 minutes or so.  I'll take a teaspoon sip of water and belch like I just ate an entire plate of Italian food goodness.  I'll take one step and leave a wind of gas behind me.  It makes me giggle, then I grip my belly because it's painful to laugh.

Your father is trying his best to be everything to everyone these days and I watch him from the couch, or bed, doing laundry, cleaning up, washing dishes, trying to get me DVDs I'd like to watch, and sprinting to Pearl of the Orient for my scallop and shrimp lo mein.  About two weeks ago, I came down with a common bacterial infection that put me in the worst mood. Shortly after that, I was diagnosed with strep.  Then I had this surgery and am farting and burping like a mindless second grader.  All in all, I wonder how your father still manages to sit at my bedside and whisper, "my beautiful bride," into my ear while I am waking up or how he runs his hands into my hair and looks at me with a longing to feel better.

I wish that for you, my love.  I wish for you a soul who will love you tirelessly and without knowledge of rest.  The way your father loves me is a gift from I don't know where.  I just know that I want you to someday find it in a person who is endlessly fascinated by your thoughts and post-surgery farting habits.  Someone who looks at pictures of your tender ovaries as if they were pictures of God's face.  Most of all, I hope your father and I set an example for you of what is possible in this world.  

It IS possible to love someone so much that it feels like a miracle.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SPEAK! Album

Speak! is a women of color led media collective and in the summer months of 2008, they created a CD compilation of spoken word, poetry, and song. This is the first self-named album.

With womyn contributors from all over the country, Speak! is a testament of struggle, hope, and love. Many of the contributors are in the Radical Women of Color blogosphere and will be familiar names to you. Instead of just reading their work, you'll be able to hear their voices.

I can guarantee you will have the same reaction as to when I heard them speak, I was mesmerized.

Proceeds of this album will go toward funding mothers and/or financially restricted activists wanting to attend the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, MI this July. This is our own grassroots organizing at its finest with financial assistance from the AMC. We collaborated and conference called for months and here it is, ready for your purchasing.

In addition to these moving testaments, there will be a zine, featuring more of our work and a curriculum available to further process the meaning of each piece for yourself, education, or a group discussion. The possibilities are endless.

You get all of this for less than $20, you can order one for yourself or buy a gift card for friend which can be redeemed to buy the CD. Stay on your toes and look for more information come January 1, 2009. Only 200 copies are available.

Forward this promo vid widely and to the ends of your contact list. See the link here.

Much love.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Responding to, "Can You Love God AND Feminism?"

Right before I sat down to write this post, I splashed cold water on my face, brushed my hair out and roped it into a pony tail and did two brief neck stretches. No joking. Before you delve into an issue like feminism and God, you have to be ready for the long haul.

At the ever-stirring community of Feministing, a specific headliner, in the form of a question, caught my eye, "Can you love God and feminism?" Not unusual to online communication, the comments quickly delved into discussions of organized religion, personal experiences, and emotional declaratives. Not surprisingly, several different topics surfaced and none were resolved or even wholly addressed, which is typical in an online format. But even in face to face conversation, the subject of religion and feminism is too wide, the issue is personal for many, and the scrutiny too close for honest disclosure.

The question got me thinking: "Can you love God and feminism?" The two issues of religion and feminism have been the backbone for some of the ugliest debates I've ever seen. There are usually two problems in such verbal banter. First, at least one person with really good ideas backs down or refuses to take the plunge into the conversation. Thus, the dominant talker dominates. Two, the discussion freys into a million other topics and it doesn't stay spinning on one or two issues, but splatters into a mess of biting words.

I've split this post in two segments. The first part are a few helpful hints if you ever find yourself in a dialogue with another person or with a group of people discussing these issues and you find yourself backing away. Try these suggestions. I've found them helpful as I grow as a feminist. They're for everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, agnostic, or atheist identity.

The second part of this post is my personal experiences and background of religion and feminism and the problems I've found in the feminist blogosphere in regard to these topics. Also, to be clear, I'm not knocking the post at Feministing. It was a great stimulus for conversation and the content of the post is not what I'm addressing. I'm expanding on a much larger issue that the question raised for me.


Tip #1 Look at the question being asked.

Take a critical eye to the question and examine the heart of the issue. There's nothing academic or scholarly about thinking about the crux. Everyone can do this - at a table, a wedding (I almost saw a fight break out at a reception), or over a campfire. It's true that there is no such thing as a dumb question, just as long as it's a sincere one. The art of questioning is often misused as tool by some to instigate or flame a controversial issue, e.g. (the ever popular) "How can you vote for that candidate when s/he is pro-choice?" If you choose to ask or answer a question, be prepared to use a mental scalpel. Bypass pretense and admit if you don't know something, or haven't fully thought through your way. In most instances, people are willing to engage in honest and challenging debate that stimulates growth, not defensiveness, when you get to the heart of the question and remain calm about your position and experiences.

Tip #2 Start a revolution and embrace the gray.

Even science cannot yet find a way to explore the outer celestial heavens, so why should we presume to know every artifact of faith? Nobody, save the handful of religious scholars tucked away somewhere, has all the background knowledge on religion and religious text. Good thing we don't need to know everything to examine our own lives and its meaning. It's impossible to know it all or grasp all the different interpretations. Relax in the fact that you will likely never get resolution if you're looking for black and white answers. Reject the immediate answers that most gravitate toward.

Ye be not confused with apathy or uncertainty, however! Embracing the gray is standing in conviction, not lying down in laziness. While it's wise to accept complexity, it's important to continuously chisel and define your evolving beliefs. It takes a carefully tended maturity to remain unthreatened and curious about these issues. It's work, hard work, but it's always worth it.

Tip #3 Be Yourself. Be Open. (if you) Believe.

We're all entitled to participate or not participate in organized religion and define its traditions and orthodox with our chosen teachers, families, mentors, and conscience. But, too often in feminist circles, that freedom dissolves. I've seen young questioning women of faith abandon the term "feminist" because of this ridiculous notion that feminists do not believe in God. I've witnessed so many neon bright feminists not identify as such because of the paradoxical branding of "feminist" on a religious person/spiritual individual/worshipper of a higher power. What comes of hiding who you truly are? Come out of your shell. Most people get the fact that activism is about trying to make the world a better place and that, typically, is one of the agenda items for those who are active church goers, mosque attendees, or temple worshippers. We all have a lot more in common than is perceived.


What I didn't like about the question, "Can you love God and feminism?" is that it reminded me of all the times I've been asked variations of that same thing over the course of my life and how I've never really been able to put my finger on my frustration; that is, until I started blogging. Only then did I get it: both sides pigeon hole the other.

While on one hand it's clearly understandable as to why so many could ask a question such as "Can you love God and feminism," given the media's attention on fundamentalism and right-wing extremist's ties to evangelicals, what's equally disturbing is when I find feminist bloggers conflating religious groups with the terms conservatives,"pro-lifers," and then add some sort of an insulting name because the author thinks religion and conservatism go hand in hand. Much like how feminists go hand in hand with other stereotypes, right?

With privilege, I've attended Catholic schools my entire life, from pre-school to graduate school. I've genuflected before crucifixes everyday of my existence, including the rebellion years and the periods of tumultuous resistance. I grew up with rosaries in my hands, and penance room visits on Saturday afternoon. I went through the whole blind acceptance, acidic rebellion, and then painful self-doubt. Here is what I know after 29 years of Catholicism and Feminism: neither is perfect, nor am I.

Feminism is about liberation. It is about the deepest analysis of and against the intersecting powers of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, sizeism, and ethnocentrism that enslave ALL marginalized persons, but most especially women. Feminism recognizes, as well, that just as women are enslaved, it positions men into false characters they often do not wish to be, but in the absence of alternatives and voice, they become culprits to kyriarchal practices of domination.

In my religion of choice, Catholicism, it is about endless efforts to love others and ourselves. It is sorely educated in many gradeschools and children are short-changed from the start with cartoon coloring books and three ring circus holiday distractions. But the beauty of its symbolism and its disarming dedication to the marginalized captivates me again and again. Believe me, I know and understand its problems with women, sexuality, power, and choice, but after a lifetime of studying it, I stand with Rachel A. R. Bundang who states in "This is Not Your Mother's Catholic Church," in the anthology Pinay Power, "...Catholicism's cultural significance and its ties to who I am as a Filipina are thick as blood itself. My experience of the Church cannot be encapsulated in a single sticking point and is greater than one sole controversy."

What I'm saying is that religion and feminism are not easy. They're difficult terrain to cross and explain. But I do know that the exploration of self within both is a thrilling journey, but both sides - religion and feminism - need to re-evaluate how we write and use language, how quick we are to interchange descriptors like "religious" and "conservative" or "feminist" and "pro-choice." Regular everyday people - you and I - are much more than these lables and the language we choose to communicate with one another needs to make room for the reality that feminism is growing and we need our language to reflect that complexity. We do ourselves a disservice when we intentionally or unintentionally exlude activists when we point our verbal guns at communities of faith. As a small sample (in my research, I typically read Christian and Catholic feminists), here are just a few of the most courageous and inspiring lovers of both God and feminism:

Joan Chittister is one of the greatest writers on contemporary feminist spirituality. Her anti-war speeches are legendary. Mary John Mananzan is one of the most prolific writers I have ever researched. Her views on women and prostitution in Challenges to the Inner Room enriched my feminism in unspeakable ways. The term kyriarchy that I wrote about which has been so well received in the feminist blogosphere was created by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, one of the pioneers of feminist biblical interpretation and with whom I had the honor of studying under and stood forever changed. Leela Fernandes wrote Transforming Feminist Practice and advocates for a spiritualized feminism if it wants to survive and, more importantly, succeed.

I don't believe any of these women would laugh at me if I asked them, "Can you love God and feminism?" I think they'd be silent, as they wouldn't see a distinction between the two.

Cross-posted at Bitch Magazine.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Letter #2

Dear Veronica,

This has been a week that you must know about.

First of all, my beloved ob/gyn decided to throw me to a specialist five miles away because I am going to need surgery. Dr. David decided that my ovaries need to be "spiffed up" and thus need a laparoscopy. In a nutshell, it's like Inspector Gadget is going to go in there and remove any scar tissue from my last surgery in 99 and to remove another sprouting dermoid tumor.

All of this in your name, my sweet.

Your father is quite anxious at the doctor's office. He makes ridiculous comments and tries to make me laugh. I shake my head at him to stop and I feel like a principal telling a misbehaving 10 year old to shut his mouth.

My other doctor, Dr. Liu seems quite optimistic about the surgery and I felt he was nearly giggling at inappropriate times when I asked a question. Your father thought laughter was a good sign; it means we're not going to be the 12% of couples whose efforts to have a child are saddeningly null. Laughter from doctors, your father contends, means we have minimal to worry about.

My mouth was set in one straight line, unamused. THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS, don't they know that? Of course, I ended up stuffing a smile back when doc was examining me and inserted a strange looking instrument into my vaginal canal and showed me my empty uterus and fuzzy looking ovaries with strange masses around them. He, your pops, and a medical assistant leaned in and studied the screen like the state lottery numbers were popping up and they were going to win a 300 million dollar pot.

It struck me at that moment, my dear, that the world rests on the shoulders of woman who go through extensive circumstances to have a child. I have been thinking through how far in this process I want to go and decided I will give it my all to have you for about a year or two and likely will stop before Dr. Liu suggests in vitro. I think at that point, I'll look into adoption.

Last night I went to bed feeling sick to my stomach. I ended up sleeping for about 14 hours today and then went to urgent care. Strep throat was my diagnosis. I was so sick and frustrated. It seems the universe does not want me to have this surgery. First, I waited two months to see a specialist and then it was nearly canceled because of insurance coverage and now strep. I'm determined, though. I hope you can someday appreciate what we're going through to someday welcome you into this world.

But, Dr. David, Dr. Liu, your pops, and I, are highly optimistic that all of this is going to work. I took my first prenatal vitamin on Thursday and nearly squealed with excitement. It tasted like acidic garbage, but the thought of it making you a nice red womb to float around in and feeding you into a healthy body make it worth it. I'm going into surgery in three days and I'm hoping to start the most amazing journey of my life shortly after the new year.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Insulting the Intellect, Agnes Scott College Opens Its Doors to Road Trip II: Beer Pong

If you view the website of Agnes Scott College, a private all women's college in Decatur, Georgia, the visitor or prospective student will find idyllic pictures of fresh-faced young women with telescopes, smiling students engaged in music, or tony looking youngsters attending a swanky social gathering. In the rotating slideshow, there sits the most formidable question of life development: Who will you become? If your eyes drift to the right, the mission of the College hugs the top corner, "Educating women to think deeply, live honorably, and engage in the intellectual and social challenges of their times."

By every measure of that statement senior Louisa Hill, a guest blogger at The Bilerico Project, is doing just that. For all the varied struggles against sexist oppression, I surmise she would not have anticipated finding one of those battles on her own campus when the College stuck a deal with upcoming sequel Road Trip II: Beer Pong and gave open accessibility to not just the physical campus for shooting the flick, but the matriculated students as well.

Hill's report gives account of deeply disturbing actions that has taken place on campus with the filming of Road Trip II: Beer Pong. She outlines the racist and sexist recruitment efforts:

...Craigslist ad states "primarily seeking White" and "Attractive Female
Model Type" extras, valued at $7.17/hr (be sure to send in your
weight!). These racist and sexist standards are clearly visible on the
movie's promotional flier, helping to perpetuate the image that only
sexy white people go to college. The flier shows a headless white
woman's body, focusing on her large breasts, barely covered by a shirt
that says "Nice Rack." Her pelvis is in front of a triangle of shot
glasses. The tagline? "Get your balls wet."

The students were also subject to horrendous stereotyping as the film crew shot the "Lesbians Until Graduation" scene which only eroticizes lesbianism as nothing more than an experimental "choice" made in the absence of men and, in the movie industry, sells women and their sexual identity as a heteronormative gift for men.

...the scene involved the male protagonists
stumbling upon the room full of these "making-out lesbians" (to
presumably "convert" them?). When we expressed offense, the recruiter
said she was warned about encountering uncooperative students who were
"really into being women" (versus into being objects?).

Other incidents of objectifying the students at Agnes Scott were documented, including reckless behavior of extras working in the movie. One student reported being told that she was so attractive, she should be careful of being raped. Another student, carrying a cup of coffee, was asked by an extra to get him one as well.

In the glitter of gifted professors and sprawling green spaces, it is easy to forget that higher education is business. It is an intellectual playground for thinkers and activists, the thrilling table in the exchange of ideas and challenge. Underneath that playground, however, the business roots of higher education occasionally sprout foul-smelling weeds that spring from damaging deals. To students, those agreements feel like betrayal, and rightly so. All the elements that lift a women's college to another realm of engagement and learning is completed neutralized by a $30,000 business contracts that allow hapless Road Trip II: Beer Pong to sick its claws into, what appears to be, a vibrant and promising student body.

While the College recently announced its smallest tuition increase in over 35 years and boasts the College's willingness to go the extra mile during these hard economic times, I'd wager that the students and their families would not have minded a sharper tuition spike if it meant cancelling deals with films that not only stand in contradiction of the College's mission, but attack the values and minds of the women whom they claim to be educating.

Cross-posted at Bitch Magazine

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sean Avery and Jon Favreau: Comparing the NHL and the Obama Administration

Two recent public incidents have caught my eye and I'm stuck on one question someone asked me, "What do you think is appropriate punishment?"

Last week, NHL player, Sean Avery, came under fire after commenting to the press and making a disparaging comment about former girlfriends who are now in relationships with other NHL players:

"I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the
NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what
that's about, but enjoy the game tonight."

He is referring to ex-girlfriend actress Elisha Cuthbert is reportedly now dating Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames. Another former girlfriend of Avery, model Rachel Hunter is reportedly now seeing another NHL player, Jarret Stole of the Los Angeles Kings.

Avery, with a history of making inappropriate remarks to stir controversy was suspended for six games and has been described as a "disturber, an agitator" by Barry Melrose, ESPN NHL analyst.

Even more recently, the chief speechwriter of our President-elect, 27 year old Jon Favreau, has made his own headlines when a picture of him was displayed on Facebook that showed the newly minted talent groping the right breast of a life-size cutout of the new Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. In the picture, there is a friend tilting a beer to her lips, offering a kiss, and grasping the top of the cutout's hair, all together disturbing and disasterous.

These two separate incidents are, in one sense, hardly newsworthy when you consider the severity of the actions: offensive statements and thoughtless sexist actions caught on camera. But what makes these kinds of incidents so compelling is the reaction of the public and the organizations they represent. To date, Avery was suspended for six games and Favreau, according to the Washington post apologized to the former First Lady, but received no punishment for his boorish pose. Even more maddening is that Clinton camp simply called it good-natured fun and Clinton is "pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application," despite her reign on the sexist parade the past two years.

So, let me make this clear in my head: the NHL suspends Avery for his disrespectful comments toward women (albeit, he had already established a history and his reputation preceded him) but the Obama administration has nothing to say. Clinton herself, who rightfully pointed out the sexism spewed on her during her campaign trail, has now gone cold on calling out sexism and sings pleasure of his application to the State Department. Favreau, the leading mind behind Obama's public vernacular merely hangs his head as he is carded the newest "Facebook victim" and nothing more.

The lack of any kind of response about the Favreau incident is off-putting. Which brings me to the question: What is the appropriate response for offensive behavior done off working hours but contradict the image what you work for? Does the punishment fit the crime? In Avery's case, yes. He reportedly had been warned in the past and to carefully watch his mouthy steps. Favreau though, with all of this verbal sophistication, looks like he will not even receive a tap on his once roaming right hand. If firing him is not the correct measure, then what? Suspending him for six speeches? I don't think so, but his thoughtlessness warrants something in between losing his job and Clinton's spokesperson sweeping it under the rug.

Momentarily putting aside the commendable and rare response of the NHL, the sad reality of these two incidents is not the six-game suspension or public shaming of "Favs." The maddening component of these behaviors is how easy it is to dismiss sexism, however public or lewd. Any weekend in any bar - glorified city or unknown small town - on any given Saturday night gathering, you can find an Avery or Favreau disrespecting women either in word or gesture. The most common character though is the person who makes light of it all; you can always find a Philippe Reines nonchalantly waving it off as funny or a trivial matter.

I just never thought I'd ever have to compare the NHL to the Democratic party for their reactions to sexism and then applaud the former for taking some form of action. At the very least, they recognized it as unacceptable and sent a stiff penalty to Avery with a kindergarten lesson attached, "That's not right and you can't say something like that."

And since the Dems seem to be suddenly ignoring the impact of a sexist action gone internet crazy, I take it upon myself to give a kindergarten message made especially for Jon Favreau, "Stay in line and keep your hands to yourself."

Cross-posted at Bitch Magazine.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Health and Breath

Since so many of my posts have been up serious creek, I thought it important for folks to realize that not all of feminism is S.E.R.I.O.U.S.

So much of what makes feminism so attractive, to me, is that it covers a multitude of issues on the spectrum of women and gender. One of the basic things that I think we forget is how important our health factors into our feminism. Yes, our HEALTH. After all, there isn't going to be much you can do when you can't breathe properly or stand up straight because of, say, your bra?

Yep, a new article has emerged exploring the health affects of ill-fitting bras and the woes of wearing said harnesses. Headache? Indegestion? Maybe switch out your chest straps for something more comfortable and supportive. Not standing up straight or have poor posture? Maybe it's because of your bra.

"If a woman is bending forward because of insufficient breast support, the trapezius overstretches and causes headaches. All nerve roots come from the back; stomach upsets and fatigue are common byproducts of bad back health. If ladies have a proper bra-fitting, back problems are often resolved."

The article covers the dying trend of bra-fittings and advocates that women should at least get an idea of what their size and needs are before they grab whatever they think their size is. I was yawning during the article until it outlined all the different signs that you're wearing the wrong size. I started thinking about how much time and care I put into picking my shoes, but how I haphazardly grab what I assume to be the correct number and letter in the bra department. Now that I think about it...for something you wear nearly everyday of your life post-puberty, don't you think it might be worth the investment to invest your money in what fits, rather than what looks good or has the color you think matches your shirt? It might be worth alleviating back pain, headaches, or other ailments. At the very least, you can sit up and breathe normally.

Breath is essential to feminist discourse.

Cross-posted at Bitch Magazine.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Good-bye to Anonymous Privileges

How I have tried to make you feel included
by allowing your comments and words,
but I think it's time to change that
and now wail a song of dirge.

Your barrage of f*uck you's and threats
once scared me to the bone,
but now I realize you write these things
behind a screen, faceless, and alone.

Oh Anon, I have no idea who or where you are
Managua, San Antonio, or Madrid -
But, I suggest you at least identify your soul
and claim your own words as I did.

Because there's an unspoken rule I believe in life:
That your energy fills your space;
and your constant negativity spewed at me
is neutralized by your Anonymous face.

A troll, a hater, a miserable hobbit?
I don't know why you insist on staying here -
But one thing I know about remaining anon
You don't change when you live in fear.

And so, no more Anonymous comments are allowed
here at My Ecdysis, my blog.
Go visit someone else, go leave your hate there
or wander in your dark cyber fog.

I appreciate all commenters' time and thoughts
and render each person smart -
But I have a thick skin and a witty mind, too
And so your f-bombs aren't taken to heart.

All the best to you, Anon -
I hope you have a happy life that's kind!
I'm sure you're more than your hateful crap
that you fruitlessly leave behind.

Get Real, Get Local When Ending Violence Against Women

Violence against women is the most explosive topic for me. Four years ago, in a job interview, a panelist asked me what I thought was the most critical feminist issue. I paused and, in that moment, my mouth began moving without forethought.

This was my stand then and is my stand today: "Violence against women is the most critical issue for me. There are unspeakable acts of torture against women in every country, in every town; most of them, though, we will never know about. Most of these acts are buried the moment a hand, acid, or knife touches the skin of a woman. They are buried in the heart of the woman who is beaten, raped, or killed. There is no other issue for me that more resoundly denies the basic humanity of a woman than sexual violence. No other act of torture can murder the livelihood and promise of a young girl but still leave her physical body intact as rape. There is nothing parallel to the gross normalcy of using women and their bodies in acts of domination, war fare, or for one sided sexual gratification. There is no greater measure of the cultural and global betrayal against women than the secrecy and rampant evil we simply allow when justice for a survivor dies in the silence of her scream."

There are so many campaigns for ending violence against women or raising awareness for international activism. What I have learned from my experiences as a writer and researcher on this topic is that violence against women is at your fingertips. There is no walk across state lines to find survivors who need help now. Local domestic shelters or crisis agencies have openings for trained hotline responders or are in need of clothes donations. Where there are women, there are vast needs to combat sexual violence.

To truly learn the face of violence you must see its failed judicial system, lack of training for law enforcements, and the way a courtroom sounds when a jury cannot absorb air-tight medical expert testimony and relies upon gendered and cultural stereotypes to deliver a "not guilty" verdict.

It is not enough to hope the violence stops. In a recent article, I advocated that feminists know when enough is enough. It is, however, also imperative that feminist know when hope is not enough. Ending violence against women necessitates one thing: local, community action.

Cross-posted at Bitch Magazine

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Final Change

I wavered for about three months with the title of my blog.

A Womyn's Ecdysis was the name for over two years. And then I felt an itch. An itch to change that reflected the restlessness inside.

I renamed it Disobedience to reflect the hard core rebellion of mainstream feminism and societal values.

And while that still holds true, disobedience is a part of me. It's a part of my feminism, but I am so much more than a reactive action. I am more than the art and act of disobeying the rules or system.

Creativity, change, transformation, and revelation. These are the elements of my blog. They are the elements of me.

I decided to forego "WOMYN'S" and just go for "MY" because I have been thinking long and hard about a comment someone left about how the former has an unfavorable history with the transpopulation. It may have just been that one person, but it irked me. Nowhere in my blog, however unintentional, do I want folks or even one folk to feel like I am utilizing language that is exclusive. My language and life will forever be imperfect, but I will consistently strive for radical equality and inclusivity.

Ecdysis. The art of shedding and growing into new shapes and thoughts and theories. That is the backbone of my life and personal philosophy and have returned, permanently, to this name.

Please adjust your links and sidebars to reflect that.


Monday, December 01, 2008

World Aids Day 2008

A friend recently said to me, "Communication is all about brevity."
In that vein, let me try to be as succinct as possible.

Today is World Aids Day.

Cross-posted at Bitch Magazine.