I’m Back with Some Breasts in a Box!

Hoochies, I’m back!

I’m working on a longer post, but I actually just wanted to share with you a wonderful performance art piece from 1968. Valie Export, a Viennese artist, created what she called “Tap and Touch Cinema,” where she wore a box “theater” around her middle and invited passersby to reach in and touch her naked breasts… as she forced them into direct eye contact. I thought I’d draw this to your attention because I really think it confronted the objectification of women and was extremely socially provocative.  In a way she was saying, “you can fantasize about an anonymous body as much as you want, but can you look into a real woman’s eyes while you do it?” Incredible…

Frailties of the stronger sex

The prospect of a male pill has appeared on the horizon various times over the last 50 years, but the issue of side effects scuttled every effort. Scientists, May reports, “actually discovered an effective vaccine that completely stopped the production of sperm without interfering with sex drive.” But it also made users’ testicles shrink by a third, so the researchers abandoned it, concluding, “The psychological trauma of shrinking testes just cannot be overcome.”

— from “What the Pill Gave Birth To,” Michelle Goldberg’s review of America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation by Elaine Tyler May, Basic Books, 224 pages, $25.95.

Post-Abortion “Support” Sites Damaging and Manipulative

Hoochies, I am proudly and unequivocally pro – choice. Unfortunately, the anti-choice movement often terms this position “pro-abortion.” No one is pro – abortion. It is a horrible experience that no woman should have, but we must have the right to choose for ourselves.  Much of the abortion debate centers around the actual decision, but what happens afterwards? Many “right-to-life” groups have attacked this question with considerable energy and emotional manipulation techniques. Project Rachel, an online “support center” aligned with evangelical Christianity, tells women that “it’s normal to grieve a pregnancy loss, including the loss of a child by abortion. It can form a hole in one’s heart, a hole so deep that sometimes it seems nothing can fill the emptiness.” At first glance, this seems harmless enough – even kind and understanding. Yet the implication that abortion trauma (and their “data” is pretty questionable) means that a woman shouldn’t be able to decide about a life-changing pregnancy for herself is condescending and ridiculous. The Project Rachel website, cunningly called “Hope After Abortion,” has a section devoted to the stories of women who have regretted their abortions. I am not contesting that a woman might regret her abortion, or feel the agony and confusion of depression and loss. I feel deeply for the women who have shared their experiences on this site. Yet their sad stories do not mean that every woman should lose her freedom to control her own body and life. Furthermore, while Project Rachel recognizes the anguish that can follow abortion, it does nothing but torture women who have already been through enough trouble. One of the quotes sections is ominously entitled “Died,” and is a list of anonymous entries such as: “I wished it was me and not my baby who was dying.” I think it is destructive and cruel for organizations like Project Rachel to manipulate women in the guise of compassion. We must make sure that there remain kinder, more helpful options that emphasize truth and understanding instead of thinly veiled judgment and deceit.

P.S. I just Googled “post abortion support” and almost everything that came up was in the vein of Project Rachel. Let’s change this.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker… DON’T make me a match!

Hoochies, I really don’t want to admit this, but I will. I watch The Millionaire Matchmaker.  Now, on many counts, this show is pretty despicable. The premise is addictive: Patti Stanger, a 3rd generation matchmaker in LA, sets up rich men through her Millionaire’s Club, the website of which looks like an advertisement for a brothel. These millionaires are allowed to handpick women who are usually a) way too nice or b) way too young.  Criticizing this show is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I’ll give you the highlights:

1)  If you want to marry a millionaire, and you’re above a size 6, good luck. Patti reserves “bigger” (i.e. a size 10) women for her “chubby chasing” clients. Now, I take offense at this on a couple of levels. First, the idea that a woman should be telling other women that they are fat and unworthy to compete for male attention is disgraceful. This kind of attitude teaches men that only the slimmest of women are worthy of love, and it teaches women that in the competition for rich men, their bodies are the greatest weapons.  Insidious female on female attack is destructive and demeaning.  If we tell men that they should only be attracted to certain body types and that the rest are undesirable, it feeds right back into a damaging sizist cycle that we need to end.

2) I guess money trumps idiot? These men are often rude, strange, misogynistic, witless and boring. And yes, many of them are pretty ugly. But millions of dollars seems to give them a free pass on many qualities one might look for in a mate. However, the few woman millionaires on the show have no such luck. They are still judged for their looks and admonished to let the man take control. It would appear that money only makes things harder for women because they have to prove that they are still “feminine.” Hoochies, I ask you: why does “feminine” have to mean docile and simpering? Unfortunately, in the Millionaire’s Club, women do not have power unless expressly allowed. In her 10 Dating Rules for Single Ladies, Stanger writes, “do not offer to outright pay for something: once a woman touches money/credit card in front of a male she becomes masculine energy, which is undesirable.” Basically, according to this line of thought, men are not attracted to women who are remotely self-sufficient – in Patti’s words, the penis will definitely not get off the couch.

3) Patti Stanger gives matchmaking a bad name. The whole point of matchmaking should be to make a match, but these women are never asked what they want in a man. Granted, it’s their choice to turn up for the vomit inducing “casting sessions” (really an appropriate name when you think about it, eh?), but the only criteria on their lists is “loaded.”  The Millionaire’s Club does not take into account what both sides are looking for, or even considers that a woman might want more than a rich husband. It is merely a vehicle for spoiled, rich and awkward men to sample the never-ending bounty of the LA babe buffet, and perpetuates the ever gaping gender divide.

“Boobquake” – Liberating or Limiting?

As most of you probably know by now, boobs can cause earthquakes. No, really. During Friday prayers in Tehran, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, a senior cleric, stated that “many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes.”

Sedighi’s claim, naturally, has brought an outcry from the feminist community. In turn, yesterday “Boobquake,” created by Jen McCreight of BlagHag, took on Sedighi’s accusation full force. The concept was simple – by wearing cleavage baring shirts, women would be able to show that breasts don’t have a great cosmic power over the earth. At first glance, Boobquake seems liberating, and clearly a deep v-neck is not going cause a natural disaster. But I have to wonder: is baring cleavage a constructive way to combat Sedighi’s claim?

I’d have to agree with Beth Mann at Salon when she writes that she “appreciate[s] McCreight’s intentions behind this; she meant it as a feminist response to a ridiculous statement. Unfortunately, it seems to be turning into something else, with many men chiming in, with their “show us your tits” camera-ready attitude.” Society is constantly telling woman that we are only as good as our bodies, whether they are baby makers or eye candy. “Boobquake”, though well-meaning, feeds right into this limiting concept.

I think that whatever you choose to wear, you should be able to feel proud and happy. If baring cleavage accomplishes that for someone, then that is terrific. But by showing a lot of boob, you are inviting people to look. I’m not saying that’s necessarily negative, but I think it’s a fact. Dressing a little more modestly is not always a bad thing; in fact, I believe that it’s ultimately more productive than a low-cut shirt. Of course, showing a little less skin has nothing to do with earthquake prevention – only with changing the dialogues from women’s bodies to women themselves. A woman does not have to resort to using her body to get attention, even if it’s to take on sexism. By fighting a ridiculous and chauvinist statement by exposing our bodies I think we ultimately miss the point. Next time, let’s lead with our minds instead of our chests.

I’m a Feminist. That’s right, I said it.

For a feminist blog, this may seem like the most obvious, clichéd statement in the world. You all know as well as I do (probably better) that millions of articles, books, documentaries, et cetera have treated this very issue. They have treated it kindly, unfairly and everywhere in between. I don’t pretend that I can join their ranks. But I do propose that we all take a moment (maybe more than that) to define feminism for ourselves. Not what we think feminism is, historically, idealistically, for our grandmother, for Phyllis Schlafly or for Betty Friedan. Feminism has become a scary word for most young women. How many times have you heard, “well, I support women’s issues, but I’m not a feminist.” We need to change that. I’m thequeenofscots, and I’m the new Hoochie blogger. I’ll start with this. I am a feminist. No qualifier, no blushing. Let me begin the conversation by telling you a few things about me (in no particular order):

–          I believe wholeheartedly in a woman’s right to choose. I also know that having an abortion is a horrible experience, but if a woman does not want to have a child, she should not have to have a child. For me, the issue is ultimately that simple.

–          I think “man-bashing” is completely destructive and inhibiting. Men can be (and are) feminists, too. We can’t leave them out of the fold.

–          I’ll admit it. I don’t like my body a lot of the time. But it’s so BORING to constantly have the “I’m fat” conversation. As women, we have better things to talk about, and more important things to do than obsessively pick apart our bodies.

–          Finally, I believe that young men and women need to take back feminism. We support women’s issues AND we are feminists!

Dolled Up

In her review of Natasha Walter’s new book on British sexism, Living Dolls, Katy Evans takes us from early 20thcentury Elizabeth Dalloway – feeling liberated in fawn-colored coat on a London bus – to the hypersexuality of modern Britain and “The New Sexism” of surgically enhanced glamour models, pole-dancing, and a Babes-on-the-Bed competition.

More on Living Dolls can be found at The Guardian.

NOW Campaign: Reject More Abortion Restrictions

The National Organization of Women has set up an action page, allowing you to instantly contact your House representatives, urging them to oppose further restrictions on abortions through insurance plans funded by the federal government.

Abortion rights opponents are trying to use health reform legislation to impose additional restrictions on abortion services that go far beyond the compromise in the Capps Amendment. Short of a complete ban on abortion coverage, these opponents will try to attach additional restrictions — and they are severe. The Capps Amendment language would require that insurers segregate funds for abortion services so that no public money is used. That requirement is sufficient to continue the harsh Hyde Amendment restrictions already in place.

As a supporter of the National Organization for Women and an ardent advocate for affordable health care for all, [Your name here] want to urge you to hold firm against further attacks by opponents of abortion rights who want to deny all women access to an important health care service.

[Your name here] oppose any effort to exclude abortion services from private health insurance plans.

Has feminism been co-opted?

Over at The Wooden Spoon, lit blogger Daniel E Pritchard considers Ariel Levy in The New Yorker and Marni Soupcoff in the National Post, on the “feminist conundrum”: why and how the word continues to be used pejoratively:

What the movement has become, in some sense, is a movement framed entirely by the politics of the wealthy: you can have a rich liberal woman empowered, or a rich conservative woman empowered, and you are to live vicariously by their success. Practical equality between men and women is no longer the goal of feminism. We also very often frame the role of the wife / mother and husband / father in entirely traditional ways, even when describing the goals of feminism: the woman ‘has the choice’ now, the implication being that the man’s role of financial support is still mandatory while the woman’s role is newly flexible. (Realistically, neither partner probably has a choice at all. Times are tough.)

Honor our rape-sponsoring legislators!

We’d like to help circulate this list of thirty legislators who were brave enough to stand up in defense of rape and vote against Senator Al Franken’s anti-rape amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill. We applaud these courageous men! Visit this site, and roll over their portraits with your mouse to see each Senator’s contact information. We encourage you to send your kind words to these gentlemen!

feminist thought and action at boston university