Saturday, October 4, 2008

Wolf on Palin (that's not an Alaskan wildlife reference - the article is by Naomi Wolf)

By Chloe Angyal

Fierce feminist Naomi Wolf argues in a column today that Sarah Palin's appeal, and particularly her appeal to women, is class-based as well as gender-based:
“…when Palin is escorted into the media limelight, she becomes the symbolic revenge fantasy of many of those silenced, exhausted factory workers and secretaries. To see a working-class white woman be picked to serve a heartbeat away from the US president resonates powerfully. Think of the appeal of films such as Thelma And Louise or Working Girl, in which the leading character is a gutsy, exploited secretary who, trampled by a snooty female Ivy League boss, manages to end up with the dream job, the dream guy, and the corner office.”

Wolf continues:
“That said, Palin's sinking approval ratings show that, while such women thrill to symbolic validation, they are not fools. They have begun to notice how Palin is trotted out like a model at an auto show to be introduced to heads of state as if they are local car dealers, and how the media are allowed to take pictures but not ask questions ("That's me with Henry Kissinger!").”

My guess is that Wolf is right, and that the McCain campaign figured all this out long before she did. So was last night's excessive down-hominess, with its gosh-darn-its and Joe Sixpack references, an attempt to play on the class divide that apparently makes Palin so attractive to some women?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Masculinity and emotional moments

By Chloe Angyal

Just as I had hoped, Joe Biden's emotional moment last night has got a lot of people talking about fatherhood and masculinity. What does it mean for American fatherhood when a VP candidate identifies as a single parent, deliberately defying the stereotype of uninvolved or absent fathers? What does it mean for American manhood when that same candidate gets choked up on national television?
These are all important questions, ones I hope more people will be thinking about in the aftermath of last night's debate. The WSJ's Juggle talks about it here.

Listservs make me sad...

...when they send out shit like this.
Thanks to Jacob for the heads up.
(In case you can't read it, it says: Only ugly bitches complain about it).


Real feminists don't fake orgasms

By Chloe Angyal

Just when I thought I'd run out of reasons to love Courtney Martin, of
First and foremost, you deserve pleasure. You deserve orgasms. You deserve to be honest about the presence or absence of orgasms. And of course, every sexual encounter doesn't have to lead to orgasm. Sometimes it's not happenin' for various reasons. You don't have to explain yourself. You don't have to perform some sort of ego-saving climax.

I know, I know, sometimes it seems like it's easier, especially with someone you don't know, to just pretend that the hook up is awesome so that you don't have to explain why it's not, teach some guy about basic female anatomy, or deal with his frowny face grumpy pants routine. But the path of least resistance, my feminist friends, is not cool in this case.

It's not cool for a couple of critical reasons. It's not cool because you deserve better--both physically and in terms of your own integrity. But it's also not cool to the rest of the poor gals who might be next in line with this poor fool who doesn't know where the frickin' clit is. Or whatever. You see where I'm going with this.

It is your feminist duty to 1) seek pleasure and feel entitled to it and 2) to make the world a more orgasmic place for other women.

If the last girl that had taken that dude home had taught him a thing or two about a thing or two, you wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. You hear me?

Damn right I hear you, Courtney.

She's writing in response to a passage in Michael Kimmel's new book Guyland that notes the gap between actual orgasms and perceived orgasms. That gap is huge, which means that some women are indeed faking it.

"When women received cunnilingus, only about a quarter experienced an orgasm, though the men who reported they had performed cunnilingus on their partner reported that she had an orgasm almost 60% of the time." To rephrase my last statement, A LOT of women are faking it.

Policies be damned; she has the right plumbing

By Chloe Angyal

Robert Lanham at has this article in which he roundly accuses feminists of being inane:

"Forget debates about power, ownership of one's body, equal wages, and a level playing field. This year, feminists were more concerned about whether Hillary Clinton should be referred to as Hillary or Clinton, Mrs. or Ms., while pundits with penises discussed whether or not she was showing enough—or too much—cleavage."

I don't know about you, but I've been talking plenty this election cycle (and, uh, always) about power, ownership of one's body, and so on. While semantics certainly matter - as I've mentioned before, it did bother me that Senator Clinton was rarely called anything but "Hillary" - but at the end of the day, it's ideas and policies that matter most to feminists, even those for whom the semantic challenge of using the f-word is just too great.

Lanham goes on to assure us that regardless of policies that many (and he himself) consider anti-woman, Palin is still a feminist role model:

"Despicable? Definitely. A role model for traditional feminists? Absolutely not. But if we are to believe feminism is about self-empowerment and holding the keys to power, Palin fits the bill."

Luckily, no one can hear me gagging over the sound of Betty Friedan rolling in her grave.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin: “Government Get Out of My Way!”

by Elizabeth Winkler

How can any one hear that statement and not realize its overwhelming hypocrisy?! Yes, Palin says she wants the government to get off your money and your business – we won’t go into the details of that one just now – but what about getting off my body? Oh yes, please let me use my money as I would like, but don’t let me decide whether I should have sex, use birth control, or raise a child when my life is in jeopardy or I’m unprepared to raise one! It’s only my body, after all. It’s only my life.

And what about gay marriage? The fact that both candidates resolutely refused to support anything but the “traditional union of man and woman,” highlights just how far freedom remains from the lives of gays and lesbians across America. "Government get out of my way", but please control who I can love, marry and spend my life with. Really? Talk about government creeping into the bedroom….

Live blogging the VP debate

By Chloe Angyal
9:01pm I love Gwen Ifill. I love how she could barely keep a straight face as she announced that the audience had promised to remain very polite. As the candidates take the stage, I’m filled with a sudden fear that Sarah Palin might actually do well, that she might charm the viewers and do well in terms of national politics, and give the McCain ticket a boost. Of course, I want her to do well in terms of gender politics; I want her to undo some of the damage she's done this week to our chances of ever seeing a woman on a major party ticket ever again, but I'm certainly not rooting for her ticket.

9:04pm Sarah Palin’s barometer for how the economy is doing: go to a kid’s soccer game on a Saturday morning and ask the folks on the sidelines, “how are you feeling about the economy?”, and I bet you’re going to hear some fear. My barometer for how the economy is doing? Well, there's this thing called the stock market...

9:10pm Did she just wink at the camera? While talking about this week's economic meltdown, did she just wink at the camera? Look, I get that she’s a “good communicator”, in the same way that your down-home, earthy aunt Martha is a “good communicator”. But I don’t want my aunt Martha running the country, love her though I do. I want a brilliant, intelligent woman who can put a sentence together without saying “heck”, “darn” or “hurtin’.”

9:13pm Am I being sexist? Should I be rooting for her to remake the game, instead of just hoping that she’ll play men’s game and win by their rules?

9:18pm Palin is doing remarkably well, given how low expectations were after her Couric interview. She’s also learned from last week’s debate that looking at the camera, and not at the moderator, is far more compelling.

9:25pm "How long have I been at this, like, five weeks?" What are you, like, a fifteen-year-old girl?

9:30pm She’s doing well on energy. But I wish with all my heart that she’d stop saying “heck” and “darn”.

9:31pm Oh, wait, she just said that the activities of man shouldn’t be attributed to climate change. I’m pretty sure she meant to say that climate change shouldn’t be attributed to the activities of man. And I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t think that global warming is caused by man.

9:32pm Biden just called her “Sarah Palin”, then corrected himself and called her “Governor Palin.” One of my pet peeves during Clinton’s campaign was that everyone called her “Hillary” where they called Obama “Obama.”

9:34pm Palin corrects Biden:“The chant is ‘Drill, baby, drill’ ”. That’s going to be this week’s, “I have a bracelet too.”

9:37pm “I have gay friends!” But I don’t think they should be able to marry each other. That said, neither do Biden and Obama. Also, why do they choose to say “gay” and “heterosexual”? Why not “straight” or “homosexual”?

9:41pm “We don’t need early withdrawal”. But I do think that’s an effective form of contraception!

9:42pm That was a big, uncomfortable “um.” Not a good start for this response on Iraq. But she pretty much just called Biden a “pussy” by saying that his plan was “a white flag of surrender.”

9:44pm Finally, Biden is looking at and talking to the camera. About time.

9:47pm For god's sake, Palin, IT’S NU-CLE-AR. Please, not another four years of “Nucular”.

9:49pm Enemies who hate America, who hate our freedoms and our respect for women’s rights? Like… not letting survivors of rape or incest have abortions? Like making survivors of rape pay for their own rape kits? Those kinds of women's rights?

9:53pm Joe Biden just referred to himself in the third person. Chloe Angyal hates it when people do that.

10pm Facts matter, Joe. So does perceived confidence. Better luck on your next response.

10:02pm Bosniacs? That’s not a wordicle, Joe!

10:03pm Sarah Palin said she watched the Democratic Primary Debates. I'm surprised she found the time to do that, between watching Saturday Night Live with the sound turned down, and reading all the publications that have ever come across her desk.

10:05pm My boyfriend, soundly slightly terrified, IMs me saying, "Wow, I can see how people would really buy this, this 'folksy' thing." Slightly terrified, I agree with him.

10:06pm "Tomorrow morning the pundits are going to start doing the 'who said what at what time', thing..." This is really passive aggressive. And I know passive aggression; I'm Jewish.

10:08pm "What would you do if the President died?" Gwen Ifill, that was an awesome question. To reiterate, I love her.

10:09pm "A team of mavericks"? At this point, the people who are drinking every time that word is said are on their way to the hospital to get their stomachs pumped.

10:10pm Palin is addressing the middle-class people who are saying, "Government, get out of my way." And I'm addressing all women who are saying, "Government, get away from my uterus."

10:12pm Sarah Palin, stop winking! Also, Vice Presidential candidates do not give "Shout out"s. I don't think it's too much to ask that first woman on a major party ticket present herself like a serious politician, and not like the amateur DJ at my senior prom.

10:20pm OK, now we're just playing the "my misery was greater than your misery" game.

10:21pm "The notion that just because I'm a man, I don't know what it's like to raise kids... I know what it's like to wonder if your kid's going to make it..." And then he choked up. That was...powerful. That was an powerful moment for American masculinity right there. Will he be perceived as weak? As a hero? As a man who contributed to changing the traditional notion of manhood? (Then again, what would I be saying if Sarah Palin had just choked up on stage?)

10:24pm Joe Biden, on the ideology and judicial philosophy of Supreme Court judges, just came out in support of Roe v. Wade. It's a shame that this came out at 10:24, in the final question before the candidates' closing statements, but at least it got said.

10:28pm Sarah Palin assures us that, as long as we're working together, "At the end of the day, it's gonna be OK." But, at the end of the day, we might not have a VP who speaks like she's second-most powerful person in the free world ought to speak. She knows what the "hurts" are. Yeah... that's not a noun.

What did you think? How do you think it went?

Play Palin Bingo!

When you're watching the VP at 9 EST tonight, like I know you will, play Palin Bingo! Check the box every time Palin says, "family", "terrorisists", "earmarks", "Russia" and a whole bunch of other fun words ("maritime border"!).
Remember to be a critical viewer tonight, and by that, I don't mean criticize the candidates (though that can be fun also) - I mean listen carefully and really question what you're hearing. Does it make sense? Do you agree with it? Is it what's best for the country? What are the long-term ramifications? And so on, and so on...

Thanks to Rachel for the tip!

Abstain from voting!

"I always wanted my first time to be special, and instead, I wasted it on Michael Dukakis."
In the spirit of fun and topical videos, this hilarious ad about "voter abstinence", spoofing sexual abstinence ads aimed at teens, aired on The Colbert Report last night.
And to counter that, here's a PSA from a whole bunch of celebrities urging you to abstain from abstinence when it comes to voting.

Jon, do not f*ck this up for us, OK?

Kristen Schaal (aka the other woman on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) was hilarious last night as a Palin-esque wannabe host. Check it out. I love Samantha Bee, who's also in this clip, but it's great to see another woman on the show, even if it's only "every four to twelve weeks or so."
While you're at it (and by "it", I mean, "procrastinating by watching videos online"), check out this trailer for Disney's new movie "Head of Skate". Sometimes we laugh just to keep from crying.

The First Feminist: Mother of the Living

by Elizabeth Winkler

It’s fall in Princeton now, and as I walked to class this morning, munching my Red Delicious apple, I was reminded of that momentous first bite: Eve, reaching up towards that glowing crimson orb, suspended from the forbidden tree.

As a kid, I had always felt a strange, decidedly vague, and naturally unspoken admiration for Eve – so dynamic, so exciting, this woman who so changed the world by her simple act. And yet, remembering all the evil that haunted her name – foul temptress, mistress of death – I couldn’t admire her without falling under a heavy shadow of guilt. I began to consider her story more closely and wondered if the Genesis account – slice of cultural wisdom that it is – hadn’t perhaps been tampered with. Had I been told the right story? History is commonly understood to be written by the victorious: we must claw away at the artifice and invention to arrive at truth. How could we forget to do the same with myth?

Consider this: God ushers Woman into creation. Under Adam’s dutiful tutelage, she begins to explore the world around her. He presents her with a certain item – a peach, let’s say. Adam tells her that it is called ‘peach,’ and she soon learns to associate her experience of this food with the word itself.

Now this female creature, this Woman, is eager to understand not only the natural world, but existence itself: what does it mean to live? Is she alive? What is she? I mean, what is ‘herself’?

As life in Eden slips by, Woman begins to wonder: God created the heavens and the earth and commanded that Man and Woman ‘cultivate’ and ‘have dominion’ over that earth. But then – and here the light bulb goes off – why would He place us in a gated garden? And so begins her awareness of the Outside, the Other, the possibilities of existence which she can only contemplate in utter, blinding ignorance.

But there’s another thing too that she has been wondering about: that tree of knowledge of good and evil. How strange that God would place it there and subsequently forbid it! He’s omnipotent, after all, maker of Everything. Why create it in the first place? Naturally, she is curious about it, especially since it exists as the threshold of Death. But what is death? Can she really know? She has been told that her existence – living in the garden of Eden – is called Life. As the dual element of that binary, Death must mean the end of life in Eden, something else, something outside, something other.

But, alas, it is forbidden! The understanding she so desires hopelessly prohibited! She stands beneath the tree, serpent whispering in her ear as she contemplates her decision.

The Western metaphysic has located this moment as the first and the great ethical dilemma of humankind. But let’s step back and examine the decision that Woman realistically faced: she can either eat the fruit or not eat the fruit, but having knowledge neither of Good nor of Evil (since she hasn’t yet eaten it) how can she possibly make that decision? She doesn’t even know what ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ mean: they exist as empty lingual functions, meaningless as ‘peach’ before she ever tasted the fruit in her mouth. The decision is overwhelmingly arbitrary. One might as well ask, “Apple or orange?” “Daffodil or tulip?” In her ignorant, inexperienced mind it would make no difference.

Except this: to obey in silent, ignorant submission the absurd decree of Authority, OR to reach beyond, to transcend, to question and search and yearn for More, for the possibilities that exist outside the garden wall, outside the Known that we call Status-Quo.

Woman sought the light of knowledge. In the quiet of her questioning mind was born the possibility of change, reform, and revolution that has characterized humanity’s unending progression towards tolerance, peace and freedom. By her act of transgression, she gave birth to human life outside the paradisiacal prison of Eden, and to the search for understanding that illuminates the human mind as well as the human soul.

Eden, after all, must be understood as a state of mind, a place whose unfathomable beauty and pleasure conceals a darkness within; a narrowed view of existence that not only rejects change, but refuses even to acknowledge the mind that seeks to rethink and redefine. Woman with her apple broke the chains of that tyranny and so, as Genesis tells us, came to be called Eve, “Mother of the Living.”

And let me just be clear: the Bible calls Woman “Eve” only after she has eaten the apple and been banished – with Adam – from the garden. Only then is humanity – the “living” – really born.

So forget the patriarchy’s bullshit about temptation and weakness, evil and the culpability of the female. The story is right there and none of that is in it. Instead, imagine yourself as this woman, longing to understand herself and her world. And then remember that we must continue – every human – to eat that apple because Eden always manages to creep back up on us and the act of looking outside, of remembering that other possibilities exist when the world closes down and refuses to answer our questions, is in fact the only thing that keeps us human.

Feminism and Pam Beesly

by Josh Franklin

I've been thinking a lot about how 'feminist' has become such a feared label. I have always considered myself a feminist, maybe without really considering exactly what that meant. But as I've talked to my friends about writing for this blog, a great number of women have been confused or even dismayed about my feminism. So I've been trying to articulate my own vision of feminism and figure out exactly what about it is so unappealing to my friends.

I love The Office, and I was surprised to read feminists complaining about the turns that the show has been taking. The show did indeed reveal the absurdity of sexism in a dramatic and hilarious way with Michael Scott's antics, and some of that has changed and mellowed. Michael is a much more sympathetic character once new dimensions of his sad saga with Jan are revealed. Jan has become a much more problematic character in terms of feminism after her collapse during the "Dinner Party" episode. But the most interesting new development in The Office is Jim and Pam's blossoming romance, and now engagement. Their relationship is indeed somewhat traditional, and seems to cling closely to stereotypical gender relations.

But what I want to ask is: what do Jim and Pam mean for feminism? Despite the gender stereotypes, their relationship is a fairly good model. Pam does indeed inhabit a traditional female role in the relationship, but she does so consciously. Her relationship with Jim is meaningful and fulfilling, as is the career in graphic design that she pursues in New York.

I have no great love for traditional relationships and stereotypical gender roles, for a variety of personal and philosophical reasons. But for better or worse, Jim and Pam are the characters that my peers seem to identify with. I have always believed that a fundamental part of respecting women is respecting women like Pam. And I feel that amongst my friends with whom Jim and Pam's love resonates so strongly, there is a feeling of alienation; they seem to feel that their lifestyle and values are devalued next to a shiny sexual progressivism.

Despite my personal dislike for them, I believe that traditional forms of gender relations are not necessarily bad. The challenge for a feminist approach to our culture is to figure out how to tell the good from the bad--for there is certainly far too much unhealthy sexism and gendered interaction. So my question to feminists is: am I missing the point? How can I work against the deep injustices that gender can do to us all while still accepting the values of my friends?

Winter sports finally include gratuitous nudity!

By Chloe Angyal

Thank goodness for Burton Snowboards, who have found a way to solve the lack-of-nudity problem you see in so many cold weather sports. Burton have teamed up with Playboy to create these super-classy snowboards.

You'll never be bored on the chairlift again! The website advertises - without a hint of irony - that the boards are "available in silicone and non-silicone versions." Just like naked women! Thanks to Amada for the heads up.

The -ism burden

By Chloe Angyal

Claire Taylor has this fantastic article at, about what it means to be a "good" feminist:

"I am proud to call myself a feminist. While not immune to ideological extremes (i.e. the near-mythologized “feminazi”), feminism, at its base, recognizes the gender inequality inherent in our society, culture and politics and aims to correct this imbalance by advocating for women’s rights throughout the world and rejecting systems and products that perpetuate women’s subservience. It is an admirable endeavor and one that I’m happy to be a part of, but at times it’s a burden."

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Unfeministing America: The Palin Problem

by Elizabeth Winkler

Sarah Palin has come to embody everything that makes me want to prepare for the final interment of feminism. Or, to take the cynicism further, makes me wonder if I missed the wake, but at least she’s here – hurray! – to remind us of its sad occurrence. The figure now hailed as the triumphant embodiment of modern womanhood has assumed a leading position in an undeniably anti-woman campaign, and though her speech may have aroused and espoused superficially feminist passions, its underlying implications and the importance placed on her “traditional – even sexualized – mom” image underscores the reality that feminism has yet to meet Sarah Palin.

I don’t think there is any question among feminists that a woman who advocates sex-only abstinence education and is unsupportive – to put it lightly – of the right to birth control and abortion can ever be construed as a champion of women’s rights. What should perhaps be noted, though, is the brilliant move the GOP (arguably America’s greatest old boys’ club) made in putting a woman at the head of a ticket that would hinder and even reverse the progress of the women’s movement. To have a member of the oppressed supporting the oppression of her own constituency is among the most strategic power plays that could have been executed.

Unfortunately, few Americans seem to recognize that Palin was rather transparently used as a woman, and a young one at that, to counter-act the exciting and seemingly revolutionary image embodied in Obama. She hardly earned her position, as her lack of experience demonstrates, but was placed in the position she now holds by the good graces of McCain and his strategists, an embodiment of traditional patriarchy if I ever saw one.

Moreover, her appearance and body language at the convention (and throughout the campaign) seemed to place enormous emphasis on her femininity, suggesting that it’s acceptable for a woman to hold the vice-presidency as long as she does not compromise any aspects of traditional womanhood. She doesn’t wear Hillary’s ridiculed pants suits, but shows off those sexy legs in short skirts and high heels instead.

Fondly dubbed a “MILF,” she loves talking about her lipstick and she cannot seem to extricate her identity from that of mother and wife: a substantial amount of her speech was spent introducing her family (and even affirming the masculinity of her husband), and associating her political and social policies to her children (for instance, the special-needs infant and the nineteen-year-old army enlistee). At the end of the speech, she accepted the applause with her infant in her arms.

Somehow it seems predictable now that the first female candidate for the vice-presidency would conform to all these traditional roles as though to assure social conservatives that she poses no real threat. Moreover, we find her on a Republican ticket espousing status quo and even reactionary values: she’s a woman but the radicalism stops there, so don’t worry: nothing will change too much!

But perhaps the worse element of this entire charade is the fact that women, regardless of their political, social or economic concerns, have shown themselves willing to vote for Palin simply for the gratification of seeing a female flitting so near the Oval Office. Not only does this demonstrate a widespread ignorance about the values of feminism and female empowerment (few of which Palin actually espouses policy-wise), but it also affirms America’s disappointing tendency towards identity politics.

Moreover, such a move raises the possibility of reverse sexism. Are we any better than our male counterparts if we vote for a woman simply because she is a woman? Our aim should not be to play catch-up with the boys’ club, feminist action reducing itself to male-oriented re-action. In electing Sarah Palin to the vice-presidency, and even in celebrating her candidacy, the potential for meaningful feminist discourse is displaced by the illusion that the success of a one pro-life hockey mom actually typifies the triumph of an era.

If – in the image of Palin assuming the podium at the convention – we are to understand (as her “we shattered the glass ceiling” hooray suggested) that women have made a great breakthrough and will solidify that breakthrough in her election, then the scope and depth of the feminist agenda will be hopelessly trivialized. Or, if Palin is making the argument – and Americans already believe – that she represents the New Woman of the twenty-first century, then the damage has, arguably, already been done. It just took the ascendancy of Governor Mom to highlight it.

The Office Hoes of Princeton

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

Women had the right to vote for fifty years before Princeton admitted them. It was just sixteen years ago that the eating clubs became fully coed. Men still comprise 75 percent of USG officers and the eating club leadership contains a disproportionate number of Y chromosomes. And then there are the “CEOs and Office Hoes” parties, which, well, I think you can imagine.

These are facts which my Princeton tour guide didn’t think to include. Just about a year ago, I was embarking on a journey to the Shenandoah Mountains with my Outdoor Action group. On the bus, I engaged in only slightly stilted conversation with my seatmate, filled with excitement for my new world.

The bus broke down in West Virginia, and the conversation ran thin. My seatmate began to comment upon the film which was playing above our heads.

That bitch,” my classmate said, distinguishing one “bitch” from the many, “never takes her shirt off. She’s supposed to work at Hooters! What is that?” He glanced over at me, apparently expecting a similar opinion on the cinematic masterpiece which is Big Daddy.

I was offended, but said nothing. I was afraid of being pegged as “militant” and “obnoxious”, words which have dogged feminists since the movement’s inception. But after spending several days in the woods with my group, I confronted him about it. He laughed at me. “Loosen up,” he said. “I didn’t know you were such a feminist.”

I suffered a shock which the women who lead the feminist movement experience on a daily basis. During my summer internship with the National Organization for Women, I received dozens of emails a day from concerned members of the movement, chronicling erosions in the right to abortion and birth control, fair pay and medically accurate sex education.

“I thought women knew better than to listen to these people,” one of the public policy experts said during a meeting, referring to the surprising power of the American Life League, an organization which promulgates the scientifically dubious theory that the birth control pill is, in fact, an abortion.

So did I.

But, to most women, feminism is dead. And even the most dedicated of young feminists are subject to the legacy of confusion and shame which accompanied the feminist backlash. Throughout my internship, I was alarmed to discover my desire to remain aloof from the traditional feminist movement. I met a woman at a conference who told me that third-wave feminists had split away from their older “sisters” (a phrase which, when applied to fellow feminists, made me cringe, and then wonder why).

My confusion and much of my shame boil down to the simple fact that many feminists have begun to fear that they are unfeminine, unattractive, castrating lesbians. I am a feminist, but for me, equality is not a question of throwing away my makeup. Some women possess this capability, but others struggle to decide whether they are trying to be attractive for their boyfriends or themselves, and find that the answer is tangled in shame from both sides.

As a feminist, I feel that I am a failure for conforming to a beauty industry which exploits my insecurities, and responding to male expectations which have for centuries kept women prisoner. But because the desire for attractiveness is natural, I also castigate myself for rejecting parts of my femininity. There is a difference between wanting to be Miss America, and wanting to wear a little eyeliner or shave your legs.

We all need to think harder about these issues, because regardless of what, as the former eBay CEO, (Princeton’s own) Meg Whitman means in terms of female progress, the fact remains that she was briefly up for consideration as the vice president for John McCain, a candidate whose reproductive policies were described by pro-life women as “unrealistic,” “out of touch” and “stuck in the past.”

It is hard for me to accept that a woman who has broken so many glass ceilings could be the willing confederate of a man who is staunchly opposed to laws which dictate equal pay, or that millions of women will vote for him, despite the fact that he wants to legislate away their reproductive freedom. But I am beginning to realize that the women’s movement is so strongly individualized that it will require more than an equal rights amendment to change the way that women think.

For now, I am trying to reconsider my anger, because I have realized that the battle is as much in my own mind as in Congress or a frat house. But that doesn’t mean that I will stop struggling to help women understand that dressing up as an “Office Hoe” is as blatantly conforming to patriarchal desires as if they were scrubbing their boyfriend’s floor.

Tokenism and the GOP ticket

By Chloe Angyal

Back in June when Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign came to an end, my women friends and I were disappointed that such an historic campaign hadn’t ended in victory. We all agreed that it would have been a remarkable step forward for women, for this country and for the world if Clinton had been chosen as the Democratic nominee for President.

We were disappointed to see Clinton’s campaign end, but we were thrilled that she had gotten so far. We were thrilled that she had put up the tough fight she did, that she had proven herself so capable and that she had left the door to the Oval Office ajar for women. “Now”, we thought, “we just have to wait a little longer for another woman to come along and throw that door wide open.”

But three months later, and having a woman in the Oval Office is starting to look like a terrible idea. Not because there are no women who are qualified to hold the office, but because the woman now closest to doing so is so woefully unqualified.

Research into tokenism - being the only member of a minority group in an arena traditionally dominated by another group, like being a woman in politics, or a Jamaican in bobsledding - reveals two consistent phenomena. The first is that members of the majority group assume that the token will conform to all of the stereotypes they hold about the minority group.

In an extreme example, men politicians might expect the few women they come across in politics to be weepy, manipulative and incompetent – all stereotypes our culture tends to hold about women.

Secondly, based on their experiences with the token, the majority members generalizes about others member of the minority group in the same arena.
As a result, when you’re going to be the first minority to do something, or when you’re one of the only minorities in a given field, the burden you carry is huge. Not only do you have to fight what are usually negative stereotypes about your minority group, you are also charged with the responsibility of establishing expectations for how well all subsequent members of your group will do in that same field.

Is this fair? Of course not. Is it an unfortunate reality? Absolutely.

Sarah Palin has revealed herself to be unqualified in a way that is now beyond parody (although the parodies are hilarious, if a little depressing). If a man running for Vice President couldn’t name a single Supreme Court Case other than Roe v. Wade, or couldn’t name even one news publication he frequently read, or couldn’t summarize the foreign policy doctrine established by his party’s current Presidential administration (“in what respect, Charlie?”), he’d be laughed off the ticket.

The fact that some people within the Republican Party are now calling for McCain to drop Palin from his ticket is an indication of how dire the situation is, and it makes the future for women in politics look very dim indeed. In June, it was possible to believe that people would look at a woman running for office and say, “Hillary Clinton did it, and so can she.” Now they’ll say, “Sarah Palin couldn’t do it, and neither can she.”

As a proud Obama supporter, and a firm believer that Sarah Palin is almost comically underqualified to be the Vice President of the United States, I don’t want the McCain-Palin ticket to win in November. I do, however want Palin to hold her own in Thursday’s debate, and for the rest of the campaign, so as not to wreck the chances of a woman - a qualified woman - ever making it to the Oval Office.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Running out of digits

By Chloe Angyal
Looking back on a conversation with a very dear friend this weekend, I came to a jarring realization: I can no longer count on one hand the number of people in my life who are survivors of sexual assault.

The oft-reported 1-in-4 statistic for college campuses has caused a good deal of controversy, and I can’t say with any certainty how accurate it is. But I am certain that the number of people in my life who have been sexually assaulted is unacceptable to me, as it should be to everyone.

A realization like the one I had this weekend might have been easier to dismiss if I were surveying a large network of friends and friends-of-friends, but I’m not.

These aren’t acquaintances; they’re close friends, roommates, family members and confidantes. These aren’t promiscuous people; they’re smart, sensible, responsible and respectable people who are survivors of the ultimate violation, and my own personal worst fear. They certainly aren’t all women; sexual assault happens to men, too.

And they aren’t unusual in any way; except for their remarkable strength of character, they are ordinary people. They are people you know, and they are everywhere.
Sexual assault isn’t a one-off occurrence and it isn’t “something that happens, but not here.” It happens here, it happens often and it happens to people who you – yes, you - know and love.
It’s time to do something about sexual assault before we all run out of fingers to count on.

If you or someone you know are a survivor of sexual assault, the following resources are available on campus:
Counselling and Psychological Services (3rd floor of McCosh)

And off campus:
RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

WSJ's "Juggle" blog asks the tough questions

By Chloe Angyal

Over the summer I became a huge fan of the Wall Street Journal's "Juggle" blog - I was working at a company that did a lot of research on work-life balance, and "Juggle" is about just that. They also discuss parenting and frequently tackle issues around women in the workforce.
Earlier this month (I'm slow on the uptake here, but better late than never, right?), they asked, "Should you give your daughter the HPV vaccine?" and more recently, they've tackled the issue of reproductive rights in a way we don't usually see it discussed: "Does everyone have the right to have a baby?".

Check out Juggle. It's less depressing than reading about the stock market.

Feminism Down Under (no pun intended)

By Chloe Angyal

Today in Australia's major daily paper, The Sydney Morning Herald, founding editor of lip magazine Rachel Funari has a column about feminism and the "hairy-legged lesbian" stereotype.

Responding to a new book The Great Feminist Denial, by Monica Dux and Zora Simic, both Australians, Funari argues that the "radical" side of the movement, which so many women shun these days ("oh, I'm not that kind of feminist!") is essential to the movement's success.
The "great feminist denial", in Dux and Simic's eyes, is the movement's reluctance toward and sometimes rejection of motherhood, despite women's biological urges and imperatives to have children. Dux and Simic's book, according to it's promotional material, grapples with feminism's radical, childless past, as well as its less "attractive" parts (hairy legs and lesbianism) and declares them irrelevant, and a hindrance to the success of the movement:

"Dux and Simic argue that, ultimately, feminism is still necessary for everyday life. Even the most cursory glimpse at the social and cultural landscape suggests an urgent need for a politics that identifies inequalities, differences and strengths specific to women as a sex [i.e. popping out babies]...
...The Great Feminist Denial puts an ailing feminist past to rest, and proposes a way forward that offers young women of today a new way of calling themselves feminists [by...not calling themselves feminist?]."

That way forward apparently doesn't sit well with Funari, who sees it as creating a kind of "mummy track" feminism, which removes from the movement all the allegedly "unattractive" (but effective) parts, watering it down to make it more palatable for mainstream men and women. She counters:

"Feminists should fight the hairy-legged lesbian stereotype because it alienates the young ones, says The Great Feminist Denial. I say the problem with Australian feminism* is not hairy lesbians, but the movement's penchant for replacing them with suburban mums...

...Ditching the hairy-legged lesbian not only capitulates to a culture that requires the traditional family unit to uphold the inequalities of contemporary capitalism, but it also ditches a core message of feminism, that a woman's value should not be in her beauty, proscribed femininity or heterosexual availability."
Firstly, I'm pleasantly surprised to find that a book on feminism has hit mainstream shelves at all, and I'm delighted to see a public dialogue about it in the pages of a well-circulated paper. Secondly, I would encourage you to pass no judgment on what Dux and Simic have to say until you've read the book yourself in its entirety- I'm certainly not going to try to (OK, I will a little bit, only because the whole argument that feminists eschew motherhood really annoy me). But their brand of feminism might just be the brand that works for you. Remember, it's a big tent.
And finally, because I lean a little further to the radical side than Dux and Simic seem to, I leave you with Funari's closing argument:

"Mothers Monica Dux, Catherine Deveney and Anne Manne recently appeared together for a bookshop seminar. They drew about a hundred people.
Witty, loud, unmarried, childless and now elderly, Germaine Greer packs out 2000-seat theatres. Perhaps the radical feminists still have it."

*I would argue that this statement also applies to North American feminism, which has come to embrace anything that women "choose" as "feminism". Did you "choose" to stay home after your kids were born, or are you paid less for your work, making it illogical for your husband to stay at home? Did you "choose" to put on makeup this morning, or have you been told your whole life that women are less acceptable and attractive without makeup?

Really, NYT? Her Glasses?

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I am very disappointed in the New York Times. Not only do they continue to publish Maureen Dowd, whose uncensored snark makes me crazy every Sunday and Wednesday, but now this? Let me say this just once, because I'm not going to again: there are SO MANY ways to define a candidate without turning to her eyewear, or what dress his wife wears on "The View". But I suppose it has only been a few months since political commentators were treating Hillary Clinton's cleavage as if it were a questionable component of her foreign policy platform, so I shouldn't be surprised. Thanks to Peale for sending me this!