Friday, October 10, 2008

The candidates on sex education

RH Reality Check has an interesting article on the candidates' stances on Sex Education:

Obama: "Keep in mind: I honor and respect young people who choose to delay sexual activity. I've got two daughters, and I want them to understand that sex is not something casual. That's something that we definitely want to communicate and should be part of any curriculum. But we also know that when the statistics tell us that nearly half of 15 to 19 year olds are engaging in sexual activity, that for us to leave them in ignorance is potentially consigning them to illness, pregnancy, poverty, and in some cases, death."

McCain: "A search of McCain's campaign website for the terms "sex education" and even "sex" yielded zero results. But the Republican platform calls for a replacement of all family planning programs for teens with abstinence-only programs."

Feminism in the media: NPR, WSJ and the Prince

Check out these two articles, from NPR and the WSJ respectively, on feminism's many different iterations.
NPR has a an interview with Ronnee Schrieber, author of Righting Feminism, and the WSJ has an article that argues that women who choose to stay at home don't suffer any loss of power in their marriages.
Finally, Walter Keith Griffin, he of the ever-changing moniker, has a column in the Prince today about feminism and Palin:
"With a candidacy like Palin's, which means a woman has come closer than any other since Geraldine Ferraro to the highest reaches of our government, one could point out how far we have progressed as a nation. But the nature of Palin's performance showed me that if she were to ever become president, it would be the worst setback for women in at least my lifetime."
Read the rest here. And now, let the bitchy anonymous commenting begin!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Joe Biden - the real women's candidate

By Chloe Angyal

I really should have put "women's candidate" in inverted commas because the phrase annoys me to no end, as though women do, or should, care about different issues to men. The economy, education, healthcare, foreign policy, energy, reproductive rights, yes, even that last one, are issues for everyone to care about - they affect everyone, regardless of gender.
The idea that women care, or should care, more or less about certain issues than men do has given rise to ridiculous attempts to woo women voters (see "Palin, Sarah"), and only feeds the idea that women vote with their babymakers and not with their brains (yeah that's right, I said "babymaker").

But punctuation and semantics aside, Morra Aarons-Mele at The Guardian thinks that Joe Biden is the real "women's candidate":
"I want to give some love to Joe Biden, and to strongly urge undecided women to consider that a vote for him is a vote for their best interests. Like Hillary Clinton, Biden supported the Iraq war and is far more corporation-friendly than Barack Obama, which makes a lot of progressives dislike him. But in the year of the prized woman voter, Biden is a strongly pro-woman candidate."
Read the rest here.

Sidenote, I found this photo and I think it's hilarious. And I'm so glad I found an appropriate post for it.

Paid maternity leave - insights from Down Under

By Chloe Angyal

Emma Tom, of The Australian, on why paid maternity leave is a good idea:
Critics of paid maternity leave have two main arguments. The first concerns the historical stoicism of mothers. "Your mum and mum's mum did OK without paid maternity leave," they say. "Why should you be any different?"

This is a fantastically slapstick course of reasoning because it rests entirely on the assumption that something is OK because it happened before. Here are a few other things that have happened before:
* Up to one-third of women dying during childbirth (Europe and North America in the 1800s).
* Attempts to ban labour pain analgesics because they were regarded as decoys of Satan (Europe in the 19th century).
* The expectation that little women greet their husbands in a state of perfectly ironed obedience before arranging pillows, removing shoes and not speaking unless spoken to (the good wife guide in the May 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly).

Read the rest here.

Dinky but dead on

Check out this video about abstinence-only sex education from RH Reality Check (an excellent resource, by the way).

The video covers the main arguments for and against abstinence-only and comprehensive sex ed, and it's super dinky, but it's also clear, concise and dead on.

Goings on around campus

There's so much going on campus that most of us don't have time to sleep. But if you're one of those people with impeccable time management skills, you'll have time to go to all of the following events. If you're not one of those people, join the club, and here are a few more things to distract you from that paper you need to write:

On Friday (10/10), Amnesty International Princeton is having a pizza and movie night, screening Te Doy Mis Ojos (Take My Eyes), 8pm in Frist 302.

Winner of seven Goya Awards (the Spanish Oscar), amongst others for Best Film, Best Actor and Best Actress, the film is the story of Pilar, a young Spanish mother, who runs from her abusive husband. Her journey is undoubtedly one that many women have faced, and illustrates the complexities of an abusive relationship, both for men and women.
In Europe, domestic violence is the major cause of death and disability for women aged 16 to 44. This year in Spain alone, 75 women have been violently killed by their ex-partners. But the experience or threat of violence affects the lives of women everywhere, cutting across boundaries of wealth, race and culture.

Next Wednesday (10/15) at 4:30pm, Mayra Buvinic, Sector Director of the Gender and Development Group, Poverty Reduction Economic Management (PREM) Network, at the World Bank, will be giving a lecture titled “Equality for Women: Where Do We Stand?”

The lecture is in Bowl 016, Robertson Hall and a dinner will be held at 6:00 p.m. at Prospect House in room G. Dinner sign-up is outside room 209.
Buvinic, a Chilean national and internationally respected expert on gender and social development, is the Bank's senior spokesperson on gender and development issues.
Before joining the Bank in 2005, she was Chief of the Social Development Division at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the IDB's Special Advisor on Violence Prevention. Buvinic has published extensively in the areas of poverty and gender, employment promotion, small enterprise development, and reproductive health.

Next Wednesday is also Love Your Body Day!
Created by the NOW Foundation, Love Your Body Day is about loving your body with all its "flaws", "imperfections" and all those other myths the cosmetic companies try to make us worry about.Come see your friendly Eating Concerns Advisers (including Equal Writers Elizabeth and Chloe) at Frist during the day. Tell us what you love about YOUR body, pick up a free "Love Your Body" pin and some candy and find out about Eating Disorders resources on campus.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Who Does She Think She Is?

In a half-changed world, women feel they need to choose: mothering or working? Your children's well-being or your own? Responsibility or self-expression? Who Does She Think She Is, a documentary by Academy Award-winning Pamela Tanner Boll, features five fierce women who refuse to choose.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? The film is about five women - artists, actresses, sculptors, etc - and how they balance their creative work with the rest of their lives.
Who Does She Think She Is is playing a limited engagement at the Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston St, starting October 17th.

Sarah McLachlan on being "the face of modern feminism"

By Chloe Angyal

Singer Sarah McLachlan was interviewed by AOL music this week, and was asked, years after she started the all-women music festival Lilith Fair, how she responds to claims that feminism is outdated. She responds like this:

"Oh, I highly disagree with that [laughs]. We still don't have job equality, we still don't have equal pay. There's discrimination everywhere. I saw it was a daunting task being the new face of feminism, but at the same time I recognized the weight and the gravity of it. I was trying to uphold what I thought feminism was as best I could by supporting women, by trying to create an opportunity to get women to get together, play music together and celebrate the fact that we are having great success making music on our own and together."

Check out the rest of the interview, including what McLachlan has to say about raising feminist daughters here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Let's jump on the euphemism train to sh*t town!"

By Chloe Angyal
Sarah Haskins, please be my friend.
If you haven't fallen in love with feminist comedienne Sarah Haskins yet, you need to get on that, stat.
Haskins' "Target Women" segment on's Infomania is the highlight of my week. Check out the latest one, about ads for "fibre supplements," here.

Word, Maureen

By Chloe Angyal

I rarely say this after reading a Maureen Dowd column, but word. Also, amen and ditto.
Dowd had a great column this Sunday about Palin's perplexing syntax, in which she also asks,

"We could, following her strenuously folksy debate performance, wonder when elite became a bad thing in America. Navy Seals are elite, and they get lots of training so they can swim underwater and invade a foreign country, but if you’re governing the country that dispatches the Seals, it’s not O.K. to be elite? Can likable still trump knowledgeable at such a vulnerable crossroads for the country?"
Word, MDo. Word.
Thanks to Sylvia for the tip!

You're Doing What NOW???

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

The members of the National Organization for Women will never cease to amaze me. I admire the organization as a whole (and having given most of my summer to their office for free, I mean that) but individual members seem to feel an obligation to make the organization look ridiculous at least twice a year. Really, I can't think of a better way to undermine a group which is completely vital, but which is still struggling to stay relevant. After the Ted Kennedy debacle in January, when the president of New York NOW blasted Kennedy for his endorsement of Barack Obama, accusing him of "conveniently forgetting to mention women and children when [he talks] about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever," despite the fact that Kennedy has always been a strong advocate of women's rights in Congress.

NOW was quick to disown the accusation. And they were equally swift to back away from the newest renegade, the president of L.A. NOW, Shelly Mandell, who recently introduced Sarah Palin at a rally, saying, "I'm a life-long Democrat ... I don't agree with Gov. Palin on several issues…I know Sarah Palin cares about women’s rights, she cares about equality, she cares about equal pay, and as Vice President she will fight for it."

The blogosphere was thrown into chaos. Apparently Mandell was speaking for herself as an individual, but she didn't hide her affiliation with NOW, and made no mention of the fact that both her state and parent organization have endorsed Barack Obama. And really, what on earth was she thinking? How can Sarah Palin fight for equal pay in Washington when her running mate has already expressed his opposition to a recent fair pay act? NOW is right to be outraged at the use of its name in conjunction with a woman who represents the antithesis of all that it stands for.

A statement came out later in the day, from California NOW president Patty Bellasalma. "The use of Shelly Mandell’s Los Angeles NOW title was apparently intended to mislead the public," Bellasalma said, "and indeed has resulted in local television outlets and internet reports misstating that LA NOW has 'endorsed' Sarah Palin or that she has a record of supporting women’s rights. This in fact is not the case. I can assure you that there is no local or state affiliate of NOW, including LA NOW, which endorses or supports the McCain/Palin ticket.

But the whole situation is transparent, and appalling. American women need to be given more credit - and politicians need to recognize that feminists can think for themselves, and will not blindly swing toward a ticket that will take away their rights, even if NOW says so.

Vintage Daily Princetonian feminism

By Chloe Angyal

OK, so 2001 isn't exactly "vintage."
But check out this 2001 Prince column by Julie Strauss, a WWS major, about the founding of Princeton's Organization of Women Leaders (OWL):
"Anyone who has studied the roots and history of the feminist movement, both within the United States and internationally, can tell you that the movement has always been characterized by division and disagreement. From voting rights to reproductive rights to the Equal Rights Amendment, women who self-identify as feminists have been on both sides of nearly every debate. Since 1920, there has never been a female voting bloc. Feminism at Princeton is no different."
Thanks to Matt for the tip!

Women around the world weigh in on Palin

By Chloe Angyal
Last week, Australian women political leaders were asked if Sarah Palin's candidacy would help or hinder the cause of getting more women into Australian Parliament:
"In Australia, with Labor's win, Julia Gillard became the country's first female deputy PM. Bronwyn Bishop was elected the Federal Coalition's first woman deputy leader and, under Malcolm Turnbull, is now the first female shadow treasurer, putting her in the firing line (whether to shoot or be shot at) in the big economic debates that will dominate coming months."
Read what Gillard, Bishop and other Australian leaders had to say here.
Feminists in France, arguably the birthplace of modern feminist theory, have also weighed in. Feminist theory rockstar Julia Kristeva wrote, "The exhibition of this fundamentalist version of femininity and maternity in the American presidential election concerns all of us." Marie-Francoise Colombani of Elle, "the thinking Parisienne's fashion weekly" (a slight contradiction in terms, but anyway), adding that "worst enemy of woman is often a woman."
Check out what else French women have to say about Palin here. (And yeah, yeah, I know they don't vote, but America's global reputation and prestige are important issues in this election.)

The Liberation Lie: Female Sexuality in the Mass Media

by Elizabeth Winkler

Last weekend in NYC, I was overwhelmed by the enormous (say, 50 x 50 ft), looming billboard of a naked Eva Mendes, seductively poised above the heads of pedestrians. Her body was strategically positioned so as not to be dubbed "full frontal nudity," and yet the picture was as close to mainstream, public pornography as I have ever seen. Outrage, of course, is to be expected: the utter sexualization of the female body and its manipulation as 'object' of the male gaze has come to dominate mass media. It isn't the hushed secret of Victorian England or Puritan Massachusetts but instead is loudly proclaimed in public venues of every sort.

On the surface, the apparent 'progress' in the discussion and exhibition of the female body might be equated to "liberation." At last, one exclaims, women have been freed from the shackles of corsets and aprons and the debilitating, double-standard emphasis on chastity! This easy conclusion, however, simplifies the deeply-nuanced position of female sexuality in our society, and distorts the reality of female objectification, which is, arguably, exactly what such billboards intend to do. Liberation is in fact a falsified notion. Here is why:

When female sexuality is displayed in the media, it is invariably manipulated for a consumerist agenda. (In Eva Mendes' case, to advertise perfume.) In its association with objects of consumption, the female body, too, becomes a product to be consumed, both visually, by passersby and spectators, and socially whenever women's bodies are treated as objects to be judged and exploited. And let's remember: the moment a human body becomes an object, it becomes less than human, particularly when the focus is directed on certain parts of the body. Such a move strips the body of its human context; a body part, after all, is not a full human.

Just think: it is in advertising -- and advertising almost exclusively -- that aggressive, effectively pornographic, displays of sexuality are deemed normative. In other venues, the body is far from liberated, but can in fact be arrested under claims of indecent exposure. Mothers, for instance, are legally banned from breast-feeding in public venues, though a woman nursing her infant is, by all accounts, far less offensive than the naked images that uncompromisingly bombard us in magazines, television ads and billboards when we're walking casually down the street, minding our own business.

If anything, it should be noted that the means of objectification and oppression have become increasingly subtle and perverse in the modern era. Feminist discourse and a twentieth-century understanding of gender equality has forced the de-humanizing of women into these elusive, ever more indefinable venues. As the subjugation of women and women's bodies becomes even more difficult to locate and describe then, liberation and equality find themselves even further endangered. After all, what inequality and inhumanity could possibly be more sinister than the one that masquerades as physical and psychological freedom? It is this threat that we must be particularly attuned to in a society that professes full equality but still fails to realize it.

Resex Me Here: The New Female Politician

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

The latest Bloggingheads video features two of my favorite feminist bloggers & commentators, Megan Carpentier of Jezebel and Rebecca Traister of Salon, discussing a paradox which has tied my feminist values up in knots: Sarah Palin's use of her femininity, and how far it should go.

On the one hand, we are moving into a welcome era, one where female politicians don't have to disguise their femininity to be perceived as powerful. The fact that Sarah Palin can bring her infant onstage after a vice presidential debate is a victory for women, no matter what Palin herself symbolizes. This follows a decade where we have seen two female secretaries of state, one who was forced to play up her "war-hawk" tendencies (read: masculinity), and one who is a decidedly feminine, yet powerful, figure. This change is occurring not just between Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice; Nancy Pelosi is another example of a woman who can take pride in her physical appearance without sacrificing her authority. We are far from 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro was asked whether she thought that the Soviet Union would take the United States less seriously if it had a female vice president - an era when women had, literally, to "unsex" themselves to be perceived as valid authority figures.

But at the same time, I cringe with every wink and flip of Sarah Palin's hair. She has taken her femininity to an extreme; it has replaced her qualifications as a politician. Although she is, arguably, a powerful woman, any authority that "Sarah Barracuda" once possessed has been buried under an avalanche of cute, empty phrases. Because this is a job for which she is not prepared, she is trying to flirt her way into office. All she is giving us to talk about is her physical appearance, because her policies are literally skin deep.

So if, in the future, feminine politicians are not taken seriously, I will blame Sarah Palin, for undoing the work of a decade, and encouraging the pundits who only a few months ago were treating Hillary Clinton's cleavage as an issue on par with John McCain's knowledge of the economy.

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Average", "regular", "ordinary", and other things a President shouldn't be

By Chloe Angyal

Tonight I was checking the tour dates for my favourite country music singer (Tim McGraw, in case you’re wondering), when I came across a story about Toby Keith, the outspoken pro-Iraq country star who’s known for his jingoistic lyrics (“We’ll put a boot in your ass/It’s the American way”) and refusal to even speak about The Dixie Chicks after their criticism of President Bush in 2003.

Keith has recently registered as an independent, and while he claims that he has no intention of voting Republican in November, he predicts a sound victory for the McCain-Palin ticket. This is what he had to say about Republican VP nominee Governor Palin*:

“Palin's about the least political-looking, acting, resembling person that's ever run for office. You look at her: All the housewives are gonna love her. All the women in America can relate to everything she's done. She's real normal. Her kid is pregnant, she hunts, she snowmobiles, she's backwoods. I just think a lot of women are going to appreciate her and feel that they have to vote for her.”

Toby Keith believes that every woman in America can relate to Sarah Palin and to everything she’s done. Personally, I find it hard to relate to making women pay for their own rape kits, and I know I’m not alone there.

And I think what Keith means when he says “everything she’s done” he means “all the reproductive organs she has.” The fact that I’m of the same gender (or religion, race or ethnic group) as a candidate doesn’t guarantee that I’ll vote for him or her (and Governor Palin, I don't believe there's a "place in hell" reserved for me for holding that view). Because those things shouldn’t matter; what should matter, what makes someone qualified for a job this important, are abilities, policies, experience and knowledge. If someone is the least political-looking person to ever run for office, isn’t it possible that they’re also the least politically-suited person to ever run for office?

And in case Keith really meant what he said, and wasn’t assuming that women will vote for a woman on the basis of her sex, regardless of her qualifications or lack thereof:

Enough of this “real normal” crap. Unless you think you’re qualified to be Vice President (or President, for that matter), why this need to vote for someone who’s just like you? Shouldn’t we want our leaders to be extraordinary, instead of “average” and ordinary?
Why does it matter if you can relate to your President as long as he or she gets the job done and gets it done well?

A candidate can share your values and believe in the things you believe in without being your next door neighbour or the head of your local PTA. Your next door neighbours and the head of your local PTA – bless their hearts, as Sarah Palin might say – aren’t qualified to be Commander in Chief. Those people understand us and are people we can relate to because their perspectives are local and specific to our needs. But it takes more than simply sharing your values to make someone a good national leader. It takes knowledge, and a firm grasp of the issues, and above all, a worldview that’s larger than local.

Joe Sixpack, the guy you really don’t want running the country.

*Why do I care what country singer Toby Keith has to say about the election? Good question. It’s often claimed that country music is the music of the average person, of the average American, of the mythical “Joe Sixpack” Sarah Palin keeps talking about. If that’s the case, then the views of that genre’s most politically engaged singer are worth listening to. Ya dig?