Propositions 8 and K
by Jordan Bubin
Not as fun news, too—apparently, Proposition K was defeated in
Read. Reflect. React.
by Jordan Bubin
Not as fun news, too—apparently, Proposition K was defeated in
By Chris Moses
Just over two hundred years after the young states of
The legacy of America's great founders—the office made by Washington and Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln—has passed from slave holders to a man whose color once marked the lowest of laborers, those un-free and without liberty. Great struggles and tremendous sacrifices proceeded this day, two centuries riven by bloody Civil War and bold campaigns for civil rights. Yet today like no other day all Americans can quote their future President and say 'yes we can': every parent can look their children in the eye and say with honesty and against all odds, 'work hard and you can do whatever you want.'
Barack Obama's victory has made history. So too has history made his victory—and this unyielding stream of time defines as much American accomplishment as it does the contradictions and enduring challenges that create the perennial opportunity for such triumph. One man has done the impossible and given tremendous hope to those burdened by despair. Still though a chorus wide and deep sings in low baritone, 'we shall overcome.' The millions in poverty; the young people who make their way, hungry, to unsafe schools; the parents and grandparents who have worked their entire lives and now suffer ill health without insurance or accessible, affordable care; these Americans woke up this morning no different than when they went to bed.
Such a dramatic instance of progress brings with it the renewed need for vigilance and the recognition that correcting for past wrongs may renew opportunity in the present but it does not ensure justice for the future. Nor can one vote for domestic tranquility ease the fear and suffering of those beyond
The power of black and white united in a more equal
Black and white balances a great deal of history though together they do not account for the truly stunning diversity of this country. Discrimination knows far more than two colors.
Rapid contempt for immigration and an opposition to living bilingually with Spanish—the language of those who first settled a great deal of what is now the
Color and class too balance a great deal of history though they do not account for the great inequities that remain between male and female nor can they efface the enduring scorn for any sexuality or gender that doesn't conform to the fantasy of some 1950s sitcom. Discrimination knows far more than two sexes.
Code words like marriage and family have been used to proffer a social order supposedly more perfect and permanent because of its connection to God and the American way. However hard history and the Bible may be scrutinized, nothing can be farther from the truth of
Real conservatism embraces change as a way to identify the best aspects of tradition and to leave the worst behind. What today stands for the far right is nothing more than self-loathing delusion absent any real hope of redemption however loudly the screams of Revelation may sound from such quarters. All the while the world truly does warm; trumpets sounds the effect of climate but fall on the deaf ears of religious fatalists terrified of science, unable to comprehend the power of human action.
Regardless of who is President these voices persevere and however much contempt they produce we can only answer them with overwhelming love and compassion—still with unflinching indictment and unremitting opposition—but all the while with the sort of complex and uneasy forgiveness that allows all of us to address the contradictions and imperfections that point the way towards a better tomorrow.
While I recognize that college is the time to test drive potential career paths, harlot is not one I will be considering.
I also recognize that college is the time to entertain new experiences. The blatant female objectification I felt during my first night on the street was certainly an experience. .
Not a half hour into the night, an upperclassman approached me, a younger man in tow. He clapped the tag-a-long on the shoulder, leaned in, and shouted at eating club pitch, “HEY, THIS GUY HERE IS ONE OF OUR BEST RECRUITS. WILL YOU PLEASE DANCE WITH HIM AND SHOW HIM A GOOD TIME SO THAT HE’LL COME TO PRINCETON?”
Oh, yeah. I’d give him an example of a Princeton woman.
I asked the young man his name, where he was from, what he had enjoyed best about Princeton, what activities the team had planned for him. I asked what he liked best about the campus.
And you know, the phrase “the chicks” appeared nowhere in his answer.
Princeton women, you are not a member of some eating club harem, to be selected for your various anatomical features to serve the pleasures of a recruit or student. Princeton women, Princeton men, challenge this notion wherever you confront it. Ask questions, make yourself more than an attractive body, demand respect.
Do not shy away from giving those who do otherwise a new experience.
by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
Apparently, in the quest for body parts to Botox, women have turned to their vaginas. Procedures that, were they conducted in the
The surgeries are marketed in a variety of ways, each more disturbing than the last. “It's the ultimate gift for the man who has everything,” said a woman who paid $5000 to have her hymen reattached, giving her husband the “ultimate thrill of conquest.” A vaginoplasty may appeal to a woman who has recently had a child and has experienced an “enlargement of the vaginal opening” (a common – even, dare I say it, natural – result of childbirth). “An oversize labia minora may cause embarrassment with your partner because it doesn't look good,” advises another website. And clearly, a labiaplasty is the only solution.
But even more shocking than the expectation that a woman should need to have plastic surgery anywhere, especially on her vagina, are the associated medical risks. The New View Campaign, an organization which protests the medicalization of women’s sexuality, has called attention to the inherent dangers of these surgeries. Surgeons make unsubstantiated claims about their procedures. “Genital cosmetic surgery franchising spreads misinformation,” said group spokesperson Leonore Tiefer, Ph.D. a
The potential risks: possible scarring, chronic pain, obstetric risks, loss of genital sensation, reduced erotic pleasure, and post-operative anxieties. But according to The New York Times, even doctors who don't advertise say that they get inquiries from patients every month.
"Now women shave," said Dr. Gary J. Alter, a plastic surgeon and urologist who has come up with his own "labia contouring" technique. "Now they see porn. Now they're more aware of appearance."
How far can we really say we’ve come, when women are being convinced to physically recreate their virginity for their partners’ pleasure, or risking permanent damage to their bodies because of insecurity about the size of their labia? These sites are all over the Internet, but each one seems more absurd than the last. Apparently vaginal cosmetic surgery is advertised on billboards across the country
By Eva Wash
Over the past few years, several controversial female authors have emerged from the
Her story is obviously one of physical and mental torture and of maddening injustice. Yet, beyond evoking empathy for herself and expressing disgust for the Iranian government, Ghahramani eloquently draws out the nuances of her own path to political dissidence. Raised by a loving and open-minded family and encouraged to seek knowledge and fulfillment, Ghahramani does not seem so different from the average young Western woman, but the liberties that she was seeking as a woman are rights that we take for granted--to walk down the street with “the wind in her hair,” to even walk alone outside of her home. She clearly establishes that other Iranian women are equally, if not more, dissatisfied with their situations: she cites the story of her cousin, who tried to burn herself to death in order to escape her life.
Such cases of female suicide, especially self-immolation, are not unusual in
While dreams of a loving and freely-chosen marriage seem so unattainable, many Iranian women continue to endure without abandoning their families, the country that they love, or their religion. This excerpt from Ghahramani is particularly potent with this idea of persistence:
“Western women think that the typical Iranian woman lives the life of a vassal, and I can understand why they think that way. I know many Iranian women—unmarried and married—whose lives are made miserable by the laws that regulate their days and nights. And nothing on Earth can be said in defense of laws that permit the males of a society to hold the spirits of women hostage. Such laws are evil, wherever they are enacted. But the life of an Iranian woman, under a saner interpretation of the Qur’an than applies in Iran now, has much more in common with the lives of women in the West, or with those of women anywhere, than might be supposed. My mother lives under laws that Western women would probably think insufferable, but she is as free in her heart and soul as anyone on Earth, male or female” (182).
Her mother finds freedom in loving action, not in words of protest or complaints. As Ghahramani comes to discover, her mother has been overcoming the oppressive political injustice “in a subtle, almost stealthy way.” Of course, I think that injustices cannot merely be ignored; people have to speak up. Yet, words are mere words, while, with each successive generation, determined action is what often makes a gradual and lasting difference. (Perhaps this is the message that President Tilghman was trying to underscore during a recent lecture when she encouraged female students to “ignore sexism.”)
I highly suggest reading Ghahramani’s My Life as a Traitor: it is a book rich in wisdom and revelation, especially for young women.
By Christopher Moses
Somewhere between his adverbial absolutism (‘fundamentally,’ ‘undeniably,’ ‘necessarily,’ etc.) and the whiplash-inducing oscillation between ‘reality’ and ‘fantasyland’ I recognized the speciousness of Brandon McGinley’s argument about rape, risk and responsibility in ‘Don’t take your guns to town’ (Daily Princetonian, 23 October 2008).
Why is rape a risk?
This question can mean two things. First, circumstantially—why might rape be a risk in a given context, in this case the party situation portrayed by the public service advertisement. Second, it can ask—for what reason is rape a risk? Why is it that one must be concerned about rape happening, say, as opposed to being teleported to another planet. The latter is an impossibility, ergo no risk.
In her EqualWrites post Peale Iglehart (who McGinley fails to identify) analyses the advertisement in terms of the first meaning—finding it pedantic, misogynistic and so forth—as a way to highlight how it completely fails to address the second.
McGinley disagrees with Iglehart’s argument. But in his piece he conflates the two issues as a way of avoiding the second, more serious case and in turn tries to foist a broader agenda about responsibility (which for him involves sexual probity, limited or no alcohol consumption, something called duty—to whom or what is unclear—leading ultimately to liberation, the meaning or point of which still leaves me scratching my head).
This conflation allows him to sidestep a hard truth: rape exists as a risk for women because there are men who are rapists. That is the cause of rape—it has absolutely nothing to do with a woman’s actions in any case whatsoever. A woman cannot ask to be raped, cannot invite it, cannot, in fact, do anything whatsoever to effect a risk of being raped.
Rape doesn’t mean a laxity of sexual consent—as in, wow, I let me guard down as to whether or not I wanted to have sex with someone and, shucks, it happened. Rape obviates the entire notion of consent—rape isn’t a choice made well or poorly. Rape is a violent, criminal act—it is not sex, even if it involves sexual acts on the part of the perpetrator.
So this leads to another dangerous conflation in McGinley’s article: he moves from rape to a ‘highly sexually charged environment’ (two adverbs!) to, in his final paragraph, plain old ‘having sex.’
Number one has nothing to do with two or three. Rape can never, ever be an ‘activit[y] which can be quite safe and productive’ even if McGinley tries to lump it together with guns, alcohol and sex under cover of the phrase ‘fraught with physical and emotional risk.’
To the extent McGinley has a different interpretation of the commercial, he’s really talking about vulnerability and not risk—they’re different. Vulnerability is neither a precondition nor an excuse for rape. If anything it just makes the rapist that much more despicable.
That’s what makes the commercial disturbing in the ways Iglehart describes: because it reinforces the preconception that women are by their nature vulnerable, a from-behind promotion of men as having greater power then women—as rapists, or protectors. From this follows ‘traditional’ limitations placed upon the fairer sex—she can be curtailed but goodness knows about those rapists.
Quite the contrary, the sole issue is the rapist—why do some men manifest sexual acts as a violent weapon for assaulting women? Only through some perverse understanding of male sexual entitlement can vulnerability—or anything, for that matter—be construed as a cause for rape. She looked too good? It was just too easy? I couldn’t help myself? She really wanted me even if she didn’t know it? All of these excuses attempt to eclipse the difference between sex and rape in order to permit the slippery transition towards ‘risks’ about plain old ‘having sex.’
The key, as McGinley shows, is to characterize in one way or another a woman as having acted sexually—or somehow chosen to be in a sexualizing environment. But when are we not sexual? Are men less or differently sexual than women—men can do it without managing to get raped? Is that the conclusion to draw?
McGinley’s frightening analogy seems to suggest as much. At first weapons stand in for alcohol, but then, with Billy, it’s a matter of guns alone. Out west with the ‘dusty cowpoke’ the meaning becomes: if you stripped yourself of sexuality, then the ‘violent neighbor’ would keep it in his pants and avoid the ‘pressure’ and ‘expectations’ to draw his ‘manliness.’
By making this comparison, does McGinley take acting ‘how he thinks he is expected to’ and ‘pressured by the expectations of “manliness”’ as commensurate with rape? As a means to view a woman first and foremost as a sexual object? Any interpretation seems horrid. (I can only hope McGinley meant to draw on some sort of poor irony with all this talk of poking, pistols and firing guns—seriously, what sort of intention did he have?—because I would be aghast if it was truly an innocent comparison.)
One last point—because after McGinley’s screed about risk he invokes righteousness to link it with a notion of responsibility. Putting it another way makes this process of objectification clearer: what does it mean to be a woman responsibly? Responsible to whom, and for what?
If the answer involves men—so they can obfuscate the cause of rape or compare a vagina to toting a gun as target-to-be-shot—then McGinley can keep his liberation. I’ll take the risk of living in my fantasyland while challenging patriarchy and misogyny along the way.
By Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
By Chloe Angyal
On Saturday night, John McCain was a special guest on Saturday Night Live. The premise of the show’s cold open sketch was that McCain and Palin, unable to afford thirty-minute slots on network television like Barack Obama did this week, instead had secured time on QVC, the home shopping channel, and were hawking a line of political collectible goods. Cindy McCain made a cameo in the sketch, acting as the woman who elegantly sweeps her hand over the goods (in this case, the "McCain-Feingold" jewelery line), à la those models on The Price is Right. When asked backstage if she was nervous about her brief appearance on the show, Cindy McCain replied, “Oh, no, it’s what I do best. I just stand there. I’m a pro at that.”
Say what you will about McCain’s policies, but I really hope that our next First Lady, whether it’s Mrs. McCain or Mrs. Obama, isn’t going to “just stand there.” I really hope she works for women’s rights and for any number of other worthy causes. I really hope she serves as a role model to women here and abroad. And I really hope she uses her position of considerable influence to demonstrate that women can be more than just decoration on the home shopping channel.
That said, the sketch itself was hilarious.
By Chloe Angyal
By Kelly Roache
Lately, Tina Fey is best known for her portrayal of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, but her current sitcom, 30 Rock (Thursdays at 9:30 on NBC), is even more deserving of our attention as feminists. In 2006, Fey left SNL to start her own show, where she writes and stars as Liz Lemon, a sketch comedy writer with a demanding job. Liz is responsible for holding everything together, from temperamental actors to a slacker staff to her macho boss’s ego. Like Fey herself, she is winsomely nerdy, chock full of Star Wars references and the occasional fashion faux pas; in fact, it is often difficult to separate the character from the writer/actress, whose birth name is even Elizabeth. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when the long summer hiatus ended this past Thursday.
The feminist issues tackled in the first two seasons of 30 Rock run the gamut. Fey digs at the pressure felt by women to be “pretty,” with Liz’s über-feminine actress best friend as her chief medium. Liz’s sensible wardrobe is frequently the butt of jokes; her boss sets her up on a blind date with another woman, assuming she is a lesbian because of her choice of shoes. Her “man shirts” stand in stark contrast to the skimpy attire of her chronically self-objectifying secretary. Liz protests her assignment to write a spin-off show for the winner of the fictitious
Liz’s relationships, difficult to maintain when competing with her work life, are a recurring theme. She sacrifices her romance with a modern day Prince Charming by deciding not to give up her job in
In addition to the phenomenal cast behind her, Fey is often complemented by equally funny guest stars. Last season, Carrie Fisher played an aging radical hippie who was Liz’s childhood idol as the only female writer on a 1970’s sketch comedy show. Fisher’s over-the-top character “sat around while her junk went bad,” breaking barriers at the expense of having a family, treating Liz as her prodigy and surrogate daughter (much to Liz’s chagrin). Also, Amy Poehler, Fey’s former SNL and Baby Mama co-star, is a frequent guest on the show. For both Fey and Poehler, their feminist material is more than just acting; in their personal lives, they have actively pursued having it all. Fey has a young daughter and a successful, low-profile (an accomplishment in and of itself for a television celebrity these days) marriage, and Poehler just gave birth to her first child a little over a week ago. Like Fey, she recently left SNL to pioneer her own show.
Last Thursday, the third season of 30 Rock opened with Liz’s quest to adopt. Despite her round-the-clock work life, her desire to raise a child and be a “kickass single mom like Erin Brockovich” is frequently referenced. Liz’s evaluation goes off less than smoothly when an adoption official comes to visit her “non-traditional work environment” and chaos ensues. Yet when confronted by the official about her less than suitable circumstances, she refuses to sacrifice either her job or her maternal instinct. This storyline, hints at a potential romance with her boss, played by Alec Baldwin, and an upcoming guest appearance by Oprah should make the coming episodes even more interesting.
As feminists today, we face some serious issues, not to mention a Presidential election this Tuesday. But it’s important that we don’t take ourselves too seriously through all of it. For half an hour a week, 30 Rock is definitely worth catching up with for a chuckle at our culture’s expense.