Publicly Airing Some Thoughts on Pubic Hair

american-apparel-m_2794029aThere has been a lot of chatter recently about both the fuzzy and furless pubis. A couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of coverage of Cameron Diaz’s new written endeavor, The Body Book because it features an essay entitled “In Praise of Pubes,” and currently, American Apparel is getting press because their mannequins have merkins peaking out of their panties.

I know that feminists have been known to debate the “feministy-ness” of how one decides to relate to her pubic hair – “to nair or to hair” you might say.  (Just so you know, I’m not gonna partake in a pubic hair pros and cons list, so if that’s what you’re looking for, move on.)  There are lot of thoughts surrounding this debate, and while I may lean one way or another when I’m listening to smart girls discuss their very nuanced positions on having hair down there, I ultimately think that conversations of this nature expose the very gray spectrum that feminism needs to embrace.

Let me back track. I have pubic hair. This is a choice I’ve made based on my own life experiences with my body. When I was ten years old, I didn’t sleep much. It was a drag for my parents, but after some seriously valid attempts at trying to get me to sleep at night they gave up, and let me traipse about the house while they were sleeping. It was on a night like this I discovered my first pubic hair. I was proud of that one little curly cue – proud enough to wake up my mother to tell her what I’d found. For me, that lone coarse strand marked my shift from child to pubescent teen. It was a bodily triumph.  I know, it’s a ridiculous story, but it’s mine and that’s why I have pubic hair. It has meaning to me, because I was excited to meet my pubes so why would I banish them.

Let me tell you another story; this one’s second hand, but it helps make my point so bear with me. A couple of years ago a friend of mine went to study abroad in France. She was about four years older than the other students in her study abroad program. One night, over a bottle of wine, she had a conversation with a couple of 20-year-old guys who felt that if a woman’s labia wasn’t naked, then that women was disgusting and not a viable sexual option. Arguably, from a feminist position, the perception of these douche bags would make a terrible justification for bearing your labia – because you’d be making this choice based on what others think. Not on your relationship to your body.

Shave your pubis if you look in the mirror and the naked version looks sexy to you, or if you exercise a lot and your nether hair is prone to crotch rot. Go au-naturale because you’ve done research and you feel like pubes protect you from bacterial infections or you’re excited by their relationship to pheromones.  It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you own your crotch, make decisions based on your relationship to your parts, and voice the opinion that other feminists have a right to be masters of their bodily universe and self define. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you choose to sport a 70s style full-fledged bush or not – as long as you think about it and make a choice based on your needs. This is the gray land of actual feminist empowerment.

What do we make of the American Apparel merkins? It’s up to you. Personally, I feel like they’re creepy, but I have other feminist body-positive friends who love them. As feminists, we are big enough to enjoy this publicity stunt for the conversations it starts. We can go back and forth about whether AA’s merkins forward a hipster resurgence of a furry pubic sensibility or make the bushy bush a joke.  It doesn’t matter where you land – chat about it, think about it, and in the end go with your gut. Living within feminism means having a personal opinion and trusting it.

Side note: a couple of months ago XOJane’s Emily McCombs had a feminist twitter war on this topic and wrote an article that dismissed the necessity for a feminist discussion of pubic hair because she felt there were more pressing issues for feminists to discuss. I get it, I do. I still think we’re having issues understanding what it means to live in an empowered space – one which enables us to choose freely and navigate our own course, so I have deemed this discussion of one’s right to pube or not to pube still worthy.

This post was originally posted on Bitchtopia.com

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Diets don’t work. I’m Living Proof.

I'm in gray behind the adorable white bunny. I thought I was so fat. Ridiculous.

I’m in gray behind the adorable white bunny. I thought I was so fat. Ridiculous.

We often hear people say that diets don’t work, and there are a lot of articles and research out there that explain why this is true, for example this, this, and this. And yet, so many people continue to believe that if you have a fat body, then you can make ‘choices’ which will result in you having a body that is less fat. In other words, despite the research, we continue to believe that diets do work. I am hear to tell you otherwise, but not in some scientific way. I’m here to tell you that diets didn’t work for me. And I had every opportunity…

I am lucky enough to have been born to a loving upper middle class family. They are amazing.  And because they loved me they spared no expense when it came to trying to help me get thin. I could attend any weight-loss program or participate in any exercise regime.  The culture taught my family that thin was necessary for happiness and success so they genuinely believed that weightloss was the best possible option and they supported any and all attempts I made to lose weight. In response, I spent the first 30+ years of my life trying not to be fat.

When I was six my mother took me to the diet center. I remember sitting in the waiting room. I remember the fabric on the chairs. It was maroon, but not much else. I remember eating rice cakes. I can’t tell you if I lost weight, I don’t remember. I do remember wanting to lose weight and understanding that my mother brought me to the diet center because they could “help” me.

a thin year

A thin year – but not thin enough. I was drinking only liquids and eating meal replacement bars.

Sometime around 10 I went to fat camp. At camp they provided us with portioned meals and we exercised at least six hours a day. During the summer three girls tried to commit suicide. I know that sounds outrageous but it’s true. I don’t know for sure why these girls tried to take their lives but I remember the communal feelings of desperation. I was very popular at camp because when you removed the stigma of fatness – by creating an all fat environment – people who are funny, smart and savvy can shine. I remember the pictures from the end of the summer – a thin me in a green striped top – I remember these pictures  because this is one on the first times I remember feeling adorable in photos.

When I was 12 I went to another weight-loss center called 40 Carrots.  Again, I went with my mom, who has always been thin – by anyone’s standard – but she has also always dieted. I remember standing in the kitchen with her weighing out 4oz of chicken, seasoning it with vinegar, dijon mustard and pepper, chopping carrots and pouring water. I remember being hungry. I also remember losing like 20lbs. I got new clothes and felt beautiful. I remember walking into French class and having a boy I’d know since kindergarten asking me when I’d changed so much.

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It was a beautiful day – I adore my husband.

When I was 14, I went to Jenny Craig. I lost 20lbs eating food made by nestle that quite literally has no nutritional value. I remember daydreaming about getting to the Jenny Craig “maintenance program,”  where I would learn to stay thin. Instead, I gained the 20lbs  I lost plus 10 more.

During my later high school years, I tried weight watchers, slim fast, atkins, nutrisystem and plain old starvation. I always lost weight and I always gained more than I lost.

I broke up with my high school boyfriend in my freshman year of college and got thin again – this time I think it was 45lbs. I don’t remember a particular program, but I remember buying a skin tight brightly colored paisley dress and wearing it so he would see what he was missing. I was fat again by sophomore year.

I was  happy in college – I had great friends. But I still felt body conscious and I weighed 200lbs for the first time. For graduation I asked my parents to send me to Structure House – which is like fat camp for grown ups. At Structure House I lost 50 lbs.  I gained it back .

In grad school I watch a newscast about some soap opera star who lost weight on a liquid diet – Optifast. I lost 60lbs doing this – three times –  between the ages of 23 and 30.

At 30 I followed a program called Dr. Bernstein and worked out like crazy to get ready for my wedding. When I walked down the aisle I weighed 172 pounds. I look thin in the pictures but I had wanted thinner. I wasted time on my wedding day thinking about how I could have looked prettier.

Do you see a pattern? It’s not like I wasn’t committed.

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We are so cool.

When I think about my childhood, I remember crying a lot about my body. I remember feeling like a failure and not understanding why I wasn’t thin like my friends. I would have given anything to be thin, and I tried everything to be thin. I’m not going to lie to you. I have always loved food, but honestly I wanted thin way more than I ever wanted food. Each time I was thinner I loved being thinner, and I desperately wanted to stay thinner but as soon as I stopped starving and started eating normally I gained the weight back. Thin was/is not in the cards for me.

Today, I work out regularly and eat healthy but I don’t lose weight. At least I think I don’t lose weight because at this point in my life I never get on a scale and my clothes seem to fit.   I genuinely believe that constant  dieting made me fatter. I think that if I had accepted my body rather than diet I might have been a bit bigger than others but I never would have been as big as I am now. Diets failed me. They haunted me – they filled my life with failure because no matter how many times I dieted, I never stayed thin.

People say things like, “It’s not about dieting – It’s a lifestyle change.” Well, I’ve made a lifestyle change. I’ve decided not to diet because diets don’t work.

Plus, I’m fabulous – just the way I am.

Book of Mormon and Other Bullshit We Excuse Using the Heading “Funny.”

Last night I sphoto(1)aw Book of Mormon at the Broward County Preforming Arts Center. We bought the tickets months ago and I was really looking forward to it because I’ve heard only good things, which is surprising because I don’t have a whole lot of good things to say. What I do have to say is this: Book of Mormon is painfully racist and not really all that funny.

If you haven’t seen it, let me summarize: Two 19-year-old Mormon missionaries go to Uganda, Africa on a mission to recruit and baptize new Mormons. There is lunacy that ensues, which is the basic plot of the play but who could even focus on that when the “African” reality represented is so stereotypical, derogatory and embarrassingly prejudicial. In the context of this play there are two versions of Africa – the “lion king” version, which harkens to ideas of the noble savage, glorious nature, dancing, singing and marching around with spears and the “AIDS, MURDER and FEMALE CIRCUMCISION ” version, which is presented as the ‘legitimate’ spoof of Africa’s reality. In other words, the “lion king” version is what the missionaries think Africa will be like, and the “AIDS, MURDER and FEMALE CIRCUMCISION ” version is what Africa is “really” like when they arrive.

I am not going to deny the fact that Africa – a continent three times the size of the United States – has its share of problems and that included in those problems are war, female genital mutilation (FGM), AIDS, rape and other complicated and destructive forces. And it’s true that these are the aspects of Africa that the news likes to focus on. Arguably, because maintaining a racist understanding of Africa makes it that much easier for Western cultures to pillage the continent for natural resources like titanium and diamonds without a whole lot of outcry.  Despite all this, in reality Africa is a spectacular place of innovation and culture, which has given us amazing men and women, including the likes of Chinua Achebe, Leymah Gbowee, Wangari Maathai  and  Nelson Mandela – who died today.  Here’s a youtube video that looks at these stereotypes:

Book of Mormon took the stereotypical understanding of Africa as an untamable, contaminated place – an understanding that is linked to a history of racism but usually based on ignorance and quickly alleviated/dispelled with even a smidge of exposure – to an extreme, which showed no consideration or respect for African people and affirmed a colonialist history of racism.

For example, in the Ugandan town that the Mormon Missionaries were sent to many of the people have AIDS – not HIV, AIDS. One of the African men believes that if he has sex with a virgin he will cure his AIDS. None of the adult women in the town are virgins – because clearly Africans are promiscuous (sarcasm) – so this man attempts to rape a baby. This attempted rape is repeatedly noted as a punch line in the song lyrics and scenes. This scenario is racist on so many levels – the assumed promiscuity of the African people, the horrifying ignorance of a man who would believe that raping a baby could cure disease, the prevalence of AIDS etc. There are other instances that are equally absurd as well as little prickles like the two African men who steal the missionaries’ bags as soon as they arrive, and local woman who warns the missionaries to shut their windows at night to keep out the murderers. It’s appalling.

photoIt’s worth noting that the play also clearly critiques Mormonism by highlighting the need for good Mormons to “just believe” the dubious roots of the Mormon religion and strangely the entire playbill was filled with ads for learning more about the Mormon faith. This is painfully ironic considering this is a play that actively attempts to render the Mormon faith inane and ludicrous.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that lately, it’s not just Book of Mormon that has offended me. Go ahead call me a party pooper or a grouchy bitch, I’m okay with that because these ideas, images, representation lack a basic sense of respect for the people they are portraying. It’s not funny when people make jokes about rape, bodies, races, nationalities, genders, etc. These kinds of jokes are lazy. They rely of human cruelty and hate. And to be honest, I’m not sure why we think they’re funny. How does it even make sense that we find ways to laugh at rape? What is up with that?

Don Jon: Legit critique of Porn and Rom-Coms

SPOILER ALERT:

MV5BMTQxNTc3NDM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ5NTQ3OQ@@._V1._CR28,28.649993896484375,1271,1991.0000305175781._SX640_SY987_So, I went to see Don Jon, Joesph Gordon Levitt’s new film.  (Literally.  He wrote, directed and starred in the damn thing.)  The film is centered on the main character, Jon’s (Levitt) growth from a Jersey-shore-esq, macho, porn-addicted, women-objectifying goof into a more enlightened and fulfilled man, who values genuine connection based on the reality of individuals.

Jon, who spends most of his time acquiring notches on belt, cleaning, working out and masturbating to internet porn, begins to change by falling for Barbara (Scarlet Johansson). Basically, Jon’s porn addiction has created a monster – a man who functions as one in a constant search for female perfection, with perfection defined according to a pornographic beauty ideal. Notably, the film makes it clear that this pornographic ideal isn’t just confined to the seedy dark corners of the internet by showing  Jon oogling women on the covers of magazines on stands in supermarkets and in tv commercials. When Jon meets Barbara  the hottest girl that he has ever encountered, he decides to play the “long game” and commits to her in an attempt to score/screw/sleep with her.   Jon is able to give up other women for Barbara, but he cannot give up porn. He tells viewers that porn is “better than real pussy” – because he’ loses himself in porn, and real women are never as good. [POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING: It’s worth noting that all this ‘telling’ comes with a lot of pornographic imagery]. Porn basically teaches Jon that there is a certain way that sex should be and the reality does not live up to the representation.   Throughout their relationship Barbara is clearly a pornographic conquest — but what is interesting is that Jon is equally so for Barbara.

imagesLike Jon, Barbara is basically a stereotype. She is a woman who is interested in controlling a man using sex, so that she might achieve her ultimate goal, getting married. Repeatedly in the film we see her manipulate Jon using sex – for example she convinces him to go to school and pursue a better job, while he is on the verge of orgasm. Like Jon’s porn addiction, Barbara  consistently watches romantic comedies (rom-coms) – which teach her that there is a certain way that “love” looks. Barbara’s rom-com obsession is presented as a foil to Jon’s porn obsession. In other words, the film makes a clear argument that the representations that we are watching obscure reality, rendering women as objects for sexual pleasure to men and men as objects of responsibility and violence to women.  Don Jon goes as far as to argue that these representations are forcing us to live as disconnected empty shells. The point Don Jon is making reminds me of Jane Caputi’s The Pornography of Everyday Life.

Ultimately,  Esther (Juileanne Moore), a widow teaches Jon that women are more that objects – and sex is way more than porn.  DONJON_JulianneThe movie is graphic – but it’s also funny and enjoyable. The acting is spot on and if you ask me, this is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time, which I would genuinely call feminist slanted social critique.  As long as you’re willing to put up with the pornographic images, I say see it. Here’s the preview:

 

I am not the first person to notice this – BUST magazine covered these ideas as well.

 

Fat, Thin and Everything In Between is What We Want Feminists to Look Like

Hello Cupcakes — I am excited to announce that today – your very own feminist cupcake has written a guest blog for Soapbox, Inc.  Check it out here or read below:

 

Fat, Thin and Everything In Between is What We Want Feminists to Look Like

By Lindsey Averill

Kelly Martin Broderick posted this picture on facebook: Kellyfeminist

Only to have it changed into this meme:

082113feministmeme

It is clear that the meme attempts to use Kelly’s body type – her fatness –to insult feminism and underscore the a misogynistic misnomer that only women who are outside of the male gaze, i.e male sexual desire, chose become feminists. Clearly, the meme is childish, cruel and not factual (many people are attracted to fatness… there are whole dating sites dedicated to fatness…sigh). But, the meme also underscores exactly why feminists need to continue to concern themselves with issues like body-positivity and fat-empowerment – because when women speak up about their rights, they are still being pigeon holed based on their appearance.

Whenever something like this happens, I am reminded why, as a feminist, I still need to be fighting this particular fight – the fight for each woman to feel excellent about her body and the bodies of other women. I hate to say it – but sometimes even smart, savvy, dynamic, influential, informed, feminist women feel that they have a right to judge their bodies and the bodies of others, particularly if they are judging that body for being FAT.

In the mainstream, fatness is understood as always negative and therefore we are allowed to shame and torment it in ourselves and others. We discuss weight gain and loss endlessly: cabbage diets, juice cleanses, nutrisystem, weight watchers…We call out our muffin-tops and condemn our saddlebags. We pose in pictures with our chins stuck out or turned to the side to look thinner. We fear fatness at every turn and we save our “skinny jeans” because we refuse to believe that our bodies are awesome at any size.

I don’t mean to oversimplify, but arguably anytime we are accepting of shaming and brutalizing our bodies or the bodies of others, we are failing to see and dispute a source of oppression. As women, particularly feminist women, we need to constantly examine the messages that the media projects about our gender and our bodies and try to stand up and speak up when we see injustice.

I see injustice towards fatness. I see this injustice keep amazing women from feeling powerful and confident. I see internalized fat-hatred keeping women from being and doing awesome in the world.

I’m over it. picresized_ece6e5_1a97205ae8d4232b2a1e39a9226c626e.png_srz_205_195_75_22_0.50_1.20_0

This fed-up-with-it-ness is why I’m telling you about Kelly Martin Broderick because she is over it too. In response to the meme Kelly wrote an article for xojane entitled, “My Picture was Stolen and turned into a Fat-Shaming Anti-feminist Meme on Facebook,” and she created a tumblr, “We are What Feminists Look Like.” The tumblr calls for “folks” to send in their pictures or thoughts that make it clear that feminists come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, sexualities, genders, nationalities, political parties… you get the idea. I was thinking you should send in your picture – be over it too.

I sent in my picture: Feminist Bride

Also, if you’re ready to stop feeling oppressed by fat-hatred you should check out these amazing body-positive blogs, speakers, books, and coaches:

The Routund – Marianne Kirby
Big Fat Feminist – Kaye Toal
Dances With Fat – Ragen Chastain
Riots Not Diets – Margitte Leah
The Adipositivity Project –Substantia Jones
Body Love Wellness – Golda Poretsky
Extraordinary Being – Lindsey Averill
Two Whole Cakes – Lesley Kinzel
Big, Big, Love – Hanne Blank
Fat! So? – Marilyn Wann
Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quite Dieting and Declare a Truce with your Body – Kate Harding
Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion – Virgie Tovar
Body Drama – Nancy Redd

These suggestions are just the beginning – the world is full of amazing body-positive people, all you have to do is look.

The Truth About Barbie

What follows are two images that ask us to consider the unrealistic nature of Barbie’s physical build. The first image is a life size Barbie – i.e a model of Barbie’s measurements if she were life-sized – compared standing next to a young woman and an image of current Barbie next to what Barbie would look like if she had measurements that were more in line with the reality of human bodies:

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In April of 2011 CBS NEWS noted that with her current dimensions, Barbie would be diagnosed as dangerously thin – and possibly suffering from an eating disorder. So why not change her — why not make Barbie more in line with a realistic body type – or at least give parents the option. Why not make Barbie dolls in a variety of body types? Perhaps — we need a petition.

I’m not trying to slam Mattel – in fact, last year they produced presidential candidate Barbie – sponsored by the White House Project which was pretty cool:

20130703-091610.jpgBut the reality here is that — Barbie creates unreal body expectations in the girls that play with her … remember the woman who has actually had multiple surgeries attempting to make herself look like Barbie. Just sayin’barbie2

Raising children is a Job. And it should be legally recognized as such…

Once again I find myself in the position of defending stay at home feminist moms. Tonight, I’m tossing around this issue because I’ve just had the unfortunate experience of reading Elizabeth Wurtzel’s article in The Atlantic entitled “1 Percent Wives Are Helping to Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible”.

Okay – just to be clear, I find Wurtzel’s brand of pithy offensive and bitterly righteous. For example, I offer up this gem: “When I meet a woman who I know is a graduate of, say, Princeton — one who has read The Second Sex and therefore ought to know better — but is still a full-time wife, I feel betrayed.” Gag. So, if I were say a graduate of Valencia Community College – but had still read Beauvoir – would I be as offensive to Wurtzel? Are only the 1% her issue because there are others who choose wife and mother.

Wurtzel argues that “there really is only one kind of equality — it precedes all the emotional hullabaloo — and it’s economic. If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent.” Honestly, I think there are more women who think this way than I would like to admit – but I would argue that this completely misses the issue at hand.

Culturally we worship money and power and look down our noses at compassion and care — this framework allows jobs that were traditionally categorized as masculine – doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers etc. – to be viewed as more prestigious than jobs that were and are still often fulfilled by women – elementary education, child care, nursing, secretarial work and of course mothering. In other words – men – and women enacting roles that were traditionally held by men are seen as more empowered.

This of course leaves stay at home moms sitting on their couches, eating bonbons and doing nothing of importance, which is ridiculous. Raising/rearing children is valuable and needed. The issue is not that women shouldn’t choose to stay home, if they so desire, but rather that the culture does not recognize the value in this endeavor – and reward or respond financially. At Rollins College in Winter Park, FL (my alma mater) I once heard Gloria Steinem say that perhaps the best way to deal with this issue was to work within the system and offer a tax benefit/deduction of some kind for women who choose to take on the challenge of staying home to raise their children – sounds like an awesome solution to me.

I know this is one of my favorite rants – but feminism is about choice and social justice for all people. ARGH!

P.S. Thank You, Mom. You’re fabulous and I treasure the fact that you poured your heart and soul into raising me.

I don’t know that much about hip hop but…

I’ve been working on a lesson about the representation of women and race in hip hop videos – which includes a variety of elements – but they key texts are bell hooks article “Gangsta Culture – Sexism and Misogyny: Who Will Take the Rap?” from the book Outlaw Culture  and the documentary Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.   My class discusses lots of things in response to the ideas in these two texts but one element that I wanted to note here on Feminist Cupcake is that there has been cultural shift that has occurred when we consider how we represent female Hip Hop artists. Consider “Ladies First” By Queen Latifah and Monie Love, which was released in 1989:

At the very least this  video is an attempt to represent a message of empowerment and most likely many would consider it exactly that – radically empowering art. It features imagery and lyrics that are political  – women who have fought for women’s rights, riots against apartheid in South Africa, messages that work against stereotypes of both women and the black community and there are no objectified images of naked booty shaking background dancers. Okay, so that’s the good stuff…now the scary.

This is Lil’ Kim’s “How Many Licks,” released in 2009:

An anatomically correct doll?  Candy Kim? Really? This is clearly and image of a completely objectified and overtly sexualized female?  What happened to the Women of Hip Hop?  Really what happened to the idea of Hip Hop as a subversive art form that worked to overturn stereotypes and fight the power?  remember Salt and Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex”?

Where’ are the hip hop groups like this now?? Groups with positive messages which inform the population about their safety and new ideas of empowerment? Artists like Lil’ Kim encourage the understanding of women as objects and this understanding creates a culture in which women are abused and assaulted. If you are not familiar with these ideas about the objectification of women’s bodies  check out Jean Killbourne’s  “Killing us softly 3” – there is a fourth version but it’s not available on the internet for free:

Feminists Who Like Men Who Like Feminists Who Like Women Who Like Men Who Like Men Who Like Women Who Like Men Who Like Masculinists Who Like Whomever and So ON!

So recently I have encountered two things  that deal with questions of masculinity and the oppressions that men suffer a blog entry by Pris Killingly @R]Evolutionary Witticisms in 4/4 Time entitled Our Boys Are Being Failed – A Primer and an awesome masculinist blog called No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz? – which I mentioned yesterday or the day before. And after reading these things I felt that I needed to clarify my position regarding men and feminism. Or rather that a conversation about where I stand regarding questions like do men belong in the feminist movement might clarify for some of you just what kind of feminist I am and also what I actually hope for in terms of social justice.

If you read my blog regularly you’ll remember a post I made a few weeks ago about inequalities in social justice. With reference to these ideas, I have often become enraged in women’s studies and feminist classrooms when people mention “women’s spaces” – or rather events that exclude or ban the presence of men. I feel that banning or eliminating the presence of men from the feminist discussion not only repeats the oppressions of a patriarchal culture but also underscores the male/female difference – creating no room for healing this false cultural divide.

As the bloggers @ What about the Menz? and Pris Killingly make clear the constructions of masculinity have created cultural oppressions for some men in ways that are similar to the oppressions that many women have felt and feel. That said – like with all norms – the enactment of the norm for men, i.e. sterotypical masculinity results in certain privileges, and in the case of men – those privileges are extensive. BUT still what if you’re not heteronormative or white or sporty or strong or whatever… What then? – Honestly, if you are not a man’s man who can easily enact the role of masculinity , then the ridicule that comes with failing at masculinity is vast and plentiful. Apparently, there are some feminists out there that seem to feel male privilege creates a un-sealable rift between the sexes and therefore they look down of masculinist identities by arguing that men have the privileges so they can’t complain. As far as I am concerned, I don’t need to compare suffering – if you tell me your suffering, I believe you and support you desire to escape the state you interpret as oppressive. To be fair, I’m pretty well versed in terms of feminists and I don’t know any who feel 100% anti-men but I do know MANY who feel the sexes need to remain divided particularly with regard to these “women’s spaces” which allow women to “heal” from the abuses they have suffered at the hands of men.  To be clear, the abuses I am discussing are of a philosophical nature. Sexual assault and/or physical abuse clearly require healing, and it is understandable why a woman/man who has suffered from this kind of abuse would want to avoid all types that represented her/his abuser. I am not talking about this. I am talking about women’s conferences and meetings and politics, which exclude men.  I am talking about the complexities of oppression that come along when we truly understand how race, sex, class, religion, sexuality and other aspects of culture converge to define us in relation to an unobtainable norm – and the need to stop seeing the world as an abstract farce of oppositions.

That said, I believe that we all – every plant, animal and mineral – suffer under the construct of masculinity and the understanding of “masculinity” as the penultimate state of perfection. The element or concept associated with masculinity that  makes this true is reason. Reason is currently used to justify male mastery or rather the human understanding of ourselves as the master consciousness on the planet and the enforcement of this mastery through violence of all kinds – physical, political, verbal, sexual, fiscal etc. I have formed this opinion by reading books and articles – amongst others – Val Plumwood’s Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, Micheal Kimmel’s Guyland (see point five of Popculture Smörgåsbord) and James Gilligan’s Preventing Violence.

In particular Plumwood enabled me to understand that we see the world through a dualistic framework. Culturally we formulate our understanding of the world and cultures by defining things in opposition to each other and this opposition implies a hierarchy of dominance and submission. For example, if we look at dualisms such as male/female, civilized/savage, mind (spirit)/body, culture (human reason)/nature, master/slave etc., we recognize that traditions of western philosophic thought and practice have often defined these concepts as in opposition to each other and rendered one dominate over the other: male over female; civilized over savage; mind over body; culture over nature; and master over slave. Plumwood calls the philosophical practice of constructing reality in terms of hierarchical dualisms, the “master” consciousness or the “master model,” highlighting the oppressive nature of this kind of thinking (Plumwood 3, 23).From this perspective, at the core of continued oppression of all material beings is the assumption that human reason dominates all, particularly the corporal, natural or material.

The underlying oppression of dualism is not a concept of Plumwood’s conception; it has been explained and employed by many philosophical and feminist scholars (Derrida 1981; Beauvoir 1952; Bordo 1993, Collins 2000, etc.).  Plumwood recognizes the deeper theoretical construct of “privileged domain of the master,” and subsequent subjects (Plumwood 3). She explains, “much of feminist theory has detected a masculine presence in the officially gender-neutral concept of reason…it is not a masculine identity pure and simple, but the multiple, complex cultural identity of the master formed in the context of class, race, species and gender domination” (Plumwood 5). In other words, rather than recognize the world in terms of male domination and female subordination, Plumwood views dualism as the enabling force behind power and domination, which is not inherently male but rather dependant upon a deeply more complex and ecumenically political culture, which is currently dominated by the masculine.

I tell you all of this to make a point you may have heard me make before – acting out the role most often associated with masculinity – i.e. the role of mastery helps no one.  It doesn’t help men or women who are suffering from the homophopic/violent  tendencies of a heteronormative masculine culture; it also plays a role in how we view nature and animals and everything else.  So, a feminist acting like the patriarchy  by being exclusionary and ostracizing themselves from men doesn’t genuinely understand the meaning of the word equality. Nor does she understand the philosophical framework which allows us to construct oppression, and in doing so she leaves herself open to the possibility of being THE OPPRESOR!!! This is not a solution. We need to overturn our culture of perfection and mastery – WE NEED A SHIFT IN CONSCIOUSNESS.

and honestly, that shift cannot – will not happen – unless we genuinely recognize that hierarchy stinks – nothing is black and white and no one way is the best way  – or rather it’s more complicated than male/female or any other false opposition you want to throw my way.


Popculture Smörgåsbord

So there are some posts that I’ve been meaning to write but I’ve been rushing to tie up loose ends regarding my submission to Hunger Games and Philosophy (edited by George Dunn and Nick Michaud) and now my thoughts on these bits and pieces are getting untimely so consider this particular post my way of saying got any thoughts on this nonsense:

1. Recently, yesterday in fact, I was reading Feministe and I became aware of a  30-year-old McCain staffer’s marriage to a girl who was 17 when they met. There are some semantics in this situation – she was of age when they married and they are very wealthy, blah, blah, blah… So the conversations about statutory rape and what not have gotten pretty overlooked, but what is the deal with women wanting to get married at 17? Ouch, say. Also, there is something so weird about how republicans can twist culture’s moral rules – think Bristol Palin pregnancy – and it’s okay but when liberals do this crap the world goes haywire.   Scarier is Doug Hutchison’s (51) nuptials to a sixteen year old.

2. I need to mention www.xojane.com. I’m not sure how many of your remember Sassy Magazine but as a teenager it was my bible and it’s existence started a life long love affair (from afar) between myself and Jane Pratt – who if you don’t know was also the editor of Jane Magazine for most of its lifetime, and I would argue that her retirement from the magazine caused its demise. That said, like other feminists, I am not feeling Pratt’s newest endeavor 100%. Perhaps I return to my not so third wave feminist outlook – but the website is  way more junk than edgy smart – a little more serious please! I want headings like politics and news – not just sex and beauty. What up, Jane?

3. It’s worth noting Anushay Hossain of ANUSHAY’S POINT. I first discovered her on Broadminded. She is Molly and Christine’s Feminist Broad, and her blog is always interesting and worth reading. Subscribe. Hey, while I’m at it subscribe to Feminist Cupcake, that blog is the bomb-diggity – you should subscribe to that blog too. In particular Anushay has written an informative ditty about Saudi Women’s Protest against the ban on women driving in their country.

4. Speaking of Broadminded – Yesterday morning I caught the last bit of a conversation concerning bullying and cyber bullying among teens. Unfortunately, I am not sure of their guest’s name but he said something about how our television shows and movies present adults making fun of people or embarrassing pranks as so funny and humorous – which in turn got me thinking about the movie Bridesmaids. I meant to review this film for you guys – but I’ve been busy, like I said.  There was feminist potential here but I think it sank. (More later). With regards to adult bullying, sort of, so many movies, including bridesmaids present other people’s embarrassment as something we should laugh at. Admittedly, there are moments when someone trips or slides on a piece of lettuce (circa 1996, June and Ho – Rye, NY) and you can’t help but laugh. But still – is food poisoning that causes you to poop your pants funny?  I say no. Maybe I’m too empathetic – but watching other people’s embarrassment – embarrasses me.

5.  Finally, I wanted to turn y’all on to Micheal Kimmel, who is a spectacular example of a male feminist. I am presenting at the NWSA conference this year and he’s speaking and I absolutely can’t wait. I also teach his article “Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity” in my classrooms. Recently, on his Ms. Blog, that considers the whole Wiener incident, “Ah-nuld, DSK, Weiner–And Us.” A worthwhile read.