Saturday, January 24, 2009

"It is both humorous and for your own good. Your bits are important and vulnerable no matter who you do."

The very fabulous Zoe Trope posted on her LiveJournal about her trip to the gynecologist for the following reason:
I think it's important to write about these visits because there may be some 14-year-old bi-curious lesbi-dyke reading this who thinks to herself, "Ovaries? Well I'll be okay. I'll just lick other ladies' genitals and I will not have to worry about my insides. No weiner, no problem."
Remember - regular sexual health check-ups are IMPORTANT. Oh, and if you're a lesbian and the nurse performing your smear test makes the assumption that lady-loving-ladies do not have penetrative sex, disabuse them of this notion. It doesn't matter if you yourself do or not, but dispelling myths is always a good thing. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

What Not to Wear

Are you a working woman reading this? Then congratulations - there's a considerable chance that you might be a brazen hussy, dedicated to using your physical charms and womanly wiles to claw your way with those Rouge Noir-adorned talons right to the top - clambering all over those poor men who really deserve it in your stiletto Jimmy Choos! Or something.

According to a study either reported by or carried out by Grazia magazine, at least one third of women have dressed "provocatively" in order to get ahead at work. The definition of provocative isn't given, but I assume they're talking about short skirts and low necklines, the usual arbitrary wardrobe signifiers of sexually inappropriate behaviour.

In response to the Grazia study, Amy Odell of New York magazine writes:

Yes, men should be more decorous, but since they're incapable, chicks may as well cover up and avoid being the hot topic in the break room for the next six weeks. It wouldn't kill them.

They're incapable? Well, that's one word for it. Forgive me for being old-fashioned, but if you can't keep your eyes (and hands) to yourself, perhaps you shouldn't be allowed to leave the house without an escort. The article itself, by the way, is titled More Women Than We Thought Think Dressing Slutty Will Advance Their Careers. Silly women! Don't they know you can only get fairly promoted with a penis?

In a similar article, the
Wall Street Journal cites a case where the female head of a law firm was invited for a threesome by a male client and his wife - all because she was wearing a revealing dress, supposedly. That's not 'misinterpreting the signals' that's sexual harassment. But the WSJ clearly doesn't see it that way:

"Once a CEO is startled by seeing your cleavage, an image is set in his mind that is not going to disappear," says Ms. Royalty, who recently retired as an
executive at the company. "I never wore that type of dress again."

I don't understand how the fact that *gasp* most women have breasts (i.e, unless they're pre-op transwomen, had a double mastectomy, etc) has shocked a guy who has made it to Chief Executive. Someone fell asleep in sex-ed class. And biology. And, um, life.

So - are YOU dressing sluttily to the office? I, for example, am currently wearing jeans, slightly scuffed black motorcycle boots and a black top with a scoop neck, no make-up. I suppose the top is technically clingy, but the only thing that doesn't cling to certain parts of my uppermost anatomy would be a tent. On the Slut-O-Meter, I think I'm probably a 1, 2 if I put apply the lipgloss I'm currently using as a paperweight. But then I'd really be asking for it.

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a week in feminism

Weekly round-up of kick-ass posts, noteworthy events and the GWaS Woman of the Week.

Poetry is what you find in the dirt in the corner - Elizabeth Alexander, 'Emancipation'

  1. A terribly nice pro-feminism man called Barack Obama started his new job this week. This made lots of people very happy. The Guardian's Viv Groskop profiles some of the key women in the Obama administration.

  2. Diva editor Jane Czyzselska wrote a very awesome piece for the Guardian about why Harvey Milk would be happy about civil partnerships and how it isn't a crime to conform if you're queer.

  3. The Fawcett Society's director (and GWaS' personal heroine), Dr Katherine Rake has been shortlisted for the Women in Public Life awards. I want to be her when I grow up.

  4. Londonist reported on the 'mega-brothels' that will allegedly spring up when we host the Olympics. Louise Livesey has a very well thought-out post at The F Word blog here.

  5. Feminist Fightback wrote a response to Cath Elliot's accusations of their colluding with pimps and traffickers. In the interests of full disclosure, I have campaigned with FF a number of times and once stood next to Cath Elliot at a pro-choice protest. I'm still working on exactly where I stand on this one, so expect debate, ramblings and questions to be popping up on here sometime soon.

  6. A nurse in New Mexico who has accidentally-on-purpose been removing women's IUDs without their permission is finally being sued. She claims that "they accidentally come out when I tug." stop tugging?

  7. The Daily Mail's Jan Moir claims that "There's never been a worse time to be a girl." Because FGM is still practised in many countries? Because the media and the judiciary still have a problem believing that 'no means no'? Apparently it's the fault of "computers or crop tops or clubbing on a Friday night." Better stick to partying on school nights, then...

  8. Apparently there is a "man shortage" if you're forty-plus. In a rather convoluted way, this is apparently the fault of the economy.

Woman of the Week: Elizabeth Alexander, poet, who read at the Presidential inauguration this week. She was a recent discovery for me, and I'm glad I made it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

vaguely related to the previous post...

Reblogged from Kjerstin Johnson at Bitch Blogs:

Against donuts? Don't have one!

I keep trying to make a coherent post about this story, but I think that American Life League's press statement says it all. Needless to say, the sarcastic comments in purple are my own.


The following is a statement from American Life League president Judie Brown:

"The next time you stare down a conveyor belt of slow-moving, hot, sugary glazed donuts at your local Krispy Kreme (OK, now I just crave donuts. BRB - I'm off to the nearest baby-killing pastry outlet), you just might be supporting President-elect Barack Obama's radical support for abortion on demand - including his sweeping promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as soon as he steps in the Oval Office, Jan. 20.

"The doughnut giant (mmm, donut giants...) released the following statement yesterday:

'Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies -- just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet "free" can be.' (sweet glazed freedom. freedom with sprinkles!)
"Just an unfortunate choice of words? For the sake of our Wednesday morning doughnut runs, we hope so. The unfortunate reality of a post Roe v. Wade America is that 'choice' is synonymous with abortion access, and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand. (Evidently not - you can, for example, 'choose' to send out a press release letting the entire world know how completely cuckoo your organisation is)

"President-elect Barack Obama promises to be the most virulently pro-abortion president in history. Millions more children will be endangered by his radical abortion agenda.

"Celebrating his inauguration with 'Freedom of Choice' doughnuts - only two days before the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to decriminalize abortion - is not only extremely tacky, it's disrespectful and insensitive and makes a mockery of a national tragedy. (but it's a really, really delicious mockery!)

"A misconstrued concept of 'choice' has killed over 50 million preborn (Um. This is not an actual medical term, people) children since Jan. 22, 1973. Does Krispy Kreme really want their free doughnuts to celebrate this 'freedom.'

"As of Thursday morning, communications director Brian Little could not be reached for comment. (because he was hiding under his desk from the crazies?) We challenge Krispy Kreme doughnuts to reaffirm their commitment to true freedom (as opposed to the fake kind of freedom, which really sucks) - to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (and donuts!) - and to separate themselves and their doughnuts from our great American shame.
Won't someone please think of the donuts?

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Friday, January 16, 2009

A week in feminism

Weekly round-up of kick-ass posts, noteworthy events and GWaS' Woman of the Week.

Out & About: The Muffia, "trying to inspire people to question society's relentless portrayal of a female which is mostly white, thin and hairless."

  1. Zoe Williams, with whom I and every other Guardian reader I know have a love-hate relationship, criticises media coverage of Baroness Shriti Vadera, who has been denounced as a ball-breaker for daring to state an unpopular opinion this week.

  2. I profiled Rachel Maddow for Lesbilicious (look, they give bonuses for page views and I'm skint, OK?!)

  3. ...and when blogger Lisa-Marie Ferla tried to read the website on her phone, she discovered that the 3 network regarded the site as pornographic - DESPITE the fact that its own homepage links to 'adult' websites after 9pm.

  4. Ann of discusses the women who have been appointed to Obama's category, referencing GWaS' homegirl Hillary in particular.

  5. Screaming Into the Void posts about "hearing men attempt to justify all the bullshit of patriarchy through faux-academic faux-scientific comparisons or humans to the “natural”, animal world."

  6. A bill is currently going through Parliament to re-define the 'provocation' defence in murder cases - crucially, at the moment it only applies to immediate circumstances rather than ongoing situations such as abuse. F Word blogger Kit Roskelly says:

    "This law is the relic of an earlier age. Light sentencing for men who kill
    their wives reinforces and permits the assumption that men are by nature
    sexually possessive and prone to uncontrollable violence which it is unjust to
    punish them for. It also upholds the notion that women have no right to attempt
    to leave abusive situations, or to defend themselves from violence."

    Hear, hear, Kit!

Women of the Week: The Muffia, a Guerilla Girls-esque troupe of London- and Manchester-based feminists "who create performance, comedy and political interventions in reaction to the culture we live in." Where do I sign up?!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is this what a feminist looks like?

In response to the cover of Ms Magazine's January issue, Lisa Factora-Borchers has some interesting things to say about Obama's supposed feminist credentials:

"The question as to whether Obama is a feminist really doesn’t resonate with me. What matters more is what he is going TO DO once his position is secured on the 20th and how he will work to better the situation for women, not only in the United States, but also in the world. The United States presidency is a position to greatly impact legislation for reproductive health, education, and social services."

I'm as excited about the Obama presidency as the next girl (providing the next girl is Factora-Borchers), but I want more than rhetoric before I laud the man my girlfriend refers to as 'Hopey' as the new liberal messiah.


Where no two men have gone before: forty years after Star Trek began, the franchise now tackles its final frontier

Shortly before Christmas, viewers of online Star Trek spin-off Phase II encountered two lifeforms never before seen in the history of the franchise. Rumours of their existence have been speculated upon, but never before have Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Sisko or Archer come face to face with them onscreen. In the new webisode 'Blood and Fire', audiences can meet Peter Kirk and Alex Freeman, the show's first openly gay couple. Kirk is the nephew of the Enterprise's infamous Captain, who follows his boyfriend when medical technician Freeman is posted to the ship.

Although Phase II is not an official Star Trek spin-off – it is fan-made, although both writers and actors and even sets from the 'real' show have been involved – CBS and Paramount, who own the rights to the series, allow fan-made projects provided the participants do not make money from them. This allows fans not only to continue the adventures of James T Kirk et al, it also give them the opportunity to rewrite some of the show's more problematic areas. There has been no comment from either company regarding the upcoming storyline, nor has there ever been an official explanation for the lack of LGBT characters in any of the spin-offs. However, had writer David Gerrold had his way, things would have been remarkably different. Openly gay, he first pitched the idea for the episode when he was working on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the show that launched previously unknown Shakespearian actor Patrick Stewart into the limelight. The original script had the couple portrayed essentially as friends until one character – presumably resident psychic, Counselor Troi – asked how long they'd been together. The online version not only brings the characters' sexuality to the fore, it has also been re-written in the light of contemporary issues, including gay marriage. The original episode was scrapped when Paramount decided that they "didn't want to risk the franchise".

In fact, none of the five Star Trek shows – the original series, The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine or the prequel Enterprise – or ten films have featured an openly gay character. Show creator Gene Roddenberry had planned to introduce a gay crewmember in TNG's fifth season, put passed away before this could ever be put into practice. His successor Rick Berman, whom both fans and, allegedly, co-workers have described as homophobic, later described the idea of including gay characters as "wishful thinking" on behalf of the fans."They should have been the first science fiction series to do this," says James Cawley who doubles as Captain Kirk and Phase II's executive producer, "but they weren't." Instead, shows such as Babylon 5 explored gay relationships whilst Trek's exclusively heterosexual future began to look more and more like an anachronism. Far from risking the franchise, it may be that this is the only way to revive it.
The episode is available to download from the official Phase II website. Former TNG alumnus Denise Crosby, who appeared in cult '80s lesbian classic Desert Hearts, also stars.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I have an article on the always lovely Rachel Maddow here. Apparently an SNL skit parodied her and focussed on her sexuality in a very and-'90s-sitcom-'OMG-some-people-are-GAY-LOLZ' manner at the weekend but I have not seen it and cannot comment.

An actual post is forthcoming. At some point. When I have the time, and am no longer snowed under by unfinished articles.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

the Doctor is in

"I'm a doctor, not a lady."

- Michaela Quinn, Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman

So it's confirmed, and the rumours of the first female Doctor have been proven to be just that. Members of a certain Facebook group (of which I confess I am a member) will doubtless be crushed. The new Doctor Who will be played by 26-year-old Matt Smith, of Party Animals and That Face fame. But I'm not surprised.  The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology might have put in an open bid to have a Time Lady in the TARDIS following David Tennant's departure at the end of this year, but most of us knew that it wasn't going to happen. Sure, we had the Rani (evil) and both regenerations of Romnadveratrelundar (the only sidekick to be smarter than the Doctor, with her triple-Alpha degree making his 51% at the second attempt to pass his Time Lord exams look pretty darn miserly), but girls from Gallifrey are sadly underrespresented on the show. 

Lucy Mangan posted a deliciously tongue in cheek explanation of why we could never have a female Doctor waaay back in 2006:

1 Girls can't do maths or read maps - surely insurmountable problems when applied to the calculations in 17 dimensions that a Time Lord must habitually make. Also, cannot afford to spend entire pre-credits sequence waiting for her to park the Tardis.

2 Not keen on whole episodes set in Ikea watching her pick out perfect window treatments for her interplanetary home. Or fretting about ageing effects of time travel. Retinol A must remain name of satellite Gallifreyan moon, not anti-wrinkle cream.

3 Doctor must be eccentric. Can women be eccentric without being covered in cat hair and/or smelling of wee? Research how.

4 Cannot afford necessary pre-launch campaign explaining to Whovians what a woman is.

5 Hierarchical problems. Doctor needs mentally and physically inferior sidekick to be afraid of Cybermen / stretchy-faced Penelope Wilton / glowy-headed fat people. If Who is female, will need to cast six-year-old boy (or rather 800 of them, because they can't work for more than 10 minutes at a time without some bleeding-heart waving child labour legislation at us - talk to Stephen Daldry if you don't believe me) or tin of Spam. Check whether there is Spam rights group. If so, investigate availability of Jimmy Krankie. Could be years before they sort out what we can and can't do with him. Her. God, this messes with your head.

6 Metaphysical problems. Doctor is same person, regeneration provides new body only. Reincarnating as female suggests feminine aspect has existed all along. Might mark series as camp?

7 Aesthetic problems. Doctor historically not been in any danger of being mistaken for Michaelangelo's David. Tom Baker nice chap but face like a bag of pork chops and Sylvester McCoy frankly disturbing. As ugly women now shot on sight at television auditions, how to cast? Go with Claire Goose and throw acid in her face? (Call her agent.)

8 Insurmountable problem - Time Lady just sounds wrong.

9 On the other hand, we've got to find something to do with Davina McCall.
It seems that, as far as Doctor Who is concerned, us girls are destined to be always the sidekick, never the main event. Oh well - there's always progressive kids' spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, with it's middle-aged, avowedly feminist heroine, her super-computer, and her blatantly closeted son. And if you really can't do without your extra X chromosome to accompany that second heart, you might want to take refuge in that old standby, fanfiction.

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 Retrospective: Bitches Get Stuff Done

So they said it was the year of the woman
I believe it was the year of sex

- Ani diFranco, 'Sistersong'

I haven't touched this blog in over a year, and even that was to type 'ooops, haven't been updating much, have I?' I got distracted by numerous things - work, day to day life, my burgeoning freelance writing career - but partly the radio silence at GWaS occurred because it was too damn painful to report everything that was going on. 

I was pretty strongly invested in Hillary's campaign, and some of the reporting around it sickened me. Like a lot of you, I spent the bulk of last year addicted to the press coverage of the election that would - and not before time - finally kick Dubya out of the office that he never rightfully attained. And even before it was over, by the time HRC bowed out (not entirely gracefully) and the media were all united in their chant of 'Ding dong, the bitch is dead', I'd had enough. Enough of hearing an outspoken woman called a bitch, of watching media outlets (Slate, I'm looking at you) that I'd previously admired show up their sexist bias. 

But instead of blogging about it, I stewed not-so-silently at my parents, my coworkers, and nearly choked to death on my own impotent rage. I don't know if the panic attacks or the depression were related to that - if I was channelling frustration at my own situation into obsessively following an election I'm not even eligable to vote in, or if it was just breathing the constant barrage of toxic sexism that was making me sick. Either way, there was little of a productive nature done during those crucial months of the Democratic primaries, and if I have any resolutions for 2009 it's that the next time I get angry, I'm going to do something about it, even if it's just venting my rage here. 

So here's a brief round-up of some of the things I should have been blogging about this year but didn't:

(or for a very brief overview, you can catch my Women We Loved piece over at the rather splendiforous Mookychick, or check out The F Word's Top Ten Feminist Moments of 2008 (UK-specific) and Bitch Magazine's Best Feminist Picks of '08)

  • It was the year that Grey's Anatomy debuted a lesbian romance between a plus size bisexual woman of colour and a middle-aged, unconventionally attractive, newly out dyke. It was also the year they abruptly dropped it by the order of ABC. In fact, it was the same week. Way to go, ABC!
  • The Poppy Project published their report on the UK's sex industry, Big Brothel and in October the government pledged to "clamp down" on the sex industry.
  • On 20 October at 8.30am, feminists chained themselves to the Department of Health and obstructed access to the building to add to the public pressure for access to abortion to be extended to Northern Ireland. Around 40 activists came to offer support, to demonstrate and to leaflet the public. Your fearless blogger is the one laughing like a hyena above the 'i' in ''fighting".
  • Barack Obama got elected. Liberals were happy until he then arranged for a homophobic self-help guru to be present at his inauguration.
  • Prop 8 passed. Liberals were sad, but some of them wrote a musical about it.
  • Everyone's favourite Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer was told by her then-record label RoadRunner that they wouldn't promote her latest album. The reason? She wouldn't edit out shots of her stomach in her video for the song 'Leeds United'. Fans of all genders, shapes & sizes start a Rebellyon.
  • Twilight was released and many teenage girls squeed about Robert Pattinson's hair. Some people pointed out that the books are a bit sexist and that actually Edward Cullen is a creepy, emotionally manipulative stalker. Then the film's director, Catherine Hardwicke (who also directed the kick-ass Thirteen, discovered that she wouldn't be filming the rest of the franchise. Apparently she was "too difficult". Hmm, where have we heard that one before?
  • The 2008 Queen's Speech announced that licensing laws around lap-dancing clubs will be tightened up and that all parents with children aged 16 and under will have the right to request flexible working from April 2009. Sadly, the Queen wasn't played by Helen Mirren. 
  • 2008 also heralded the rise and rise of Rachel Maddow, MSNBC's newest talking head. Both openly queer and proudly butch, she's also funny as hell and holds a PhD to boot. 

This is just a sample of the groundbreaking year that was '08, the year that saw 18 million cracks spread across the glass ceiling, that saw a black man appointed as President Elect and featured the most disturbing birth scene ever to appear in literature. Stephanie Meyer, Mary Shelley has nothing on you.

FEY: Maybe what bothers me the most is that people say that Hillary is a bitch. Let me say something about that: Yeah, she is. And so am I and so is this one. (pointing to Amy Poehler)
POEHLER: Yeah, deal with it.
FEY: Know what? Bitches get stuff done.

Start the new year the way you mean to carry on - be bloody, bold and resolute, be righteous and wise, let 2009 be the year we get stuff done. And if anyone tries to call you a bitch for making a stand, for going after what you want or rejecting what you don't, just tell them that it's what Hillary would do

A few things coming up in London over the next few weeks include:

Feminists in Cafes are meeting @ 7 pm in Foyles Cafe, Charing Cross Road on 6th January.

The London Institute of Contemporary Art is showing a series ofLGBTQ-themed films entitled Destroy Every Closet Door. The mini-festival includes the UK premiere of Milk and a showing of queer classic The Celluloid Closet.

The Fabian Society's New Year conference Fairness Doesn't Just Happen will include speakers from The F Word, and The Fawcett Society as well as GWaS's homegrrl, Harriet Harman.

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