Open Thread with Clouds and Lake

Some fluffy clouds reflected in a placid lake (photo taken by moi during a walk last week) feature for this week’s Open Thread. Please natter/chatter/vent/rant on anything* you like over this weekend and throughout the week.

A blue sky with scattered fluffy clouds reflected in the waters of a lake

Blue sky and clouds reflected in Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia

So, what have you been up to? What would you rather be up to? What’s been awesome/awful?
Reading? Watching? Making? Meeting?
What has [insert awesome inspiration/fave fansquee/guilty pleasure/dastardly ne’er-do-well/threat to all civilised life on the planet du jour] been up to?


* Netiquette footnotes:
* There is no off-topic on the Weekly Open Thread, but consider whether your comment would be on-topic on any recent thread and thus better belongs there.
* If your comment touches on topics known to generally result in thread-jacking, you will be expected to take the discussion to #spillover instead of overshadowing the social/circuit-breaking aspects of this thread.

Posted in Life, Politics, Popular Culture, The Cultural Canon | Tagged | 23 Comments

Quick hit: Malala Yousafzai aced high school, naturally

Malala Yousafzai survived a gunshot to the head from the Taliban in retribution for her passionate activism about education for girls starting when she was just eleven. She started a nonprofit to promote and enable education for girls, including those threatened by the Taliban in her native Pakistan. She won a Nobel Prize at age 16. She’s spoken to the UN. She’s traveled the globe to speak with world leaders. She’s also declined to speak with world leaders when it would conflict with her high school class schedule, which is why her grades are better than yours.

Even after winning a Nobel peace prize, with glittering invitations to speak to presidents across the world, education activist Malala Yousafzai always had one priority: her schoolwork.

And the Pakistani pupil’s dedication to her studies has paid off, according to her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, who tweeted that the 18-year-old had achieved six A*s and four As when the GCSE results were released on Thursday.

With her grades, and probably a few letters of recommendation and good extracurricular activities, she’s likely to get into Oxford — her first-choice school — with little difficulty. From there, she’s likely to continue to inspire millions, lead positive change, promote full education for girls, build schools in war zones and refugee areas — you know, same old same old — and I suppose maybe learn to row, since I hear that’s a big thing there.

She plans to remain in the UK for the remainder of her education. “I want to get my education — a good university education. A lot of the politicians have studied in Oxford, like Benazir [Bhutto, who Malala states is her role model]. My dream is to empower myself with education, and then it is a weapon.”

(In all seriousness, this is both awesome and not at all surprising, so congratulations and wow and best of all things to her.)

(Oh, also, she has a movie coming out in October, He Named Me Malala, so that’s another thing that she’s done while still getting top grades.)

Of course, this raises a question: Did Ziauddin Yousafzai first look at her grades and say, “Six A’s? Why aren’t they all A*?” and then pretend he was kidding before she could start crying? Because I’m pretty sure all dads are required to do that.

Posted in Education, Religion, Terrorism | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Quick hit: Duke freshman refuse to, can’t wait to read Fun Home

On the one hand: Several Duke University students have publicly announced their unwillingness to do the suggested freshman summer reading. They refused to read Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about her experiences with her father and her relationship with her sexual identity, because it offends their Christian values. Freshman Brian Grasso took issue with the “graphic visual depictions of sexuality” and said that “[he] would have to compromise [his] personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” Others said that while they might have been willing to read it in plain print, the graphic format was unacceptable, with one saying it would “violate [his] conscience due to its pornographic nature.” Some students found it offensive that the book was included on the reading list at all.

Although the book selection has prompted valuable discussions for some first ­years, others said it changed their perception of Duke.

“I thought to myself, ‘What kind of school am I going to?'” said freshman Elizabeth Snyder-­Mounts.

Grasso noted that he felt the book choice was insensitive to people with more conservative beliefs.

“Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind,” he said. “It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.”

On the other hand: Other students, not locked into a fearful, fundamentalist view of the world around them, are excited to read Fun Home and gratified to see it on the reading list. For some, the book and subsequent discussions have been their first exposure to the lives, experiences, and identities of LGBT people. For others, just the fact that Duke included the book on the freshman reading list, and invited Bechdel to speak on campus, is a gratifying sign that they might feel accepted on a welcoming campus.

Zephyr Farah, a first year student who attended the Bechdel lunch on August 20, described to us the “surreal” feeling she experienced when finding out “a book that talked so frequently and so deeply about being a lesbian was assigned [as] summer reading for school.” Farah grew up in places as far apart as Qatar, Angola and Texas, and was shocked at the openness she found when she got to campus, based on discussions of Fun Home. Marveling over the moment when she had the chance to shake Bechdel’s hand, Farah remarks, “It wasn’t the basketball, the school spirit, or the enormous Brodie Gym that excited me about Duke; it was the acceptance, the advocacy and the willingness here to treat people as people. Fun Home is a symbol of that for me.”

[…]

It is unfortunate that the Duke Chronicle did not reach out to some of these students, LGBTQ or not, who have engaged so thoughtfully with Bechdel’s work. For example, Duke student Jasmine Lu told us that she was glad that Fun Home was selected as recommended reading because she had “never familiarized [herself] with the very common identity crisis that lesbian women go through.” She points out that while she appreciates the book for how it opened her mind to thinking about the difficulties that face LGBTQ people in coming to terms with their identities, what she got most out of the book was a meditation on how Bechdel’s relationship with her father had shaped her life. Lu wrote to us, “It was [Bechdel’s] revelation to us on how much of a mystery her father was even after all the facts of his life came out that really resonated with me as I’m sure it could with almost anyone. [… S]o while I respect the others’ choices to not read the book, I’m also sad that it wasn’t able to touch them as it had touched me.”

tl:dr: Some Christian students at Duke believe that anything depicting sexuality in a visual format is by definition biblically condemned wank fodder and are offended that their summer reading list was not crafted around their delicate sensibilities; other students acknowledge that college will likely be full of challenging ideas and that sometimes the things that offend them are the ones they most need to understand, and embrace the opportunity to learn something.

Bonus Bechdel: Unrelated to Christian sensibilities or Duke’s reading list, Bechdel has said that while the test that bears her name did appear first in her comic strip, the actual standard was created by her friend Liz Wallace and should really be called the Bechdel­-Wallace test. Adjust future movie analyses accordingly.

Posted in Education, GLBTQ, Literature, Religion | 13 Comments

Women’s suffrage (on paper)

On this day in history, 95 years ago, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed a proclamation amending the U.S. Constitution to guarantee a woman’s right to vote — after a fashion — with the signing of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Said Alice Paul, of the National American Woman Suffrage Association,

August 26 will be remembered as one of the great days in the history of the women of the world and in the history of this republic. All women must feel a great sense of triumph and of unmeasurable relief at the successful conclusion of a long and exhausting struggle. The suffrage amendment is now safe beyond all reasonable expectation of legal attack. This opinion was secured from high legal authorities by officers of the National Woman’s Party who devoted their efforts after the signing of the ratification proclamation to discover what further steps, if any, would be necessary to protect the amendment. Pending injunction cases were automatically thrown out of court by the signing of the proclamation according to the consensus of legal opinion.

And it was a momentous day, and we should celebrate it. So… let’s do that.

But let’s also not forget that Paul’s statement that “all women must feel a great sense of triumph” wasn’t necessarily accurate, and that many of the women who fought for women’s suffrage wouldn’t be able to enjoy it themselves for another four decades. In much of the country, black women had been excluded from the women’s suffrage movement. Many Southern suffragists felt that women’s suffrage should only be extended to white women, and celebrated feminists including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were explicitly willing to throw black women under the bus in the interest of gaining equality for white women. At Paul’s Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913, black women were welcome to stand in favor of women’s suffrage but were expected to do so from their segregated position all the way at the back of the parade. Between political actions by states and personal actions within communities, black women remained disenfranchised in a way that wasn’t addressed in any substantive, legally enforceable way until the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 — for which they had to much of the fighting themselves.

So yes, the passage of the 19th Amendment was an important and historical day, and it was a long time coming. But as we acknowledge that, we can’t let ourselves fall into the handy rhetorical trap of saying that the 19th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote for all women, because that just isn’t accurate. At best, women’s suffrage was passed without respect for black women, and at worst, it was passed on the backs of black women. The image of Ida B. Wells at the parade in 1913, forced to stand at the back but working her way through a crowd of thousands to march among the white women of her state’s delegation, is sadly representative of the fight for all women’s suffrage, and we need to remember that.

Posted in History, Law, Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Racism | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Mind your business, Ohio legislature

Let me make this perfectly clear:

I just went through a pregnancy for a much-wanted child. I endured morning sickness that lasted throughout the entire pregnancy. I became so short of breath that I had to stop and rest partway up the stairs in my own home. I dislocated a rib. My heartburn was so bad that I had to take two or three separate medications each day. I had a major placental abruption with a level of blood loss that the doctors termed “impressive,” and placental abruption carries risk to both mother and fetus. And if I want to go through that, that is my decision. And if I decide not to go through with that ever again, no matter what my reason is, that is also my decision.

And my reasons for it are no legislature’s business. Whether or not anybody else thinks it’s a good reason. If someone chooses to have an abortion because of the fetus’s sex, race, disability status–not anybody else’s business.

So how does the Ohio legislature plan to enforce its bill prohibiting abortion due to a fetus having Down’s syndrome? Do they plan to bug doctors’ offices? How would any policeman know what a given woman’s reasons for abortion are? Particularly given that the blood test that can tell you whether your fetus has trisomy-18 or Down’s Syndrome (trisomy 21) is done at nine weeks. That’s quite early. Women have abortions that early for any number of reasons. This is a symbolic bill, and what it symbolizes is that the conversations pregnant people have with our doctors are not private, are not ours. It symbolizes that our decisions are never free from the judgment of others. We are never trusted to make our own decisions about child-bearing. But they are our decisions, and our motivations are between us and those we choose to consult. Forced-birthers using disability rights advocacy as a cat’s paw to muddy the issue doesn’t change that.

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Black Girls and the School to Prison Pipeline

If I say “school-to-prison pipeline,” you may think of the criminalization of African-American boys, almost always for behavior that would merit their white counterparts at most detention. But what about the girls? Just as racist police brutality does not give a pass to black women, so too does the school-to-prison pipeline operate for black girls as well. First, some statistics. According to Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected, BY Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw with Priscilla Ocen and Jyoti Nanda, a report issued by the African-American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Policy Studies at the Columbia Law School, in the 2011-2012 school year in NYC:

Black girls were suspended six times as often as white girls, with 12% of black girls being suspended in a given year.

There about twice as many black girls enrolled in public school as white girls, but they are disciplined ten times as often.

90% of expulsions of girls were of black girls. 90%! Not one white girl was expelled that year. (This strongly suggests to me that schools do not value black girls as students.)

“Black girls receive more severe sentences when they enter the juvenile justice system than do members of any other group of girls, and they are also the fastest growing population in the system” Crenshaw, Ocen, and Nanda write. So when teachers and schools fail to value black girls, punish them unreasonably for minor offenses (Crenshaw’s report opens with several pretty appalling examples), and in other ways discourage them from attending school or devalue the education they get, they are putting them at risk for criminal detention in a legal system that is all too happy to keep them. And as for young men, when young women leave school without a high school diploma, they are far more likely to find themselves stuck in low-wage work with very few routes for advancement.

The entire report is worth reading. Some of the appalling miscarriages of justice described are of a piece with what we know affects black boys as well: zero-tolerance policies that lead to expulsions for carrying nail clippers, for instance, and schools focused far more on discipline and high-stakes testing than education. But much of what Crenshaw writes about is gendered: girls experience metal detectors and searches on their way into school as akin to sexual harassment, as feeling “naked” in front of authority figures; girls who act out are punished to a far greater extent than boys who act out in the same way; boys’ sexual harassment of girls is overlooked while the girls’ responses are punished heavily; sexual abuse and other interpersonal violence is an incredibly strong predictor of girls’ involvement with school disciplinary procedures, and is also a significant reason for girls’ leaving school. And family care-taking responsibilities, including children and older family members, fall far more heavily on the shoulders of black girls than on their male counterparts.

I started collecting sources for this post back in April, and the interruption to my blogging has taken its toll; this topic deserves a far more thoughtful piece. But the perfect is the enemy of better-than-my-silence on this issue, and this site of oppression, at the intersection of race and gender and all too frequently, disability, needs to be a topic of discussion among feminists.

Particularly white feminists, because there’s another side to this issue. The side with the active voice. Black girls are suspended, are expelled, are disciplined. But who is it who’s suspending, expelling, and otherwise pushing these girls away from education and toward the criminal “justice” system? Mikki Kendall notes in this interview that “80% of teachers are white and mostly women.” Who is waging this war on black children, boys and girls? Principals, sure, but the teachers on the frontlines are mostly white women. This is a situation where white women are enforcing race and gender norms at the expense of black girls. I have not been able to get my hands on Kendall’s piece about this for Bitch Planet (I keep trying to buy the issue digitally, it keeps not working) but I’d bet solid money that what she has to say is worth reading. I’m going to try and order it from my local comic shop. I’d welcome comments from, well, everybody, obviously, but if anybody has read it, I’d be particularly interested to hear about it.

Posted in Education, Gender, Race & Ethnicity, Racism | 3 Comments

Friday Hypocrisy Link Dump: Ashley Madison edition

Hey, what goes on in a person’s bedroom is their own damn business, and the number of people wittingly or unwittingly invited into a couple’s relationship is also their own damn business. (My personal feeling is that honesty is the best policy, but you do you.) (Or other people, if that’s your thing. Like I said, not my business.) That said, if you’re going to actively fight against marriage equality on account of family values, and claim that it will result in the collapse of traditional marriage and the destruction of families, it helps to have your own marriage on the up and up. It definitely helps to not turn over your credit card information and personal profile to a site dedicated to helping people have affairs like some kind of extramarital OK Cupid. Especially when that site is vulnerable to hacking and massive data dumps. Fr’instance:

19 Side Pieces and Counting. Josh Duggar was one of the stars, in case you hadn’t guessed from the name, of the recently-canceled TLC show 19 Kids and Counting and former executive director of the Family Research Council, from which he was forced to resign after his molestation of five girls (four of whom were his sisters) was revealed in May of this year. But that was when he was a teenager, and now he’s made his peace with God, and now he’s an adult and a better person. (I will grant you that child molestation is way worse than marital infidelity, so good on you with the baby steps, J.D.) Yeah, within the recent leak of Ashley Madison user information were not one but two accounts with his name and address (one in Arkansas, one in Maryland, both his) to the tune of nearly $1,000, running from February 2013 until May 2015 (which, coincidentally, happened to be when the molestation was revealed). Account details indicate that he was looking for (among other activities) “conventional sex,” “one-night-stands,” “sensual massage,” and “bubble bath for 2,” from a woman who is (among other qualities) “stylish/classy,” “naughty girl,” “a good listener,” “has a secret love nest,” “natural breasts,” and “Proverbs 31 woman.” (Okay, I made that last one up.)

While Duggar hasn’t responded to the Ashley Madison revelation, he has copped to a porn addiction, saying that he has been “the biggest hypocrite ever.” But that depends on if you’re calculating gross hypocrisy, or hypocrisy per capita:

Give ‘Em Hell, Alabama. We can’t forget the news that the state of Alabama leads the nation in college football championships, professed conservative values, and paid infidelity. An analysis of the leaked Ashley Madison data shows that Alabamians spent about $5.50 per capita in pursuit of strange, head and cheating shoulders above second-place Colorado, which spent about $4.50. Rammer Jammer, Yellowhammer.

The Big Easy. Marriage might be between one man and one woman, but infidelity is pretty much infinite. For the Ashley Madison trifecta, we have the director of the Louisiana Republican Party, Jason Dore, who also had an Ashley Madison account dating back to 2013. He’s said that while the account was created under his name and personal credit card information, it was actually for use by his former law firm, Dore Jeansonne, for “standard opposition research.” He said in a later statement that he also “only subscribed to Playboy to read the articles.” (Okay, I made that part up, too.)

Your Tax Dollars at Work. To be perfectly fair, furtive pursuit of affairs is not limited to conservatives. Hundreds of U.S. government employees from both sides of the aisle have been logging in to the site from the office, using .gov and .mil email addresses, because taxpayers and constituents are definitely interested in funding governmental hunts for extramarital activity. Users included House and Senate workers, workers in more than two dozen executive agencies, and at least two assistant U.S. attorneys. Profiles included “liberal democrat,” “Educated Professional Democrat,” “A Democrat who loves to kiss,” “Refined Republican,” “Republican 2:16” (and I’m praying that refers to a bible verse), and “Life is a blur of Republicans and meat.”

Please let this be a reminder that everything that’s on the Internet is going to come off of it eventually, and that if you’re on a lengthy, widespread, self-righteousness-fueled campaign to destroy relationships and control people’s lives and bodies in the name of “traditional families,” make sure your own “family values” don’t mean Looking for identical twins pref. blonde for bathtub fun, maybe more.

Posted in GLBTQ, Marriage, Politics, relationships, Religion, Reproductive Rights | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Investigations reveal that no, seriously, Planned Parenthood isn’t selling baby parts

Recently, I disassembled accusations that Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts. (My argument was basically, “No, both Planned Parenthood and just about everyone in the medical field who knows anything about tissue research and donation agree that Planned Parenthood isn’t selling baby parts, and here’s supporting data.”) Following multiple independent investigations, however, it was revealed Friday that… Planned Parenthood still isn’t selling baby parts.

The investigations were launched after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, began releasing hidden-camera videos in July that supposedly depicted Planned Parenthood physicians and staff members discussing the sale of fetal parts. Conservatives and anti-abortion activists have argued that Planned Parenthood is illegally benefiting from the sales, but the health organization says that any associated fees are simply to cover the cost of processing, storage and transfer of the tissues for medical research, and that all donations are made voluntarily. Planned Parenthood has said the videos are misleading and heavily edited.

[…]

“In every state where these investigations have concluded, officials have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement Friday. “We’ve said all along that Planned Parenthood follows all laws and has very high medical standards, and that’s what every one of these investigations has found. This campaign by anti-abortion extremists is nothing less than a fraud, intended to deceive the public with patently false claims in order to pursue an extreme political agenda.”

In the wake of the original video release, Congress announced plans to investigate Planned Parenthood, and 11 states have launched their own investigations. In Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Dakota, all Planned Parenthood affiliates have been found to be working in complete compliance with all laws. In Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas, investigations also aren’t likely to uncover wrongdoing, since Planned Parenthood locations there don’t donate tissue at all or don’t even have centers performing abortions in that state. (Investigation into whether citizens are pissed that their tax dollars are being used to investigate activities that literally aren’t happening have yet to be launched.)

Several articles in support of Planned Parenthood appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine this month, reiterating that investigations into the allegations have been fruitless and confirming the value of tissue donation and the importance of Planned Parenthood to women’s health. R. Alt Charo, JD, says plainly that “we have a duty to use fetal tissue for research and therapy,” and that the investigations into Planned Parenthood haven’t revealed wrongdoing but have resulted in calls to defund PP and to outlaw the use of fetal tissue in research. And Drs. George P. Topulos, Michael F. Greene, and Jeffrey M. Drazen wrote:

We strongly support Planned Parenthood not only for its efforts to channel fetal tissue into important medical research but also for its other work as one of the country’s largest providers of health care for women, especially poor women.

[…]

It is shameful that a radical antichoice group whose goal is the destruction of Planned Parenthood continues to twist the facts to achieve its ends. We thank the women who made the choice to help improve the human condition through their tissue donation; we applaud the people who make this work possible and those who use these materials to advance human health. We are outraged by those who debase these women, this work, and Planned Parenthood by distorting the facts for political ends.

House Democrats, for their part, are calling for an investigation of the Center for Medical Progress (again, not to be confused with the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research), the anti-choice group that shot the undercover videos, edited them misleadingly, and posted them online. The Center has allegedly used fake IDs in the course of making the videos and appears to be soliciting donations as a 501(c)3 “medical charity.”

In the meantime, governors of Arkansas, Georgia, and Louisiana have moved to block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood (which may or may not be legal). A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, however, has shown that despite the hit that Planned Parenthood has taken to its image in the wake of the videos, more than 60 percent of respondents said they supported federal funding for prenatal care and women’s health exams, and 54 percent supported funding Planned Parenthood, specifically, to do it.

(h/t The Maddow Blog)

Posted in Health, Law, Medicine, Politics, Reproductive Rights | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

In which, God help me, I find myself defending the Alpha Phi video

For young men and women in the Greek system in U.S. colleges, the end of summer means the start of rush season. It’s the time when they start recruiting hard for people to beg to join their fraternity or sorority, so they can reject most of them a couple of months from now. It’s a practice seen by many but understood by few outside of the tightly insulated system, and most non-Greeks are okay with that, but sometimes the curtain gets pulled back and you see, for instance, this summer’s recruiting video from Alpha Phi sorority at the University of Alabama.

There are piggyback rides. There are winks and kisses blown at the camera. There’s lots of jumping into a lake. There’s lots of bikini-top-wearing and up-and-down-jumping. There are lots — lots — of shots filmed from behind at butt level. And there’s color ranging from platinum blonde to dirty blonde, with the occasional token brunette thrown in for diversity.

There can be an amount of fremdschämen involved in watching these young women slo-mo bouncing in bathing suits. The Internet quickly, as it does, filled with dismissive comments about hair dye, bikinis, and speculation on the women’s intelligence. A friend who was a member of a sorority at Alabama and continues to treasure her time there said that with the amount of time she’s spent defending herself as a former “sorority girl,” this video makes Greek life look even worse to people outside of it. And one writer for al.com is of the opinion that the video is basically the worst thing to happen to women in modern time — certainly up in Donald Trump territory.

No, it’s not a slick Playboy Playmate or Girls Gone Wild video. It’s a sorority recruiting tool gaining on 500,000 views in its first week on YouTube. It’s a parade of white girls and blonde hair dye, coordinated clothing, bikinis and daisy dukes, glitter and kisses, bouncing bodies, euphoric hand-holding and hugging, gratuitous booty shots, and matching aviator sunglasses. It’s all so racially and aesthetically homogeneous and forced, so hyper-feminine, so reductive and objectifying, so Stepford Wives: College Edition. It’s all so … unempowering.

Are they recruiting a diverse and talented group of young women embarking on a college education? Upon first or even fifth glance, probably not. Hormonal college-aged guys? Most assuredly yes. Older, male YouTube creepers? A resounding yes.

Like the many other videos of its ilk found online for sororities far and wide, it’s supposed to work as a sales tool to draw in potential new members (PNMs). But unlike many other videos, Alpha Phi’s video stands out in the “beauty and bounce” category and in its production value. Yes, sororities are known for being pretty and flirty; they aren’t bastions of feminist ideologies. But perhaps they shouldn’t completely sabotage them either.

And I’m currently really resentful of op-ed writer A.L. Bailey, because now I find myself defending a video full of pool-noodle fights and glitter. Nice job, A.L. I hope you step on Legos.

I will grant you, right off the top: This video makes Alpha Phi look kind of silly. As a video meant to promote the sorority, which includes philanthropy and scholarship within its mission, it pretty much portrays Alpha Phi life as one long music video full of back handsprings, piggyback rides, and “Blessed” bathing suits. It looks, and I’m not joking, like an extended cut of the opening scene of Legally Blonde, without any indication of self-awareness or self-parody.

(As for slamming the video for its lack of diversity… talk to UA’s entire Greek system about lack of diversity. And that’s not a blow-off in the manner of “of course this WWII period movie is all white! Things were segregated back then!” It’s a reminder that the racism that put University of Alabama Greek system in the spotlight two years ago still remains unaddressed in any substantive manner. The video is all white? We can talk about the fact that they had literally no women of color in their casting pool.)

As a marketing effort, the video really does present the sisters of Alpha Phi as pretty things to look at in bathing suits and short-shorts. There’s no way around that. And there are almost certainly men who are responding pruriently to that message (just as there are men who will respond thusly to a woman in a calf-length parka on a city sidewalk in November). It’s silly. But it’s not the root of all misogynistic evil, and in her condemnation of the video and the women in it, Bailey seems a bit confused as to what the roots really are. In the op-ed, she lists women’s struggle for control over their reproductive health, the struggle for a fair wage, women speaking up about Bill Cosby, and Donald Trump’s dismissal of and insults against women as signs that women aren’t yet being taken seriously. Then she essentially lays this on the women of Alpha Phi, who, “with all their flouncing and hair-flipping, are making it so terribly difficult for anyone to take them seriously, now or in the future.”

Not being taken seriously is not the reason women are still fighting for equal pay and reproductive rights. Congress isn’t debating laws that shut down women’s clinics and put women’s health under the control of major corporations because they think we’re all just “hair-flipping” “bimbos” who can’t be trusted with these decisions. They’re doing it because they have agendas to support and power structures to maintain (and respectable, non-hair-flipping, non-bimbo women to take part in it all). And when women’s rape accusations are disregarded because of the way they look, act, or dress, it’s not because of women like the ones in the video — it’s because of the stereotypes that are perpetuated against women like them. Tank top-clad sorority videos aren’t going to take down the patriarchy, but they’re also not the sole barrier standing in the way of women’s rights. Not even a major barrier.

Here’s something that’s bad for women: the fact that we can lay out all of the above concerns — the gender wage gap, the fight for reproductive rights and access to health care, dozens of women allegedly being raped by a man shielded for decades by the power of celebrity, and a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination being a man who (among many other offenses) speculated disparagingly on Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle after the debate — and decry the insidious threat of a sorority video in the same breath. That’s not to say that we can’t care about several issues at once; nothing happens in a vacuum. But this video? Not just that it’s another concern, but that it’s so problematic that it’s actively enabling all of the others?

Seriously? In the world of female objectification, this video is tame. It’s on level with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, certainly short of Playboy’s “Girls of the…” college series, light years short of Girls Gone Wild. This is Girls Gone Stereotypical. That’s not helping women, but laying the full weight of the feminist movement on these women’s tanned shoulders is unrealistic.

What makes it bad for women is not the fact that these women might, in the future, be called “bimbos” by male coworkers who’ve seen the video, but that society continues to evaluate women and rate them on a scale from Bimbo to Sexless Hag and treat them accordingly. It’s not the fact that it’s portraying a bouncy, perky, bikinied version of sorority life but that that’s the message, and not philanthropy or academics, that’s actually effective in getting young women to pledge sororities. It’s not the idea that the women of Alpha Phi might have nothing more to offer than “beauty and bounce,” but the idea that writers like Bailey look at them and see nothing but a 72-woman takedown of the feminist movement.

This is not a helpful video, from a purely feminist standpoint. It doesn’t promote a woman’s value beyond her ability to look pretty in cut-offs. It’s not empowering; it’s not “empowerful.” It’s five and a half minutes of pure eye candy. It’s as white as white can be (minus, of course, the football player cameo), and that’s because the sorority itself is as white as white can be within a super-white UA Panhellenic. And it makes me sad that when these young women chose to make a video promoting their sorority, they defaulted to spray tans, bathing suits, and, for some reason, literal piles of glitter. While women should be free to make their own choices for their own bodies and their own lives, we can’t pretend that those choices don’t have wider repercussions, and we’re still free to criticize those choices. That said… it’s a sorority recruitment video. It’s the video embodiment of what Alpha Phi is pretty sure prospective pledges are looking for in a college experience. It’s a reflection less on the value of women as a whole and more on the questionable choices of Alpha Phi’s recruitment committee. (Incidentally, UA’s Alpha Phi chapter has since taken down the video and almost all of their online presence, so… there you go, Bailey. No more bikini shots.)

So. We can accuse Alpha Phi of singlehandedly (72-handedly?) dismantling the feminist cause, promoting the objectification of women, and setting a shameful example for our daughters, via their admittedly objectifying, unintentionally comical video. Or we can say that they look like they’re having fun, that we all did silly things in college, and — most of all — once again — as ever — that telling women that their expressions of femininity and sexuality are betraying the sisterhood isn’t going to make them put on a turtleneck and join the cause, it’s going to alienate them and tell them that there’s no place for women like them within the movement. If you want a young woman “blessed with potential” to work for change within a deeply flawed system, and to fight against racism, rape culture, and Donald Trump and for equal pay, reproductive rights, and access to health care, you can go ahead and tell her she looks like a Playboy Playmate who’s a poster child for detrimental stereotypes and clichés, flouncing and bouncing and sabotaging feminist ideologies. Get back to me about how successful you were with that.

Posted in Beauty, Body image, Education, Racism | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Going Off: A chronicle of becoming unmedicated

[Content note for depression, anxiety, and the medical treatment thereof]

In a series of posts on the NYT’s “Anxiety” blog, starting in February, Diana Spechler has been documenting the process of (with her doctor’s supervision) going off of the prescription meds that had been treating her anxiety, depression, and insomnia for over a year. Going Off opens with “Breaking Up With My Meds,” outlining how she came into psychopharmacology and why she wanted to get out of it.

I went to the psychiatrist, who told me that with medication, we would aim to get my mood as close to 100 percent as possible, my anxiety as close to 0 percent as possible. Reaching perfection would give me the best shot at success when I later weaned off.

[…]

Now, looking at the depression graph, I see that I never reached 100 percent. I briefly hit 90. I’m fairly certain that feeling 100 percent is an urban legend. “I still want to wean off all of it,” I tell my doctor. I’m taking a fairly low dose of everything now: 200 milligrams of bupropion, my antidepressant; 100 milligrams of trazodone, my sleeping pill; and 1 milligram of lorazepam, for anxiety.

“I’m in a tough spot,” he says, wheeling back to his desk, “because meds do help you. And meds are what I have to offer.”

I’ve written about my relationship with Bipolar II, and particularly the way that my (self-perceived, at least) creativity seemed more plentiful when my mind was more scrambled. I also noted that, having to choose between my current level of wellness and my previous level of creativity, I’ll keep taking those pills. I think back on the scary, unmedicated then, and the stable, medicated now, and there’s no question.

The big difference between Spechler’s situation and mine (outside of the fact that she’d qualify as a writer-writer, rather than a copywriter-and-blogger-with-three-crappy-unfinished-novels-clogging-up-my-hard-drive-writer) is that my drugs play nicely together, and hers didn’t. The three medications she took combined to cause hair loss, constant thirst, a lack of interest in exercise, and — the dread of any writer (even the CABWTCUNCUMHD kind) — a slow, dull mind. For her, by her personal mental-health calculus, the now wasn’t actually better than the then. It was just a different kind of trouble. And so, with her psychiatrist’s reluctant support and close supervision, she looked for another way.

We strike a deal: He’ll help me get off all of my medication if I come in for more appointments, keep in closer contact with him. He recommends a few therapists, too, jotting down their names and numbers on a pad of paper. I doubt I’ll call them. I left therapy a year ago and still enjoy my freedom from it. I’ve tried other alternatives to medication, as well. Yoga. Meditation. A light box. Veganism. Blackout curtains. Fish oil. Quitting alcohol. Quitting caffeine. Nothing has helped as much as meds have. But at this point, I care less about my anxiety and depression worsening, and more about getting back to being me.

[…]

Psychiatric disorders are no pea. Depression and anxiety are diffuse, nebulous, ever-mutating. Pills, on the other hand, are concrete little things — pebbles to pluck from the bottom of a shoe. And that’s my goal — to pluck the pebbles, to get back to basics, to believe in my body as a self-sustaining ecosystem.

I’ve got this, my body is telling me lately. Let me show you I’ve got this.

The series is interesting not only because of the process of getting off of the drugs, but also her accounts of her experiences getting on — her emotional state from the beginning, her relationship with her body, the initial process of auditioning new drugs and new combinations. Her path is dotted with familiar experiences (breaking up with a boyfriend, albeit complicated by her ongoing breakup with her drugs) and experiences that might only seem familiar to some (cyclical anxiety about caring for a houseplant).

She also talks about her muse coming back. That one makes me kind of jealous. Not inclined to follow her path, but jealous just the same.

In her most recent installment, Spechler lists “10 Things I’d Tell My Former (Medicated) Self.” It’s a list aimed at her-in-the-past, not a list of things other people should know about coming down off of psychoactive meds — everyone is different, and her notes pertain directly to past posts in the series — but they are a bit of insight into one mind with not-all-uncommon experiences. And they give an important view of the relationship of society and mental illness, and people with mental illnesses, and people’s perceptions of people with mental illness. Whether you’re starting or stopping meds or not taking them at all:

9. Everyone has an opinion about depression. Everyone has an opinion about psychiatric medication. If you tell people who don’t know you that you’re on medication, or that you’re trying to get off of medication, some might shout their opinions. At times, you’ll feel like you must have wronged them, if all this vitriol is landing on your head. But their reactions have little to do with you. You are all products of a society with arbitrary taboos, a society that has made mental health a fraught topic, that hasn’t learned how to talk about mental health without worrying about what others will think. Let them shout. They need to shout. Don’t be afraid. You have a right to voice your experience. Maybe it’s not just a right but an obligation — to fight this collective shame with your clearest, most honest words.

Posted in Health, Media & Media Literacy, Medicine | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Q&A: Avoiding Looking Creepy?

A substantial subset of the geek population wants to help with propagating their species, and a substantial subset of that even aspires to do so without creeping out others. Today let’s explore the differences between creepiness and socially awkwardness…

PROBLEM

a common concern amongst male geeks is that they might appear creepy, when they talk to girls.
since many geeks feel socially awkward, one bloke recently asked us how to avoid creeping on girls.

SOLUTION

at our weekly LAN party, we formulated 5 tips for geeks who lack either social skills or confidence.

JENNIFER H.

“awkwardness isn’t creeping. awkwardness is mistakenly crossing a line, but saying you’re sorry.”
“creeping is knowing boundaries yet flouting them, or refusing to say sorry when you cross the line.”
“to the socially awkward, i’d say keep practising your social skills. you’ll level up eventually.”

CIARA M.

“i have no advice for socially awkwardness. changing that requires years of hard, honest practice.”
“however, truly awkward people are rarely creeps. the two factions are virtually opposites.”
“if you show you’re open to learning from awkward blunders, rest assured you can never be a creep.”

BRYNNE C.

“awkward guys and creepers don’t act the same. their minds, even souls, are completely different.”
“awkward guys know they’re awkward. if they realise they screwed up, they tell you they’re sorry.”
“if you don’t act defensive, you won’t be taken for a creeper, but simply someone who’s learning.”

KATRINA R.

“creeps behave entitled. it’s not that they don’t understand boundaries. they just don’t give a damn.”
“if a guy simply offers excuses for the way he acts, he’s a creep. creeps don’t care who they hurt.”
“if you want to show you’re not a creep, call out guys who creep on girls. prove that you care.”

MELISSA A.

“if you see guys creeping on others, at cons or at events, step in. it shows where you stand.”
“if you’re socially awkward, stepping in shows you give a damn about the way others feel.”
“actions speak more loudly than intent, so prove intent through your actions. it’s that simple.”

Agree or disagree? Post away in the comments.

We’ll do one more episode this month, before moving onto something slightly different next month. Stay tuned!

“Q&A” is an on-going effort to bring more original content to Feministe, via conversations with other feminists. If you wish to send hate mail, please direct to the Republican Rape Caucus.

Posted in Dating, relationships | 5 Comments

Bic celebrates Women’s Day by encouraging you to think like a man

Happy Women’s Day, South Africa! So, Bic is really bad at women.

Bic continues to have trouble talking to women.

The pen maker, which was the object of ridicule a few years ago for its absurd “Bic for Her” pens, failed spectacularly in South Africa this week, posting a tone-deaf ad on social media for national women’s day that drew swift criticism — and soon led to an apology.

The disastrous ad? One that encouraged women to, among other things, “look like a girl” and “think like a man.” (#HappyWomensDay, y’all!)

I’m assuming that as we think like a man and work like a boss, we’re supposed to write like a woman with our special lady pens.

Bic initially attempted to smooth things over by deleting the ad and posting a lovely fauxpology to anyone who took offense, because again, Bic is really bad at women.

We would like to apologize to all our fans who took offense to our recent Women’s Day Post. We can assure you that we meant it in the most empowering way possible and in no way derogatory towards women. We took the quote from a “Women in Business” blog site. The blog site explains the quote and what its intentions were when it was written. BIC believes in celebrating women and the powerful contribution women make to our society.

Then they deleted that and replaced with an actual apology saying that they “completely understand where [they]’ve gone wrong” (one can only hope) and that all feedback is being closely considered to “ensure something like this will never happen again.”

Of course, the ad inspired plenty of parodies that are way more entertaining, evocative, and — I think — inspiring than the original, so maybe that’s somewhere Bic could start.

Posted in Advertising | Tagged | Leave a comment