Q&A: Why Girls Need Makeup?

How old is the youngest human to post or comment on Feministe? Jill was somewhere in her twenties when she started this blog. Some of our mates were teens when they began commenting here. But today’s post likely takes the cake – for involving a 12-year-old boy pontificating on gender in society. We’re not making this up



SKiDROW: Greetings, this is SKiDROW.

TK-576: And I’m TK.

SKiDROW: Today I’m recording some of the baffling things my 12-year-old brother says when we’re together.

TK-576: Yeah, I’m playing MW2 Domination right now, trying to earn a Tactical Nuke.

SKiDROW: That’s how he normally talks, by the way.

TK-576: Well, what else can we talk about?

SKiDROW: Well, you do have interesting views on girls. Tell me, what do you think of girls’ makeup?

TK-576: You mean why do girls wear makeup?

SKiDROW: Sure, let’s talk about that.

TK-576: Well, I guess it’s a way to hide yeast infections and acne on their faces.

SKiDROW: Hold on, did you say yeast infections?

TK-576: Yeah, and acne.

SKiDROW: How would someone’s face get a yeast infection? Is that even possible?

TK-576: Yeah, I heard it in a commercial. It happens when you sweat a lot.

SKiDROW: I think you’re mixing it up with something else you saw on TV.

TK-576: Look, that’s just what I heard.

SKiDROW: Okay, back to reality. Why do you think girls wear makeup?

TK-576: Well, I guess to hide their acne, and because they don’t want their real faces to show.

SKiDROW: So girls wear makeup to hide their unattractiveness?

TK-576: I guess you can say that. I don’t think straight guys like ugly women.

SKiDROW: But if women wear makeup to please men, why do men think makeup is shallow?

TK-576: What do you mean?

SKiDROW: Meaning why do men find women shallow for wearing makeup, if women wear makeup to please men?

TK-576: Well, I guess if women wear makeup because men expect them to, you should blame society.

SKiDROW: Okay.

TK-576: But if girls wear makeup to make themselves feel better, that’s pretty shallow.

SKiDROW: Wait, so girls are shallow if they wear makeup for themselves?

TK-576: No, I’m saying they’re shallow if they think they look ugly without makeup.

SKiDROW: So if women wear makeup when men don’t force them to, they’re being shallow?

TK-576: I’m just saying women shouldn’t need makeup. They’re beautiful the way they are.

SKiDROW: I don’t know, mate. That sounds a bit simplistic.

TK-576: How?

SKiDROW: Well, a lot of girls wear makeup so they can keep their jobs.

TK-576: Wait, some jobs require makeup?

SKiDROW: Yeah, like waitressing. You need to wear makeup if you want to be tipped better by customers.

TK-576: I guess that makes sense.

SKiDROW: Okay, so to recap, what are the main reasons you think girls wear makeup?

TK-576: One, because society makes them wear makeup. Two, because it makes them feel better.

SKiDROW: Okay.

TK-576: And three, because it helps them to lose virginity.

SKiDROW: Did you say virginity?

TK-576: Yeah.

SKiDROW: How does makeup affect one’s virginity?

TK-576: Well, if you want guys to sleep with you, makeup is one way to get their attention.

SKiDROW: Okay, so how do you know if a girl is wearing makeup to feel good, or if she’s trying to get some?

TK-576: I don’t know. I guess you can ask?

SKiDROW: You mean like getting consent?

TK-576: I don’t know what that means.

SKiDROW: Well, when we upload this video, we’ll see who agrees with you about makeup.

TK-576: I have a girlfriend, so I should be correct about this girl stuff.

SKiDROW: Hold on, a girlfriend?

TK-576: Yeah, she lives in Florida.

SKiDROW: Florida. You know how many scammers live out in Florida?

TK-576: Actually my girlfriend’s pretty nice.

SKiDROW: Did you meet her when you were playing MW2 online?

TK-576: We voice-chatted once and yeah, she’s a girl.

SKiDROW: Does this girl know she’s your girlfriend?

TK-576: Can we talk about this next time?

SKiDROW: Okay. Folks, if you disagree with my brother, leave scathing comments for him down below.

TK-576: Oh, and guys, don’t discriminate against girls who don’t wear makeup.

SKiDROW: By the way, your game is almost over.

TK-576: I know, let me end this video with a Tactical Nuke.

This weekend we plan to launch the first instalment of our winter series, the one involving feminist videogame reviews. Since our editor’s younger brother was instrumental in helping out, in return we agreed to help him with whatever project idea he came up with – the catch being that it needed to be gender-related. This is what he came up with (including the title, that self-deprecating bugger).

If you find the above exchange to be excruciating, don’t worry, we have only three episodes total to burn through, before the weekend arrives and we move onto better things. And if the above exchange causes you to fear for the future of our generation… well, we can’t dispute you on that point.

On the upside, he did agree to do an episode on… why women join ISIS? So 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 Beauty, Body image | Tagged | 8 Comments

Hundredth verse, same as the first: Talking mental health after mass shootings

We’re now almost four weeks out from the shooting at an Oregon community college that killed nine people and injured ten more, and we know what that means: We can now stop “caring about mental health care” without guilt. Time heals all weaknesses in the mental health system, and while it becomes a subject under great scrutiny whenever a gunman commits a mass shooting — particularly when discussions start straying toward the subject of gun control — the passage of time, and the accompanying passage of fear, washes away those concerns pretty effectively. (Until the next shooting, of course.)

And the reason this happens isn’t because we manage to effectively address all of our problems in the interim. It happens because discussions purportedly focused on Improving Mental Health Care are actually all about Protecting The Good People From The Crazies. Not the same thing at all. The former comes from a place of compassion, and the latter comes from a place of fear, and we, as a society, don’t give two shits about acting compassionately when we’re afraid. (And then, when our immediate, acute fear of The Crazies has faded, we don’t give two shits about acting at all.)

“Improving mental health care,” for the purpose of ongoing discussions, means identifying the dangerous crazies and making sure they make it onto a national registry so no one will sell guns to them. Period. That’s the strategy. It doesn’t mean actually encouraging people to seek care when they need it — people may, in fact, be more likely to opt out of any activity that gets them added to a national registry of cray-crays that will follow them everywhere they go. It doesn’t mean removing the stigma surrounding mental illness — when we only ever discuss mental illness in the context of murderous rampages, it creates a pretty solid impression that all people with mental illnesses are rampaging murderers. And it doesn’t mean improving access to mental health care — training more mental health professionals, funding community and long-term care resources, and cracking down on illegal discrimination by insurance companies doesn’t keep guns out of the hands of crazies. Yes, that stuff saves lives, but not the lives that, like, matter or anything. No Guns For Crazies is about as far as we need to go.

And turning the entire focus to mental health is a fantastically handy diversion, because the subject is so complex and shrouded in so much stigma that, fuck the medical community, “mental health” can mean pretty much whatever we want it to mean. We’re a big fan of ex post facto diagnoses, the tautological proclamation that obviously this person was mentally ill, because a person would have to be mentally ill to do such a thing. We don’t want to accept that a person could be sane, “normal” and also really angry. Hateful. Greedy. Ignorant. Bigoted. Self-centered. Raised in an environment of fundamentalist absolutism. Raised in an environment of violence. Entitled — to personal success, to attention from women, to public affirmation. Not any one by itself, but rather deadly combinations and perfect storms of things at which we don’t bat an eye when they’re at the center of wars or terrorism, but which have to have some exotic explanation when they’re coming from someone who looks like us.

Dylann Roof, to the disappointment of many, didn’t have a history of mental illness — he was a white supremacist with substance abuse issues and access to guns. Timothy McVeigh, who of course killed with a bomb rather than a gun, was sane and paranoid and vengeful and angry and wanted to make a statement. George Sodini, who killed four people and injured nine more at an LA Fitness in 2009 — remember him? No? — wasn’t mentally ill, he was a loner and a misogynist and a textbook Nice GuyTM. (Would that we could screen for those.)

No one ever talks about screening for substance abuse or relationship stress or a history of violence, or assembling a National Victims of Bullying Registry, to make sure that none of those people has access to firearms — and those are much more reliable predictors of gun violence. There will never be a box marked “Yes, I’m an angry, paranoid white man” on an application for a firearm permit. Nor will there ever be widespread claims concern about better care to make them less dangerous to the public.

The statistics are so quoted so often that you’d think it would be accepted as common knowledge by now: People with mental illnesses are vastly more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators, and even those who are most prone to violence — people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression — account for a minor percentage of overall gun violence (rarely directly related to symptoms of their disorder). A mentally ill person with a gun in his hand is far more likely to turn it on himself than anyone else. But suddenly people start caring (“caring”) about mental health when they fear for their own safety. And they care about it with solutions (“solutions”) that cause more problems than they’re solving.

I get it. I do. I’m not sitting here grinding my teeth about the subject because nothing is actually being done to improve mental health care in the U.S. — that’s certainly nothing new, and the teeth reserved for that particular grinding are pretty much nubs at this point. At this point, the only thing worth grinding teeth about is accuracy, saying you’re talking about one thing when really you’re talking about another — saying you’re concerned about mental health care when you’re really just worried about Protecting The Good People From The Crazies. So while ideally, we’d actually be discussing real, substantive change so that people can have access to, and can feel safe accessing, the mental health care that they need, at the very least let’s try to keep ourselves honest about when we aren’t discussing that. Which, when mass shootings are in the news, is pretty much always.

Posted in Crime, Health, Law | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Color me unsympathetic

Wealth therapy. I kid you not. Here are some choice quotations from the therapists in question:

Often, I use an analogy with my clients that coming out to people about their wealth is similar to coming out of the closet as gay. There’s a feeling of being exposed and dealing with judgment.

Sure. Except for the risk of violence, the loss of rights, the weight of years of hatred. It’s just like coming out as gay.

Sometimes I am shocked by things that people say. If you substitute in the word Jewish or black, you would never say something like that. You’d never say – spoiled rotten or you would never refer to another group of people in the way that it seems perfectly normal to refer to wealth holders.

I just can’t even. I can’t even with this nonsense. The super-rich do not have a history of oppression and persecution. They don’t have a contemporary risk of being gunned down in the street by agents of the state who walk away unpunished.

I’m not saying rich people can’t have problems. The death of a loved one, parents’ divorce, a broken heart; these things can and will happen to anybody and everybody, including rich people. But they are not an oppressed group. By fucking definition. And I don’t have much sympathy with their feeling that it’s unfair for them to have to pick up the tab at a restaurant. From each according to their abilities, jerkface.

So, this is clearly absurd. But I do think it’s an example of what happens when we talk about “diversity” or “multiculturalism” but don’t talk about power. Diversity is the easy part. Who doesn’t want a rich variety of people in their school or workplace or life (well, a lot of people, it seems, but bear with me)? But when we empty the discussion of the varying amounts of power some groups have held at the expense of other groups, when we make all groups of equal weight, this is what we get: a rhetoric in which rich people are compared to Jews or black people. You can have a classroom with 30 people in it, and 2 black kids, 1 kid of Indian descent, 1 Native kid, 1 kid of Korean descent, 2 Jewish kids, 1 kid of Saudi descent–and hey, what a rich and diverse group of backgrounds! What great photos you can take for the school’s brochure! Never mind that 22 of those kids are white Gentiles! Or that, say, all but two of them (I don’t care which two, take your pick) are from super rich families! We’ve got diversity!

And that, in my opinion, is why “diversity” is in fashion and, say, “integration” is not. Because diversity is easy to achieve with just a handful of cosmetic changes. Diversity doesn’t care about power dynamics or history or contemporary circumstances. Something like integration, on the other hand–if your commitment is to integration rather than just diversity, you can’t just recruit a few brown faces here, a couple of scholarship kids there. For integration, sustained integration, you have to look at systemic changes, you have to examine how and why you’re so white and rich in the first place. Your ridiculous equivalences about how it’s no more acceptable to make insulting generalizations about rich people than it is about Jews or black people (I CANNOT EVEN) fall apart when you talk about integration, when you talk about power. So don’t be fooled by “diversity.” Diversity’s fine. I’m not opposed to diversity. But it’s not the real deal, either.

Posted in Class, Race & Ethnicity | 37 Comments

Open Thread with Halloween Pumpkin Cat

Spooky black and orange things feature for this Open Thread. Please natter/chatter/vent/rant on anything* you like over the next month or so.

Happy Halloween 1!

By Cindy (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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 our Open Threads, 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 Holidays & Celebrations, Life, Politics, Popular Culture, The Cultural Canon | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Quick Hit(s): Indigenous Peoples Day

Not that it makes up for centuries of colonization and genocide, but more and U.S. cities are choosing each year to officially make the second Monday of October a celebration of the indigenous people of their region, and not of the deplorable individual credited with “discovering” them.

The state of Alaska

In an executive proclamation, Gov. Bill Walker wrote that “Alaska is built upon the homelands and communities of the Indigenous Peoples of this region, without whom the building of the state would not be possible.” He pointed out that 16% of Alaskans have indigenous heritage, and that “the State opposes systematic racism toward Indigenous Peoples of Alaska or any Alaskans of any origin and promotes policies and practices that reflect the experiences of Indigenous Peoples, ensure greater access and opportunity, and honor our nation’s indigenous roots, history.”

Albuquerque, New Mexico; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Olympia, Washington

The campaigns [led by Native American activists in dozens of cities] say the federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus — and the parades and pageantry accompanying it — overlook a painful history of colonialism, enslavement, discrimination and land grabs that followed the Italian explorer’s 1492 arrival in the Americas. The indigenous holiday takes into account the history and contributions of Native Americans for a more accurate historical record, activists have argued.


“For the Native community here, Indigenous Peoples Day means a lot. We actually have something,” said Nick Estes of Albuquerque, who is coordinating a celebration Monday after the City Council recently issued a proclamation. “We understand it’s just a proclamation, but at the same time, we also understand this is the beginning of something greater.”

Multnomah County, Oregon; and Traverse City, Michigan

“Reclaiming the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day makes a powerful statement,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said in a statement. “It says, ‘We are no longer going to celebrate a time of genocide, but instead we will honor the land we live on and the people who have been here since the beginning.”‘


“This (resolution) not only represents that we have been here for 10,000 years or longer … more importantly it recognizes that we are still here and that we are alive,” Arlene Kashata, a Traverse City resident and member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, told the Traverse City Record-Eagle when the her town voted to recognize Indigenous People’s Day. “That we are a culture that is giving and contributing to this community.”

Denver, Colorado

Denver joins at least nine cities in refocusing Columbus Day — a federal holiday declared in 1937 to mark Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage to the Western Hemisphere — to celebrate indigenous natives who lived on the North American continent long before European explorers set foot. Critics argue that devoting a day to Columbus is not only misleading but celebrates a violent history of colonialism, enslavement, and discrimination.

Denver’s proclamation noted that 48 Native American tribes call Colorado home, with the Denver metro area alone boasting descendants of about 100 groups.

Before this year, Columbus Day had already been replaced by more appropriate celebrations in Seattle, Washington; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Berkeley, California; and the entire states of South Dakota and Hawaii.

Posted in History, Holidays & Celebrations | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Disappeared children

Tomorrow is Columbus Day in the United States. Christopher Columbus was a sadistic, murderous slaver, and that’s all I have to say about him.

I’d like instead to talk about the women, the Grandmothers and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and the children they searched for. A military junta ran Argentina in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and, as detailed in this NYT article, disappeared, tortured, and murdered 10-30,000 people it called “terrorists,” as defined by the junta: “One becomes a terrorist not only by killing with a weapon or setting a bomb, but also by encouraging others through ideas that go against our Western and Christian civilization.” They also made a concerted effort to kidnap the children of dissidents and give them to those loyal to the junta to raise; the junta murdered their parents, sometimes keeping the mothers alive long enough only to deliver (and with my own birth experience so fresh in my mind, I am having a visceral reaction, shaking and tearing up thinking about it, about my son taken from me). About 500 children were taken.

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo began protesting silently, wearing white headscarves and carrying photographs of their disappeared children, marching across from the presidential residence. Within a year, hundreds of women had joined the protests, garnering international attention during a time when fear of any public opposition had silenced so many. Members of the group were abducted, tortured, murdered, but the protests continued.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo are a group devoted to finding the lost children and reuniting them with whomever remains of their families of origin.

It’s a horrifying, depraved series of events. And as tonight shades into tomorrow, let’s not forget the children taken from their parents and brutalized in an attempt to erase their past and their identities: I am talking, of course, about the American Indian Boarding Schools deliberately run to eradicate American Indian cultures through the 1970s. Parents were required by law to “educate” their children and coerced into sending their children away, food rations and supplies withheld until parents consented. Many children were separated from their parents and cultures throughout their entire childhoods. Parents were not allowed to remove their children from the schools. Children were abused, suffered, and died. In a 1928 report, Native Nations children were found to be dying at six and a half times the rate of other children.

Taking children has long been a tactic of torture toward poor people (parents entering the poorhouse in the nineteenth century) were separated from their children), PoC, and political dissidents. And it’s a feminist issue. The NYT article talks about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it’s also a reproductive justice and reproductive rights issue. The ability to bear and raise children in safety and peace regardless of wealth, race, and political creed is a women’s rights issue.

By the way, the US has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, because this country.

Posted in Discrimination, Feminism, Military, Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Racism, Reproductive Rights | Comments Off on Disappeared children

Hello, we’re back, and what happened

Nice to be back (ObBritcatchphrase: to see you, nice). Sorry it was for so long, I hope the few of you who saw some updates on Twitter felt reassured.

So what happened? For some arcane reason there are barriers to automating payments from PayPal to our hosting provider, meaning Jill has to do that manually, and currently she’s travelling in India for work and only has sporadic secure internet access. So in the absence of timely payment, our hosting provider suspended our hosting account. Once Jill could securely access PayPal to send some dosh to our hosting provider, then they reinstated our hosting. So that was simple enough.

What’s not so simple is the sustainability of keeping the blog running on the current hosting package, because at the current level of pageviews the advertising is no longer covering our hosting costs. Jill and I are investigating cheaper hosting options for the blog, but it might take us a while to get it all sorted out, because as a consequence of being a blog started way back in 2000 (and for so many years had multiple posts daily), the database is so enormous that the logistics of transferring to another server (especially if we decide to go with wordpress.com or similar) are not as simple as they would be for the average blog. We will keep you informed once we actually have a plan and a timetable.

Posted in Admin, Blogging | Tagged | 5 Comments

Boring, technical post about winter Feministe series…

As noted earlier this week, posts and comments have waned and waxed in regularity as of late, for various reasons. One is that most staff are part-time, with a predictable decrease in commenting activity as a result – no shock there. But a more structural reason, as both commenters and commentators have pointed out, is the nature of blogging in recent years. Most activity now takes place on blogging platforms, i.e. daily aggregators like BuzzFeed and Gawker, rather than on individual blogs. As winter approaches, we can’t promise more frequent posts – but we can promise more regular ones, based on this tentative roadmap for winter…

During summer, when we weren’t mocking rape culture, we were posting gaming vlogs with vaguely feminist themes. The vlogs themselves weren’t great, but served as creative practice for a project we’ve developed for months – an ongoing series of feminist videogame reviews, slated to start this winter. But we chose to practise first with vlogs, so we could make sure we knew what we were doing. We won’t bore you with lessons learned – if you’re interested, here’s our Tumblr post on the subject.

Why feminist game reviews? Isn’t Anita Sarkeesian doing a pretty good job on that front, despite claims by critics that her efforts to encourage women in gaming make her a fascist threat to civilisation?

Yes, Sarkeesian does commendable work, but it’s tangential to what we’re developing. She and her FemFreq team review genres, not games. And even when her videos are 30 minutes, they touch on 50+ games at a time – leaving little time to truly analyse any single title, no matter how pivotal it is to geek feminism or gaming. And frankly, seminal games like Half-Life and BioShock deserve more than 30 secs of analysis.

That’s why we’re doing this. We’re not competing with Sarkeesian’s work but complementing it, filling gaps where in-depth analysis is needed or deserved.

Do we intend to review every game out there? Hardly. For the first season, we’ll look at 10 significant games over the past decade, from 2004’s Half-Life 2 to 2014’s The New Order. (Anyone who’s played either title understands exactly why they deserve to be on a feminist list, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Each episode will be at least four minutes, divided into four sections…

Overview: What’s the game about? What’s its importance to gaming culture?

Visibility: Does the game feature anyone besides beefcake white guys made of guns and steroids? We’re not just talking about women’s visibility but also POC, LGBT folks, religious people and the disabled.

Agency: Sure, a game may feature women and other non-traditional characters, but how much agency do they have? Are they on equal footing with the hero, or merely victims to be rescued?

Progress: How has the game contributed to the progress of gaming diversity? Or has it, at all?

Each section has its own colour-coded theme. For example’s sake, here’s an orange theme in action…


We’ll also include behind-the-scenes development details about each game, to nullify the sort of accusations levelled at Sarkeesian that she’s not a real gamer who understands the industry. And to neutralise claims that we’re not hardcore gamers but filthy casuals, we’ve made sure to play every game on highest default difficulty (meaning difficulty levels that don’t require unlocking or secret codes.)

So that’s how we’ll do the first season. We do have ideas for crowdsourcing future seasons by releasing all our templates for free to the feminist blogosphere – but for now our focus is on this season, as we work to set the bar for others interested in doing feminist game analyses.

This is our first project to truly take advantage of online video. With vlogs we’ve posted in the past, we admit we could have done those as simple blog posts – we only did them as vlogs for technical experience. But we feel feminist game reviews are actually easier to do as videos, rather than as blog posts. The footage we use will take centre stage in backing up our claims about feminism in different games, versus most vlogs where video is basically background noise. We’re moving away from that now.*

I’m personally excited about this project, and not just because it’s cool. In the past I’ve worked mostly on the technical aspects of videos, such as their editing and design. But this will be the first project where I’m also the creative lead. If it turns out to be an underwhelming mess, I’ll be the one most at fault.

Got suggestions or criticisms, with regards to our plans?

* To be fair, we’ll likely post a couple spoken-word vlogs before our feminist review series is ready for winter, part of a deal we worked out with some younger siblings. They help with capturing game footage for us, and in return we help them with their own vlogs, where they talk about why they think girls like yoga pants or join ISIS. Life is interesting.

Posted in Admin, Feministe Feedback | 5 Comments

If your cause is solid, you shouldn’t have to lie about it. (Yeah, there’s more video.)

When I was little, in our house, lying was basically the worst offense you could commit. Honesty was a huge thing then, and it remains a huge thing for me now. That’s one reason all of these attacks on Planned Parenthood have been especially heinous to me — the lying to get undercover footage, the misleading editing to create violations that were never committed, the video Carly Fiorina lied about seeing. And now there’s more footage, more Carly Fiorina was right! footage, showing an abortion, unless it doesn’t, but no it totally does, or at least it looks like an abortion, but okay that’s not important because Planned Parenthood is evil.

The part of the “Human Capital” video — the one that Fiorina claims shows the thing that it doesn’t show — that’s closest to what she described during the debate comes about six minutes in. While no part of the video shows “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,'” we do get the following:

1. Footage of a fetus moving slightly on a metal background
2. Interview footage with Holly O’Donnell, a former procurement tech for StemExpress (a third-party contractor working with Planned Parenthood), describing in detail a traumatic experience in which she had to procure a brain from a fetus after an abortion*
3. A still photo of a fetus in someone’s cupped hands

Of course, the video was edited in the signature misleading style of the Center for Medical Progress, cobbled together from various unrelated sources — the interview footage was filmed by the Center, the fetus footage was credited to the Grantham Collection and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and the photo at the end was not, in fact, from an abortion but was a photo of a previable premature delivery used without permission of its parents.

On Tuesday, Gregg Cunningham, founder of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, released the fetus footage in its soundless, 13-minute entirety. He was unwilling to reveal the date, location, circumstances, or source of the video, and is “neither confirming nor denying” that it had anything to do with Planned Parenthood. But he does insist that the video depicts an abortion, performed at an abortion clinic to remain nameless.

Dr. Jen Gunter, an actual OB/GYN, disagrees. As someone with actual training and experience in the field, (and backed up by the nine colleagues she consulted on the matter), she says that everything — from the patient prep, to the delivery, to the clamping of the umbilical cord, to the non-delivery of the placenta at the end, to the type and width of the bed, to the presence of a support person in the room — points to, in fact, an 17- to 18-week pre-viability premature delivery. This is coming from someone who has actually seen those in person.

Until Cunningham reveals the actual source of the video — right now, he’s standing behind we can’t tell you, but it’s totally an abortion, cross my heart — we have no way of knowing for sure. But we already know that the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform isn’t afraid to co-opt someone else’s tragedy (and, in this case, compound that by posting close-up video of an unwitting woman’s genitals on the Internet) to make a point. It’s striking evidence that they seriously do only care about “life” when it’s still in the uterus — at the very moment it leaves the vaginal canal, it becomes nothing more than a prop.

The anti-choice lobby wants so desperately for Planned Parenthood to be actually cutting up live babies for sale on the black market that that’s what they allow themselves to see. It doesn’t matter if they have to fabricate. It doesn’t matter if they have to blatantly lie. It doesn’t matter if they have to twist some family’s tragedy to suit their purpose. Their cause is righteous, and we’re the monsters. And that’s why Cecile Richards was dragged in front of Congress, defending Planned Parenthood against accusations that they’re selling baby parts on the black market, and it’s why Planned Parenthood’s federal funding is perpetually on the chopping block — because standing between millions of women and the crucial healthcare they can’t get anywhere else is definitely pro-life and not monstrous at all.

*Several bloggers have said that the fetus O’Donnell references here is the same one that she described earlier in the video, tapping on the chest to make the heart beat; her descriptions of the fetuses in question, and the cut in the middle of the interview footage, make it more likely that she’s talking about two different events that have been edited together for dramatic effect.

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

A whiny, unprofessional, and arguably unauthorized rundown of the current status of Feministe

I want to jump in to clarify the situation here at Feministe, and it is at the risk of sounding whiny and defensive, but so it goes. I also want to make it clear that I speak only for myself, and EG and tigtog and Echo Zen might be grinding their teeth and locking me out of the system as they read this (which would be their right):

Up until a recent while ago, Feministe was helmed largely by Jill, a Professional Feminist. She was able to approach Being A Feminist as a full-time job, assisted by other bloggers, many of whom could only approach it as a part-time job, but it was generally okay because there was enough work to go around and enough workers for the work to go around to. When Jill was offered (what I assume was) a more prestigious and better paid full-time job as a Professional Feminist, she took it, which was great and cool, and that it left Feministe without any remaining Professional Feminists is not her fault. Regardless, the blog is currently driven by an assortment of people who are professional in other fields, and although you might think that several part-time bloggers should be able to add up to the content level and engagement of at least one full-time blogger, that’s (sadly) not the way the math works. (And that’s not even mentioning when one or more of those bloggers has to drop back for whatever reason and “several” turns into “one.”)

And yes, we do solicit guest posts, and yes, we have approached other bloggers to join as staff bloggers and/or contributors. Our guest post contributions generally run 1:2 people with actual contributions and people who would love to contribute a quality and researched post about email automation software that would pertain to the readers of our blog/website. We’ve discussed in the past problems associated with finding bloggers who want to join the staff. Trust me that we aren’t sitting here dog-paddling because our brand is so teddibly exclyusive that we can’t let just any old riff-raff post their applesauce on our hallowed blog*.

As a result, posting has been down. As a result of that, commenting has been down. Moderation has been spotty. So has guest-post-sifting. Sometimes, it comes down to posting a quick link dump twice in a week because a half-finished post of substance had to be set aside in favor of activities that will actually pay the bills. Sometimes, it comes down to forgetting to post a Shameless Self-Promotion Sunday and then not bothering to do it at all because we only get a handful of links, and they’re almost all by people who never otherwise engage anyway. (Sometimes, it comes down to everybody being legitimately overwhelmed except for one blogger, who had a really long day and has half a season of “Castle” to catch up on and feels really guilty for not doing her part, but not enough to put down the remote and the Chardonnay.)

Again, I can’t speak for any past or present Feministe associates, but I personally would love to have the time to follow the up-to-the-minute news and do primary research and deluge our cherished readers and commenters with hot and cold running content and original insights. There are a lot of things I would love to have in life. (I would love to have not bought a salt-belt car. I would love to drink beer and, like, play darts or something with Anna Kendrick.)

So in the future, when conversations run to “why has posting been down?” and “why are there fewer comments?” and “why is my comment still in moderation?” and “what should we get Caperton for Christmas?” and “you know, Feministe used to be so awesome. I miss awesome Feministe,” feel free to link to this post. The answer is, “Yeah, I miss Awesome Feministe, too.” I remember writing for Awesome Feministe, and it was a genuine thrill. I think Feministe is still pretty good, particularly for what we’re working with. And believe me that writing for Doing What We Can Feministe is still good, or else I would stop doing it. But the blog has changed in the way things sometimes change, and while I really, really, really hope that we can bring it back to its former glory, for now, this is the new normal. And I am sincerely sorry that we are currently unable to provide otherwise. And I hope you’re willing to stick around for what we are able to provide, and I hope we’ll be able to provide more in the future. Thank you for being a friend.

*Re-reading this, I cannot ignore the fact that “posting one’s applesauce” sounds like it should be an inappropriate euphemism for something.

Posted in Admin | Tagged | 21 Comments

More blatant lies about Planned Parenthood: The video that Carly Fiorina didn’t see

[Content note: Graphic, if factually questionable, description of purported abortion]

At the Republican presidential debate last Wednesday, Carly Fiorina made waves with an incredible and impassioned story, describing hidden-camera footage of (purportedly) a Planned Parenthood clinic (purportedly) showing “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'” It was a very dramatic moment, recounted with great intensity, and one can only imagine how painful it must have been to watch that footage.

If it existed. Which it doesn’t.

There’s no such scene in the 12 hours of hidden-camera video shot inside two Planned Parenthood clinics by the Center for Medical Progress*, and it’s not in a video provided by her campaign the next day, a “Human Capital” video also produced by the Center. There’s stock footage of fetuses, and there’s fetus footage procured from a different anti-choice organization, and there’s an interview with a former tissue procurement tech who contracted with Planned Parenthood, and there’s a photo of a stillborn fetus used without permission of the mother, so maybe Fiorina could argue that it was all so vivid that she could imagine a situation happening like that, or that she misconstrued footage to think she heard it described, except for the part where she insisted that no, seriously, guys, I totally saw that.

To George Stephanopolous on “Good Morning America” the next day:

No, I didn’t misspeak and I don’t know who you’re speaking about in terms of watching the tapes but I have seen those images.


Well, you know, there’s a lot of commentary about these tapes being doctored. In fact, that’s what the mainstream media keeps talking about, is the tapes and their origin. Rest assured I have seen the images that I talked about last night. Rest assured that human lives are being aborted fully formed in order to harvest body parts.

And then tripling down on Fox News Sunday:

[Host Chris] WALLACE: First of all, do you acknowledge what every fact checker has found, that as horrific as that scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it? There is no actual footage of the incident that you just mentioned?

FIORINA: No, I don’t accept that at all. I’ve seen the footage. And I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact-checkers in the mainstream media claim this doesn’t exist. They’re trying to attack the authenticity of the videotape.

Just in the interest of complete and utter fairness ad absurdum, I will accept that it’s possible that Carly Fiorina is holding out on us, and she actually does have that footage on her iPad and refuses to show it to anyone else because she’s testing us all to see who her true supporters are, like some gruesome Doubting Thomas kind of deal. I cannot prove that it isn’t the case or rule that out as a possibility.

However, actual logic would indicate that she’s just flat-out lying, over and over, which is shocking in no way at all, because flat-out lying is how this whole thing has rolled since the first doctored Planned Parenthood videos were released three months ago. And while I usually dig being right and saying “I told you so” (and to say otherwise would be a flat-out lie), I really hate that I was right when I posted before that the completely unsubstantiated accusations against Planned Parenthood, despite being investigated and discredited multiple times, are still going to haunt Planned Parenthood for years. Because anti-choice activists want so badly for it to be true that they’re unwilling to accept the reality that it’s not.

One of the most amazing, disturbing parts of this is that there are Fiorina supporters who watched the “Human Capital” video and insist that they saw the exact same scene that Fiorina claims to have seen — while the footage persists in not existing. A very specific scene, described in graphic detail. A conversation that she swears happened word-for-word as she recounted it. Unequivocally not in the video cited by her own campaign, and yet deluded anti-choicers watch it and swear that they also saw something that was not there to be seen. It would be a curious and intriguing psychological study if the impact that it’s having weren’t so dire.

And it is dire. While Senate Democrats did manage to block a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks (based on the medically debatable claim that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks’ gestation), federal funding of Planned Parenthood is still under attack. This time, it comes in the form of a short-term spending bill introduced by Senate Republicans to avoid a government shutdown October 1. The bill is almost certain to fail when it comes up for a procedural vote Thursday, to be replaced by a rider-free continuing resolution, but what it shows is that Republicans were essentially willing to hold the country hostage — telling us that we can have our funding, but we’re going to have to give up the functions of our government to do it.

It can’t be said enough that, under the Hyde Amendment, Planned Parenthood cannot and does not use federal money to perform abortions, except in very specific and dire circumstances. The funds Republicans are trying to withhold support contraception, STD testing, cancer screening and prevention, well-woman care, and countless other services that would otherwise be unavailable to some of the most underserved and vulnerable members of our population. But anti-choice activists, supporters, and legislators are willing to withhold medical care from low-income communities, perpetuate out-and-out blatant lies, and shut down the government itself to destroy Planned Parenthood. It’s how they show their respect for the sanctity of life.

*Not to be confused with the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, which is a legitimate and non-lying-outright organization championing the importance of medical progress.

Posted in Health, Law, Medicine, Politics, Reproductive Rights | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Interview with Debbie Reese

After I did my last post, about representation in children’s literature and Debbie Reese’s blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, it occurred to me…why not interview Debbie? She’s incredibly smart and well-read and knows what she’s talking about in ways I can’t even begin to. And she said yes! I am incredibly grateful for the time she took to give such thoughtful responses. Thank you so, so much, Debbie. So, here is the interview:

1) Let’s start with the good: what are three books you would recommend, fiction or non-fiction, adult or children’s, to readers interested in finding nuanced, respectful, accurate depictions of American Indians?

Because most of what children bring to school with them is a stereotypical, monolithic, long-ago-and-far-away idea of Native peoples, my first choice—for children or adults—is Cynthia Leitich Smith’s picture book Jingle Dancer. It is tribally specific, set in the present day, shows dance as something reverent (for Native peoples, dance has significance beyond American society’s concepts of dance as entertainment or performance), conveys the significance of extended family, includes a traditional story presented as a normal part of our experiences, and with the character who is a lawyer, shows us as more than artists and storytellers.

In his The People Shall Continue, Simon J. Ortiz gives readers an expansive history of the continent that came to be known as North America. He names many Native Nations, starting with our creation stories and moving to our trade networks and conflicts, and then he moves forward in time to colonization and what that meant to our nations. He doesn’t flinch from brutal federal policies like the boarding schools that sought to destroy our nationhood by taking our children and though it was published in the 1970s, its ending is applicable to today’s society. He points to the destruction that capitalism is doing to all of us, and calls for all of us who have been marginalized and oppressed to stand together to fight greed so that, of course, humanity will continue. The People Shall Continue is also a picture book but its message is one that readers of every age can—and should—embrace.

A third book that comes to mind is Louise Erdrich’s The Round House. Too many people in the U.S. are not aware that Native Nations (there are over 500) have diplomatic agreements (treaties, contracts) with the federal government. In practice, this means that we are sovereign nations, and that we have police departments and court systems on our reservations that impact who is prosecuted and where that prosecution takes place. In The Round House, a crime is committed. But where it happened is the crux of the story. Who has jurisdiction? Erdrich’s powerful story helps readers understand our sovereignty. Though she has written for children, The Round House is for older teens and adults.

2) How did you come to start AICL? How has it changed and blossomed since you first began? How have various readers—librarians, teachers, children, parents, Native American or not, responded? (I’ll ask about writers later)

I launched it the summer my daughter was away for the first time. Learning the ins and outs of blogging occupied my mind during her absence, but the decision to blog was based on an interest in two things.

First, I had reviewed for Horn Book and got into terse conversations with editors about two of my reviews. One of those conversations was revisited a few months ago at Read Roger , the blog of the editor at Horn Book. That recent conversation captures why I think blogging is important. In short: my perspective has value and ought not be edited so that it conforms to language and frameworks that overtly or subtly marginalize diversity of experience, culture, and history.

Second, as a former schoolteacher, I know that teachers—who are already underpaid—use their personal funds to buy a lot of the items in their classrooms. Memberships in professional associations are expensive! Few of my fellow teachers (Native ones at the Native schools I taught at, or Latino/a ones at the public schools where I taught) could afford to join or attend professional conferences. That means they don’t have access to the research and writing that can help them in their professional development after they graduate from college. A glance at attendees at any professional conference tells us that, in particular, people of color are notably absent. With a blog, I could make my work available at no cost to anyone.

3) You state beautifully why this work is so important (Dr. Fryberg’s research etc.). What other kinds of changes need to happen to address falling graduation rates and high suicide rates, as well as negative self-image, among NA youth?

Stephanie’s empirical research is very important because it documents the impact stereotypical images have on Native and non-Native people. In the U.S. we tend to laud science, and that ought to prompt publishers, writers, booksellers—anyone, really—who is involved with children’s books and textbooks, to change course in terms of what they’re doing. Instead, the response is to cry censorship and violation of the First Amendment, as if a shift to factual portrayals is a threat to the country and to freedom.

4) You’ve done a lot of important work, from this blog to your years as a professor at the University of Illinois to your years teaching elementary school. You must have gotten significant pushback. What kind of resistance have you met with, and how have you addressed it and coped with it, both practically and emotionally (if that’s not too personal a question)?

People resist my critiques by defending some aspect of the book they think is more important. One example is Touching Spirit Bear. It misrepresents Tlingit people but because it is about a bully who faces his bullying nature, people choose to look away from the misrepresentations. Ignoring them means that Tlingit—and Native people—are thrown under the lets-not-bully bus. There’s a fleet of busses like that. The Weetzie Bat bus (LGBTQ), the Mosquitoland bus (mental illness), The True Meaning of Smekday bus (biracial protagonist), the Walk Two Moons bus (coming to terms with death), The Miseducation of Cameron Post (gay conversion camps)… There are others, but those are much-acclaimed and award-winning books that elevate one topic, people, or theme while looking away at misrepresentations of Native peoples.

I counter defenses of those books by not backing away from my critiques. We count, too. More importantly, our children count, too. One coping mechanism is to keep images of my daughter, her cousins, and their children in my head. Knowing that they’re likely to be asked to read these books gives me the tenacity I need to keep going.

I also have a circle of friends who I turn to when I need to blow off some steam, and I often have to walk away from my computer for a while before responding. Another coping mechanism is the emails I get from readers thanking me for the blog itself, my perspective, or, a specific review.

And I got a huge boost in July when Cree Metis artist, Julie Flett, wrote to me about an illustration she was doing for an article in Teaching Tolerance. The article is about Native history. Julie read the interview, saw my name in it, and wrote to tell me she wanted to include an illustration of someone reading to children. That someone is me! As I read her email I was stunned—in a good way. I have no words to describe how that felt. I’ve said delighted, and tickled, and humbled, and honored, but none of those convey what it meant to me. As we talked more, she asked about a book that I could be reading, and I thought of Simon J. Ortiz’s The People Shall Continue (described above). The article with the illustration came out last week.

5) I’ve always been impressed how open you are to dialogue with writers. I know you’ve had a variety of responses from them over the years. What is a typical response? Do any stand out, for better or for worse?

They range quite a bit! Some will doggedly rebut my critiques, while others clearly think about what I said and respond in a way that signals a change in their thinking. An example of the former is the extended dialogue I had with Rosanne Parry about her book, Written In Stone. As that dialogue shows, she was not open to my critique, but I think the entirety of the conversation offers a lot to other writers who read it. An example of a better response is the interactions I had with David Arnold about his book, Mosquitoland. At first he blocked me on Twitter, but later, unblocked me. He responded to my critiques, and—I think—changed the title of one of his songs, based on our exchange. Because his book was out, he couldn’t change it but did say he is talking with fellow writers and editors about it. I don’t have evidence that he is actually doing that, but I hope he is. I have a tag at my site for posts that include an author’s response:

6) Have you noticed any trends in the literature you review regarding gender? Or gendered trends in the responses you get from readers and/or writers?

I haven’t studied either one in the work I do on my blog. I did find, in my dissertation research, that most depictions of Native peoples in the children’s books I looked at (for the dissertation) were male. Even if the character was a girl, she was shown being a male. And of course, it was a stereotypical depiction. A good example of that is the image of Grace (in Hoffman’s Amazing Grace) as Hiawatha—Longfellow’s Hiawatha, that is! There was, in fact, a person named Hiawatha. He is a key figure to the Iroquois people and is nothing like Longfellow’s Hiawatha.

7) One very selfish question–for those of us who are not NA and do have children, what resources do you recommend if/when we have to speak to a teacher about a racist reading, or Thanksgiving-related activity, etc.?

Like so many Native people in Education, I feel weary just thinking about that holiday and the questions I’ll be fielding! A few days ago I got the first one for this year. A librarian wrote to say that teachers in her school are trying to do a better job with the way they re-enact the first Thanksgiving. They want to move away from stereotypical costumes the kids wear. They want accuracy in the costumes. At first glance that seems a good move, but it strikes me as similar to all the efforts to make mascots better by having them be more accurate in how they represent a particular Native Nation. Both (Thanksgiving reenactments and mascots) are creations borne of a White point of view. Both mean well, but both ask Native people to come onto a White stage, to perform in a White story. Another example: when the Lewis and Clark bicentennial rolled around, people wanted to reenact that, too, and wanted Native Nations along their route to dress up and greet Lewis and Clark.

The way that Thanksgiving story is told is deeply flawed. It is a feel-good story about America’s beginnings, but it one-sided and glosses over the violence that Native people experienced. Teachers think kids don’t have the wherewithal to hear that story in its completeness, and they think kids will get the truth later. Some will; some won’t! Some will feel something akin to betrayal. James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me gets at that, but so do the words of Taylor, a 5th grader whose teacher shared with me (with Taylor’s permission) something she wrote: Do you mean all those Thanksgiving worksheets we had to color every year with all those smiling Indians were wrong?

By November of each year, a teacher has had about three months to work with children, teaching them about points of view. By then, the teacher could have read to children, or had them read, books by Native writers that give readers solid information about who we are. By then, the teacher will have students using specific names for tribal nations, and the students will know that we’re still here (I hate saying “we’re still here” but it is necessary). They may even know that we’re very politically engaged, fighting against companies that want our resources and/or pollute our lands! The students in those classrooms will be ready for a more accurate look at Thanksgiving, and they’ll share that new information with others, and there will come a day when the question won’t be a question anymore. It will be the way-it-is. It may be a long way into the future before we get there, but I am optimistic. It will happen eventually, and opportunities like the one you’ve given me with this interview, are a step in that direction. Thank you!

Posted in Education, General, Literature, Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Racism | 5 Comments