Friday, February 24, 2006

almost forgot

The Ninth Carnival of Feminists is up at Mind the Gap.

Damn, this one is gooooood. (And wicked long.)

I'm in it!

My favourites from this carnival (which is really difficult, because all the posts are fabulous):

"They asked for it," on gender politics in sport. How when female athletes get injured, it's not because that's the nature of the sport (like what's assumed with male athletes), it's because they shouldn't be doing such crazy athletic stuff anyway. That's men's stuff, you know. What can they expect, doing something so unladylike, other than to get injured?

Brownfemipower's post at Women of Color Blog on identity politics. Really really good. She doesn't give "The Answer" to the issues surrounding identity politics, but she asks a lot of really good questions. A teaser, and my favourite part of this post: "I know that women of color *must* centralize their identities in their politics. We get attacked and violated *because* we are Chicana, Mexican, Indian, Asian, black, Iranian, Arab, etc. We get attacked and violated *because* we are queer, poor, mothers, uneducated, prisoners."

A poignant poem by Kelley Bell, about the dissonance between what we're taught as kids (American Dream, bootstraps, blah blah) and what the real (sexist) world is.

blac(k)ademic's post on black women's sexuality. Especially black lesbians' sexuality. A teaser: "i am invisible. you do not see my face television or in cinema. you do not hear my voice in the popular songs rotating on bet, mtv, or the radio. you do not see me because i am a black lesbian and we do not exist."

Anti-Music Blog analyzes homophobia in NBC's article about male figure skater Johnny Weir. (Whoa, homophobia directed toward male figure skaters? Who'da thunk it?) Discusses how closely homophobia is tied w/ sexism.

Molly's post about the 'mommy wars', or the question of who the better mother is: stay at home moms or working moms? Good questioning of the assumption that stay-at-home moms, those who "opt out" of working, are implicitly better mothers.

Tom Head on the anti-feminist left (mostly male) bloggers. Like, you know, the assfaces on the DailyKos, who think that us feminists should just shut up and stand behind them.

And then, every single post in "Section 3: The Body." And I mean every single post.

Tenth Carnival of Feminists will be at Indian Writing on March 8. To submit, email indianwriting AT gmail DOT com.

Oh, feminist blogosphere, I loooooove you.


(via culturekitchen)

The women of South Dakota have just been screwed by their legislature.

I wrote before about how a bill was making its way through the legislation that would ban abortion in the state.

Yesterday, the SD Senate passed the bill that the House passed a couple weeks ago. They changed the language slightly, but not in a way that changed the purpose and scope of the bill. Because of the language change, though, it had to go back to the House for re-authorization.

Today, the SD House passed the bill again, by a vote of 50-18. (The Senate passed it 23-12 yesterday.)

Now, the only potential obstacle to the legislation is the (anti-choice, Republican) governor, Mike Rounds. And he's not looking to be much of an obstacle, since he's already said that he's inclined to sign the bill.

This is absolutely terrifying.

My guess for how this will go over when it makes it to the Supreme Court (which it will, since Planned Parenthood has already pledged to sue as soon as the Governor signs it):
5-4. In favour of the ban. Overturning Roe v. Wade.
My prediction for the majority: Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy
The minority: Ginsburg, Stevens, Souter, Breyer

Something even more frightening? Molly is posting about how to perform an abortion if when Roe is overturned. *sigh*

Jill at Feministe is slightly optimistic, in a weird way:
And so what Molly has posted could be potentially helpful to a lot of women, which is why I link to it. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the post, or the safety of the procedures described therein. But I trust other feminist, pro-choice women. We will create communities, and we will help each other, even if our government finds it acceptable to infringe on our most basic human rights to decide what does and doesn’t grow in our bodies. We did it before Roe, and we’ll do it after.

(Mikhaela's newest pro-choice cartoon)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

more on the Wal-Mart/Massachusetts EC controversy

The Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy declared today that Wal-Mart must stock (and, presumably, dispense, although I realize that making presumptions is dangerous when it comes to places like Wal-Mart) EC at all its pharmacies state-wide. (Also in The Boston Globe)

The Board reviewed the state law requiring all pharmacies to dispense "commonly prescribed medications in accordance with the usual needs of the community," and decided that, yes, EC did fall into this category.

Small victories make my heart happy on this otherwise Bleak Day known as Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

wait, you mean evolutionary psychology serves the patriarchy? no way!

The woman with the very unfortunate surname is at it again.

Daphne Merkin, a contributing writer for the NY Times, recently contributed this useless article that frighteningly reminds me of the awful evolutionary psychologists (David Buss, for example) we had to read in my Human Sexuality class last year.

A disturbing little excerpt:
Men move away from older women, I would argue, almost instinctively, because they sense the impending shadow of nongenerativity like a negative pheromone. They don't need to want to have children, either consciously or subconsciously, for this to happen; they can, in fact, be childless and adamantly against the notion of procreating. Still, they like their eggs ready to rock just in case.


My first problem (of many) with evolutionary psychologists trying to explain human sexuality? They have absolutely no explanation for queerness. None whatsoever. I don't remember the exact words of David Buss, but it was something along the lines of lesbians and gay men being "mysteries" that he could not quite figure out. Mainly because they didn't fit into his bullshit evolutionary theory...which of course wouldn't mean that the theory was irrelevant, but that the queers were just, well, "mysteries" - presumably, that needed to be solved.

Second, my problem with this specific article: I've found a number of older, 50+ women very attractive. Now, maybe this is just because I'm one of those mysterious queers, but I'm fairly certain that the heteronormative fascination and lusting for younger women has less to do with the fact that her eggs are ripe for the fertilizin', and more to do with the societal construction of "sexy" young women as Teh Sex Objects.
If this "ripe eggs" theory really worked, you would see men lusting after the 230-pound 20-year-old girl in equal numbers as the 110-pound 19-year-old. Medically speaking, the not-super-thin girls are better equipped to perpetuate the species than the super-thin girl who could ostensibly be America's Next Top Model.
And then, of course, if this theory really worked, there'd be no queers. And we're back to where we started.

And then, there's this little piece, which bothers me to no end:
The distinction between women as sexual beings and maternal figures that men, poor befuddled creatures, are prone to confuse is that much harder to parse as women begin to look less like Lolita and more like Charlotte Haze, Lo's hapless mother — which brings up the specter of incest. And although some transgressions beg to be violated, I don't think sleeping with their mothers rates high on the list for most men.

Oh, so many problems...
First: Just because a woman is a sexual being doesn't make her any less maternal, and vice versa. I don't understand why the line between the two is so thickly drawn. Perhaps if we didn't valorize motherhood into this Cult of Republican Motherhood, women would be able to be both sexual and maternal at the same time.
Second: The Lolita reference? Just creepy in the context of this article. It's all about how men lust after younger women because they're fertile ground to plant their seed in...but Lolita is a 14- or 16-year-old girl (depending on which version you see). Not exactly the typical "ripe for the plucking" woman.
Third: All of this hearkens far too closely with Freudian concepts of maternal desire and the Oedipus complex. And, as I loathe (but respect) Freud, this doesn't really convince me.

I could go on and on, but my brain is starting to hurt.

What confuses me most? The picture accompanying the article, which is really, really homoerotic:

Seriously. Go ahead, try to tell me that's not two (older?) women gettin' it on.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

disciplining the body; or, anorexia as a feminist protest?

I recently discovered the hidden gem that is the Mind the Gap blog. And after my continuous struggles to put eating disorders/disordered eating into feminist terms, this blog is basically the answer that I've been trying to articulate.

The most recent post that I absolutely fell in love with is here.

An excerpt:
Feminist theorists such as Susie Orbach and Susan Bordo have both argued that anorexia is a kind of unconscious rebellion, a female protest. Wrong headed and hideously self-destructive, “counterproductive” and “tragically self-defeating,” of course, but a protest nonetheless. Little wonder that we use the only we’ve thing got – our bodies – to mount protests; if our bodies are being surveyed anyway, this is the obvious place to demonstrate. In a sense, the anorexic body throws body surveillance back in the face of culture: “Go on look at me, I am in pain. Do you like what you see? Is this what you wanted?” For women, it is not surprising that the adult female body becomes the object of such intense hatred, because it seems to be the source of our suffering. Many anorexics will tell you that it’s as much about being in “control” as it is about being thin. This is certainly not the whole story, but it is an important part of it. I know that I don’t have any great desire to be thin simply for the sake of it, but I do want to control my body, because for years it seemed to have been taken out of my control, owned, surveyed and grabbed at by other people. Eating disorders are also a way of saying “this body is mine, I will do what I want with it and not one of you can stop me.” I guess death is the ultimate escape from the pressures of womanhood. Anorexics feel this to be true. What we have to realise is that, if we are to survive, there are better ways to resist than destroying our bodies.
I wish I knew what else to add to this, but I don't.
If I were some crazy hippie back in the 70s, this would definitely merit a "Right on, sister!" But I'm not. So I'm just going to extend that sentiment, and sit here and brood for a while.

carnivals, carnivals, carnivals...

(Numbered only in the order that I discovered them, not in order of importance or whatnot)


1) The eighth carnival of the feminists is now up at Gendergeek.

The ninth will go up at Mind The Gap. Submissions to mindthegapcardiff(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk by Feb 19th.
Optional theme: feminism and the body.


2) The First Radical Women Of Color Carnival is up at reappropriate.

Being the first radical WOC carnival, a lot of the topics are pretty basic, "this is how my racial identity applies to blogging" and resolving-race type things, but still of course very pertinent stuff. And it makes me happy inside that it includes all kinds of radical women of colour, from Asians to black women to Latinas to Chicanas, etc, etc. Oh, and I love love that Jenn at reappropriate adds in that extra "u" to "colour." Because it's just such a prettier word that way.

Second Radical Women Of Colo(u)r Carnival will be up on March 1st at Mamita Mala.


3) The third Carnival Of Bent Attractions is up at daily dose of queer.

This one is fantabulous, especially given the inclusion of a post regarding the infamous "teachercrush". And I'm staying silent as to whether or not I currently have one (or five) of those.

Third Carnival of Bent Attractions will be up at Transcending Gender on March 10th. Go here to submit a blog post.

Friday Random Ten: the love and rebellious revolutions edition

And yes, I'm fully aware that today is Saturday, not Friday.

1. "We Didn't Start The Fire" Billy Joel
2. "I'll Stay With You" Beth Hart
3. "Talkin' Bout A Revolution" Tracy Chapman
4. "Loom," Ani DiFranco
5. "Friday I'm In Love" The Cure
6. "Rebel Girl" Bikini Kill
7. "In A World Without You," Beth Hart
8. "Stupid," Sarah McLachlan
9. "Bitch," Meredith Brooks
10. "Power of Two," Indigo Girls

It seems my itunes is telling me that I either really need to find someone to fall in love with, or I need to start/continue the revolution. And I'm pretty sure the latter is the more probable.

and it begins...

I blogged a few weeks ago about South Dakota's plan to criminalize abortion.

After avoiding most news sources for a couple days, I found out this morning that their plan was actually successful.

See, now that we've got Alito on the court, the anti-choicers think they've got a surefire way to overturn Roe. And I wish they were wrong. But I'm afraid that they might be right...

While I don't hate the entire state of South Dakota, and I'm sure it's aesthetically pleasing and has some good people populating the state...I'm quite frankly frightened by the entire state. Obviously, the elected legislators don't represent every constituents' concerns, but....South Dakotans elected these people. These people who have now successfully passed legislation whose sole purpose is to challenge Roe v Wade, and criminalize and ban abortion.

When I first read about this, I wasn't too worried. I naively believed that there was no way that legislators could really pass something so explicitly unconstitutional. I was still holding out hope that maybe, just maybe, the legislators would actually look out for South Dakota women's health. Hell, at that point, I was still holding out hope that our Senators would actually block Alito.

I really wish someone had warned me that my naive idealism was showing.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

PPLMA and Wal Mart

Exciting new direct action scheduled for Massachusetts re: Wal Mart and EC (emergency contraception):

On Saturday, February 25th, volunteers and activists from all over the state will be flooding Wal Mart pharmacies with prescriptions for EC. And, yes, I will be one of them.
We're well aware that Wal Mart stores in Massachusetts do not carry EC, and will refuse to fill these prescriptions. The point is to make it abundantly clear that EC is a "commonly prescribed" medication, and therefore, by Massachusetts state law, all pharmacies, including places like Wal Mart, must carry it.

If you are in Massachusetts, or will be/can be on February 25th, you should participate. Contact the following Grassroots Organizers depending on your location in the state:
Eastern MA/Boston area. Katie:
Central MA/Worcester area. Misty:
Western MA (woo!). Diana (who's absolutely FABULOUS):

If you cannot participate in the direct action, you can do the following:
(From the PPLMA email)
Last week, Wal-Mart's spokesperson was quoted as saying that Wal-Mart is now reviewing their policy nationwide because "Women's health is a high priority for Wal-Mart". Let's help this review along by encouraging Wal-Mart to do the right thing and reverse their policy!
Send an email to Wal-Mart's CEO, Lee Scott, demanding that they complete their review without delay, and change their policy. Emergency contraception is the first and only prescription drug that Wal-Mart has banned from its shelves, denying thousands of female customers, including rape victims and women who have experienced contraceptive failure, a last chance to prevent an unintended pregnancy.
To send an email, use Wal Mart's feedback form here.
If you receive a response to said email, forward it to

I *heart* Massachusetts more and more every day....

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

the v-day controversy

No, not Valentine's Day. I hate that stupid commercial holiday which I've never shared with anyone special. But I'm not bitter. Really.

No, I'm talking about the V-Day Campaign.

Recently, there's been an ongoing controversy on my campus regarding the Smith College Republicans' "Anti-V-Day" Campaign. They're basing it on this, from the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, a conservative women's think tank. Now, I'm not going to bash the Smith Republicans, because they're just about the best Republicans I know -- very civil, logical, and honest when debating -- but I will try to give my take on their "statement" regarding their position against the Vagina Monologues/V-Day Campaign.
The Republicans and members of Feminists of Smith Unite/Vag-Mos production staff are actually going to debate this tomorrow night, but sadly, I have class. Thus my voicing my opinions here. 'Cause I can.

(below the flip 'cause it's going to get kinda lengthy)

On behalf of the Smith College Republicans, I would like to issue a statement regarding the “Anti V-Day Campaign” and explain our motives and ideas. Many of you have probably seen our posters and signs across campus addressing this campaign. They will be explained in the following:

To begin, those of us running the campaign have seen the play and/or read Eve Ensler’s book, “The Vagina Monologues.” This campaign is not a protest, but rather an expression of why we don’t believe this play helps women or prevents violence against women. Many argue that the play liberates women by expressing thoughts on women's sexual anatomy. In fact, it does the opposite. The amazing women leaders around the world did not get where they were by speaking through a vagina, they used their brains and their mouths.

a#1) The Vagina Monologues is not about "speaking through your vagina." It's about reclaiming your vagina, reclaiming your sexual organs as your own.
b#2) These same amazing women leaders who did, inarguably, make it to where they are by using their brains and mouths, were inevitably encumbered by their possession of a vagina. If the fact that their genitals are internal instead of external didn't have the meanings that it does in our patriarchal discourse, there would most likely be far more women as leaders, and those leaders wouldn't have had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts. The Vag-Mos, in part, are trying to change the meanings assigned to female genitalia, and therefore make it easier for women to use their brains and mouths, instead of having to compensate for their "inadequate" genitalia at every turn.

In “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy” the character, who is a successful tax attorney leaves her great job to become a dominatrix prostitute. Now, I understand over the years women have become more sexual and more in control of their sexuality. But, leaving a successful job that gives a woman power in a male dominated world to become a prostitute, a socially undesirable and male objectified position in my opinion is highly anti-feminist.

This is problematic in that it prioritizes typically "respectable" and socially accepted means of production and labour over the "unrespectable" vocation of prostitution. Why should this woman have to do something menial and boring as all hell like tax law when she could be doing what she loved, which just happens to be sex work? It is only "socially undesirable" to those with privilege. It is, arguably, a male-objectified position....except she's a sex worker for women. Not as a show for men, simply one woman pleasuring another. I don't necessarily agree that sex work is inherently male-objectified, especially not in this case.
I would argue further that this woman's choice is explicitly feminist, because it is her choice. She was able to make that choice to give up tax law and do what made her happy, do what made her content. How is this any different from a woman choosing to give up housework, which this specific woman may find menial and mundane, to go into the "exciting" world of stock brokerage? It's not.

And besides....this is the moaning monologue. Who doesn't love the moaner???

In the monologue entitled, “The Vagina Workshop” women explore their sexual side as the workshop leader tells the women that their sexual organs are “the essence of me…both the doorbell to my house and the house itself.” If my vagina is the essence of me, the doorbell to my “house” and basically is ME, then where do my thoughts, brain and ideas come in? These are the ideas that suffragettes (sic) during the early women’s movements fought against. The perpetuation of an overly sexed woman has backfired in society creating stereotypes and in essence a tougher time for women to gain respect in the workplace and society in general. This play does not liberate us sexually, socially or otherwise.

First, the "suffragettes" mistake irks me to no end. It's suffragist. The "-ette" only minimalizes the work done by these activists. But that's beside the point.
I will cautiously agree with her point here. Cautiously. Because I agree that women should be seen as more than their sex, obviously. And I can see how the Vagina Monologues, and this monologue specifically, can perpetuate that notion. However, women have been denied their sexuality throughout history, and sometimes, it's necessary to make the pendulum swing fully the other way before it can balance out. True, an overly sexed woman can be just as stigmatized and harmful as the woman denied any sexuality outside of men. But I don't know that we're at that place where women are granted enough sexual agency to be seen as that dangerous, over-sexed woman.
Besides, I'm not at all sure that an "over-sexed woman" is necessarily a negative thing. I do think that it is a status that can be reclaimed as a positive. The Vagina Monologues is all about reclaiming women's sexuality -- why can't this be reclaimed, re-visioned as positive, as well?

Although the play is being marketed as an event that will help women’s violence issues, I have seen little attached to the signs that say this. As I walk into my house and buildings across campus I read, “Do you want to experience multiple orgasms?” Sure, orgasms are the solution to issues of women’s violence. The play provides shock value for sure and claims to be giving money to women’s shelters, which is noble. But the play itself offers no solution to women’s violence issues, no self-defense techniques to protect and educate women and in fact Eve Ensler did not write the play to address violence and women. Ensler said she wrote the play because she “was worried about [her] own vagina…what we think about vaginas and even more worried that we don’t think about them.” Even radical feminist Betty Dodson brings up a very important issue that, "That's the main problem with V-day. Women end up with a false idea that V-day will end violence against women and girls. Ending violence is a worthy cause and I'm all for it, but consistently equating sex with violence offers no real solution." If we are going to take action as intelligent, proactive Smithies why don’t we find a solution instead of simply putting on a graphic and an offensive (to some) play? Why don’t we talk to our legislators about stricter sexual offender laws and help with domestic abuse programs? We have to encompass the whole issue: raise money, educate ourselves on self-defense and protection, and become proactive with all violence issues that women face.

Straightforward rebuttal to this: I don't think anybody's expecting The Vagina Monologues or the V-Day Campaign to singlehandedly dismantle the superstructure of violence against women. But it's a starting point, and it's a rallying point, and it's a part of the fight. And we need as many people involved in the fight as we can get.

Some say that the graphic content of the play is what inspires women to go out and get involved. If we need shock value to inspire us we are not effective members of our community and we have to dig deeper into these issues. In “The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could” a young girl is given alcohol and then violated by a much older woman. Then Ensler writes, “If it was rape, it was a good rape.” Rape is being affirmed here as something good! How can we sit here as women and support this? Some of us will become mothers some day, what if this was your daughter? “Good rape” does not say that rape is bad and does not help with violence against women and young girls. If the young girl were raped by a Catholic priest I can guarantee that the play would not be tolerated and “good rape” would not be a thought in Ensler’s mind.

1) The term, "good rape," was nixed from the monologues after the first performance. No, Ensler should never have put it in there in the first place, but it's unfair to judge the Monologues as they stand now for mistakes that they no longer contain.
2) The girl was 16. She was seduced by a 24-year-old woman. No doubt there was some crazy power dynamics at work in the relationship, but I don't know that this automatically makes it rape. However, I'm not going to say that it is automatically not rape, either. I'm admittedly still pretty torn over this one monologue, especially since it's one of only two occurrences of lesbianism in the play, and the other instance involves a sex worker -- no "typical" lesbian relationships are ever portrayed. But that's another problem altogether.
But while I won't say that the girl definitively was or was not raped, I will say that power dynamics do have a huge impact on the pleasure of a situation. It's very hard to extract pleasure from power, and most people would be hard-pressed to find a truly egalitarian relationship, especially once it extends to the bedroom. Unequal power dynamics in a sexual relationship do not necessarily make it rape. This specific iffy, to say the least.

Which brings me to my next point: the play is extremely anti-male. The play portrays men as perverted, rude and forceful. In “Hair” a husband forces his wife to shave her vagina. In another monologue an “average” male is portrayed as a pervert obsessed with vaginas. Although we attend Smith and love the all female environment, to look at men in this way is wrong. The play praises a woman rapist, but then alienates a male who finds beauty and mystique in a woman’s vagina. Brilliant male professors teach us, some women have meaningful relationships with men whether it is a father, boyfriend or brother and to treat men this way is unfair.

Ok, for one: I never got the impression that the man in "another monologue" ("Because He Liked To Look At It") was seen as a "pervert." He was the avenue by which the woman portrayed in the monologue came to love her vagina. Came to not see it as dirty and gross and disgusting. I'd say he's portrayed pretty positively.
And for another...I dealt with the "woman rapist" question above. But the fact is: A lot of Ensler's monologues deal with violent and negative situations. And these situations most often occur with men. Do they occur with women as well? Could she have been more inclusive in her monologues? Of course. But she wrote what she heard in interviews, the interviews that moved her the most. You can't deny that the majority of violence and negative situations directed toward women is most often perpetrated by men. It's not by any means the only source of violence against women, but it's a huge one, and you cannot blame the Vag-Mos for exposing it, nor can you, in claiming to be pro-woman, deny it or try to protect the patriarchal structure that supports it.

These are the basic ideas of why the Smith College Republicans have endorsed an Anti V-Day campaign. At Smith we are taught to question and critique ideas, we are encouraged to exercise our first amendment rights. The Smith campus claims to be very open to all ideas; so we ask that you read this and think about it for yourself, as a woman or a man reading this. We as a group are pro-woman and simply believe that there are other ways to address a very important subject that we face. I encourage you to attend the Hot Seat debate Wednesday, 8pm, CC Carroll Room.

To summarize: I agree that The Vagina Monologues does essentialize female sexuality, and places far too much emphasis on the vagina, instead of the vulva, or the lips, or the clitoris, or the whole cunt. And I'm not saying that I don't have problems with the Vagina Monologues. BUT, I wouldn't argue that this is a reason to discard the Vag-Mos altogether. No, the Vagina Monologues and the accompanying V-Day campaign alone are not going to solve the problem of violence against women. But they do make an impact. And in combination with other tactics -- legal, political, social, etc -- an impact can be made. The Vagina Monologues doesn't fix the situation. But it does not harm women. And it does further the cause, even if just a little bit. Adding to the campaign is always welcome, and making it more than a once-a-year thing is, of course, necessary. But taking things away from the campaign that do no harm, even if they only do minimal good, is counterproductive.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

a mini-foray into gender/Gender* and the patriarchy in general; or, Theorizing Breasts

(Disclaimer #1: This is something I initially wrote in my personal journal a couple days ago, and I've gone back and forth about whether or not to post here. But as problematic as I'm sure it is because it was a fairly impulsive entry and I haven't gone back to fix any non-inclusiveness or overly gender-oppressive language...I think it's still good as raw material for musing. So please see it as such (raw, that is), and feel free to problematize anything that needs problematizing. I have edited it only slightly to take out any overly identifying information.)
*Disclaimer #2: This is not meant at all to be indicative of other transgressively or ambiguously or otherwise gendered people's experiences. I'm not pretending that this is me "transgendering," which is evidently a verb, according to an old dean at Wells. This is just me fucking with my own physical indicators of my sex, which is of course assumed to be my gender. And I fully accept that I'm just doing this in the privacy of my own room, so I'm not pretending that I'm being socially subversive here. I'm just musing.


So tonight, I was having a bit of a panic attack, paired with some massive body-hating, specifically aimed at my breasts, which for some reason were looking way bigger than normal. I hated that. I wanted to just cut them off.

Normally, when I get to this point, I cut. Specifically, I usually cut my breasts, but sometimes, if the panic attacks are especially flashback-intensive, I cut my thighs or pelvic area.

This time, though, I just wanted them to go away. My breasts, that is. Even though they didn't really show up so prominently until this past summer, I place a lot of blame on them for a lot of things, and place a lot of hatred specifically in and on them.
See, my breasts are predominantly what make me so recognizably female, and therefore recognizably vulnerable and victimizable.
I'm sick of being objectified, of them being stared at - yes, by both/all genders. I'm sick of my breasts being something to be ogled. (By comparison, they're not even that ridiculously huge. They're only 36C, not crazy huge like LS-L or KW or DC or whoever. They could be much bigger. And while I love aforementioned three women and their breasts, I am very thankful that mine aren't that large. Just sayin'.)

Anyway, so instead of my usual "I hate my sexual identifiers" actions (cutting), I did something else impulsive.

I tore off my shirt, my tank top, my bra. I grabbed two of my tightest sports bras, a bandeau that's far too small, and an ace bandage (with velcro ends -- very handy).
I squished my boobs into the three tops, and then wrapped the ace bandage around my chest.

I put on a beater and a t-shirt and looked in the mirror.

And they were gone.

Of course, I'm not pretending I'm an expert at binding, so you could still tell that they're there, somewhere, but they were no longer prominent. Instead of seeing:
"AWCC Soccer Championships 2003" (the writing on the shirt) when I looked in the mirror,
I saw simply "AWCC Soccer Championships 2003".

I love it.

I'm sure I could analyze and deconstruct and dissect this to death, but right now, I'm only going to scratch the surface.
(The rest behind the flip 'cause it's wicked long.)

I don't pretend that, "Ooh, I bound for an hour, I know what transmen feel like now! I totally sympathize!"
That would be stupid.
Because my incentive was not that I wanted to change my perceived gender. I don't want to stop being so recognizably female because I want to be recognized as something else. (Which, I realize, can hardly sum up the reasons behind transitioning, but bear with me and my generalizations.)
I have no qualms, inherently, with being recognizably female. I want to stop being so recognizably female because I want to stop being objectified. I want to stop being so recognizably female because I'm sick of being used. Because I'm sick of being seen as hypersexualized. I'm sick of being looked at, essentially.

And I realize that my changing my outward appearance by removing the prominence of my breasts is not going to change that, and that even if I did that, it would not go far to change the system. And I realize that it's the system that needs changing, not me.

Because my breasts, in and of themselves, have no meaning. They are not inherently sexualized. They are not inherently beautiful. Or objectifiable. They, themselves, do not say, "Hey, I'm a female! Come, objectify me, rape me, fuck me, look at me, stare at me, penetrate me!" Outside of the discourse, they mean nothing. They're just lumps of fat and tissue and muscle and nerve endings and whatnot.
When I was "little" - that is, when I was in high school, flat-chested, and trying not to be bitter that everyone else had boobs and I didn't - I would try to make myself feel better by saying that I didn't need boobs, that they were useless anyway. What good were they? They were just lumps of fat, I said. I didn't understand why they were so coveted.
Because then, I didn't acknowledge the workings of the discourse around and in me, that glorified The Big Breasted Woman by virtue of her Big Breasts. I didn't understand at all where the "power," if it can be called that, of the breasts came from.

And sometimes, I wish I were back there. Back in the place where I didn't understand the workings of the system, of the patriarchy, of how oppression touches each life uniquely and unequally. I would love to be ignorant again, to just not see all these fucked up things. To whine that, "It's not fair," and when the inevitable, "Well, life's not fair," came, to whine that, "Well, it should be," and honestly believe that it could be. A lot of the time, I would give anything for that.
But you can't ever go back to that place. You can't just pretend that you don't know about homophobia and sexism and racism and all the other phobias and 'isms that fuck people over.

But I digress.
Back to the breasts.
(Since starting this post 45 minutes ago, I had to remove the ace bandage, bandeau, and 1 sports bra, because it was hard to breathe and my back hurt. I honestly have no idea how pre- and non-surgically altered transmen do it...)
There is so much I want to analyze about this impulsive action, but I don't know where to start.
It's all so fucked up, all so mired in the patriarchy and the system.

I looked in the mirror, saw the breasts, and thought, "Objectified. Victim. Sexualized." That's what my breasts signify to me. That's what I assume other people think when they see my breasts. I thought, "Fuck, I hate these things." I grabbed at them, squished them down, scratched at them.
I automatically (and falsely) assumed that if the breasts weren't there, or at least weren't immediately visible, that all of those things that they signify wouldn't be signified elsewhere on my body, and therefore wouldn't exist. But erasing my breasts doesn't erase the discourse. It just makes it slightly harder to identify.
But I (naively) assumed that making them go away would fix everything. So that's what I did.
And when I looked in the mirror, and they weren't immediately there, my chest didn't scream BREASTS!!!, and I smiled at myself in the mirror.
I turned to the side. I turned to the front. No breasts.

I went out in the suite hall where the full-length mirror is. I looked, saw my chest, and saw no breasts!, and smiled. Then I took in the whole image.
My hips were still there, still identifiably female.
My ass was still identifiably female.
My face, my hair, my fingers: still identifiably female.
Even if I tried to get in full drag, I still wouldn't "pass" as anything but female. A "girly man," at "best." And, therefore, still oppressed.
I wasn't smiling anymore.

I looked at my face. It was still the face of a victim. Maybe a survivor too, maybe not, but always at some point a victim. Nothing I can do to my physical appearance can change the fact that I was, at one point, a victim.
That's something that stays with you, no matter what you do to your body. That's something that gets tattooed on your forehead, even if nobody sees it but you. That's something you can't ever escape.

(Slight Digression) And I wonder...if I'd been born a boy (like my mom so often wishes I was), and therefore socialized as a boy, what would have been different? (Well, other than everything.) Would I still have been sexually abused? My abuser was abused, too, and he had male privilege on his side. Would I still be a victim? What would have changed? How would I have dealt with things differently?

Would I still look in the mirror and hate what I see?
Would I still be cutting or hurting myself almost every day?
Would I still feel like a whore for getting abused in the first place?
Would I still feel the threat of rape every time I walk alone? Every time I'm drunk around men? Every time I take a breath? Every time I exhale?
What would have been different?

But I guess this all comes to the question of what would have prevented this impulsive fucked-up action altogether. At this point, is it even possible to change the system to make women less objectified/sexualized/etc?

I guess it can be summed up with this question:
What would make me not hate my breasts for their female (and therefore oppressed) implications?
I'm ok with the idea of having breasts. I'm ok with the idea of my breasts giving me and whoever else I choose to "share" them with sexual pleasure. To an extent, I'm even ok with the idea of breasts as teasing, because anticipation is pretty imperative to pleasure, and really, I'm a sex-positive feminist, so I'm all for pleasure.
I'm not ok with them being used as fodder for some random person's fantasy. (I realize it sounds like perhaps I'm giving my breasts too much credit here, but I'm not talking specifically about my breasts, I'm talking abstractly.) I'm absolutely positively not ok with the suggestion of them being used as justification for rape ("she was dressed provocatively, she was asking for it!"). Obviously. I'm not ok with the fact that a woman showing cleavage is inevitably going to be ogled and stared at and objectified by anyone mildly interested in the curvature of her cleavage. I'm not ok with the fact that I've internalized the notion that because my breasts connote femaleness, they connote victimized status and being oppressed, that because they announce my "womanhood," they announce my vulnerability.

I love breasts as breasts.
I hate breasts as tools of the patriarchy.
I hate what breasts connote. I hate what they symbolize and signify.

To sum up:

Fuck you, patriarchy. Fuck you.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Betty Friedan: 1921-2006

Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique and often credited with the launch of the second wave of feminism*, died today of congestive heart failure. It was her 85th birthday.

A Smith(!) alum of the class of 1942, the premise of The Feminine Mystique actually grew out of a 15-year reunion at Smith, and was published in 1963. She also co-founded the National Organization for Women, and was its first president in the late '60s. She was also a founder of the pre-cursor to NARAL, the National Conference for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, as well as a founder of the National Women's Political Caucus.

As artemisia at mediagirl put it:
She may not have been able to lead us all the way home, or perhaps even envision our ultimate destination, but she was an amazing force in getting this wave of the march started.
Friedan's form of feminism was no doubt problematic, but for today, I'll leave those problems aside. No amount of problematizing her feminism can negate her incredible influence.

*While I don't agree that she was the catalyst for the start of the second wave, she was still undeniably a catalyst, and for that, she deserves credit.

you've got to be kidding me...

Can this man integrate any more hate into his life?

We all know that Coretta Scott King passed away on Tuesday. I would not have expected anyone to view this as anything less than a tragedy. This woman did so much for everyone in the way of civil rights that it's hard to imagine anyone seeing her as anything but absolutely amazing.

Evidently, I've been proven wrong.

Fred Phelps, the man without a heart, plans to picket Coretta Scott King's funeral, which will be held in Georgia on Feb 7th.

The flyer:

I don't even know what to say to this. I'm dumbfounded. What is wrong with this man???

(hat tip, pam at pandagon)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday Random Ten: Popping the Cherry

Getting on the boat with this Friday Random Ten thing....

My iTunes, which boasts 3.6 days' worth of music (which sucks, because I used to have over 8 days' worth, but then my hard drive crapped out on me...), busted out the following when set to shuffle:

1. "Fuck You Aurora," Alkaline Trio
2. "After Dark," Le Tigre
3. "If I Had A Hammer," Peter, Paul, and Mary
4. "Kittery Tide," Girlyman
5. "Wampum Prayer," Tori Amos
6. "Deathly," Aimee Mann
7. "Grand Canyon," Ani DiFranco
8. "Will You Be There," Michael Jackson
9. "Barons of Suburbia," Tori Amos
10. "The Origin of Love," from Hedwig and the Angry Inch

No theme there, really...going from 'fuck you' to lovey-dovey is, well, random.
Thus the title of Friday Random Ten, I suppose.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

i love MA, reason number 432

(image shamelessly stolen from feministing)

Three Massachusetts women are suing Wal-Mart for not stocking EC (emergency contraception).

They cite a Massachusetts state law that requires all pharmacies to carry all "commonly prescribed medicines."

Not a whole lot of development on this story yet, since they just filed the lawsuit yesterday, but this could be good!

These women are hoping for a ruling that would liken Mass. law to Illinois law, which is currently the only state that Wal Mart carries EC at, since it is required by state law.

Wal-Mart says it doesn't carry the drug for "business purposes."
Business purposes, my ass.

Also, Broadsheet's coverage of this story. (Note: it's via Salon, so you'll need to watch a short ad to read the article.)