Monthly Archives: November 2008

I saw mommy mounting Santa Claus! Ick.

The Office Christmas ‘do seems to be a uniquely tragic and tacky British affair. Perhaps this happens around the world, but since many folks here seem to take pride in “having a piss up” and stumbling about in the gutter as a distinct badge of national pride, I can only assume that this advert from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS has special holiday resonance in the UK.


This eye-catching, decorum-eluding advert’s meant to catch the eye and remind women to stock up on the morning after pill. Usually on offer at the chemist (pharmacy) for £26, the BPAS is giving the pill along with condoms and contraceptive advice in a special Chrimbo pack.

The media reportage was, of course, hysterical and one-sidedly sexist. Women shouldn’t use the morning after pill for contraception! Shouldn’t they be thinking about contraceptive before they get so blindingly drunk at the office Christmas party and cop off with Stewie from IT that they don’t need the morning after pill?! This story, along with one about Devon police handing out flip flops to drunk women on ridonculous heels, created a regular little tempest in a teapot about female impropriety, trampy women of today, and raising the alarm about unwanted babies clogging up the Social (services).

And what of men? You know, the ones who also participate in the unexpected, unprotected sex? What responsibility does Santa have in this scenario? Just shimmy on down the chimney?


I suggest Dr. Miranda Bailey’s approach because a) I love her, b) she is the only moral compass I have since Homicide’s Detective Frank Pembleton, and c) the media makes me as weary as the residents of Seattle Grace make her.


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Filed under reproductive rights, sexual health, sexuality, Uncategorized, women

Obama Says No to Barbara Walters’ ‘Girly Dog’ (or why I still want a woman to be President)

I am happy that Obama will be our next president for a number of reasons. Really, I am. His recent interview with Barbara Walters actually did a good job of reminding me why I am confident in Obama’s ability to handle the challenges facing the US. For once, I got to see Obama without the horns trumpeting in the background announcing the first, honest-to-goodness, real-life, responsible Black man. Not only does he love his wife but he loves his kids too! And, he has a job! Seriously, who’s not tired of this narrative (please don’t answer that…I know half of America is not tired of this narrative).

Still, as much as I liked the interview, I have to say that I was not at all amused by Obama’s casual display of a kinder, gentler sexism near the end. He talks about not wanting a ‘girly dog’ that ‘yaps’ and ‘sits in your lap.’ Now, I don’t tend to like those types of dogs either but Obama has got to know that dismissing something as girly is just, well, a bit sexist. I can tell that he thinks it’s cute and I’m sure others will swoon over his display of manliness but the whole thing just served to remind me why I still want to see a woman in the White House. And no, Sarah Palin doesn’t count.

Check out the girly dog comment here:


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Filed under election 2008, sexism, women

Et tu, Veronica Mars?

This may say more about my social life than I’d wish, but I have to confess that watching Veronica Mars on DVD has been the highlight of my autumn. The show focuses on a high school girl who is a P.I., with lots of sidekicks and boyfriend drama. If this sounds a bit familiar to you, it did to me too–I missed the show when it was on in part because it seemed to be something of a Buffy rip-off, and I’m loyal to the original. However, once I started watching it, I found out it was smart and funny and often had pretty good politics. Perhaps equally importantly, the show’s creators and writers made clear their respect and appreciation for their august predecessor, paying homage to Joss Wheedon’s Buffy-verse through the casting of Buffy actresses Alison Hannigan (Willow) and Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) and a cameo from the great Joss himself. The writing was snappy, the girl power palpable, and I didn’t manage to solve the mystery that spanned the whole of the first season before Veronica did–not bad for a plot stretched across 22 episodes. As we moved into Season 2, we started calling the show The Crack because we could not seem to stop watching it.

Then we hit Season 3, in which Veronica has left high school for the elite Hurst College–and you may want to skip this paragraph if you’re not there yet, because there will indeed be *spoilers ahead*. I should begin by saying that I’m only seven episodes in, so maybe the dire situation that caused me to feel the need to blog this morning will be rectified by the end of the season. I’d heard Season 3 wasn’t as good, but what I hadn’t heard was that it was a parade of feminist-bashing stereotypes of the worst possible sort. Veronica gets embroiled in trying to solve some rapes on campus but lo and behold, she is constantly foiled by the Evil Feminists–played most prominently by actresses who are thus far the only women of color in the season–who Don’t Care About the Truth but just Hate Men (especially fraternity brothers). When their demands that frats be shut down aren’t met, they actually fake a rape to get their way. Yes, ladies, it’s not just trashy gold digging sluts who fake rape charges against fraternity brothers, those Evil Feminists are doing it too! Even if in the rest of the season some of this presentation is corrected, I don’t see how the show could undo its insistence that feminism is a criminally misguided, ideologically rabid and morally bankrupt enterprise.

I also don’t think it’s any accident that this is the season when Veronica leaves high school for college. From one perspective, I can see the writers thinking, ‘What’s a campus issue?’ and ‘What sort of people are associated with college life?’ and coming up with ‘rape’ and ‘activists’ as fairly reasonable answers. They probably wanted something that felt topical and stretched the show away from high school approaches to ongoing concerns. (Rape has been a longstanding issue for the series.) But from another perspective, it seems quite telling to me that, when Veronica leaves high school for the larger world, the show suddenly felt a need to demonstrate that, even if she is a kick-ass young woman with a will of iron and a mind like a steel trap, Veronica should not be associated with that frightening, ridiculous and unsexy creature, the feminist.

In some ways, what’s happened to the show is the best argument against the ‘girl power’ ideal that I can think of. It’s fine for Veronica to have MacGyver-like, polymath talents so long as she’s cordoned off into the toy-town world of high school (and her petite stature is consistently underscored in the early seasons). But once she gets to college and starts using those skills to get things that really matter–like A’s in difficult classes, internship offers, the attention of important professors–then things begin to look a bit more dangerous. The Buffy show dealt with this tension by making Buffy an actual superhero, so that her skills were necessarily cordoned off from the whole of the female population (though things become a bit more complicated over time, as those who’ve watched the whole series know). Because she’s just a really fucking smart and strong young woman, it’s quite a bit more dangerous to let Veronica loose from the cutesy spectacle of a Wee Little Girl taking on Big Big Problems that was presented in the first two seasons. The Evil Feminists plot arc reassures us that, even if Veronica’s girl power is inevitably turning in to woman power as she ages, she won’t be using that power for anything political–anything that might actually challenge the status quo or makes men look bad as a group rather than just pointing out the individual dumb-asses.

I’m sure I’ll watch to the end of the season, as I’m holding on to a sliver of hope that somehow this might be turned around. Though I can’t see how it might be, the show has certainly surprised me before. And I still recommend the first two seasons, despite their girl-power limitations. But that Veronica Mars took it upon itself to perpetrate the most hateful sort of caricatures of feminism really gives new meaning to the word ‘spoiler.’



Filed under Rape, TV, women

Avoid the post-Thanksgiving Day sales scrum with Storycorps

In my more sadistic moments, I think it would be cool if Wal-Mart or some other evil discount empire erected bleachers over their entryways and toy aisles for the day after Thanksgiving bargain melee. I’d buy tickets for some gladiator-style tussle over a mojombo flat-panel telly for $3.99.

Instead, let’s all be dignified and edified by participating in Storycorp’s National Day of Listening.

Let us know if you submit something!

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Filed under anti-consumerism, Uncategorized

If Wishes Were Horses, Or Healthcare

I like to think I am too cynical to have these moments where I ask absurd and idealistic questions, but I’m not, and this is what I’d like to know:

If we can understand that we are all connected financially and translate this understanding of mutual interdependence into a financial bailout for corporations, why can’t we extend this logic and apply it to other problems, like inequality, discrimination, and crime? Am I missing something here?

Because I’d really rather bail out Detroit– the city, that is– than the auto industry. I’d rather see new roads, public transportation, and green building, and see the workers who lost manufacturing jobs at work supporting this production. I’d like community gardens and murals and the dislocation of financial power from a few firms. I know how that makes me sound, like the incense burning do-nothing do-gooders I usually despise, and I don’t know what’s come over me, but I mean that last bit especially.

I’d much give my tax dollars to federally administrated programs because the federal government is accountable to citizens, and Citibank is not.

And while I am pleased that the government is working, albeit a day late and a gazillion dollars short, to unfreeze the financial markets, I wish they would work to unfreeze the untapped potential of millions of Americans by giving them the skills and training they need to galvanize a new economy in the United States, one that doesn’t need to be propped up by the government at every turn.

And, while I’m wishing, would that we could stop hearing these endless arguments about unions ruining the auto industry. Yeah, the men and women who want to keep a pension and health insurance– this is their fault. I especially love hearing that argument from TV pundits who have never come home with stained hands from a day of repetitive work on a factory floor.

I wish that we could as a country come to an understanding that the fate of the working classes, the poor, the uninsured, the sick– add to the list what you wish– is intertwined with our fate as a whole. And in this U.S., what makes you so sure, if you are middle class today, that you won’t be poor tomorrow, needing a helping hand yourself?



Filed under Social Justice

Parliament on the road to eugenics

The U.K. media today is reporting that Ministers of Parliament are trying to push GPs to give the contraceptive jab to girls to stem the tide of teenage pregnancy. The hysterical, scare quotes media is putting emphasis on age (“girls as young as 13!!!”) and rasising the spectre that there’ll be a crazed Nurse Ratchett running around school sticking girls with anti-baby drug-filled needles.

In fact, when you look more closely at the reports, what the Ministers are advocating are school-based contraceptive clinics and developing sexual health services. Callers to BBC Radio London were egged on by the host’s characterization of the jab as “mandatory for all girls age 13 without parental consent leading to unfettered promiscuous sex.” Way to extrapolate (read: tell bold face, yellow journalism lies). There’s, of course, no mention in news reports of better, sustained sex education or even a gender-conscious approach to respectful and consensual sexuality education.

Far more disturbing, however, is the complete absence of concern about the eugenicist air of such a scheme. Take, for example, the report in The Times:

“The policy of offering [the contraceptive jab or implants] to teenagers is likely to prove controversial. In the past, some doctors have been criticised for offering them to poorer women and those from ethnic minorities without explaining possible side-effects, which include headaches and weight gain [emphasis mine].”

Erm…can we just stick with the first part of the last sentence for a mo? While side-effects are of concern, perhaps we might draw on histories of women of color and poor women effectively being sterilized without consent as the real issue here? Given that the jab makes one sterile for up to three years, I think explaining the primary effect of sterilization might take precedence as a human rights issue over weight gain.

I’m far from advocating doing nothing, but this sounds like an unethical attempt to revisit sterilization abuse in hopes of saving money on social services.

The blog Mississippi Appendectomy is doing great archival work on sterilization abuse.

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Filed under African Americans, race, reproductive rights, sexual health, sexuality, Social Justice, Uncategorized, women

Oprah and Proposition 8

Now that the election is over, Oprah is free to discuss politics. On Friday, she discussed Proposition 8 with Melissa Ethridge and her wife, Tammy. Near the end of the clip Oprah admits that Prop 8 is a “setback.”


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Filed under Uncategorized