Thursday, December 28, 2006

FYI

Girlistic.com, a new online feminist magazine and community, is building a database of feminist clipart and is looking for additions. If you've got something cool, consider contributing.

Otter's Oath

Given recent nontroversy over elected official swearing-in ceremonies, I think that one can only conclude that Idaho Governor-Elect C.L. "Butch" Otter is keeping his swearing-in ceremony under wraps so that he swear his oath on the Quran in peace. With busybodies like Dennis Prager running around, who can blame him?

UPDATE: Thom George one-ups me at Huckleberries Online at suggests that he's actually swearing on The Fountainhead.

Partial credit is for being partially right, not for being consistently wrong

This is exactly why I'm not going to give extra credit to wingnuts for being consistent in their baseless ideologies. So you think it should be equally illegal to allow victims of rape to seek abortion as anyone else? Congratulations - you're completely wrong instead of just partially wrong like the people who only want to allow abortion in instances of rape. Dawn here consistently refuses to understand that her Biblically-inspired interpretation of human sexuality isn't a cure-all for life's woes, even when the interpretation fails for herself. That's not commendable - it's idiotic. When all the empirical evidence says the Bible is wrong, it's time to start questioning the Bible - or at least your interpretation of it - and not the evidence.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Xmas

I'll be leaving town tomorrow and don't know whether I'll be able to blog or not. If not - have a happy Christmas, and I'll be back on Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

A few basic assumptions

Since I'm back on the subject of abortion lately, I think it might be useful (for me and anyone who might want to argue with me) to lay out some of my basic assumptions when considering reproductive rights issues.

1. Abstinence is a temporary condition and not birth control, since sex is a fact of human existence. I personally have never been sentimental about chastity or numbers of sex partners or any of the things wingnuts fixate on in regard to sexual purity, but I can understand and respect that people feel differently than I do. I can respect that a persona's values and how they relate to sex are absolutley under their purview and not my own. What's important when it comes to reproductive rights is that the overwhelming evidence is that abstinence cannot function alone as birth control. Philosophically, I am convinced that sexuality is a fundamental part of human nature, and that our morals cannot be formulated without appreciating the deep social and personal value of its expression. I should point out that I think this applies equally to men and women, and am embarassed when poster after poster on feministing.com tells men who are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy that they should have used a condom or not had sex if they didn't want to pay child support.

2. There will never be an end to abortion. Simply put, birth control will never be perfect, personal circumstances cannot all be controlled, and there are many women who feel a personal right to terminate a pregnancy even if it won't be recognized by the state. There can be less abortion or more abortion, safer and more dangerous abortion, but there will always be abortion.

3. Abortion sucks. I don't know who these feminists are who won't "admit" that abortion is unpleasant and best avoided, but I am not one of them, nor have I ever met one. I don't have a moral problem with abortion, but as far as the time money and energy it takes to have one, it's pretty clear that effective birth control is a better option. I also recognize that abortion can indeed be emotionally difficult for pro-choice women who would rather bring the pregnancy to term but cannot for whatever reason.

4. I believe that there is a genuine difference of opinion between pro-lifers and pro-choicers. I don't think you have to be a misogynist, lying, or delusional to be pro-life - though it can help. If Pro-Life Dude A tells me that abortion is murder, I will usually assume that's his genuine belief; I just think he is wrong in that belief. We've all been wrong in our lives - probably once or twice about something very important - but we're not all lying scumbags. There are many pro-life arguments that are based in misogyny, lies, and delusions, and I'm not going to treat them gently or forgive and forget when someone propagates them. That kind of behavior deserves to be apologized for, just like any intellectual dishonesty.

5. Encouragement is not policy. It's fantastic if you and your children are perfect users of birth control who recycle and only eat free-range, grass-fed beef. A public-awareness campaign on the virtues of these behaviors is fine. It is not, however, going to make a difference. Putting your faith in it is going to make you a total drag and eventually completely disappointed. Abstinence is often the best plan for a teenager, but I can think of more than a few teenagers I've known who would likely have become pregnant or made another pregnant had they not been given information about and access to birth control. Taking steps to make abstinence easier, while still respecting the rights and dignity of those who do not choose it - such as encouraging masturbation and giving teenagers access to things like vibrators - is something a community, a family, or a government could plausibly and ethically do to try make a difference in the rate of unwanted teenage pregnancies. This brings me to my next assumption...

6. Policy must be evidence-based. For policy to be ethical, there needs to be empirical investigation into whether or not it is working. For instance, there seem to be many who honestly believe that abstinence-only education is a legitimate and useful tactic for reducing teenage pregnancy and STI rates. Regardless of how idiotic that is, we know for certain now that it actually makes things worse. It needs to be de-funded immediately. My suggestions might be just as disastrous - who knows? They're not complete shots in the dark, but it would be unethical to spend tax dollars on a program without ensuring that the results are good before its continuation.

7. Cultural customs never supercede the importance of human rights, human dignity and safety. I don't care if reducing the need for abortion results in a nation of happy sluts. I don't care if reducing unwanted pregnancy rates involves the voluntary and informed conversion to Evangelical Christianity by millions of Americans. (Though I somehow doubt that particular outcome.) As long as people are made safer and freer by policy I am happy. This includes the freedom to make life choices such as when or if to have children, with whom one has sex, and how sex fits into one's life and relationships. Culture is something that everyone deserves to participate in and create, unhindered by constraints whoever is in power keep in place.

Have at me if you like, but these notions are the foundations of my thinking about reproductive rights. I've purposely left out the issue of whether or not abortion is moral because I think it a topic worthy of arguing about (while the above assumptions I do not), and because some of my assumptions when it comes to how the government deals with reproductive rights make the question moot.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's not ignorance, it's misogyny

BinkyBoy at 43rd State Blues found this appalling piece of drivel at Adam Graham's eponymous blog, and with all due respect to Binky, I don't think it's ignorance that's at play here. Graham:
Race and abortion are two issues where the left would rather dance around and hurl names rather than address the legitimate issues. What I find sad is that abortion is their best answer to what ails women.
Graham's mostly just recycled the disingenous talking points pushed by the "feminists" for life, but I thought it might be instructive to take a look at what's going on here.

If you're not familiar, Graham is a conservative blogger from Southern Idaho whose biggest interests seem to be equestrian (moral high horse) in nature. One thing we have in common is that we think it's a problem when a woman must make a choice and finds that abortion is her best optinon. No argument there. Where Graham gallops away from reality is with the idea that "the left" isn't interested in helping women beyond helping them obtain abortions.

What are ways in which Graham is working to expand the options of women in bad situations? Does he support access to birth control? Of course not. Is he concerned about the wage gap? Not that my searching can find. What about other workplace issues that hurt women disproportionately, like discrimination and maternity leave? Crickets. Does he offer a single idea to expand options that women can pursue without the permission of men?

I don't have to tell you that things look different at feministing.com.

All Graham can offer is one less option, and increased dependence on men.

Something feministy

This is kind of fun. At work I'm part of a group of people working to designate a safe (as in not full of anthrax and toxic chemicals) and private space for new mothers to pump breastmilk in. I was actually surprised to hear that there isn't one, my workplace being the College of Veterinary Medicine where the student population is about 75% female. I doubt it will be too difficult to execute this Blow to the Patriarchy, but it's neat to participate.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Creepy-ass commercial of the day

I saw this one last night and humorless female that I am, it pissed me (and a few other YouTube commenters) off.



That box-to-the-bimbo's-head moment just screams violence-against-women fantasy. Vonage has made its name through commercials humiliating people so I'm not surprised, but this one crosses a line for me.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Indeed

From Jason Webley's latest MySpace bulletin:
Writing blogs makes me feel stupid too.

Me too, Jason.


Me too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christopher Hitchens' Mismeasure of Woman moment

I keep coming back to it because it's such an amazing book, but let's review the premise of Carol Tavris' book The Mismeasure of Woman. From the introduction:
"In almost every domain of life, men are con sidered the normal human being, and women are the "ab-normal," deficient because they are different from men. Therefore, women constantly worry about measiring up, doing the right thing, being the right way. It is normal for women to worry about being abnormal, because male behavior, male heoes, male psychology, and even make physiology continue to be the standard of normalcy against which women are measured and found wanting."
I was immediately reminded of this idea when I saw (via Feministing.com) Christopher Hitchens' latest in Vanity Fair "Why Women Aren't Funny." While Feministing and its commenters do a good job of showing that yes, there are many women who enjoy traditionally male humor along the lines of fart jokes and raunch, Hitchens' mistake is even larger than that. Ostensibly, the reason for female humorlessness that Hitchens is working with is that women are too pretty to need to be funny. They don't seek out laughter from potential mates because mates are seeking them out for their physical goodies, and only in the dire case of unattractiveness or lesbianism will a woman resort to humor for personal interaction. I'll let Hitchens use his own words:
Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women? Well, for one thing, they had damn well better be. The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh. Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life. If you can stimulate her to laughter—I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight—well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. I shall not elaborate further. Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.
Most telling is Hitchens' consideration of the few women he deems to be funny:
In any case, my argument doesn't say that there are no decent women comedians. There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three. When Roseanne stands up and tells biker jokes and invites people who don't dig her shtick to suck her dick—know what I am saying? And the Sapphic faction may have its own reasons for wanting what I want—the sweet surrender of female laughter. While Jewish humor, boiling as it is with angst and self-deprecation, is almost masculine by definition.
This isn't a problem with women or women comedians - it's a problem with Christopher Hitchens. He's starting with the assumption that humor is only possible when it comes from a man or in a pinch, someone more manly than most women.

As is generally the case with those who depend so heavily on the men-as-humanity's-yardstick idea, his reasoning for female humor deficiency is entirely circular. Men are the only funny ones, and women are not funny because they are not men.
Precisely because humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals. And there is a huge, brimming reservoir of male unease, which it would be too easy for women to exploit. (Men can tell jokes about what happened to John Wayne Bobbitt, but they don't want women doing so.) Men have prostate glands, hysterically enough, and these have a tendency to give out, along with their hearts and, it has to be said, their dicks. This is funny only in male company.
Women do not tell funny jokes about impotence because they are not men. Anyone who is not a man cannot tell a funny joke about impotence. Best exemplifying this female blind spot is Hitchens' leaning on Nora Ephron as one of the rare funny females, while also claiming that women don't get the hilariousness of their bodily "decay," even as Ephron's I Feel Bad About my Neck and Other Thoughs on Being a Woman sits at number 6 on the New York Times' hardcover fiction bestseller list, four months after being published. Even clearer indication that Hitchens' humometer is discombobulated is when he actually questions whether Dorothy Parker was ever really funny. (Answer: yes.)

If you were to categorize my sense of humor, it would probably belong with the brassier, cruder, more masculine type that Christopher Hitchens honors with his appreciation. Still, I can appreciate that Erma Bombeck has put housewives in stitches for generations - this is reality. It may come as news to Hitchens, but women, with their apparently unfunny aspects like beauty and reproduction, don't need him to tell them what's funny. His imagination might not be large enough to encompass a world where midnight feedings and sock-mate-eating dryers are funny, but luckily for the women whose world is filled with these things, he doesn't define reality. While they may be slightly hilarious in themselves, the presence of testes is not a precondition for humor.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Before holiday-specific foods disappear

You have to try this. Kona Brewing Co. Pipeline Porter and gingerbread cookies. The coffee-flavored beer is heavy and sweet enough to compliment the molasses and spices in the gingerbread, and the result is decadent and delicious. Further experimentation wherein my grandma's gingerbread was replaced with chocolate Newman-O's has achieved similar but not optimal results. As menstrual curatives go, either totally leaves Midol in the dust.

As people who make wacko overgenralizations of female sexuality go...

I'd much rather sleep with this guy than this woman.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

F-words turns one

A year ago today I started F-words with this post:

Smart Woman's Burden


After many years of voraciously reading the news, it has become apparent to me that the world doesn't work the way I want it to. I'm not really sure why every human being does not agree with me exactly on every issue, but this still appears to be the case. It could be that I am wrong about some things, or that other people come to independent conclusions. These are not very convenient explanations, though, so I am choosing to believe it is because I have not made myself clear enough. Obviously, if there is any hope for the world, I am obligated to share my opinions and thoughts in a public forum.


436 posts, 32,648 visitors, and countless flamewars later, here I am. I haven't really reflected a lot about what this means, but I do think this is a good excuse for a best-of-F-words list. Some were heavily-trafficked posts and some weren't really noticed. Here are some of my favorites.

Idaho politics:

I was able to throw a little wrench in Idaho politics when it came to the six-way Republican primary for the first congressional district seat.

Ruminations on the huckleberry and what claim real Idaho natives have to its cultivation.

Driving through Idaho can be very, very interesting.

The constitutional amendment passed this year in Idaho banning gay marriage will have a wide path of destruction.

As an Idaho Democrat, you either have to celebrate or drown your sorrows. Either way, you'll be drinking liberally.

Abortion:

My second blog post ever, with an incredibly lame title, talked about the essential differences between men and women that give them essentially different treatment under abortion law.

I blogged for choice about the robustness of the feminist movement's support of choice.

If abortion were physically impossible, we'd still be having the same arguments about female autonomy.

Sex and Sexuality:

How I feel about porn.

Some reflections on when sex-positivity feels more like required hypersexuality. (And, in light of some criticism I got for that post, I speak on an instance where people are implored to prioritize their libido over their mental health.)

Worker safety on porn sets.

Marriage:

Marriage can help protect women from a sexist world. Even polygamist marriage.

Getting married brings out the weirdest things in people.

One feminist's mostly traditional wedding.

Body image and me:

Deciding not to hate yourself is a lot harder than you'd think.

Even harder: deciding that your happiness is important.

Food:

I asked plastic.com to discuss their favorite cheap recipes.

Some of my favorite recipes I've posted: bok choy salad, baby baklava, morel pasta, and gorgonzola-pear butter. See my now defunct food blog Orexia for more, including the cake I dreamed.

Misc.:

Grammar nazis drive me nuts.

I had someone accuse me of making this story up. I find that to be very frightening.

Carnival of the Feminists #24 happened here.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

English Muffins

Sometimes, you're painfully reminded of the sissified industrialized era in which you live. I had this experience when I saw a recipe for english muffins in Laurel's Kitchen and thought to myself "Ohmigod - you can make english muffins?"

After getting over that shock, I resolved to make them. The english muffin, in its toasty chewy bubbly goodness, is the ideal vehichle for transferring melted butter and honey to my mouth. If that's true of storebought english muffins, it must be even moreso for the homemade version.

I don't bake a lot of bread, but take a look at this:



That's an english muffin, isn't it? I'm always amazed when I am able to reproduce the look of something that I've eaten all my life but never attempted to make myself.

To make them, you put together your favorite bread dough (whole wheat, plain old white, sourdough, etc.), and then knead it for about twice as long as you normally would - maybe 20-30 minutes, depending on your pace. Add some extra water, and knead until your dough seems entirely too wet and too heavily-kneaded to ever possibly make good bread. Let it rise normally, deflate, and shape one loaf's-worth of dough into eight flat rounds. Let these proof on a heavily-floured surface until somewhat saggy and looking over-proofed. Transfer the rounds flour side-down to a medium-hot seasoned skillet and let cook until browned on the bottom. Flip to brown the other side, and continue flipping until the muffin is baked all the way through. The sides will not brown, but will be "springy" to the touch, according to Laurel's.

If my instructions are too vague, check out the book linked above, though it might not be much more help either. Laurel's Kitchen is written in a casual, conversational style, and favors teaching cooks to recognize the look and feel of correct methods rather than more objective measures like temperatures and set cooking times. Depending on the reader, this can be really helpful or really annoying.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sometimes I just can't help myself

Inspired by Amanda's HUHO post, I've got a few things to add. (See Lauren for the first HUHO carnival.)

Did you know that...?

...cutting off the head of a monitor lizard and rubbing it on your nipple will induce lactation? That this works most effectively in women, but is sometimes also effective in men?

...a small tuft of baboon hair mixed in a child's food will help alleviate nightmares?

...pork rinds crumbled and sprinkled on a kitchen floor help prevent ants from invading?

...one ounce of snake oil taken thrice daily for two weeks cures impotence?

In all seriousness, reading Amanda's post kind of made me wonder if things could turn from Help Us Help Ourselves to Help Us Hurt Ourselves. Echinacea does not prevent colds, and eating yogurt offers only a slim possibility of helping prevent yeast infections. (Believe me, I am a microbiologist who knows from yeast infections.) Etc. Amanda is not a doctor, so I don't think she deserves too much grief for passing on her favorite superstitions, but already I see HUHO headed down a dangerous path. Home cures aren't always useless, but they're not always safe, either. If this kind of thing is going to be included, perhaps a grain of salt warning should come with it. I go to Pandagon for wingnut smackdowns and cute panda pictures, but I'm not necessarily going to trust its medical advice.