Thursday, November 29, 2007

You're a bad girl - you need a spanx-ing

Via Jezebel, I loved this article about foundation garments from the Guardian, and I just wanted to add my two cents.

When I first saw that girdle-maker Spanx offers a tummy-tucking, butt lifting, thigh smooshing product called "power panties," I rolled my eyes so hard that I might have achieved the coveted 360-degree eyeroll. No one would accuse me of thinking my body beyond criticism, and I can dig makeup and bras, or hobble around in stilettos with the best of them. That doesn't dissuade me from being totally creeped out by body-smooshing underpants being sold as empowering. I find tight clothing painful and humiliating (it makes me feel like every pinch and tug is the fault of my heft, and not the fact that I should have tossed these pants months ago), and while my tummy and thighs aren't anything I'm especially proud of, I'm just not going to do it.

I do have reasons more high-minded than "oof," even if I do think that comfort is pretty important. It depresses me how unrealistically women are portrayed in the media, how the heavily-photoshopped and made up and theatrically-lit woman has become the standard by which people walking down the street feel they are being judged. And hell, I've submitted to the idea that my body is too bumpy and fat and dimpled and hairy (yet, decorum-destroyingly-sexy, if laws against public nudity are any indication) to be exposed in broad daylight, and I wear my tank tops under v-necked tops and skirts usually at the knee. I'm not ready to concede that the way my body looks even when clothed isn't "shaped" and "smoothed" enough. Screw that. I have a shape, and I don't want to train myself to be more uncomfortable with it than I already am. It's the same reason that I don't wear makeup every day - I'll take a break for a few days if I find myself thinking that I look terrible without it. I don't want to think that I naturally look terrible!

And if you're a Spanx fan, I do understand. Beauty is a very damned if you do, damned if you don't issue for women. Whether you reject or embrace a certain beauty practice, you're going to be spending a significant amount of energy on it, energy that could probably be better spent on other pursuits. I finally had to face the fact that my body issues made me much more miserable than being fat ever could, and it's been a huge weight off of my shoulders. Usually. Self-acceptance is a lot more durable reaction to a society that demands something your body just can't deliver, but it also comes with the loss of the acceptance of others - and it's tough to achieve and tough to maintain.

Sometimes, it's just easier to shave off the leg hair, admire your smooth calves in all their unnatural glory, and get back to kicking asses.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Forget marriage - let's try schmarriage

Jill at Feministe linked approvingly to Stephanie Coontz' recent NYT editorial proposing the "privatization" of marriage, but I'm stuck at bafflement. Things all make sense as Coontz decries the state's limiting the right to marry to only certain classes, as she says that actual marital status doesn't very well reflect a couple's living situation, and when she points out that unmarried couples could use the same protections that married couples enjoy.

But I'm not clear on what good "privatizing" marriage would do. In fact, as far as I can tell, Coontz is making an argument for the wider use of common law marriage, so that people who don't have the ability or even people who don't have the inclination to actually marry their partners can see the legal benefits that married couples do.

And as far as I know, many of these benefits cannot be privately contracted. The state is not going to extend benefits of the Family Medical Leave Act to a person's unrecognized-by-the-state partner. You cannot agree with another party to compel the state to do something it doesn't want to do.

So either privatized marriage would have no relationship with the state - this cutting out all the benefits that married couples enjoy and domestic partners do not - or it would be the same thing as marriage, but extended to unions beyond that of a man and a woman. Like, you know, gay marriage.

And I guess we could call extended marriage rights something else - let's say "schmarriage," - if people really want to, but I hardly see the point. Maybe I'm underestimating the confusion that arises from the fact that being married in the church is not the same thing as being married in the state (I could draw you a Venn diagram if you like).

But even so, I'm not sure why heterosexual feminists who shy away from marriage would be much more interested in schmarriage than marriage, given that it would be for them the exact same thing. Me, I'd be interested in the symbolic bucking of the patriarchal marital tradition, but I'm not sure what benefits would be had further than that.

What's the big deal?

It all started way back in October, when a Huckleberries Online interview of Bill Sali got d2 of 43rd State Blues a little bothered - d2 thought interviewer DFO let Sali off easy, and DFO huffily de-linked 43sb for impugning his journalistic ethics. Honestly, I thought both sides overreacted, since I neither believe it's a breach of journalistic ethics to move on after a politician dodges a question, nor do I believe that 43sb is shrill enough to warrant communications being cut off, given that these are blogs we're talking about..

Bubblehead of The Stupid Shall Be Punished was of a similar opinion, and wrote a post about the conflict - and political diplomacy in general. Sez Bubblehead of an exchange with Sali's publicist:

Mr. Hoffman had E-mailed me to find out why a lifelong Republican like myself isn't supporting his boss, and why I now consider myself a Democrat when it comes to state politics. We courteously exchanged views for about an hour, and while neither of us changed the other's mind, it was a good chance for both of us to better understand where the other camp is coming from. (As an added bonus, I was able to put in a pitch for Mr. Hoffman's boss to support increased submarine funding.) Wayne pointed out that he recently interacted with Mr. Sali's opponent for both the 2006 and 2008 elections, Larry Grant, and because both behaved with civility and decorum, it was a positive experience. As a result of this personal interaction, I'm sure I'll be more likely to get an answer when I look for a quote from Mr. Sali on whatever "gotcha" (or real) questions I come up with as the campaign heats up.

Bubblehead is right that name-calling isn't very productive, but I think important to look closer at what's taking place here. To Sali's people, Bubblehead is a reasonable Grant voter, and he also conveniently fits well in the image of the voter Sali would like to woo - conservative but independent-minded, financially and socially secure in a state where people look and act a lot like him. And because Bubblehead is not queer, is not working two jobs to make ends meet, is not a religious or ethnic minority (...) - he's not as likely to bring up issues that directly affect those people. If he happens to, he's not going to put Sali or his reprsentative in a position to tell him that he's going to have to choose between buying food and insulin for his children, or that he won't be able to visit his dying partner in the hospital. And anyone facing that kind of problem is bound to sound a little shrill next to the politician calling for civility and reason in political dialog.

I don't bring these things up to criticize Bubblehead in the slightest - being part of a majority is pretty common I hear - but to point out the privilege he enjoys when interacting with the people who happen to be in power. He's got some emotional bones to pick with Sali, too, but for the most part, Sali won't be standing between Bubblehead and what Bubblehead wants in life.

So when Mountain Goat exposes Steven Thayn's son's domestic violence offenses, and is accused of unreasonably mixing up the political with the personal, it's a good idea to step back and think about what's being presented as reasonable,. Adam Graham unknowingly makes this point clear when the example he gives of people taking politics a little too personally is the frigging American Civil War.

I hate to bear the bad news, but when politics determine choices of life and death, choices involving love and family and health, they're personal.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Missing Girl Probably Raped"

With the "Fox News Porn" video going around, I've got a wonderful excuse to post one of my favorite Onion videos. Not safe for Nancy Grace fans with no sense of humor (but I'm being redundant.)

Missing Girl Probably Raped

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I am Jack's anxious masculinity

Apparently the first two rules of Fight Club have changed, because it seems Tyler Durden is writing editorials for the Daily Evergreen.
Both the authorities and the students in Pullman need to learn a few lessons about fighting. First, it’s going to happen, and second, that it should happen as safely as possible. No weapons, no ganging up. If you have a problem with someone, confront them “man to man,” settle your differences and let nature take its course.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bad-faith attempts at minimizing racism in America

On Andrew Sullivan:

A reader writes:

The next person that tells me that the American people will not elect a black person to the Presidency will be asked to name five specific people - family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, you name it - who will not vote for Obama because he is black. I will then volunteer to contact those people to give them an opportunity to defend themselves against this tired, old, self-aggrandizing libel.

I seem to have more faith in the American people than some Democrats.

You also have a self-serving belief that racism is an issue of the past, still defend your promotion of The Bell Curve, and conveniently happen to be of an economic class, gender, and race that is shared by the overwhelming majority of "haves" in this country.

I don't know that it's true that Americans won't elect a black man President. I like to think it's not. I do know that 11% of Americans freely say they would not vote for a woman - any woman - to be President, and that 5% say they would not vote for any black person. I know that Department of Homeland Security officials think that blackface is hilarious. I know that most of America's leaders are white.

And I think there's a big difference between having faith in the American people and acknowledging the inequities in our country, especially the ones from which I benefit. A person cannot look at the white-dominated country we live in and in good faith believe that Americans are past the whole racism thing. Most especially, a person who is never on the receiving end of racial discrimination can't trust their own experience to convey to them the picture of race relations in America.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Domestic deja vu

Idaho lawmakers have convened a task force to envision a world where women and children are beholden to the men of their households, where divorce is costly and difficult to obtain, and gender roles are enforced with a vengeance.

That's why, as chairman of the Idaho House of Representatives' Family Task Force, he [Rep. Steven Thayn R-Emmett] and others are considering controversial solutions such as repealing no-fault divorce laws and finding ways to encourage mothers to stay home with their children.

Visionary, I know. Who could have ever thought of such a thing?

I was shocked back in February when Idaho lawmakers shot down statewide regulation of child care centers with the intent to scare parents (who am I kidding - they wanted to scare women) into forgoing careers and staying home with their children. It was an embarrassing episode for the state, and it earned Republican busybodies little love from working parents and their supporters. And yet, they're at it again, not even attempting to disguise their retrograde attitudes about women and families.

Several advocates urged the task force to adopt legislation to strengthen day-care regulations and make early childhood education part of public schools, two hot-button issues on which the House and Senate have clashed.

However, the task force report does not recommend tightening regulations for day-cares with fewer than 13 children. It does not mention early childhood education.

Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, a proponent of early childhood education and
stronger day-care regulations, has been at odds with Thayn. Schroeder said stronger day-care regulations, including mandatory background checks for providers, are about keeping children safe from pedophiles and that research shows early childhood education helps children.

"Basically, we have in my opinion, and I stress in my opinion, a group of people who are living in the past," he said.

"Basically, they are people who think women ought to stay home and take care of the kids."

Thayn does not shy from this view, calling pre-kindergarten education a "free
babysitting service" and suggesting that early childhood education, day-care and Head Start may hurt families by keeping mothers away from home.

Please note that there is zero discussion of men as primary caregivers, not even an acknowledgement of their growing presence in Idaho families. What's astounding is when after threatening working families with physical harm of their children, Rep. Thayn comes out with statements like these:

"It seems to be (proponents of such programs) just assume that mothers
have to work, and they're not really asking the question, ‘What can we
do to help them stay home?' " he said.

Excuse me Mr. Thayn, but it's pretty clear that you're not asking that question either. You're asking what we can do to entrap women into the role of unpaid primary caregiver. And kudos, because making divorce harder to obtain and childcare impossible to trust are excellent ways of doing just that.

If Idaho lawmakers are actually serious about making stay-at-home parenting a comfortable reality for more Idaho families, they'll start to think more critically about the problems that families face than Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries,

"Divorce is just terrible," Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, said. "It's one of Satan's best tools to kill America."

and start to consider what statements like the below really mean.

Controversially, the group is using the typical family of 1950 as its benchmark, though Thayn says it's simply a baseline and not a suggestion that families were perfect in 1950.

"I don't think the family structure was really ideal at that time, either," he said. "I don't think the family ever in the history of the world has reached its potential."

This is because the tactics we've tried, the tactics you are advocating, have not worked. Tactics like disallowing women economic independence, creating barriers out of bad marriages, and leaving caretakers vulnerable to the whims of their partner have made many people downright miserable. If in thousands of years of practice at a compulsively patriarchal, heterosexist family structure haven't arrived at anything resembling a reliably functional family, it's really time to try something new.

It's time to create social and economic support networks to empower stay-at-home caretakers - moms, dads and all others who hold their families together alike. It's time to start thinking of divorce not as a disease, but a symptom. It's time to listen to families of all kinds, and to make policy decisions according to the needs and desires of actual Idahoans, not an impossible and to many undesirable picture of a nuclear family.

We can't make progress by repeating our mistakes over and over. We have to think bigger, for the sake of Idaho's families.

Cross-posted at Red State Rebels.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


When people expressed outrage over the idea of racial profiling, it didn't occur to me that the US government would go right on past it to simply racist profiling.
Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.
Can I just add my voice to the chorus of people who think this is incredibly stupid? Basing your hunt for terrorists on a two-tiered stereotype (weird food like falafel is for weird people like Iranians, and Iranians are terrorists) seems like a pretty poor idea to me.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The downside to wingnut welfare

In the NYT today, we learn that authors of such best-selling, uh, favorites as Unfit for Command: Swiftboat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry and Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security are suing their publishers for practically giving away the books so as to drive up sales figures (and inflate the sense of national interest in the books). From the article:
“They’ve structured their business essentially as a scam and are defrauding their writers,” Mr. Miniter said in an interview, “causing a tremendous rift inside the conservative community.”
So the next time you're tempted to lose faith in humanity when you see a stand of Ann Coulter books in the bestseller display, remember that the author is likely getting screwed. These books are simply a very expensive version of the whisper campaign, and it's really a loser for everyone. At least telling 16 of your closest friends that John McCain fathered an illegitemate mixed-race child isn't killing trees.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A call to male politicians:

Stop playing the gender card!

I know what post *I'm* going to be nominating the next time the Koufax awards come around...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Technically it's not evil - just monstrous

At a Huckleberries Online thread about whether or not waterboarding is torture (consensus: yes), commenter brentandrews made a good point:
Yes, torture, definitely. If there is even a debate, it's probably torture. You don't hear people debating whether or not picking up trash on the side of the road is torture.
I mean, really, do we want America to be the country that pretty much doesn't torture? The country that's just barely on the acceptable side of human rights? I'd like my country to stay well within the purview of acceptable behavior, myself.