Weekly Feminist Reader

First up, a few Mothers Day links:
An index of the best and worst places in the world to be a mother.
Mothers in prison celebrate the holiday.
Juarez mothers demand justice for their daughters.
The former vice mayor of San Jose discusses her experiences with gender discrimination in politics.
Thomas on why food is a feminist issue.
Female Impersonator has an update on the Johnny Vegas sexual assault .
A Catholic law school tells students they can’t get credit if they do pro-bono work for a pro-choice organization.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a series of articles by reporter Joanna Connors, who writes, for the first time in 20 years, about being raped by a felon on parole and the fallout from that violent act. Her story “is about rape. It is about race and class. And it is about our community — our line-in-the-sand combativeness over these issues, and our stubborn and fearful reluctance to talk about them.”
There’s been some debate lately as to whether those Dove Real Beauty ads were photoshopped. Photographer Annie Leibowitz and a professional photo-retoucher say they weren’t.
All Africa profiles a woman who has climbed the political ladder in Ghana.
We mourned Mildred Loving’s passing this week. Racialicious has two great posts on interracial relationships. And Rick Perlstein republishes Loving’s call for marriage equality for same-sex couples.
More links after the jump…


A conservative Christian group is decrying the new (old) Starbucks label, saying “the company might as well call themselves Slutbucks.” Uh, yeah.
Records show former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline’s crusade against abortion provider Dr. George Tiller continued even after he left office.
On how yogurt is marketed to women.
A 17-year-old Iraqi woman was beaten to death by her father for falling in love with a British soldier. The father was released from policy custody “because everyone knows that honour killings sometimes are impossible not to commit.”
The New York Times Magazine has a huge feature on girls’ sports injuries.
The Chicago White Sox manager won’t apologize for creating a “shrine” in the locker room featuring several blow-up dolls “surrounded by ‘strategically placed’ baseball bats” and accompanied by a sign that reads, ”You’ve Got To Push.”
Three high-school students in Sweden
won an award for designing underwear complete with a pocket that holds a condom.
The Weather Channel appears to be a hostile, sexist work climate.
Seattle’s The Stranger has a feature on masculinity. (As commenter waxghost points out, there are some real problems with this article, but it’s worth a read.)
On women in winemaking.
What have you all been reading this week? Leave your links in comments…
Actions and Events
The disaster in Burma: How you can help.
Take the AFL-CIO’s Ask a Working Woman survey.
Support the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act. (More details on the legislation at Our Bodies, Our Blog.)
Click here to get involved with Ladyfest Toronto.
Are you a pro-choice professional? Join the group at LinkedIn.

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44 Comments

  1. Alice
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m not buying the idea that food shortages are feminist issues; this looks like a class issue to me. Wealthy women aren’t starving, and poor men aren’t getting diseases of prosperity. That women are disproportionately poor is attributable to causes entirely outside the scope of this shortage, and so the fact that a famine will disproportionately affect women is incidental. If we got rid of extreme poverty, problems like this would go away (at least until we really started pushing the limits of our habitat and hit a Malthusian disaster) regardless of how misogynist the world is.

  2. allegra
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    On the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign:
    While I’m glad at least one company is catching on that, no, you don’t need sickly thin models with impeccable digitally touched-up skin to sell your products, I’m still just uncomfortable with Unilever in general, not only because of their Axe ads, but because of other brands as well. They own Lux soap, which recently ran ads for its “White Glow” in India featuring Aishwarya Rai at her “whitest.” They also own – gag – Slim Fast. I realize that perhaps we need to take what we can get in advertising and be grateful for some improvement. But it bothers me nonetheless to hear some women – as I have – uncritically embrace and get excited about the company and its products simply because of this campaign, which isn’t really all that risky of a campaign anyway.
    I’ve looked at the real women ads, and Dove just isn’t trying all that hard to find truly real women. The women in the ads are MORE real than in other ads, but still an awful lot smaller, smoother, cuter, and better proportioned than most women, including me. A couple of the models even STILL have model-worthy bodies – Dove couldn’t bring itself to forego the model-skinny altogether. I don’t see any disabled women. The thing I find most suspect about the photos is the general lack of visible cellulite and stretch marks (though in some photos a bit of cellulite is apparent). I’m sorry, but nearly all the skinniest women I know or have seen have cellulite, and anyone who’s ever had a kid has stretch marks. They just do. I don’t care how much Dove Firming Lotion they use.
    In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the photos were being digitally touched up. Women have a whole lot more flaws than I’m seeing even in these ad pics. I’m just not impressed with Dove’s effort. The company isn’t going so far out on a limb as it would have its consumers believe.

  3. Alice
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Wait, so you’re saying that naturally having a model-worthy body precludes one from being a “truly real” woman?

  4. diablaazul
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Alice – except that poverty disproportionately affects women (and children) all over the world, so yes, it is a feminist issue.

  5. Alice
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I said that. But that’s besides the point. If misogyny completely disappeared tomorrow, these women would still be starving because they’re poor. If misogyny had been eliminated decades ago, we’d just be dealing with a more evenly proportionate group of people starving to death. On the other hand, if they stopped being poor, for whatever reason, they’d no longer be starving even if they used their newfound lease on life to be completely misogynistic.
    The fact that anyone is starving in the first place is a fundamentally economic and class-based issue.

  6. Posted May 11, 2008 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Dang, Annie Leibowitz can do no right. She’s been in the center of, like, every single photographic controversy of the past several weeks.
    Alice, I take offense to the whole “thin women aren’t real” thing, too, but I’m willing to give allegra the benefit of the doubt here. The issue at hand is whether the photos were retouched, and people in retouched photos are, by definition, “not real.”

  7. kate
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    “A couple of the models even STILL have model-worthy bodies – Dove couldn’t bring itself to forego the model-skinny altogether. ”
    that is a ridiculous statement. maybe because *real* body types *include* model-worthy bodies. i love how quickly this has degenerated into some kind of anti-thin commentary. There can be discussions about body image and acceptance that acknowledge the ability of one to be thin *and* be a *real* women. jeez.

  8. Cortney
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Alice,
    I would be loathe to suggest that problems of poverty would persist. This is an unimaginable scenario… We have lived with both for most of human history. Separating race from class from gender from sexuality is unwise. It is best to look at these as interlocking systems of oppression that function with and because of each other.
    Poverty is definitely a feminist issue!

  9. Cortney
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Oops meant to say if patriarchy disappeared! Makes more sense that way.

  10. allegra
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Alice and Kate, I’m sorry. That’s not at all what I mean. Of course thin women are just as “real” as any others. But in the context in which this is taking place – advertising – “thin,” or, at least, not fat, is the privileged category. My point is, Dove is not being all that unusual and ground-breaking by continuing to use not-unusually-fat and not-unusually-flawed women. Hence my comment that, also, disability-wise, the women’s bodies are intact – no wheelchairs, no major injuries. A couple tattoos; very few piercings. There is no crazy transgression going on here, not just because of the fact that they still include thin women. Thin women, like many other privileged groups, will, in this context, probably never be in fear of NOT being included. Why not include those who are more often excluded?
    In any case, attempting to counter the oversaturation – and I don’t think anyone can deny it’s an oversaturation – of thin and sickly-thin models in the industry is not being “anti-thin.” This is a bit like accusing other traditionally underrepresented groups of being “anti-whatever privileged group” just because they choose to focus exclusively on the underrepresented group. Just because my Women’s Center chooses to bring in female lecturers for a lecture series every semester even though there are plenty of good male lecturers around, as well, does not mean the Women’s Center is being “anti-male.”

  11. Alice
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    The problem with your analysis is that many economic hardships are caused by external forces which do not discriminate based on the progressiveness of their victim economies. Since the relevant forces are entirely detached from the internal workings of a society, there clearly can’t be a causal link between misogyny and the poverty that consistently results.
    For instance, US import quotas on sugar cane and subsidies on corn, the main ingredient in the sweetener corn syrup, devastates the demand for sugar cane, which harms many tropical farmers who could otherwise be selling sugar cane to the American market for far more profit than what they’re making now, and by extension harms the nations they’re part of. The harm caused by this, at least, is clearly unconnected to patriarchy, as corn farmers aren’t going to be any more or less greedy or influential if Brazil suddenly became more or less egalitarian.
    Or, consider food aid. Dumping free or cheap food into a nation depresses local prices, which often has the perverse effect of discouraging investment in agricultural infrastructure, and even putting existing farmers out of business!
    Or, consider further that Egypt, which is not particuarly feminist by any measure, albeit getting better, has a per capita starvation rate 1/33 that of the United States.

  12. ed
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the underwear with the condom pocket… It’s great that young people are thinking of innovative ways to promote safe sex, but isn’t it well established that storing condoms in pockets, especially close to one’s body, can damage them?

  13. kate
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    yeah, i wouldn’t use a condom that had been that close to body heat for too long..
    allegra, thank you for clarifying. and yes of course i agree with you that advocating for all different kind of body types is *not* anti-thin. i certainly did not mean to suggest that. my anti-thin comment was specifically in response to your “not real women” comment, which you’ve aleady explained for me. at the same time, i do think that i’ve often seen body image discussions go the route of what i would consider slightly insensitive to thinner people. Not at all to discount the body issues associated with not being exemplary of that “ideal” super skinny model, but i do think there needs to also be an acknowledgement of the fact that thin women are also capable of being strongly affected with body image distortions, issues, etc. thin is not necessarily a “privilege”. and i’m really trying to articulate this in a way which will be recieved as vaild, and not troll-sh. i don’t want to derail the original conversation, but simply to respond to your last post – things are more complex than thin = privilege. ok, my two cents.

  14. lyndorr
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Alice, I don’t think it’s so much the politics that are sexist but the issues such as in a family with some food but not enough the man will get more and the woman will be hungry. Or that sexism is why women have less money and property than men.

  15. Posted May 11, 2008 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the link, Ann. Chavez really nails it in that vid.

  16. Vodalus
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I think that since there is no reasonable expectation that sexism or classism will be eliminated before we hit a Malthusian disaster, we might as well consider the starvation conditions imposed upon poor women to be a feminist cause. Not to say that it supplant our focus on equal rights and respect for women, but that it would not hurt to supplement our concerns.
    Sexism might not be the root cause for international food crises, but it definitely contributes to the disproportionate number of impoverished women who suffer as a result.

  17. janet
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    The linked survey has some wording issues. For example, “Did you vote in the last presidential election or like many people were you unable to?” is technically a yes-or-no question, but by answering “yes” you are not giving any useful information. You are just saying that you either did vote or were not able to.

  18. allegra
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I think so, too, kate. You’re right that there’s more going on with body issues than that thinness is privileged. I guess that’s the only social dynamic I can think of to describe it. That thinness is sometimes – often – self-destructive to the point that women with eating disorders, for example, will hate themselves no matter how thin they get, is not really like privilege at all. But in some other ways, I think, it is.

  19. alecia
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    regarding catholic law schools (or universities) having a conflict, my school is a catholic jesuit university and for my political science class entitled “sex, gender, & politics”, we had to do volunteer work outside of class that improved the lives of women in some way. since i do pro-choice escorting, i was able to use that as my volunteer work! while this was great, i chalk it up to my professor being a completely awesome woman. had it been a different teacher, i’m not sure it would have flown.

  20. e
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    I’d just like to add my perspective on the skinny women comments. While no one on this board obviously meant any harm, I think people may be so quick to be offended because, many times, the sort of criticisms thin women face are based on their very femininity and identity as women. At least this has been my experience, with comments ranging from descriptions of a “boyish” figure to questions of my ability to bear children (remember all the media fuss over how could be possible for Nicole Richie to conceive?). I completely understand that us skinny girls are not at the receiving end of the kind of viciousness and hate that people with other body types are subjected to, but when we do receive criticism it tends to be centered around whether or not we are “real women”.
    Just thought it might help to explain some of the sensitivity there, from my point of view.

  21. heron
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Just wanted to shamelessly promote my mom’s blog, which she started today. Happy Mother’s Day, lovely!!
    http://4moms.blogspot.com/

  22. Posted May 11, 2008 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Oh, the replies on the article about incarcerated moms made me so sad. People are so heartless.

  23. Alice
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Incarceration in general makes me sad. It seems so incredibly harsh. Modern society now view corporal punishment as cruel, but it would take an extreme corporal punishment indeed for me to ever choose incarceration instead.

  24. Alasdair
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    I recently read this article on women’s rights in Yemen, ‘the worst place in the world to be a woman’. It’s hugely depressing, but still worth reading. (I’m not sure about the title though – sadly enough, there are places which are probably even worse.)
    http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/women/story/0,,2278332,00.html

  25. Noah
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    In point of fact, the inhabitants of the lowest economic rungs in America, the homeless, are overwhelmingly male. To suggest that poverty is a feminist issue per se, as opposed to an issue that feminism is properly concerned about, denigrates the victimization of tens of thousands of men and turns “feminism” into little more than a woman’s lobby that contorts reality to assure that oppression is invariably viewed through a gender lens, and that women are always the oppression champs. Bullshit.

  26. SarahMC
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with Noah here.
    There is a difference between issues many feminists care about and *actual* feminist issues. Women’s issues intersect with so many other issues. Poverty is one of them. But if everything is a “feminist issue,” then feminism itself becomes meaningless.

  27. FrumiousB
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    “I completely understand that us skinny girls are not at the receiving end of the kind of viciousness and hate that people with other body types are subjected to”
    Speak for yourself, e. At 5’6″, 110 lbs, I’ve been at the receiving end of some vicious, weight-related comments.
    Re: condom pockets. I’m pretty sure that carrying a condom in your underwear for a few hours during a night out is not going to compromise its integrity. You might not want to carry the same condom on subsequent nights, though. (er, assuming you didn’t use it)

  28. Jovan1984
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    I don’t drink at Starbucks, but I will be defending them from attacks by homophobes.
    As for TWC, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of something like this. I was banned from their forums because some misogynist board members didn’t like the fact that I was speaking out against their anti-woman, anti-gay stances (The TWCMB has since been deleted). I will say this right now, if Kristna Abernathy leaves, I won’t be watching TWC anymore.
    As for credit being denied for pro-bono work with pro-woman organizations, the Catholic school think that they are above the law and it infuriates me. If Converse College would’ve denied its students credit for working with conservative organizations, the all-female college in Spartanburg would be a target of lawsuits. This is yet another example of the hypocrisy of the religious right.
    Well, the Kline thing is no surprise. I hope that Kathleen Selibus removes him as Johnson County, Kan. DA.

  29. Voila
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting about the Plain Dealer’s section on rape. I was really shocked to see a 16 page section devoted to the story, and really impressed with how the staff handled it. They included resources and facts and other stuff and the whole piece came off as an attempt to educate the public about rape. I don’t get the weekday papers, but I was pleased to see that the letters section this Sunday was full of support for Joanna and other victims as well as women telling their own stories. It’s been a very powerful read.

  30. Posted May 12, 2008 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Fuck. St. Thomas was my first choice for law school. Rethinking that…

  31. kate
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    “Women’s issues intersect with so many other issues. Poverty is one of them. But if everything is a ‘feminist issue,’ then feminism itself becomes meaningless.”
    i have to disagree and say that feminism would become more meaningFUL. the fact is, the feminization of poverty is happening. i’m pasting an abstract below from a paper i found online here: http://portal.unesco.org/shs/en/files/8282/11313736811Feminization_of_Poverty.pdf/Feminization%2Bof%2BPoverty.pdf
    here is the abstract: An examination of the “feminization of poverty� around the world is approached in terms of the three contributing factors that have been underscored in the women-in-development and gender-and-development (WID/GAD) literature: (1) the growth of female-headed households, (2) intra-household inequalities and bias against women and girls, and (3) neoliberal economic policies, including structural adjustments and the post-socialist market transitions. The growing visibility of women’s poverty, it is argued, is rooted in demographic trends, “cultural� patterns, and political economy. The paper finds cross-regional variation in the economic status of female-headed households, based partly on the social policy or political regime, and partly on women’s access to employment and property. Intra-household inequalities are found to exacerbate the vulnerability of women and girls; the problem may be most severe in parts of South Asia, and may also vary by social class. The paper confirms that the poverty-inducing nature of neoliberal restructuring has been especially severe on women. Although the claim that the majority of the world’s poor are women cannot be substantiated, the disadvantaged position of women is incontestable. If poverty is to be seen as a denial of human rights, it should be recognized that the women among the poor suffer doubly from the denial of their human rights – first on account of gender inequality, second on account of poverty. Therefore, programs to eliminate or alleviate poverty require attention to gender inequality and women’s human rights.
    So i would say that issues such as poverty – and all issues that do intersect with feminism (and yeah there are a lot) don’t cause feminism to lose meaning, but rather indicate that solutions require a feminist lens to acknowledge specfic structural gender inequities on the part of both genders.

  32. GopherII
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    COMMENTS LEFT ON BASEBALL STORY:
    “What’s this world coming to? Now it’s not politically correct to be a man?”
    “This is how men are, we dont change no matter what age”
    I think I can collectively say: what assholes!
    On the Mayor Chavez clip…..very revealing. I’m happy she sees it as a area to continually be championed. We need thousands more like her in office. Its not enough to simply have a woman in office, we need ones with clearsighted ideas about themselves as women too. However, I totally didnt see how she could identify herself as a woman of color? Shes whiter than me! Or perhaps I’m a woman of color and just dont know it?

  33. Emily
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Does that Catholic School receive any federal funding? If it doesn’t, they can choose whatever they want to count as credit. Being a Catholic School, their choice doesn’t seem entirely surprising either.
    Baring donations to certain organizations within the school is balls though. I feel people should be able to give money to whoever they want, even pregnancy crisis centers if they feel so inclined.

  34. saycheese200
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    @FrumiousB: I hear ya on the skinny-girl hate. I know it’s easy for not-so-skinny women to think that those of us who are skinny have it really easy, but it’s tough to keep out the body image issues when people make the split-second assumption that you have an eating disorder.

  35. Mina
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    “Alice, I don’t think it’s so much the politics that are sexist but the issues such as in a family with some food but not enough the man will get more and the woman will be hungry.”
    …and the boys will get more to eat and the girls will have lower odds of living long enough to be women…
    “Or that sexism is why women have less money and property than men.”
    …and lower chances of buying food when the prices rise.
    “@FrumiousB: I hear ya on the skinny-girl hate. I know it’s easy for not-so-skinny women to think that those of us who are skinny have it really easy, but it’s tough to keep out the body image issues when people make the split-second assumption that you have an eating disorder.”
    Exactly, and thinner women can have non-weight-related body image issues too (for example, facial hair, scars, wrinkles, etc. don’t always spare the slender).

  36. BWrites
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Real women are more than women with high BMIs, dammit! I’ve never had the problem myself, but there was a girl in my circle in high school who would try to gain weight with no success. People who didn’t know her accused her of anorexia constantly.
    And poverty and hunger is certainly a feminist issue. Remember that one of the best ways of combating hunger in the third world is to empower women to have more choice and the ability to support themselves financially. It’s all tied together, and the more we realize that the stronger we are, and the better we can help raise those who aren’t as fortunate as we are.

  37. EG
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    To say nothing of the impact there would be on poverty and hunger if third-world women were able to take control of their own fertility.

  38. Posted May 12, 2008 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    that yogurt video is amazing! i’m ALWAYS complaining to my boyfriend about those stupid “this yogurt is eating-and-not getting-fat good lololol” commercials. mcdonalds used to make them too.

  39. lyndorr
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Well, it’s not feminism but important. http://www.350.org/4/
    This guy is trying to start a grassroots campaign to reduce carbon emissions to 350ppm which is where scientists say they should be.

  40. isfa
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Re: Catholic Law School & PP
    St. Thomas Law is my alma mater, and I have to say this decision was not surprising. There have been a lot of controversies at UST Law about its Catholic identity, and this is just the latest. I do want to point out, though, that there was a vocal opposition to this decision. One of the best things about this school is that there is no apathy among students. There is a strong contingency of liberal students who do not allow decisions like this to happen without scrutiny. Bubblewrapgenie, this school needs people like you who will continue to challenge it! You will certainly find many like-minded students there and I think you might find, like I did, that it is very rewarding to be a politically engaged student in an institution where there is a true diversity of opinion among students. I don’t regret my decision to go to UST for a second, even though decisions like this are extremely frustrating. It strengthened my feminist convictions and my belief that we will accomplish more by engaging those who disagree with us.

  41. isfa
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Re: Catholic Law School & PP
    Here is a link to the letter written by students who oppose the decision and the way it was made:
    http://blogs.citypages.com/ctg/OpenLetterToDeanMenglerRegardingTheRecentPSBDecision.pdf

  42. allegra
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Not to be Butlerian, but why is it part of the very definition of “woman” to be able to bear children? Many women, as we know, are not able to have children and choose not to have children, and this shouldn’t make them less “womanly.” (Though I do understand you mean that *society* questions their womanliness. Which it often does of women who choose not to have children, in addition to skinny women, as you say.)
    Anyway, I feel you on the bullshit skinny women deal with, too. It’d probably annoy the crap out of me to be constantly asked if I was sure I wasn’t anorexic. I think this is another issue, like sex, where a woman basically can’t win.
    Still, it doesn’t make sense that models shaped like Kate Moss are put up on pedestals in the entertainment industry, while all other shapes – which still do constitute the majority of shapes, because most women simply do not naturally look like Kate Moss – are rejected.

  43. Posted May 12, 2008 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    These people have nothing better to do than bitch about a Starbucks logo?
    Don’t they have jobs?

  44. triumphantbackgroundmusic
    Posted May 13, 2008 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Now I want to make a run to slutbucks and get a homosexual agenda pushing beverage!

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