Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why Is There A War On Women?

Conservatives insist there is no war on women. They must be willfully ignorant to miss the signs.

In recent years the extreme right has voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, they have refused to protect all women in the U.S. from domestic violence, they have pushed to block cancer screenings and HIV testing for poor women, they have voted against contraception and abortion that could save women’s lives. Five states now require women seeking abortions to endure ultrasounds, which might require intrusive, vaginal probes. Some have made light of rape, narrowing the definition to “forcible” rape (what’s nonforcible rape?) or, as Amanda Marcotte at RH Reality Check points out:

Showing their true colors has been a theme of anti-choicers this campaign season, from Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment to Huckabee’s extolling the virtues of rape as a baby delivery system to Paul Ryan minimizing rape by calling it a “method of conception”… They don’t really think rape is a big deal—it’s not like raping uterus vessels is the same as violating people, right?

But what’s behind the war? Here’s one idea: sexist men fear that independent women won’t need them.

Marcotte points out that attempts to control women swell whenever women become more independent. She may have a point. We’ve seen increasing attempts to use government to control women as we become more independent. And the same thing occurs in relationships when some men destroy contraception, hoping their wives or girlfriends will get pregnant and become more dependent.

And the same men who work to limit women’s control over their bodies say things like this, from Rep. Allen West of Florida:

And all of these women that have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness. Let them know that we are not going to have our men become subservient.

Or Rush Limbaugh:

The average size of a penis is roughly 10 percent smaller than it was 50 years ago. And the researchers say air pollution is why. Air pollution, global warming, has been shown to negatively impact penis size, say Italian researchers.

I don’t buy this. I think it’s feminism.

Well then, men had better get their control over women back, and soon!

Marcotte sums it up:

Hostility to abortion rights and contraception access is about gender anxiety. It’s about this strange fear that unless women are forced into a subservient, dependent position to men, women will not want anything to do with men. Anti-choicers are reacting to a paranoid belief that if women are totally free to choose our own paths, we won’t choose to have men on our journeys. It’s yet further proof that misogyny has an element of man-hating to it, because the misogynist believes that men are not capable of being true friends and partners to women.

Looks like feminists have a higher opinion of men than these sexist men do, themselves.

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Beauty and Self-Esteem

For women, beauty and self-worth can seem like the same thing. So do women at the top of the hierarchy have the highest self-esteem in the world? That’s one question that “About Face” explored in an HBO documentary on supermodels that aired over the summer.

Some supermodels did think their beauty made them better than others. Kim Alexis admitted she felt that way for while – but got over it. And Beverly Johnson explained:

You do live in a bubble where everyone is telling you you’re beautiful all the time, and get you coffee or whatever you want.

But I was also struck by how many of the world’s most beautiful women had thought they were unattractive in some way or at some point in their lives. Usually because someone had told them so.

While looking at a lovely shot of Carmen Dell’Orefice skipping in the street I was surprised that she didn’t like the photo because of her feet.

I don’t like my feet. I don’t have sexy feet. My mom used to tell me I had feet like coffins and ears like sedan doors. Then I internalized that.

First of all, her feet are perfectly fine. But you have to wonder about the self-criticism that fills women’s heads to make them find phantom flaws were they don’t exist.

Marisa Berenson had not thought she was beautiful, either:

People called me Olive Oil because I was long and lanky. I used to cut out pictures of actresses of the time, Audrey Hepburn and Rita Hayworth, and wish I looked like that.

Jerry Hall – Mick Jagger’s ex — felt she was unattractive, too, because society said so:

I used to be really upset about not having a boyfriend. I’d say, “I feel like a failure. What am I going to do?” And my mom would say, “Well, look at Twiggy. She’s a model and she is even skinnier and flatter than you.”

She got over it and went to St. Tropez to be discovered. A story in itself:

I wore a crocheted metallic bikini and platform shoes that made me 6’4. And I was expecting to be discovered. And I was, within about an hour this guy came up to me and asked if I’d like to be a model.

Most people see themselves through a positive bias according to psychological research. I assume that includes our assessment of our looks. If so, it seems strange that models so often go the opposite way. Maybe it’s a matter of age, going through the self-doubt of adolescence. Maybe it’s feeling unworthy of being at “the top.” Lisa Taylor got into cocaine because:

I was so insecure that I needed to do it. It made me feel like I had something to say, that I was worthy of being photographed, that I was somebody.

But the modeling industry, with its exacting standards — and lack of Photoshop in the early days — could be hard on self-esteem, too.

Paulina Porizkova got the double-whammy. As an immigrant child she was relentlessly teased, only to land as a supermodel and be torn apart once more:

My parents escaped to Sweden from the Czech Republic, and I was called a dirty communist bastard for years. And so when I had the chance to escape and be called beautiful – I don’t think there is any 15-year-old girl who would give up the chance to be called beautiful.

You don’t realize at that point that you will also be called ugly.

They would open my portfolio and start discussing me, start cutting me apart. “Good mouth, but what are we going to do about those teeth? Don’t let her open her mouth. And I don’t like the color of her hair. That can be fixed, but what about those thighs!”

Paulina goes on to explain that looks are not a very good platform on which to base self-esteem:

Beauty is about being self-confident and modeling has nothing to do with self-confidence. Working off your looks makes you the opposite of self-confident. So maybe I became beautiful once I stopped modeling.

Advice we should all heed.

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What’s Wrong With Hooking Up?

By Lisa Wade

Crossposted from Ms. and Sociological Images

Hanna Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic and author of The End of Men, has written a piece about hook-up culture on and off college campuses for the September issue of her magazine. Given that I’ve done some research on hook-up culture, here are my two cents: Rosin isn’t wrong to argue that the culture offers women sexual opportunities and independence, but she mischaracterizes the objections to hook-up culture and draws too rosy a conclusion.

Those who wring their hands and “lament” hook-up culture, Rosin contends, do so because they think women are giving it up too easily, a practice that will inevitably leave them heartbroken. She writes:

[Critics of hook up culture pine] for an earlier time, when fathers protected ‘innocent’ girls from ‘punks’ and predators, and when girls understood it was their role to also protect themselves.

If this is the problem, the answer is less sex and more (sexless?) relationships. But, Rosin rightly argues, this wrongly stereotypes women as fragile flowers whose self-esteem lies between their legs. It also romanticizes relationships. Drawing on the fantastic research of sociologists Laura Hamilton and Elizabeth A. Armstrong, she explains that young women often find serious relationships with men to be distracting; staying single (and hooking up for fun) is one way to protect their own educational and career paths.

All this is true and so, Rosin concludes, hook-up culture is “an engine of female progress—one being harnessed and driven by women themselves.”

Well, not exactly. Yes, women get to choose to have sex with men casually and many do. And some women truly enjoy hook-up culture, while others who like it less still learn a lot about themselves and feel grateful for the experiences. I make this argument with my colleague, Caroline Heldman, in Hooking Up and Opting Out: Negotiating Sex in the First Year of College [PDF].

But what young women don’t control is the context in which they have sex. The problem with hook-up culture is not casual sex, nor is it the fact that some women are choosing it; it’s the sexism that encourages men to treat women like pawns and requires women to be just as cunning and manipulative if they want to be in the game; it’s the relentless pressure to be hot that makes some women feel like shit all the time and the rest feel like shit some of the time; it’s the heterosexism that marginalizes and excludes true experimentation with same-sex desire; and it’s the intolerance towards people who would rather be in relationships or practice abstinence (considered boring, pathetic or weird by many advocates of hook-up culture, including, perhaps, Rosin).

Fundamentally, what’s wrong with hook-up culture is the antagonistic, competitive and malevolent attitude towards one’s sexual partners. College students largely aren’t experimenting with sexuality nicely. Hook ups aren’t, on the whole, mutually satisfying, strongly consensual, experimental affairs during which both partners express concern for the others’ pleasure. They’re repetitive, awkward and confusing sexual encounters in which men have orgasms more than twice as often as women:

The problem with hook-up culture, then, is not that people are friends with benefits. It’s that they’re not. As one of my students concluded about one of her hook-up partners: “You could have labeled it friends with benefits … without the friendship, maybe?”

Hook-up culture is an “engine of female progress” only if we take for granted that our destination is a caricature of male sexuality, one in which sex is a game with a winner and a loser. But do we really want sex to be competitive? Is “keep[ing] pace with the boys,” as Rosin puts it, really what liberation looks like? I think we can do better.

Crossposted from Ms. Magazine and Sociological Images

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Toys Create Gender

By Jessica Garriga

I work at a toy store. There’s a girl’s side and a boy’s side. The girl’s side is suffocated with pink and purple — with a small section of black and pink for the ‘rebellious’ little girl. This side stocks Barbies, Brats, Maxie dolls, baby dolls, stuffed animals, kitchen and food sets, cleaning sets, accessories, make up kits, pretend hair kits and real beauty products that are child safe.

Some girls hate pink and refuse to buy it. I can understand why. It has nothing to do with the color, really, but that is seems like the only color they are allowed.

The boy’s side has lots of colors – except pink. This side has video games, legos, super hero action figures and masks, toy swords and super hero themed weapons, Nerf guns, sport equipment and balls, army toys and weapons, battle ships, musical instruments, board games and chess. Boy toys celebrate violence and being tough. Even the boxes they come in are drawn with explosive effects.

Science themed toys have only pictures of boys — unless they’re painted pink or purple. A guitar aimed at boys is dark blue and painted with flames. The girl guitar is pink with flowers. Legos for girls are in pink and purple boxes with nice ‘friendship’ themed characters and sets. The action, city, and car themed Legos are for boys.

Parents are funny.

One father insisted the Nerf guns he bought were not for his daughter, but for her male friend. When I told him I did not care if his daughter played with Nerf guns and told him I’d played with them, myself, he insisted the toys were not for his daughter and seemed offended by my playing with Nerf guns.

Another dad wanted a pink science kit with princesses on them. With none available, he settled on a pink princess electric piano.

A mom refused to buy Elmo or music themed toys unless they enforced the socialization she wished to impose on her daughter.

And parents seem to avoid bringing their sons anywhere near the girls’ side. Do they fear their sons might like the baby dolls or the pink makeup sets and don’t want to risk it?  One dad told me he only lets his three year old son go to the boy’s side because he likes the pink baby dolls, so dad wants to avoid them.

 

Toy segregation has consequences. As Katrin Bennhold at the New York Times explained:

Male and female stereotypes are established early: It is not hard to see a connection between girls playing with dolls and boys playing with cars, and the widespread segregation of labor markets into “female” and “male” professions. (Lower-paid, lower-status) nurses, primary school teachers and caregivers of most kinds are overwhelmingly female. Engineers, computer scientists and mechanics tend to be male.

Maybe parents believe that gender is biological and that their children won’t like toys that don’t “fit” the sex. But they’re unwittingly (or wittingly) creating gender through the toys they choose – with a lot of help from society and toy stores.

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Men Guarding My Purity

By Anonymous

Why do some men want to control women’s “purity”?

I was reading about Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006, who was almost stripped of her crown due to:

substance abuse, failing to make Miss USA promotional appearances, chafing at other obligations and nonstop nightclubbing at Big Apple hot spots.

Being dismissed for substance abuse and failing to make obligations, I get. But nonstop nightclubbing? What’s the problem?

Donald Trump, the pageant’s co-owner, eventually came to her rescue, granting her a second chance.

Later, he gave her permission to pose in Playboy.

I read about Tara in The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti. She points out that when Trump determined that Tara could keep her crown despite a fast life, and when he determined that she could appear in Playboy, her immodest ways were not the problem. The problem was that Tara was in charge of herself, instead of Trump being in charge of Tara. Some men just want to be in charge of women’s purity.

Even today men may flaunt their sexuality and make “conquests.” Yet women must still be restrained, and are called ho’s and sluts when they aren’t.

And while there is no argument about whether men should be able to use a little blue pill to enjoy sex, various conservative, male-led legislatures find The Pill morally repugnant.

It comes as no surprise to me that young women can grow to be ashamed, and at times even afraid of sexuality.

I, admittedly, have been a victim of the power of negative connotations of virginity, or the lack thereof. Maybe because I come from a more conservative, Latina background I was hit harder than other girls who were raised in America. But after the first time I had sex I drowned myself in guilt and shame. I doubted everything that had just happened. I thought,

This wasn’t supposed to happen that way; I shouldn’t have done it with him; I won’t be able to marry in a white dress anymore; I wonder what he thinks of me now; the whole school is going to find out…

As these phrases filled my head, there was another thought that would not leave me peace: “My parents are going to think I’m worthless.” The worry was so intense that for several months I literally put my head down when having any sort of conversation with them.

I eventually realized that it wasn’t them setting the “standard of virginity,” but the society they grew up in.

Although my mother and I are of different generations, we share the same experience of oppression when it comes to our sexuality. Only she had it worse. Her teenage years were so squeamish that the word sex was frowned upon even between doctor and patient. I, fortunately, have more tools to overcome the repression.

Why do some men want to regulate a woman’s every move, disciplining her if she gets “out of line”?

I don’t know the answer to that. But it feels oppressive. And I don’t think that celebrating sexual males while shaming females helps anyone.

This post was written by one of my students, who asked to remain anonymous.

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How to Lose a Woman


By Raymond Bechard

Excerpted with permission from “How to Lose a Woman Forever” on The Good Men Project

Raymond Bechard summarizes Travis McGee’s views on women into 22 rules to losing the love of your life forever.

Only a woman of pride, complexity and emotional tension is genuinely worth the act of love, and there are only two ways to get yourself one of them. Either you lie, and stain the relationship with your own sense of guile, or you accept the involvement, the emotional responsibility, the permanence she must by nature crave. I love you can be said only two ways.

Travis McGee, The Deep Blue Good-By, 1964

1. Don’t protect her.

She’s a big girl. There’s no reason to help her feel safe in the way she needs to feel safe. There are no guarantees in life so it’s not rational to expect security in relationships. (And nothing is more rational than love.) Her emotional security is paramount to her. This means she wants to rely on you to always be there for her and count on you to be her best friend. Allow her to feel alone and abandoned, and you will experience both.

2. Don’t respect her.

Simple. Treat her like crap. If she doesn’t take it, she’ll leave and you’ll be miserable. If she does, she’ll stay and you’ll both be miserable. Treating her like the extraordinary woman she is will only increase her expectations, attitude, and hope, and courage, and affection, and love …

3. Don’t listen to her.

Every time she talks either tune her out or try to solve her problems. Do not, under any circumstances come to the realization that her feel­ings are the prob­lem she needs to com­mu­ni­cate to you. She doesn’t want you to DO anything. (After all, if she wanted your help she would ask for it. Seriously, she will.) And if you wanted her to feel closer to you than anyone else in the world you would not lis­ten to her prob­lems, but to her feel­ings. That takes paying sharp attention to her and learning how to really listen beyond her words. You would have to look at her as a person of near limitless emotional capacity. And all of that would only show her how much you truly value her. Who has that kind of time?

4. Look at her like an object.

All your life you’ve been sizing women up, judging them, taking in their physical being the same way you do with cars, boats or maybe fishing gear. Women are their words, their silence, their movement, the expressions, their work, their art, their friends, their children, their emotions, their thoughts, their hearts and their minds. They are more complex than anything else in the world. If you’re lucky, you might be smart enough to take on the challenge of understanding one someday.

5. Take her for granted.

Let her know she’s nothing special. Devalue everything she does, especially the things she does for you. If you want to make her miserable, sad, hopeless, or just lose her self-esteem make sure she knows she really doesn’t mean that much to you. You can’t be bothered with the fact that she’ll be looking for some kind of positive affirmation from you every day. And giving it to her is not something you can do once a month or week, on holidays or special occasions. She knows you appreciate her when you work at it all the time, especially those times when you don’t have to.

6. Don’t let her know she is important.

This one’s easy. If her father let her know that she is important as a person and you don’t show her the same thing, she won’t even consider a real relationship with you (because she knows you’re wrong.) However, if he didn’t teach her these things (making him a heartless jerk) then you have to go along with him. Otherwise, if you try to prove her father wrong and treat her with the love and respect she deserves, she will fight you. She may never unbelieve her father’s lie. But if you do choose to take on the job, commit to it like a man.

7. Don’t let her know she is interesting.

Don’t show any interest in her life, her passions, her story, her friends, work, hobbies, troubles, etc. Showing her she bores you is the best way to prove to her that she will never be her best with you.

8. Cheat.

No joking around on this one. Don’t cheat. Have the courage to say no or the decency to end the relationship. Stop and think of the damage you are doing to her for the rest of her life. However, if you want to permanently kill a good section her heart then go ahead. Tell yourself whatever you want. She will never recover, especially if she stays with you.

9. Don’t commit.

She’ll feel fine if you can’t commit to anything, large or small. Can’t make little plans because of work or your family or your friends or your other interests? No problem. She’ll make plans without you. Can’t make big plans like spending the rest of your life with her? She’ll make those plans without you as well.

10. Don’t kiss her.

If you don’t want her, don’t touch her. And especially don’t kiss her. However, if you want to be a man, shut up and take five completely uninterrupted minutes every day to hold her and kiss her.

11. Don’t cherish and adore her.

Don’t pay any attention to the needs she’s had since she was a child. Yes she is all grown up, but there is a part of the little girl she once was still living inside her. She needs your help in telling the little girl that everything is going to be okay because she is truly loved. Yeah, she can certainly handle that on her own, or with somebody else.

12. Don’t provide for her.

Screw Travis McGee. It’s the 21st Century and women should be able to carry their own weight. Sorry, but if you can’t provide for her financially she will never be able to completely rely on you. She needs to count on you no matter what happens. Unpredictability is her worst enemy and the world is becoming more unpredictable every day. You must be her safe harbor, her one place to go when it all goes to hell.

13.  Don’t compliment her.

If you want her to find proof that she is attractive from someone else, don’t show her how attracted you are to her. If you want her to know how much you adore her, tell her how your attraction to her makes you feel. “Seeing your eyes makes me feel like I’m really home,” is better than, “You have nice eyes.” But don’t do that. You’d have to examine all the great feelings she gives you. And who needs that much self awareness?

14. Ignore Adventure.

Needing security must mean she wants routine and dullness, right? Do you realize how much a woman wants adventure? Not the adventure of being with you or the ups and downs of your relationship, but the adventures—large and small—you embark on together. She wants to be safe/secure enough in you so that you are the only one she will dare travel with on the adventures she desires so deeply.

15. Don’t surprise her.

Going to the trouble to be spontaneous or romantic without her knowing proves to her that she is precious to you. She needs to see you going to a lot of trouble for her to truly know she is loved and safe. That’s a lot of work.

16. Don’t romance her.

Your first date was a long time ago. No need to act like that idiot anymore. It’s probably best to just settle into a routine and ignore her need for unique expressions of your love for her. On the other hand, if you bring her out on a “first date” once in a while, or go out of your way for her romantically, you will reset the emotional freshness of her heart and your relationship.

17. Don’t be a hero.

She may not want you to solve all her problems, but she definitely wants a champion. Who the hell even knows what that means? It’s a fine line to walk. And it’s only attempted by the truest of men with the utmost courage and conviction.

18. Don’t take her anywhere.

She is feeling things emotionally that you will never even come close to. Imagine all emotions—good and bad—are rocks. Someone hands two identical rocks to you and to your woman. To you it feels like a rock. To her it’s a boulder. The weight of all that, all day, every day, gets to be a burden. Whether you take her to dinner, a spa, on vacation, or just sit and watch her try on dresses, you will be her hero for taking her out from under her own personal pile of boulders.

19. Don’t change your habits.

Let pride be your guide. Never improve. You’ve gone far too long becoming just as perfect as you are. Why switch up your game now? Remember, compromise and consideration has no place in relationships … unless you want them to work. Anyway, who has strength enough to be flexible?

20. Hate apologizing.

If you wanted to make this work, you would love apologizing. Point out your mistakes and apologize for them until she tells you to stop. But, that will only make her trust you and rely on your decency and trustworthiness as a man.

21. Don’t learn what emotional intimacy is.

Forget that emotional intimacy is the utterly close connection that will exist only when you are truly committed to and trust one another. It means you are both devoted to the well being and individual growth of the other, that you fully trust her and her you. It means knowing with absolute certainty that you are perfectly safe with each other. So, you would have to take the time to find a woman with whom you can build trust and be yourself. Worst of all it would mean not just accepting her for who she is, but celebrating who she is.

22. Don’t man up and deal with it.

You have issues. Everybody does. But you’re strong enough to handle them and not let them affect your life or your relationships. Certainly, you don’t need to deal with your past, your humiliations, shame, failures, addictions, etc. Getting help and staying strong only means you’re weak.

If none of these rules make sense then you need to meet my friend, Travis McGee. He is waiting for you on his boat, The Busted Flush, docked at slip F-18 at the Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale.

Let me know what you think about this list, ladies and gents.

You might also enjoy How to Lose a Guy Forever on The Good Men Project

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What If Women Ran Rap?

By Rebecca Fierros

If women ran hip hop

the beats and rhymes would be just as dope,

but there would never be a bad vibe when you

walked into the place

 

That’s what Anay de Leon says. Because right now bad vibes are all too easy to feel if you’re a woman in the middle of a rap.

Or as Bridget Grey declares:

Now unless I’m dreaming I could have swore,

right after you called me a “bitch” you called someone else a whore,

and at this point I’m trying to process a few things…

 

What were the original words to that song?

and you want me to do what with my thong?

And I’m trippin’ cause nobody is acting like anything is wrong.

 

Testosterone-fueled hip hop is the air that we breathe. We groove to the put downs. ‘Cause we see women the way men see us. It’s okay. It’s cool. We might grasp – for a second – a spiteful riff aimed at us. And then press “repeat.”

de Leon says:

If women ran hip hop 

there would never be shootings 

cuz there would be onsite conflict mediators 

to help you work through all that negativity &

hostility

If women ran hip hop 

men would be relieved because it’s so draining 

to keep up that front of toughness & power &

control 24-7

And the men look so cool as women crawl at their feet, to be taken and left. Tough men don’t need a woman ‘cause they can always get another. Women are bereft

… and disposable.

Women in rap materialize hyper-sexualized because “sex sells.” Strong women rappers — Salt-n-Pepa, Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifa, MC Lyte — know it ain’t what you look like, it’s how you spit (rhyme).

If women ran rap, says de Leon,

& females would dress sexy if we wanted to

celebrate our bodies

but it wouldn’t be that important because

everyone would be paying attention to our minds,

 anyway

In my own vision:

If women ran hip hop

the verses would flow perfectly

and they’d make you think better of yourself as a woman.

Women would have a voice and speak for themselves

and speak about what we want without the approval of a man.

 

No ho’s or bitches here because we wouldn’t be brainwashed

into thinking that any women was one, or that it’s okay to be one.

Women would be uplifted and not degraded.

 

Men and women would respect themselves and each other.

No one would need to feel superior.

So no one would look down on another

because of some clichéd version of who we think they are.

Rebecca Fierros is a student of mine who wrote this piece and gave permission to post it.

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Spoon-Fed Barbie

Spoon Fed Barbie

Surface appearances can be deceiving, says artist, Yvonne Escalante.

“From the day we are born, our behavior and tastes are controlled by the social status quo. Little girls are fed an idealized image. Barbie has been deconstructed and reassembled for even easier consumption.”

As a first generation American, Escalante’s father had stressed American identity over cultural ties. Today, her work explores the conflict she feels, caught in the kaleidoscope of identity, gender roles, and societal norms.

Here’s what her art says to me.

Like most little girls, I grew up spoon-fed on Barbie. But not just Barbie. She was an emblem of all that mass media, friends and schoolmates, told me to be. A good shopper. Paired with Ken. Skinny and curvy all at once. The emblem of perfect womanhood, where body defines us.

Oddly, all this spoon feeding can lead to a dearth of feeding of any sort. I’ve gone through phases of not eating like I should, hoping to look like what turn out to be phony photoshopped images that don’t even resemble the starving models who posed for the pics.

What did I know?

Of course, skinny isn’t enough. We must be buxom, too. Which leads to unnecessary, and sometimes life-threatening, surgeries in pursuit of Barbie breasts. At least that’s what happens when boobs define us, creating our worth. For too many women and men, surface is all.

When women are told they must acquire surreal measurements, and when obtaining them is the source of self-worth, the pursuit takes unending time and energy.

Obsessed with diet and exercise, women can become distracted from the rest of life; so much so that (as Naomi Wolf can tell you) advances of the women’s movement wane. Frantic pursuit of the perfect body removes agitation for power of greater substance.

Hence, the pacifier. Here, called “Sucker.”

For more on Yvonne Escalante’s work go to ARTslant.

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Women Don’t Need Men

More than ever, “mankind” is becoming a misnomer. With advanced understanding, we now know that women are both necessary and sufficient for reproduction, and men are neither.

So says Greg Hampikian, a Boise State biology professor. Expounding in the Times on how much women — and not men — are needed to propagate the species, he offers examples like this:

Your life as an egg actually started in your mother’s developing ovary, before she was born; you were wrapped in your mother’s fetal body as it developed within your grandmother.

Wow! I had never realized that.

Then after leaving our mother’s body, suckling provided our nourishment.

But there’s more: Mom sampled our diseases by holding and kissing us and then countered our infections by making antibodies that she passed on through her milk.

The in’s and out’s of our dependence on mom contrast with our short encounter with dad, when our egg-selves met “some very odd tiny cells that he had shed.” Turns out, these same cells may be transmitted to mom via turkey baster.

Prof. Hampikian wondered if there was anything irreplaceable about men. A female colleague replied, “They’re entertaining.”

Amanda Marcotte, over at Slate, feels the fear is overblown.

What do men imagine will happen if we don’t need them anymore? Will we magically stop having boy children? Go on mass murdering sprees to rid ourselves of the burden of men? Are all women just one equal paycheck away from killing all the men?

More interestingly, she points out that this is not a new concern. The fear that women won’t need men always arises when women grow more independent. One blogger feels the whole right-wing obsession with controlling women is bound up in a worry that we don’t really need men.

The oddest concern I have heard came from a friend who belongs to the church I grew up in. There, all males get priesthood at age 12. Women never do. (And I have complained about this!) But my male friend worried that,

If women get the priesthood then they won’t need men, anymore.

Really? Then why do women from other churches – and women who don’t belong to any church – bother to love men and even get married?

So yeah, women don’t need actual men to create babies, given the sperm banks at our disposal.

But who knows, maybe guys do come in handy for love, relationship and sex. As Ms. Marcotte points out:

There are lots of things we don’t need but we still want: flat screen TVs, YouTube videos of cats, expensive microbrews, fathers. Doesn’t mean we don’t want them.

And why would you rather be needed than wanted, anyway?

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Women, We Are Men

Women, we are a part of the brotherhood of mankind. We are man. We are men.

Sounds odder than usual when you put it that way. Yet women can still be expected to live with the notion that we are “men” in our daily lives.

Man, mankind, brotherhood, fellowship. The generic “he,” as in Will Rogers declaration, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” With women it’s a different story?

The egalitarian Unitarian congregation I attend calls itself a “fellowship.” I heard women called men during William and Kate’s nuptials (yep, I watched the royal wedding). And four years ago when Hillary was running as the first serious woman candidate, I found it strange when she stated in a campaign speech, “Kitchen table issues … are ones the next president can actually do something about if he actually cares about it.” He? She thought Obama would win?

Some say it’s just generic. No one interprets all this as meaning men, in particular.

But how does this sound:

Problems arise when a player runs onto the field and his cleats catch the Astroturf and she falls on her face.

My husband asked, “Who are they talking about, a man or a woman?” Anyone still think “he/his/him” are understood as gender-neutral?

When I was a kid I heard that dogs were man’s best friend, and wondered why men like dogs so much.

Turns out, this manner of speaking has psychological effects.

Drake University sociologists asked college students to bring in pictures to illustrate chapters in a textbook. One group was given titles like “Culture,” “Family,” and “Urban Life.” The other group’s titles included, “Urban Man,” “Political Man,” and “Social Man.” Two thirds of those asked for “man” titles brought in male-only pictures. But only half of the students assigned generic labels did.

Another study found that men and women who used more male pronouns in their term papers drew more male than female images when asked to draw pictures illustrating sentences.

Even women’s interest in job positions is affected by male terms. So “mailman” has been changed to “mail carrier.”

With all the “he/him/his” and “man/mankind/brotherhood” still bandied about is it any wonder that when a group of students were asked to think of a typical person, most thought of a male?

As a result, men are seen as people, but women are seen as women.

And that creates all sorts of other effects. Medical and other research are more often geared toward men because they are people. Women are only half the population – a little more than half, actually! On the human scale, women fall a bit lower, and it becomes easier to see them as objects or property. (Or sex objects.)

And that affects how women are treated and what they will accept. More on all that later.

The way to break out of this problem is to consciously see what is currently below consciousness – and make change, including gender-inclusive language.

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