11 December 2012
There are those days when a video about an amazing girl football star stops me in my tracks. Really. Just watch.
(Guess how my grading is coming along?)
30 November 2012
Golly, this advice from madeleineishere sure helped me figure out how to dress today!
28 November 2012
Here’s a radical suggestion: let’s keep all the details of rape charges private and out of the media until they have been resolved by the legal system. Because if there’s anything worse than a legal system trying to figure out the details of rape cases within the usually male-dominated sphere of the police and the law, it’s the overtly sexist media trying a rape case without any fucking evidence.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An athlete is charged with rape, and a media outlet essentially pens a dramatic headline asking the public, “Is this Highland Park baseball star a rapist?” (Hint: no, according to the story.) The real goal of the article is to say the girl is lying, and that the male athlete is the real victim here. “If it’s a case of impulsive teenage decisions, remorse and guilt, then no one suffers more than 18-year-old Ryan Romo,” the article concludes.
Using no evidence beyond her own gut feelings, the article’s author (and CultureMap managing editor) Claire St. Amant holds forth about how “kids are supposed to mess up. They lie. They cheat. They get caught. They grow up.”
You might think that St. Amant refers to both the alleged rapist and his accuser, who is under the age of 16. But no. Apparently there’s only one kind of kid who messes up: girls.
A lot of people found this story problematic, such that a defensive St. Amant posted a follow-up story doubling down on her position. Then a freelance columnist for CultureMap named Dan Solomon posted a critical assessment of the story on his independent Tumblr — because, as he explains for XOJane, he’d like to be the kind of guy “with enough credibility to call out people who say or do fucked up things.” He wrote:
I’m embarrassed right now that my name is associated with the Culturemap brand. I’m really disappointed in St. Amant’s judgment and of Culturemap’s choice to publish such offensive — and stupid! — bullshit.
CultureMap asked him to take it down, Solomon refused, so they fired him.
Is Ryan Romo guilty or innocent? we don’t know. Was the sex between him and this under-16 girl consensual? we don’t know. That’s for the legal system to figure out.
Did his accuser lie? we don’t know. Of course we can all think of cases in which accusers have lied, but that doesn’t mean this one did. That’s for the legal system to figure out.
Let it be said that regarding rape cases, the legal system is the worst — because it’s very difficult to prove rape, and the entire process drags the accuser through a series of hoops that, frankly, resemble rape. Scrutiny of her character, her clothing, her behavior, her language. And let’s not forget the gynecological procedures that literally penetrate her in order to garner evidence, then shoot photographs. If you were younger than 16 and you had the least idea of all this invasion by the legal system, would you accuse someone of rape? If you were younger and 16 and had to be accompanied by a parent, how would you feel, going through this process? how would your parent behave toward you throughout the process? how much would you wonder whether they disbelieved you?
And that’s only the start. Then there are the shoot-from-the-hip assholes like Claire St. Amant and CultureMap, who think it’s fine to create yet another courtroom — one without any facts at all, and one in which the jury is whoever decides to log on to offer up their opinions online. But if an employee says publicly that this isn’t, ahem, cool, well — fire him/her.
So that’s why I ask for a moratorium on news about rape charges. Because the media have shown that they are incapable of behaving with any degree of journalistic integrity in reporting those charges. To the contrary, media outlets are now going out of their way to muddy the legal waters even more. In the process, they have the capacity to ruin the lives of the individuals involved.
And because, hey, they need all the decent journalists they can get — people willing to call out fucked up shit when they see it.
18 November 2012
I don’t know about you, but this was one of my major responses to the election:
But I keep thinking back to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian The Handmaid’s Tale, written during that period of evangelical upswing, the mid-1980s. I hadn’t read the novel since I was a teenager, but picked it up again this fall as the birth control and rape conversations were flying fast & furious. The book is every bit as good as I remember, but for different reasons: whereas what I remembered was the horrifying future Atwood imagined, what I’d forgotten was the interior experience of its protagonist.
Because I think what is so chilling about this novel is how they got there, and what they forgot along the way.
Her name is Offred, and I beg you to read the novel just to find out how she has come by that awkward name. We never learn her real name. Offred’s job in this Christian future is to get pregnant on behalf of the high-ranking couple to whom she has been assigned. Like the story from Genesis in which Rachel cannot bear children for her husband Jacob, Offred has been selected to serve as the vessel for her master’s sperm and the baby that will be assigned to her mistress.
According to every single message within society, Offred’s subject position is God’s will.
As horrifying as that is, it’s worse to find two other crucial elements to the novel. The first is that she has forgotten how to live that other life, the life that existed before this new regime. For example, she encounters a group of Japanese tourists who stare at them and want to take photographs:
I can’t help staring. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen skirts that short on women. The skirts reach just below the knee and the legs come out from beneath them, nearly naked in their thin stockings, blatant, the high-heeled shoes with their straps attached to the feet like delicate instruments of torture. The women teeter on their spiked feet as if on stilts, but off balance; their backs arch at the waist, thrusting the buttocks out. Their heads are uncovered and their hair too is exposed, in all its darkness and sexuality. They wear lipstick, red, outlining the damp cavities of their mouths, like scrawls on a washroom wall, of the time before.
I stop walking. Ofglen stops beside me and I know that she too cannot take her eyes off these women. We are fascinated, but also repelled. They seem undressed. It has taken so little time to change our minds, about things like this.
Then I think: I used to dress like that. That was freedom.
That’s what I worry about: that we are forgetting that making our own decisions about our bodies is both legal and a guarantor of women’s political and social equality. Instead, we’re getting used to a vast cultural and governmental apparatus making decisions for us. We’re getting used to entertaining seriously the notion that abortion is something to be debated — that it is inherently suspect, dangerous, traumatic. Not just abortion: also birth control. Also how to define “rape.”
We are forgetting what it feels like to reject those views. Texas women who undergo state-mandated trans-vaginal ultrasounds when they seek abortions are learning to forget that this is not necessary. Women who vote for libertarian candidates learn to think that those candidates’ views on state-mandated anti-abortion policies aren’t abhorrent and inconsistent with their political/ economic views. We’re told daily about the new varieties of legitimate or forcible rapes. We’re learning that birth control is the new battleground — that maybe The Pill and the IUD ought to be taken away from us.
The second chilling this about the novel is Offred’s fuzzy memories of the years before — how they looked past the ways their society was changing:
Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it. There were stories in the newspapers, of course, corpses in ditches or the woods, bludgeoned to death or mutilated, interfered with, as they used to say, but they were about other women, and the men who did such things were other men. None of them were the men we knew. The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives.
We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print.
It’s mid-November, the worst of the crazies were not elected, but are we in 2012? The article in The Onion is not so sure. At the end, its interviewee explains that “while she was grateful upon learning what year it was, she had to admit that living in the year 2012 was still quite frightening.” Amen to that. Let’s not forget it.
30 October 2012
I know, right? If you just DO NOT have the energy to go as Honey Boo Boo or to figure out what Hurricane Sandy would look like if a hurricane was a Halloween costume, you feel pressured to look hot for Halloween. Stupid Halloween. And lord knows there are enough sexy witches to throttle a whole future of Dorothys. What does one do if one wants to buck the system, to refuse to dress all sexy when you’d rather channel your inner child?
Answer: find a costume so weird that people don’t know what to do with it. Where to find inspiration? Old photographs!
These are, of course, the least practical, least attractive, and possibly most difficult costumes to create in the history of the universe (I mean, how is that woman in the eggshell going to hold a cocktail?) but I for one applaud the outright embrace of weirdness. That chicken-man would have me pawing all over his feathery softness. And that poor woman in her playing-card outfit … well, I want to kiss her on the lips.
See more costume oddities at this wonderful Flavorwire site. And c’mon, people — do something a little different. Last year I advocated going as a glowing, irradiated Marie Curie, a hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation, or as the goddess Athena. This year I say let it all hang loose, people. Weird is the new sexy!
7 October 2012
It’s the 40th anniversary of Title IX — that groundbreaking bit of legislation that facilitated women’s educational equality on many levels, including sports. No one would doubt the fundamentally radical effects on women’s senses of self as a result. Even if we acknowledge that the law never sought to establish, nor did it achieve, anything measuring true equity, as I’ve written about before.
And yet critics complain that giving any funds to women’s sports effectively takes money away from men’s sports — and as a result women’s teams still fight for the small funding they receive. The Bush Administration was particularly effective in dismantling some of rules that schools show increasing efforts to comply with the law. And so the Women’s Sports Foundation has produced this nice video remind us of the stakes. (Thanks, Eteokretan, for sending the link!)
Considering that the US women’s soccer team is surely one of the country’s most popular women’s athletic teams, perhaps it’s no surprise that Major League Soccer would be the institution funding this campaign. And yet aside from its national team, women’s pro soccer has floundered in the past 15 months — most of its pro teams have folded, leaving members of the US women’s team to languish without pro teams or to try their luck as pro players for women’s teams elsewhere in the world.
So happy birthday, Title IX: let’s hope the current anti-feminist backlash against women subsides sometime soon.
22 September 2012
Says Rush Limbaugh, anyway. A recent Italian study has determined that penises have shrunk in size by about 10% during the last 50 years. Why? researchers suggested weight gain, pollution, stress, and smoking — but Limbaugh knows better.
Because if you think about it, what else has happened during the last 50 years in addition to people getting fatter, more stressed out, and suffering more pollution? Why, the feminist movement happened, Rush reminds us! Therefore, physical changes to men’s bodies must be due to “the feminazis, the chickification and everything else”!
If there’s anyone who ought to know about weight gain and stress, it’s Limbaugh — but hey, then he’d have to take personal responsibility, right? Why not, instead, make us all out to be victims? Why not insist that we are a culture entitled to have no feminism or chickification? Why not blame the feminazis for culture’s troubles instead?
Stands to reason, right? And by reason I mean nonsense.
17 September 2012
How is it possible that this blog still gets so many hits every day? I’ve seriously fallen off the blogging wagon, what with writing all these new (or mostly new, or creatively plagiarized) lectures every week. It’s shameful. I have so many thoughts that haven’t gotten cooked yet.
Here’s the thing: lecturing is hard. It takes an enormous amount of energy, creativity (even when plagiarizing), and ball-juggling. It takes a lot of preparation. You do this and you think, someone out there seriously thinks I “only” teach two classes?
Which led me to this image from the film Wanda (1970), written and directed by — and starring — Barbara Loden, she of the beer and curlers. Shot on grainy film stock. I remember seeing women wearing their curlers and a kerchief like this out to the market when I was a kid; the curlers were necessary to poof up your hair into those bouffants. Is it the curlers that makes this scene so bittersweet? the palpable sense of trying so hard, and feeling unable to sustain it? and perhaps, too, the way her posture indicates that she has not utterly given up?
The film was shown in a single U.S. theater in 1970 — a small theater in New York — and by the time Loden had died tragically young in 1980 the film had been nearly forgotten.
Don’t mistake this for a post implying that my situation is like Wanda’s, displayed above. Don’t mistake this for a real post, with careful insights or carefully-worded snarkiness about politics. This is just a shout-out from my cave, reminding you that I exist and that I intend to return to regular blogging.
I will admit, however, that there are a few empty beer bottles in my cave. (No curlers. Thank heavens for the small blessings of different hair expectations.)
7 September 2012
Two weeks of school under my belt; I haven’t unpacked all my boxes yet, so my office looks a bit like an episode of Hoarders, except without the ancient boxes of cereal and rodent carcasses. And there’s manic prep for lectures, and grading, and learning all the new ways universities have discovered to torture us with ineffective/ counter-intuitive technology.
Nevertheless. There’s that moment when you stop fretting about the unpacking and you watch everything going on this week — the US Open tennis, the Democratic National Convention, the serious arrival of political signs and advocates on the streets of my city, the floating up of those amazing students who display their intelligence and hard work so early in the semester. It makes you focus not on the petty, but on the prize.
I promise to return to watching and discussing film at any moment now; I’ve had a Beasts of the Southern Wild post brewing for weeks and weeks; just give me a moment to catch my breath. Oh, and also — I’ve got to breathe after those DNC speeches, that Michelle Obama speech, that Bill Clinton speech, that scene of Gabby Giffords leading the Pledge of Allegiance. And oh yeah, Serena takes on Sara Errani later today. Hang with me, friends, and I’ll be back with you shortly.
Because it might be crazy, but I can do this. We can do this. Oh yes we can.
1 September 2012
Why do female athletes become involved in prettifying themselves for cameras?
It’s one of those questions that dogs me. The tennis players who wear too-tight dresses. The gymnasts who wear exaggerated eye shadow and sparkly dust in their hair. Sometimes those prettifications get in the way of the athlete performing. Why do they acquiesce? In what way can this help their performance?
All the more reason for me to be riveted to the soccer player Caitlin Davis Fisher, who’s now a Fulbright fellow in Brazil where she has played professionally for years. Fisher’s TED talk analyzes the body image of female athletes, and in less than 7 minutes she explains how her fellow players went from being ignored by most of the public — and thereby feeling free to perform their femininity in whatever way they pleased — to prettifying themselves once the women’s sport began to accelerate in popularity over time.
To underline their new popularity, they were offered new uniforms — that is, uniforms that weren’t 6-yr-old hand-me-downs from the men’s team — but the tops were so tight “we couldn’t move our arms to run.”
The women players begin to believe that in order to maintain the sport’s popularity — to increase the acceptance of the women’s game — they ought to change their appearance to be friendlier to public preconceptions/ prejudices (preconceito) about female attractiveness.
What’s happening is the women’s game in Brazil is being feminized, wherein only a feminine version of the game is being accepted, and only only this female player is being allowed inside, if she re-creates her identity in this manner. So although the cultural stigma is starting to fade, the exclusion, the preconceito, is reconfiguring itself and imposing itself on the only place left: the female body. The body of the female athlete is being policed. It’s being shaped, regulated, and controlled by the intensification of feminine expectations.
Davis Fisher smartly probes the ways women athletes themselves get bound up with the promotion of their sport in such intelligent, articulate ways that I’m tempted to welcome her as one of us academics — except I hope she directs her work toward a broader audience than merely an academic one.