Friday, February 27, 2009

Because You Have Hideous "Bat Wings"

Sometimes when I'm a little burned out on bloggin' it, I'll pull up to see what headlines they're prioritizing on any particular hour. Rather often, their choices are asinine. Today is no exception, as I found this on the front page within five seconds of arriving there:

How to get Michelle Obama's toned arms

Great, thanks. Because you know, she has nothing else in her life to be proud of but her arms? She has no other achievements worth mentioning?

We've already seen such appearance-based "news stories" ad nauseam, whether it be about Hillary Clinton's cleavage, Sarah Palin's dress size, or Michelle Obama's hair. Sometimes these write-ups are disparaging, other times complimentary. To me, it doesn't really matter which angle you take because it's freaking insulting to be talking about it AT ALL.

The CNN article uses the "getting healthy" spin to make this okay.

"The Obama effect has been that women of all ages have been inspired to take responsibility for their health and their body," said Duggan. "As the first lady of the United States, at 44 years old, and with two young children, Mrs. Obama has shown the world that you are never too busy to take care of yourself and look good doing it too," he said.

Okay, fine. I have no problem with women being inspired to become healthier all-around people. But then why couldn't the headline have read, Michelle Obama inspires women to get healthy? Because -- that's not really the point of the article, which is to make it perfectly clear that "bat wings," flabby 'ceps, or whatever you want to call it is NOT OKAY. Michelle Obama is apparently achieving the impossible by having it all... and so should you. Did I mention that this message is being sent without Michelle Obama herself saying one word within the article?

Not only that, according to this fitness "expert," women are just not that into being strong:

"Women are just really terrified of weights," Matthews said. "They're on cardio machines, elliptical for 60 minutes and wondering why they don't see definition and tone. The missing link is strength training."

After all this advocacy of strength training, however, there's this:

It's unclear what kind of exercises Obama does to maintain her buff arms, but it appears to be both back and arm workouts, said Michele Vourliotis, author of "Amazing Arms."

Yet, there's still hope for all of us:

It sounds complex, but Duggan is optimistic that women of any age, no matter how saggy her arms are, can improve. "You can have toned and sexy arms at any age regardless of your current fitness level or how bad your arms are sagging right now," he said.

Just, barf. Thanks a million, CNN.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The President Speaks

Senator Robert McCallister once said on the show Brothers & Sisters, "I am the most ambitious man you'll ever meet." Had he not been a fictional character, this would still not be true, as the most ambitious person anywhere has got to be President Obama. If I didn't know that before tonight, I surely know it now. Yet, Obama's ambition is not really about personal gain or achievements, which is what makes it so appealing to me. Listening to his speech tonight, I was amazed by how much he wants to accomplish in this country... by the end of the year even! Some would say it's too much, but I for one am all for optimism. I think that if you are realistic, it is realistic you will achieve realistic goals. Obama obviously craves the extraordinary, which means fostering a palpable belief in those goals among Americans... which is really the first step towards making anything possible. It's pretty apparent that not everyone believes yet, and some probably never will, but I think if this country can attain half of what he talked about tonight, we'll be doing okay.

Transcript of the speech here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

81st Oscars: General Impressions

If the theme of this year's Oscars was meant to something of a throwback to the 1930-40s variety shows of classic Hollywood, there were certain things I liked about this theme and others I would prefer to leave in the past.

What I loved: everything about Kate Winslet and Sean Penn's acceptance speeches, the gathering of Best Actresses (I hope they continue this part of the format next year -- it gave me chills), and Meryl Streep -- can she sit in the front row every year, whether she's nominated or not?... because I get a lot more joy out of seeing her there than I ever did Jack Nicholson.

What I liked: Hugh Jackman in general, the singing & dancing, sort of a loosening up of an often uptight event, which created a Tony-meets-the-Oscars feel (as a musical theater fan, this was enjoyable, I thought).

What should be left in the 1930s: any reference whatsoever to blackface, the bevies of pants-less beauties during the dance numbers, and the once-again male-dominated categories (almost every one except the actress and documentary categories, it seemed).

One thing that's often discussed in feminist circles during awards seasons is why in the world there are sex-divided categories for acting at all. On principle, I agree that this seems bizarre, since it's a much more artificial division of abilities than in sports (although I would probably argue those divisions are largely artificial too). But by dividing acting categories by sex, you're basically saying that female performances can't be compared to male performances even though they can be compared to each other, and vice versa. Which IS weird, especially when you see Sean Penn competing with Mickey Rourke and Brad Pitt in the same category, all with three wildly different styles and characters.

All of this I agree with. But when year after year it becomes so freaking obvious how male-dominated most of these categories are, I find myself clinging to the ones that are actually female-only. When Shirley MacLaine & Sophia Loren were up there with the other Best Actresses right before Kate won, I was loving it. Which makes me worry that if the acting categories were co-ed, women might be pushed out altogether, or reduced to token nominations.

[Sidenote... During the credits they showed snippets of upcoming films, and I caught a glimpse of Amelia starring Hilary Swank, which appears to be a biopic about Amelia Earhart. Not sure when it's coming out, but I'll be pretty excited for this one!]

Crossposted at
Library Cat.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Feminist Lovefest

Showing some love for my fellow feminists, here are a few links to posts I find especially relevant/interesting/insightful:

Courtney E. Martin's "
Why Love Is Our Most Powerful, Lasting Form of Activism" via AlterNet.

thoughts on gender roles in the context of the Vatican's new report that claims men and women sin differently. Via Feministe.

SarahMC's take on a cartoon that explores the use of the word "rape" as a verb when discussing non-rape situations. Via The Pursuit of Harpyness.

Melissa McEwan's philosophy of
feminist teaspoons via Shakesville.

Pelosi and the Pope meet... there's no picture, but it happened!

Nancy Pelosi met with the Pope on Wednesday and, out of line with usual papal procedure, no picture or video was released by the Vatican. Because pro-choice women leaders are oh, so scary. Back in 1985, Geraldine Ferraro was treated similarly. But since Pelosi is #3 within the U.S. government, something feels off (and predictable) about this particular snub.

Of course, Benedict unloaded his usual "dignity of human life" spheel, though there were no reports that Pelosi was there to talk about abortion at all.

Anyone who's pro-choice has a no-brainer reaction to the "human dignity" argument, as do I, and as I would guess Pelosi does as well: that is, what could be more dignified than having control over your own body and being granted respect for the decisions you make about that body? But that is not the kind of human dignity the rigid belief system of the Catholic Church hierarchy officially endorses.

Coincidentally, this visit happened on the same day a fetal personhood bill
passed the House of Representatives in North Dakota. Bills such as these not only threaten abortion rights but contraceptive rights as well. Which is damn scary.

Probably what's most irksome about Pelosi in the Vatican's eyes though, as well as in the minds of many U.S. bishops, is that she reportedly believes her pro-choice stance
does not conflict with her Catholic faith on a theological level. *gasp* Her church even allows her to continue to receive communion. *double gasp*

I think it's pretty bad-ass of Pelosi to say these things out loud, especially in terms of her particular parish being okay with her. She's not buying into the argument that religion and liberal politics can't mix, and apparently others in her circle don't either. But to some, this idea is unthinkable (& radical). You mean not all Catholics believe all the same things, exactly as the Vatican tells them to? Are you saying that Catholics might actually think for themselves?

As someone who grew up Catholic around a lot of people who did think for themselves, the answer is, hell yes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Blog is Born... er, Two

Back in the early 2000s, I finished up an English major and a library science master's degree and promptly lost all my creative juices. Or, more accurately, I spent six years building an academic mind that, while excellent at meeting deadlines and writing research papers, gradually crowded out whatever pure and basic need I had to express myself. I was drained... clean. Even though I had written for pleasure almost as long as I was able to write, I stopped writing. For five years. And I didn't miss it. I was glad and relieved to have exhausted myself; grateful to live instead of write. Or think, for that matter... it felt great to stop thinking.

But the thing about dried-up thoughts is that they're only temporary... the mind needs rest, a season of latency. And then the thoughts start coming back. And back and back and BACK, which is what happened to me, until I had no choice but to start expressing myself again.

At first, I did everything except write. I got married, planned a wedding, found a new job on the other side of the state, and moved myself and my hubby to a new town. This all happened within 3-4 months and not necessarily in that order. We bought a house the next year, which I proceeded to decorate on the inside and landscape on the outside. I set up a 36-gallon fish tank, planted it with live plants, and stocked it with fish, including two gold Angels. Through dumb luck, these Angels paired up and occasionally mate, the female laying eggs on the tallest, cleanest leaf she can find. After the male fertilizes them, they take turns fanning their translucent pectoral fins over the tiny white eggs, hovering there at eye level, waving their wings to increase water circulation. This prevents the eggs from becoming stagnant and corrupted by fungus.

For some reason though, the Angels weren't enough for me. I set up another fish tank. And another. Then I tore down the third one to compensate for the fourth I had acquired. This final step happened once more, but I've finally stopped at three functioning tanks, with two in storage. (Although... I have been dreaming of putting a fourth back up again, this time for a group of six female bettas.) And around the time of the aquarium explosion, I also started painting. And scrapbooking. And within this same time-span, I started writing a novel. Something inside would not SHUT UP.

Whatever the reasons or how I got here, this blog, along with its twin
Library Cat, exist because I have chatter in the brain. Bad. Chatter so bad that sometimes I can't sleep at night. Chatter that forces my husband and sister to listen to my in-depth analysis of topics they have only a moderate amount of interest in. These topics include soap operas, literature, and politics. No, I don't believe I have a mental illness... or if a mental illness can be caused by the repression of creativity, then perhaps I do have that. Does it have a name?

Either way, my floodgates are wide open now, with barely enough outlets. But you're writing a novel, you say, isn't that a massive outlet? And yes, it certainly is. But novels have rules, set by the novelist herself. Novels need a consistency of what goes in and what stays out... and even if those rules seem nonexistent to the reader, the writer knows what they are (most of the time). So, there's just too much junk in my head that really really really can't go in my novel. Yet, it has to get out. And if I'm going to spew a lot of random and unfiltered observations at the world, even if those observations are backed by a surprising energy, I'm not going to drown my novel in them.

So here I am. The Internet, with a capital "I." Sounds like a good place for a brain dump. Compared with
Library Cat, which specializes in a whimsical feminism of random topics, this blog will serve up a stronger feminist fare. Here I plan to fully plant myself atop a feminist soapbox; here I've given myself license to unleash on politics, pop culture, religion, social norms, and of course THE PATRIARCHY, as well as everything around and in between those topics. If
Library Cat is a carefree mosaic of various feminisms, then Radiant Likeness is more along the lines of fierce and focused feminism (which, by the way, doesn't mean that it can't also be fun!).

Again you ask, why two blogs? Can't you just post the hell out of Radiant Likeness?

It's true, I could. And we'll see how this goes... if I can unclog my brain a little then I may end up phasing one of them out at some point. But for now, there's just too much to say.

Crossposted sections at
Library Cat.