Friday, March 27, 2009

Something to Take the Edge Off

Ha ha ha ha!

Feminist Quotes of the Day: Gloria Steinem edition

"We’ve demonstrated that women can do what men do, but not yet that men can do what women do. That’s why most women have two jobs — one inside the home and one outside it — which is impossible. The truth is that women can’t be equal outside the home until men are equal in it."

"A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after."

"A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space."

"Women and girls no longer feel crazy, alone, or flying in the face of nature if they have the outrageous idea that they should be treated as full human beings. Knowing that the system is crazy, not you, is a huge leap forward."

Gloria Steinem, pioneering 2nd-wave feminist, turned 75 this week! Happy Birthday, Gloria! The above amazing quotes are all hers.

Read Courtney's reflections on the state of feminist leadership at Feministing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Posts of Interest

Some stuff I haven't had time to blog about:

Jessica's critique of the virginity movement's continued shaming of hook-up culture on college campuses. Via Feministing.

Both the
Vermont and New Hampshire legislatures are very close to legalizing gay marriage. Woot! However, the threat of gubernatorial vetoes loom.

An intense
personal story from a woman who has, at different times in her life, given a baby up for adoption and had an abortion. At Shakesville.

And my personal favorite: Dolly Parton as a feminist icon! Love that woman.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Pope, Argh: Mixed Messages Is My Specialty

Pope Benedict XVI was in Africa this week, thrilling some people by his very presence and infuriating others with a constant litany of theological convictions that seemed to not make much sense when taken as a whole.

First, he said:

"[AIDS] is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."

Wtf does that even mean? This baffling statement now must be debunked by groups/activists worldwide, including the
United Nation AIDS Agency, all of whom want to strangle someone.

But we're not done. Next comes:

"Particularly disturbing is the crushing yoke of discrimination that women and girls so often endure, not to mention the unspeakable practice of sexual violence and exploitation which causes such humiliation and trauma."

Okay, so that part was pretty good. But then he follows it up by taking issue with the "irony of those who promote abortion as a form of 'maternal' health care."

And... he loses me again. First of all, it's so great when male leaders (or journalists) put words like women's health care in
scare quotes. And second, he's referring to a specific agreement signed by 45 countries in the African Union to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest... and to save the mother's life. Yeah, it's so "ironic" to want to save "women's lives" and call it "health care." What were all these women thinking, that their lives might actually be worth something. Thanks for the lesson in the patriarchy, Benedict, as if it's even possible I could have forgotten.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dora: Not an Explorer Anymore?

Toy makers Nickelodeon and Mattel have a new Dora doll on the horizon; this Dora is an older and, ahem, more mature? pre-teen version of the beloved character. Looking at the differences, it's probably not surprising there's been something of an outcry from parents.

First of all, is the new Dora even recognizable as Dora? Her eyes and hair (albeit highlighted?) are basically the same colors, sure... but is the face the same face? I know she has aged, whatever, but this is a cartoon character not the effects of digital aging technology. Shouldn't Dora at least be recognizable as herself? And where's her map? Her backpack? Her monkey?

It's hard not to gaze on the long flowing hair, pink lips, and newly emphasized nose, eyebrows, and eyelashes (that seemed to come out of nowhere), and not reach the conclusion that the creators of the new Dora were aiming for uber-femininity above all else.

And that's not even touching on the clothes. I mean, what decent explorer treks around the jungle in ballet slippers?

There are a number of things that bug the crap out of me about this, not least of which is the idea that Dora has been changed at all. Is it really necessary for her to grow up? Is this something that needs to happen to a cartoon character? Did Mickey Mouse grow up?

Part of the issue with critiquing the new Dora, however, is that at its core, I don't have anything against femininity. Many girls are feminine at this age (though just as many probably aren't). But some have accused this doll of being too sexy, which is definitely a valid complaint. I can certainly understand that charge, though I wouldn't say new Dora is as sexualized as the Bratz dolls or even Barbie. Looking at the image closely, however, I'm actually not sure it's "sexy" so much as feminine. Ultra feminine. Which in and of itself, I can't really criticize, especially if Dora keeps up her exploring and awesomely active ways (in this new incarnation, she apparently will be big into volunteering, planting trees, water conservation, etc.). In general, such feminine dolls/characters would probably trouble me less if paired with active, substantive pursuits such as Dora's (rather than housekeeping or shopping) -- because it's the sexist notion that femininity and worldly action are mutually exclusive that burns me up the most.

That said, I do have a problem with a group of toy executives sitting around and either #1, thinking this is what girls should look like, or #2, believing that a little girl who starts out like the original Dora will inevitably end up with long flowing hair and ballet slippers.

I can just hear the executives' annoying conversation in my head: "Well, the problem with the current Dora is she's too androgynous... that might sell to 6-year-olds, but it's not going to work in the pre-teen market."

Yes, Dora was androgynous! Wasn't that something that was so great and unique about her (in the context of the doll market especially)? Why wouldn't they want to keep their product different, instead of going with the same old sexist trends? Dora has quite a following, from both boys and girls. I bet there are plenty of boys out there who like the old Dora and can relate to her... but this new version? What are they supposed to do with that? Consider dating her? Just, yuck.

Of course, I can hear the executives on that point too: "Well, boys don't want dolls past the age of ____ , so it's not going to matter."

Just, barf. Boys also deserve female characters they can relate to (and NOT in a romantic, opposite sex type way).

On the receiving end, I hate the possibility of girls taking in the message that no matter how active and strong and energetic they are, they must inevitably turn into something "soft" and "pretty." This is the same old message girls have gotten since the beginning of time. Be thin and gorgeous, don't be strong and active. Because when it comes to consumer products, the big problem is that individual children don't have control over their hair color, skin color, body type, etc., in the same way marketers have control over a doll's appearance. We are varied and diverse! Yet the same old version of femininity is recycled over and over again, shoved in our faces until we're left believing it's real and attainable. True, some girls will end up more "feminine" than others, and that's fine, but our bodies change and evolve on their own, mostly based on genetics, no matter what we wear or buy.

And by taking one of the few female characters out there who is refreshingly NOT ultra feminine (or white & blonde for that matter) and then re-making her along the Bratz/Barbie model, suddenly the message is worse than ever! Even Dora becomes cute and skinny and ultra stylish. And that just freaks me out -- the thought that kids (& their parents) who, consciously or not, sought solace in the individuality and nonconformity of the original Dora, must now be faced with this status quo of an ultra feminine pre-teen Dora... and once again the same old message reasserts itself -- it's not okay to be yourself.

The ladies of The View discussed the new Dora this morning, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck said her daughter Grace's response was, "Well, I guess she's not an explorer anymore." Sob. Stories like that break my freaking heart.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Women on the Map

President Obama, announcing the new White House Council on Women & Girls:

Along these same lines, a new position in the State Department has been created under Hillary Clinton to address women's issues on a global scale. Purely awesome.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Feminist-Friendly Quote of the Day

The truth is, a great mind must be androgynous. -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge