28 April 2008

Reproductive Justice Week of Action

According to Feministing.com (my favorite feminist news source), last week was Reproductive Justice Week of Action. Lately, I have been doing some work in the field of reproductive justice. OWI is casually working with Choice USA, a national reproductive rights action group founded by Gloria Steinem. We’re participating in a campaign to lower the price of birth control on college campuses. Last week we collected another hundred or so petition signatures, and educated many more students about the new law that is responsible for the price hike.

I am also part of an advisory committee that is helping to plan Choice USA’s national conference. In July, Choice is hosting a four-day training workshop and membership conference focusing on reproductive justice. Through participating in the advisory committee, I recently got a gig on their blog team, Choice Words. My focus in women’s studies is human sexuality, so I am going to do an advice column on sexual health.

Although my career right now is in politics, I am glad to have an opportunity to advocate on behalf of reproductive justice. Not enough people realize the fragile state of reproductive freedom in America; it is important to continue fighting to protect these rights.

Election Musings- Pennsylvania Edition

Hillary Clinton won the Pennsylvania primary last week. I’m rather disappointed about in her victory for several reasons. First and foremost, the longer this bitter contest continues, the more it will continue to divide people. Obviously, supporters on both sides continue to grow more impassioned. But beyond that there is a rift in the feminist community between second wave Hillary supporters and third wave Obama supporters. I think that the longer we go without a candidate, the harder it will be to heal the rift. Will we repeat the mistakes of 1968 and wind up with McCain in the house?

Here’s another thing that concerns me: in just about two weeks, I will begin working on the campaign trail. I will be running a canvassing office in Chicago, working to promote progressive candidates at the state and national levels. Since the progressive candidate is still up in the air, we will have to begin simply arguing against McCain. Personally, I would rather run a campaign in favor of someone, focusing on her positives, than run one against an individual, focusing on her negatives. I have done canvassing and call center work on congressional and gubernatorial elections for the last two years, and one theme that I hear often is how disillusioned the average American is with negative campaigning. Running a campaign against McCain and not in favor of Obama or Clinton will likely decrease our support. Kerry ran as the anti-Republican candidate in 2004, and I believe it ultimately harmed him.

Finally, I think that based on voter trends over the last two presidential elections, the youth vote is absolutely crucial to winning the presidency. Youth are mobilized like never before- and behind the charismatic junior senator from Illinois. If Clinton takes the nomination in a coup at convention, many of these youth are going to be disenfranchised, probably resulting in reduced support for the democratic candidate. Again, this feeds my nagging suspicion that we will not win back the White House is Clinton gets the nomination.

Obama is still ahead in delegates- and he is winning substantially by total number of votes. We were all outraged in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote but not the presidency. By that logic, shouldn’t Obama get our nomination? Ultimately, I believe that we need to focus our energy, and keep our eyes on the prize- winning back the White House. Although I am just an amateur pundit, I really think that Obaba is the candidate most likely to win that prize.

*As a side note, I am currently about halfway through Obama's early memoirs, Dreams from my Father. I think it's an honest, interesting look at race relations in the United States.
Other suggested reading on the topic:
White Teeth by Zadie Smith, and Caucasia, by Danzy Senna.

24 April 2008

WEEDS- the best show currently on television, or the only good one?

Okay. I realize that I have been neglectful of the ol' blog lately, but it's been a hectic time. Graduation is just around the corner, which means that finals week is slowly descending over Bowling Green. AND I am moving out of state two days after graduation. AND I had three papers due this week (two down, one to go), including one really long one. AND I want to spend time with my friends before I leave. In other words, I've been really, really busy. But I do have some interesting topics lined up, as well as some good news!

Here's something I've been thinking about lately: I wrote a term paper for Society and the Environment (which I may or may not link to) about media representation of environmentalists. Yeah, I'm that dorky. Anyways, it included a media analysis of one of my all-time favorite shows: Weeds. I don't watch a lot of television- we only have movies at my house (which is different; film and television are very different mediums, in my opinion). But Weeds is *as good as* Arrested Development. And that is the highest praise I can give a situation comedy.

A brief summary: Nancy Botwin is a widowed mother of two teen boys who starts selling marijuana after her husband dies unexpectedly. She does fairly well, and soon begins growing her own strand with the help of her partner (and possible new love interest!), Conrad. She is helped by a quirky band of middle-aged male professionals who, coincidentally, all hit the ganj (including a brilliantly cast Kevin Nealon as her shady accountant/ city councilman!).

Not only is Weeds brilliantly done, I think it is a totally progressive show as well. First off, Agrestic is an eco-friendly community. Nancy drives a Prius, as does the gangsta U-Turn. She is also the head of the healthy children committee for the Agrestic PTA, where we see her arguing in favor of organic foods and juices.

Second point, the show features diverse characters. I am fairly certain that they feature the youngest openly gay character in television history; Nancy's rival, the evil Celia, has a twelve year old lesbian daughter. Isabelle is also the spokesmodel for "Huskeroo," a line of plus-sized clothes for prepubescent girls with a very fat-positive marketing campaign. (Side note: in the third season, Isabelle develops a friendship with Shane, Nancy's younger son. The relationship that ensues is probably the best writing for children I've ever seen). Silas, Nancy's elder son, has a deaf girlfriend for nearly two seasons as well. I think Andy, the wacky uncle, also loses some toes, now that I think about it (which becomes his ticket into the porn industry). Additionally, Shane, the younger son, is super liberal and expresses his anti-American sentiments during uber-religious summer school classes.

Third point, Nancy is a successful female in a male dominated industry. And she's totally bad-ass. I could keep poorly re-enacting stories and sub-plots, but you should just watch the show.

*Here's the good news: I am going to start blogging over at Choice USA's blog, Choice Words! I'm totally excited for the opportunity to join Choice's blog team (which, coincidentally, includes my good friend and fellow BG feminist Hannah). I'll be blogging primarily about sexual health and I'd really like to do a sex advice column eventually, so if you have any related questions be sure to send them my way.

18 April 2008

Documentary Marathon, April 2008

In case you couldn't tell, I've been on a big documentary kick lately. I watched three yesterday (while simultaneously catching up with email, reading the news online, doing office work, and probably writing some blog posts). While I'm not going to write three extensive reviews, I will offer a brief vignette.

Documentary #1: For the Bible Tells Me So
The Human Relations Commission of Bowling Green (of which I have been the university rep for the last two years) screened this interesting film, and I was happy to be a part of it. The purpose of the HRC is to promote diversity within the community, so it was fitting that we sponsored the event. For the Bible Tells Me So takes an objective look at the Bible and homosexuality (ie: reading the original text and putting it into the context of the times). All things considered, the film was well done, and I really think everyone needs to see it. If you live in Bowling Green, the HRC is donating a copy to the public library so you can see it for free!

Documentary #2: Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices
I'm a little late in seeing this. Since most of you have already watched it, all I am going to say is that if you haven't watched it yet, you need to watch it now. I've always known that Wal-Mart was bad for the world (I refuse to shop there, and so should you), but I didn't know how bad. Bottom line: stop giving them money right now, and watch this doc when you get a chance.

Documentary #3: Breasts
That's right, it's a documentary about breasts. More specifically, it is about how women feel about their breasts. I loved this film when I saw it in Women's Sexuality last year, and I couldn't resist seeing it again. It's only about an hour long, it's insightful, it's great. Watch it when you need something lighter (I think it would work well paired with this amazing documentary!)

Quickie: Ben Folds Live

Excellent! The BF and I finally broke the awful streak we'd been on for a good year, and went to a freaking concert (I actually saw Trail of Dead on the day before Thanksgiving, which fucking ruled, but we hadn't been to a show together since Do Make Say Think in spring 2007). AND possibly even more exciting is the fact that I have wanted to see Ben Folds live since, like, tenth grade. His music played a huge role in the latter half of my high school career.

Maybe the fact that I have not seen live music since November influenced my opinion, but Folds was totally worth the wait. He played with a drummer and bassist who were comparable to the Five in talent, he's experimenting with some new electronic-y noises, and his new material is quite tasty. Plus, at forty-two he's looking pretty hot. All things considered, it was over an hour and a half of rocking entertainment.

17 April 2008

Review: The US vs. John Lennon

So the BF and I decided to make Sunday night documentary night (again, I acknowledge that I am super late in blogging about this). This week's title: The US vs. John Lennon, a film about the treatment the coolest Beatle received at the hands of Nixon and him henchmen after he moved to NYC. I'll give you a hint: apparently Tricky Dick was a McCartney fan.

Although I've been interested in Lennon's life for a number of years (in another life, I am also an amateur music historian. Don't believe me? Let's go to the Rock Hall together), this film gave me a new appreciation for his protest art (the bed-ins for peace, press conference in a bag, etc. I still don't get the "Primal Screams" album).

The way I see it, Lennon was a PR genius. He knew the status of his celebrity around the globe- and he turned it into a medium for his protest art. For instance, let's take the bed in for peace. After Lennon and Ono got married, they knew that their chances for a normal honeymoon were slim; paparazzi all over the globe wanted a picture of the newlyweds in bed together. So they decided to give the media what they wanted; only they turned it into an anti-war protest. The whole thing was a beautifully executed, avant garde political masterpiece.

Anyways, his artsy stunts didn't sit so well with everyone; Nixon and his pals at the FBI actually considered Lennon the dissenter a threat to the nation. They tried to deport him on bogus charges (crooked cop busted him with weed in Englandseveral years previous), but really waned him out because he vocally disagreed with US foreign policy.

The treatment Lennon received at the hands of the US government was shameful. Definitely worth watching, even for those who aren't Beatles fans. More than anything, it's an interesting look at freedom of speech (or lack thereof) in America.

SAGA Awards (Finally, a happy post!)

So I'm a little late in reporting this, but gimme a break. It's been a busy week what with the anti-feminist bake sale (which I'm sure I'll continue to post about) and, ya know, graduating in two weeks.Plus, the highly anticipated Women's Studies/Center Reunion Gala is starting tomorrow! Indeed, it is a good time to be a feminist at BGSU.

Anyways, on Monday night, BGSU's Transcendence hosted the second annual Sexuality and Gender Activism (SAGA) Awards. The awards honor individuals or groups in the community who work to promote sexuality and gender rights, as the name suggests. I was fortunate to be honored, along with some great women. One of the other honorees was Andrea Adams-Miller, aka "The Sexuality Tutor." She co-hosts "Sex Talk," a sexuality talk show on our campus station, 88.1fm.

Confession time: Sex Talk shows happen to be one of my biggest weaknesses. Human sexuality is my focus within Women's Studies, and it is also in the shortlist of "Things in Which I Would Consider Getting A Graduate Degree." Consequently, I'm interested in how fellow sexologists (and I do like to consider myself a budding sexologist, as well as political pundit) tackle the issues, and I've been listening to Sex Talk sporadically since it started over a year ago. I enjoyed the chance to talk to Ms. Adams-Miller, and I couldn't help snapping a photo with her (which I would post if I could figure out how to rotate it; it's on Facebook though).

Keynote speaker was Chris Beam, professor at Columbia and author of Transparent, a book about raising transgender teens. What an interesting woman! Ms. beam was both funny and insightful, and I totally want to read her book.

All things considered, it was a lovely evening. Big thanks to Transcendence for sponsoring the event. I think it is wonderful that someone within the community is taking the initiative to recognize the work of other activists.

Like I said before, exciting things are happening at BGSU right now! Look for posts on the 10/30/100 Reunion Gala, celebrating ten years of BGSU's Women's Center, thirty years of the Women's Studies program (represent!), and one hundred years (give or take) of BGSU; AND the continuing coverage of the campus' response to the anti-feminist bake sale.

14 April 2008

Anti-Feminist Bake Sale

This morning, I was shocked at something so disgusting and perverse , I could not understand its place at an institution of higher learning. On the steps of the education building sat three girls at a card table, with a sign that said “Anti-Feminist Bake Sale.” No joke.

Certain that these girls who happened to be attending colle
ge were secretly feminists at heart, I decided to engage them in a conversation about how feminism has, in fact, enriched their lives.

The girls agreed that, were they married, they should have legal control over their own money (as opposed to their husbands). They were all registered to vote, and did vote regularly. We agreed that women should be able to serve on juries, and the right of a woman to divorce an abusive husband and press charges. After finding so much common ground, I pointed out that we all have the feminist movement to thank for these basic rights.At this point in our conversation, a few fellow activists joined the talk. We unanimously decided that, in spite of the offensive sign, the girls were actually big proponents of feminist ideals! In spite of their affiliation with the College Republicans (that’s right- the same group who brought you “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” and speakers like Ted Nugent and Dinesh D’Souza) these girls clearly believed in liberal feminist ideas. We suggested that they change their sign to something more tolerant, like “Exploring Differing Feminist Ideas,” Why? Because they were protesting the radical feminist agenda, which aims to destroy family values by encouraging women to enter the workforce. I was then handed a flyer with six different quotes, featuring “feminazis” from Betty Friedan to Margaret Sanger.

Unable to deal with the random assortment of outdated, out-of-context quotes, I allowed the f-bomb to distract me from the issue at hand. “You know, feminazi is a term coined by Rush Limbaugh to put down assertive women, smack us back into place. It is a misnomer, and does not accurately describe contemporary feminisms.” At this point, one girl admitted that she liked Rush Limbaugh, and only watched Fox News- never CNN. Personally, I feel that if you want to wallow in the lies and propaganda championed by Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch, you are too indoctrinated already; I am not going to waste my time arguing. Plus, I had to get to Environmental Soc. After my afternoon classes were finished, I wouldn't help visiting the bake sale again. However, this time I saw surprised and delighted by what I saw there. Dozens of people spontaneously arrived to protest the College Republicans tasteless stunt. In addition to members of Amnesty International, College Democrats, the Organization for Women's Issues, Transcendence, and Vision had arrived, as well as many people I had never seen at progressive events. Some held homemade posters bearing catchy slogans like "Anti-Feminism is Half-Baked" and "Not all Feminists are Women." Others gave out free candy to feminists and allies (unsurprisingly, the pro-feminists had a much wider variety of sweets to choose from), in a stroke of PR brilliance that quite peacefully divested potential funds from the bigoted bake sale. It was truly inspiring to see so many people from all different backgrounds come together in support of feminism.

The College Republicans need to do some research next time. As a Women’s Studies major, I have met many wonderful feminists in my day, and I have read the work of many more. I have never heard of a feminist who wanted to force all women into the workplace. Feminists do not want to “destroy the family” or devalue motherhood. Contrary to popular belief, we do not even hope to replace the patriarchy with a matriarchy. And no matter what Ann Coulter says, we do not hate men. The goal of contemporary feminism (and I really should say “feminisms,” because there are many schools of feminist thought, from liberal or socialist to radical or even lesbian) is simply to ensure that all people have a voice in society, regardless of their gender, race, class, ability, and so forth. We want to make sure all people- women and men- are able to make their own decisions based on what is best for them. A true feminist would never restrict another person’s ability to choose for him or herself.

13 April 2008

Power Down BG (or the more obvious "Be Green")

During my visit to the infamous THE Ohio State University (I don't know why they insist on having the "the" included; I also attend a state university in Ohio) for the Get Out Her Vote Conference, I was struck by something. After lunch, I stood up to throw away my trash and properly recycle my empty Diet Coke can. But to my dismay, there were no recycling bins to be found! None in the classroom where were were eating lunch, none in the hallway near the entrance. Not wanting to carry an empty pop can around with me for the rest of the day, I was forced to throw it away- which made me feel like a heathen (and not in a good way).

Why was this so unusual? At Bowling Green State University (my very soon to be alma mater), we recycle. There are bins for plastic, glass, and aluminum (and usually news and mixed office paper) in EVERY classroom. There are similar recycling bins near building entrances, and outside near trashcans. In the dorms, EVERY FLOOR has a recycling area. The absence of recycling facilities at OSU made me realize the success of Bowling Green's program. And for one bright and shiny moment, I was truly proud of my university. In all fairness, BG is a pretty green place to be (and not just because of our name). We have a wind farm outside of town, that supplies a large portion of our energy. We are the first (if not only) college to offer a major in Environmental Policy and Analysis. Even though I am a Women's Studies major, I've had the opportunity to take many great classes focusing on environmentalism in several different departments: Environmental Bio, Environmental Ethics, Ecofeminism, and currently, Society and the Environment (shout out to Professor Shope!)

Now that green is the new sexy, I am sure more universities will follow BGSU's lead. And when they realize the importance of a campus-wide recycling program, they can look to our program for advice. I think that the university's focus on all things Green is one of it's biggest successes. Hell, I'd much rather brag about our great environmental practices than being the birthplace of Scott Hamilton, or hosting the National Tractor Pulling Championships.

12 April 2008

Get Out Her Vote!

Seeing as I'm not a morning person, I've kinda forgotten what 6:00 am looks like. However, this morning I was not only awake at the ungodly hour, but driving to Columbus. Why, you ask? Feminist Majority Foundation's Get Out Her Vote Ohio Summit. I went as half of a delegation representing the Organization for Women's Issues, one of BGSU's feminist groups (of which I am president, at least for three more weeks). And in spite of the fact that I was running on like, three hours of sleep, it was a great time!

As the name implies, the conference focused on the importance of women's involvement in the political process- from voting and volunteering to running for office. Speakers included OH Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, and other women from varying levels of local government. I moderated a panel on running for office, which featured great advice from Lucas Co. Auditor Anita Lopez and and Columbus City Council member Charleta Tavares. The best thing they had to say? If you want to run for office, start with a small position (like running for the local school board) and go from there. Only run when you have a purpose (ie: you can create positive change for your community).

The opening and closing speakers were Jennifer Brunner and Jane Campbell. Both women have been working in public service for a number of years, and it was great to hear their stories. Brunner: "An election is like giving birth- it's gonna happen whether you're ready or not." Campbell was funny and gracious, and Cleveland was lucky to have her (read: screwed themselves over by not re-electing her). She once had to hide her pregnancy to get on the committee she wanted. Fun fact: there are diaper changing facilities in public rest areas because of her!

All things considered, it was a great conference and I can't wait to be more involved with politics myself (luckily, I only have to wait until May).

11 April 2008

What's the Deal with Polygamy? (or: Take my Wives, Please!)

On Wednesday BGSU held this "health fair" on campus. I went hoping to mounge some free food, but left with tons of free condoms instead- which I see as a totally fair trade. Anyways, most of said condoms were left in my tote bag and promptly forgotten. Until this morning. After my first class (Social Psychology) I was talking with my presentation group and our prof, when one of said condoms fell out of my bag and onto the floor. Mortifying! I think only one girl noticed it, but it was still funny*.

On a more serious note, have you heard about this polygamist ranch in Texas?
I first read about it on Monday, but it grows increasingly disturbing as details continue to develop. Last weekend, authorities raided a ranch in Texas inhabited by members of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints. Apparently, a sixteen year old girl called the police with reports of abuse be her much older husband. The girl has not yet been identified, but over four hundred children and one hundred and thirty-nine women were rescued from the ranch. This fundamentalist church broke away from Mormonism over a hundred years ago, apparently because they disagreed over polygamy. The Mormon Church wanted to ban polygamist practices; the Latter Day Saints disagreed.

After reading about this creepy ranch, I am filled with tons of questions. First of all, how could anyone accept such an unbalanced, misogynistic religion? As far as I can tell, women were treated like chattel. Can sixteen year old girls legally consent to marry in Texas? Did they give consent? Is consent valid if you’ve been brain-washed by a creepy, cultish religion? How many
men were there for one hundred and thirty nine women (or, what was the average number of wives per husband)? How did so many people fly under the radar for so long?

Maybe I have a harder time comprehending such an event because I am not a religious person. But I really think this is more of a cult than a religion. I know lots of Christians (and Mormons, for that matter) who would have similarly revolted feelings regarding middle-aged men sleeping with teen girls. Statutory rape is still rape, even if the rapist is invoking the name of God.

*I actually don't think incidents like the one (ie: getting caught with contraception) above should be anything to get embarrassed about. Healthy practices should be commended, right? Even if it is a sociology professor who catches you.

**Photo taken from the HBO series Big Love, in which Bull Paxton plays a man- with three wives.

09 April 2008

Ivy League Abstinence Clubs

So, this is totally a paper I wrote for Psych of Gender, but I think it's relevant. Enjoy!

A recent issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine featured an article that I found a little disturbing, although not altogether surprising given the current administration’s anti-sex policies. According to Randall Patterson, virginity clubs are rising in popularity at Ivy League universities. His article, “Students of Virginity”, focuses primarily on True Love Revolution, Harvard’s own pro-abstinence organization. Lead by president Janie Fredell, these celibate men and women are “pushing, for reasons entirely secular, the cause of premarital sexual abstinence.” Fredell states that she is disgusted with the “hook up culture” saturating not only college campuses but also mainstream society at large. She describes the sentiments of the majority of her peers as “men pushing for sex, just to have something to say in the locker room, [and] women feeling pressured to have sex in order to maintain a relationship.” Although Fredell believes that all women should abstain until marriage, she argues that her position is a feminist one. She believes that men use sex to control women and their bodies:
“People just don’t get it” Fredell said. “Everyone thinks we’re trying to promote this idea of the meek little virgin female.” She said she was doing no such thing. . .
[Fredell] said she read in Mill that women are subordinated in relationships as a result of “socially constructed norms.” If men are commonly more promiscuous than women, it is only because the culture allows it, she said. Fredell was here to turn society around.”‘It’s extremely countercultural,” she said, for a woman to assert control over her own body.
In other words, Fredell is describing the cultural double standard that encourages sexual promiscuity in men, yet discourages it in women. Too many people still believe in the age-old virgin-whore dichotomy when it comes to sexually active women. Yet Fredell chooses to reinforce said dichotomy, rather than fighting the stereotypes that feed it.
Fredell traces the difference in male and female sexual behavior to psychological make-up. More specifically, they point to a greater presence in women of oxitocin, the hormone released during both sex and breast-feeding. According to Patterson:
True Love Revolution gives it the utmost significance, claiming on its Web site that the hormone’s “powerful bonding” effect can be “a cause of joy and marital harmony” but that outside of marriage it can create “serious problems.” Released arbitrarily, it can blur “the distinction between infatuation and lasting love,” the Web site cautions, making rational mating decisions difficult.
As I mentioned briefly, I am disturbed by Janie Fredell’s insistence on reinforcing the virgin-whore dichotomy. Mustn’t there be a healthy middle ground? I refuse to believe that the issue of women’s sexuality is so strictly black or white. I first read about “Students of Virginity” on Feministing.com, a feminist news blog. In response to this story, blogger Jessica Valenti, who identifies the “abstinence-only, modesty, chastity, or whatever they're calling it at the moment” movement as “bad for women”, has what I believe to be a healthier view. In a blog post entitled “Ivy League Hymens: Why Glorifying Virginity is Bad for Women”, Valenti states: “isn't the problem the double standard - not the sex? If we don't like that women ‘suffer’ from sexual double standards, how is not having sex fighting back?”
Wanting to hear more about Valenti’s ideas concerning how women can have a healthy sex life without glorifying their virginity, I turned to her book Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters. I found that Fredell and Valenti agree on how the current climate regarding sex can enable men in controlling women’s bodies: “We’re all trapped by the limiting version of sexuality that’s put out there- a sexuality that caters almost exclusively to men” (Valenti 42). The founding mother of Feministing.com, Valenti has a masters degree in women’s and gender studies from Rutgers University and has worked with both global and national women’s organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America. As a reproductive rights activist, Valenti works to promote safer sex practices, as well as a more empowered female sexuality than the restrictive one demanded by Janie Fredell.
In her book, Valenti also sufficiently describes how the old negative double standard affects the modern women. “If we don’t approve of the porn culture that tells us our only value is in our ability to be sexy, we’re prudes. If we accept it and embrace it, we’re sluts” (Valenti 43). However, Valenti fails to describe what a healthier middle ground would look like. Yet where she falters, journalist Ariel Levy steps in.
In her 2005 book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, Levy critiques “the new brand of ‘empowered woman’ who. . . embraces raunch culture wherever she finds it.” Simply put, today’s sexually ‘empowered women’ makes a sex object out herself and other women. This is what Janie Fredell and True Love Revolution describe as “hook-up culture.” Yet Levy manages to have an empowered sex life without abstaining:
If we are really going to be sexually liberated, we need to make room for a desire of options as wide as the variety of human desire. We need to allow ourselves the freedom to figure out what we internally want from sex instead of mimicking whatever popular culture holds up to us as sexy. . .
If we believed that we were sexy and funny and competent and smart, we would not need to be like strippers or like men or like anyone other than our own specific, individual selves. That won’t be easy, but ultimately it would be no more difficult than the kind of contortions FCPs are constantly performing. . . More importantly, the rewards would be the very things Female Chauvinist Pigs want so desperately, the things women deserve: freedom and power (Levy 200).
Levy argues that it is quite possible to have a healthy, empowered sex life without buying into popular culture’s message of what it means to be sexual. Women can “assert control over their own bodies” without giving up all forms of sexual pleasure. In doing so, we are tearing down the socially constructed norms that allow women to be routinely subordinated in relationships. Valenti asks “if we don't like that women ‘suffer’ from sexual double standards, how is not having sex fighting back?” and here Levy provides an eloquent answer.
So now we know how contemporary feminists respond to Fredell’s assertion that abstinence (and she does mean abstinence from all forms of sexual activity- when asked if she masturbated, Fredell replied “Oh, God, no!”) is the only path to sexual empowerment for women, I would like to scientifically address some of True Love Revolution’s beliefs. I simply do not believe that a majority of men see sexual activity as nothing more than “something to talk about in the locker room.” Similarly, I refuse to believe that a significant percentage of sexually active women engage in the behavior only because they feel pressured to maintain a relationship. In order to find data on how today’s young men and women feel about their sexuality, I turned to the book Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America (Strong, DeVault, Sayad, and Yarber, 2005). After doing some more research, I found that men and women are not as different in their sexual attitudes and behaviors as Fredell asserts.
According to Strong et. al., the moral standard of non-marital sexuality held by the majority of today’s students is known as “permissiveness with affection,” which “describes sex between [partners] who have a stable, loving relationship” (Strong 191). In other words, most college-age adults do not buy into the “hook-up” culture that Fredell believes is plaguing our campuses. They do have premarital sex, but tend to do so in the form of serial monogamy. According to research conducted by the authors, “Americans are largely exclusive.” The median number of sex partners for men and women since age eighteen is not very high, with six for men and two for women. Men do have a slightly larger lifetime median; perhaps this is simply because women still internalize the cultural message that it is not alright for women to assert their sexuality. Regardless of the reason, the difference itself is not very significant (Strong 191).
Strong et. al., also explore the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a survey of 13,601 high school students conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Pervention. The 2001 YRBS shed an interesting light on Fredell’s beliefs regarding the prevalence of hook-up culture. “Forty-six percent of students (forty-three percent of females and forty-nine percent of males) reported having had sexual intercourse during their lifetime,” yet only “fourteen percent of students (eleven percent of females and seventeen percent of males) report having had sexual intercourse with four or more partners during their lifetime” (Strong 57). While we do not know for sure how many of these teens were having sex within a relationship, we do know that most of them are being a little more discerning regarding partner selection. The statistical differences between male and female behaviors are not very high- never more than six percent, in the cases referenced.
The data gathered from Human Sexuality demonstrated that men and women may not be as different as Fredell suggested. Jessica Valenti and Ariel Levy argued that it is possible for women to find a healthy middle ground somewhere between the virgin-whore dichotomy. As a sexually active adult female, I believe that I myself fit this healthier middle ground. I share Fredell’s disgust over the hook-up culture that some of my peers perpetuate. However, I have still managed to have a healthy sex life. Since losing my virginity at age eighteen, I have had only a small number of partners (four). I’ve made informed choices about practicing safer sex, always using at least two forms of birth control and getting tested for infections regularly. I am also discerning about whom I sleep with; I have never randomly “hooked-up” or had a one night stand. I have only had sex within the confines of a stable, loving relationship (aka permissiveness with affection). I have never given into a partner’s sexual demands because I “felt pressured to save the relationship.” In fact, I have never felt pressured by a partner to have sex. Fredell’s assertion of the values driving men and women is grossly over simplified. It is quite possible for women- and men- to have a healthy, empowered sex life without giving up sexual activity altogether; I myself have been living proof for the last four years. I am not trying to say that my experiences are true for everyone. Rather, it would be impossible to find one prescription that fits for everybody. As Levy said, “we need to make room for a desire of options as wide as the variety of human desire. We need to allow ourselves the freedom to figure out what we internally want from sex.” We are not automatically whores if we choose not to stay virgins. Both men and women need room to explore in order to determine their own healthy, empowered sexuality.

Works Cited

Levy, Ariel. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Free Press. New York, NY 2005.

Patterson, Randall. “Students of Virginity” New York Times Sunday Magazine. 30 March, 2008.

Strong, Brian, Christine DeVault, Barbara W. Sayad, and William J. Yarber. Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America. McGraw-Hill. New York, Ny 2005.

Valenti, Jessica. Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters. Seal Press. California, 2007.

06 April 2008

Review: One Bright Shiny Moment

Today was unusual- it was an absolutely beautiful day in Bowling Green. In fact, it was so nice that I decided it would be a great idea to take my cat, Harry Potter, for a walk. The BF and I tried taking him to Video Spectrum, the neighborhood video store with a bigger, better selection of movies than I have ever seen in one place. While trying to handle Harry on a leash was a relative failure, the trip did yield one success: we left Video Spectrum with a wonderful documentary, One Bright Shiny Moment. It's all about George McGovern's 1972 presidential bid (he was the guy challenging Nixon, and boy, if only Americans had had the foresight to support him!). Fascinating! I enthusiastically recommend giving it a watch. Even though I've been fixated on 1960s and '70s politics since, oh, age twelve, I must admit that I did not know much about McGovern. Little did I know that he was the presidential candidate I have always dreamed of! With a pragmatic, populist message of peace, McGovern built a grassroots juggernaut that should have taken him to Washington. Unfortunately, he was a little before his time. Americans weren't ready for his promise of progressive change, and we wound up with a national embarrassment in the White House (story of American politics- always so close, yet so far away). Anyways, this film is a must-see for anyone interested in the inner-workings of American politics, or for anyone with leanings toward social justice. Plus, it featured interesting cameos by Warren Beatty, Howard Zinn, and Gloria Steinem (one of Toledo's favorite daughters) just to name a few. Skip this week's Gray's Anatomy re-run and give it a try!

Another Jackass Claiming to Promise Me "Straight Talk"?

I know- Ron Paul has his "Texas Straight Talk" column, and John McCain's got that creepy bus, the "Straight Talk" express (Remember kids: Never get into buses with strangers!) Both use the phrase as a kind of shallow promise, an absurd attempt at the validity of their sentiments. While Paul may actually believe what he says (which in itself isn't a very comforting thought), I think we can all agree that McCain is full of shit- and even more full of lies. But I am not here to bash McCain (well, at least that is not the only thing I'm here for).

I am an American citizen who is increasingly dissatisfied with the state of our so-called union. Although I consider my views to be moderate in nature, most would label me as a radical. I prefer to call myself a critical thinker, one who values logic and reason above all else. And it happens that thinking critically leads me to support progressive politics.

So here is my promise to you, dear reader: I won't try to persuade you to support all of my ideas. I am just an avid follower of American politics, and I call things as I see them. If you're interested in hering a new point of view, then read on. Welcome aboard!