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Friday, January 7, 2011

Soapbox's Feminist Winter Term

Today I was thrilled to do a workshop on body awareness at Amy Richards' and Jennifer Baumgardner's Feminist Winter Term.  This amazing program gives savvy, passionate students and professionals a platform to come together for a week of feminist powwow.  Yes!  It's these sort of groups and events that help negate cynicism and feelings of futility.

And you can jump in at their Feminist Summer Camp (or of course, next year's Winter Term).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Standing up for open internet = standing up for everything you care about!

Free Press writes: "After more than a year of waffling on Net Neutrality, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski just announced plans to issue weak regulations that give just about everything to giant phone and cable companies, and leave Internet users with almost nothing."

This rule goes to a vote on Dec. 21, so now's the time to sign the Free Press petition!  

I think this is *the* issue of the moment.  Here's my soapbox pitch on why true net neutrality is so important:

With a privatized internet, communities who work toward every other type of social and political change won't be able to connect and move as freely. People who can't afford to pay for 'privileged internet' will fall behind in education, job searching, cultural production, and more.  Companies who now champion free, open source internet tools will probably cave to deals with multi-national corporations...

Augh!  The same transition happened to TV back in the day -- don't let it happen to the internet!  We don't need one more venue where companies can push products and values on us.  We need a venue where people can speak freely, connect with each other, and make media that reflects the diverse face of our nation.

Sign, Tweet, post, stand on chairs and shout about it.  This is our last chance.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dear Victoria's Secret, get your paws off my feminism

Alright.  Victoria's Secret has really outdone itself this time. 

It's bad enough that this corporation promotes narrow ideals of beauty and sexiness that have horrible consequences on girls' and women's self-esteem, self-image, and co-ed relationship expectations.  But, in recent years, they've gotten hip to the fact that lots of us are sick of our bodies being chopped into scrutinizable bits by ads, and they've begun co-opting our media literacy efforts.  


First they featured the "Love Your Body" ad campaign, which twisted the Dove and other non-profit messaging intended to help women love their bodies and see themselves *apart* from commercial standards.  Now, they're touting the "Incredible" bra, which is advertised with a play on 70's bra-burning feminism: "Burn my old bra! This one's incredible!"  They may as well say, "Burn that old-fart, unappetizing sexism!  The coy, submissive woman is back!"

These 'clever' marketing techniques not only confuse public awareness while they poke fun and delegimitize the serious public health issues involved in low body image and sexism, but they go one step further in reaffirming and promoting the oppressive norms bra burning and self-acceptance initiatives try to combat.

I'm tired of living in a culture where women are taught to compare themselves to each other, to be jealous and competitive over men, and to never feel perfect or deserving enough to inhabit themselves fully.  I'm tired of living in a culture where women feel they must be like porn stars to make male partners happy, where the freedom to be sexually active has been usurped by the same old corporate interests, and male-pleasing, porn-performance promiscuity inserted where empowered fulfillment and true intimacy ought to be.  It's hard enough to get out a message celebrating uniqueness and real, personal beauty over the din of dollars and cents accumulating, without that same commercial monster using my cause...for their own profit, yet again.  Way to add insult to injury!

My panties certainly ARE in a wad.  Hm.  Maybe that'll be their next tagline.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

After all this time, is acting 'like a man' still the most powerful thing a woman can do?

Today I attended the stellar Women Who Tech TeleSummit.  (Thanks coordinators, speakers, and sponsors who helped make it cheap enough to go to!)

The panel that gave me the most food for thought was called "Self Promotion: Is This Really a Rant About Gender?"  The main question, riffing off of the debate stirred up by Clay Shirky's article, "A Rant About Women," was: "Is it necessary to be a self-aggrandizing jerk to get ahead?"

So yeah.  Some questions that were debated were:  What does it mean to get ahead?  What's the difference between aggression and assertiveness?  How do you handle the double standard wherein men can act 10 times as aggressive as women while women get called a "bitch" when they act confident and powerful?  How can we change the standards on both the supply and demand sides?

One conclusion of the panel I found particularly salient and helpful was that when people moan about sexism and double standards, the retort "stop blaming men" makes no sense.  Demanding diversity on panels, at schools, in work places (minorities as well) is not a way of blaming men, but a way to improve the quality of, well, everything, by widening the pool of excellent candidates.  It was also pointed out that creating systems that invite women and people of color does not "lower standards" (I can't even believe how prejudiced a comment that is, but it's a common repsonse!), but rather acknowledges and addresses the issue that there are a bajillion qualified people out there, yet usually the white, male, "jerks" (to use Clay Shirky's word) are the ones viewed as successful and enjoying that so-called success.

As a result of all of this, I revisited Deanna Zandt's post, "Shirky to women: ur doin it wrong."  Definitely worth checking out her articulate post, as well as the debate that went on in the comments.  The blogosphere firestorm stirred up by Shirky's article may have subsided, but these issues are far from solved, so this is all certainly worth a read, a think, a comment, a talk with a friend about over coffee.  Who knows, it might even inspire you to hire a different employee, stick up for someone in the classroom, or go after what you think you deserve.  (For the record, I *do* think you can do that without being a self-aggrandizing jerk, a quality of modern masculinity that I hope we can all grow out of someday.)