Recently in Feminism Category

Depicting the Goddess

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Check it out: I'm blogging again--not just twice in one month but twice in one week!

My long hiatus from blogging had many causes, including the fact that I was busy. In particular I was busy editing issue 166 of SUNSTONE magazine, aka "the motherhood issue." I am proud and happy to announce that it is SUNSTONE's most popular and best-selling issue. It has far outstripped all other issues in terms of people ordering individual copies, while other people (including my own father) who let their subscription lapse have renewed and asked that their resubscription start with issue 166.

I worked very hard on this project and am very proud of the contents, which include personal essays on topics like miscarriage and post-partum depression as well as scholarly articles on Mormon midrash and Mother in Heaven. A rather curmudgeonly SUNSTONE constituent commented to the office staff that "the essays in it were truly inspiring, instead of just whining as sometimes is the case at the symposia." And someone sent in an anonymous note on three-by-five cards saying, "Artist Galen [Dara], the cover front & back of the March 2012 edition (#166) of SUNSTONE is worth the price of a three-year subscription CONGRATULATIONS!"

I admit I am in love with the art, which I think is not just beautiful but important. Shortly after editor Stephen Carter asked me to do the issue, I started thinking about the cover. I could not execute it myself, but I knew what I wanted, and I knew who I wanted to do it. I have been a fan of Galen Dara's work since long before I learned that her mom was my mom's visiting teacher or that our grandparents were good friends in Tucson back in the day.

Anyway, I knew that I wanted a gender-bending version of Michelangelo's fresco on the Sistine Chapel depicting the creation of Adam. As I wrote in my introduction to the issue,

Mansplaining in Austen

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I was interested in this discussion of mansplaining on Exponent II. Of course there was a defender of patriarchy (what would patriarchy do without little ladies to stick up for it?) who said the term "mansplaining" was sexist and offensive. Kmillecam had a pretty great response to that:

I would argue that yes, mansplaining is a phenomenon that MEN do because of their privileged status. If a woman is condescending about an issue she is ignorant of, then it wouldn't be called mansplaining, it would be something else. Mansplaining describes when a privileged man feels entitled to tell women/feminists what to think about a feminist issue.

If it seems sexist and offensive, I would ask for you to get really clear about the definition first. And then explore WHY you find it offensive. Perhaps it is just a new idea that warrants contemplation.

Anyway, I read the discussion, including someone's suggestion that the term be replaced with the gender-neutral "jerksplaining," and then I washed dishes, and then I thought about how Jennifer Ehle, who played Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, and Colin Firth, who played Darcy, and David Bamber, who played Mr. Collins, were all in The King's Speech. And then I thought about how Mr. Collins was a total mansplaining jackass--that's part of why he's so horrible, the fact that he thinks he knows everything and Elizabeth knows nothing--and then I wrote a comment, which I liked well enough that I'm posting it here too, in a somewhat expanded form.


If you want a really clear sense of what mansplaining is and why it's called mansplaining and not jerksplaining, read or watch the scene in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. A man telling a woman she doesn't really know what she's talking about--even when what she's talking about are her own feelings--is mansplaining. And he feels every right to do it because by and large, society supports his position, not hers. Privilege and custom are on his side. Furthermore, by and large society forces her to submit to him, not just intellectually but sexually, if he wants it--regardless of whether she does. Fathers like Mr. Bennet who refused to marry their daughters to creeps with money were all too rare.

Consider also Elizabeth's response to Collins:

Telling a Lie Long Enough

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First, watch this trailer for Tabloid, one of the weirdest Mormon stories you'll EVER encounter:

Did you catch the bit about how a woman can't rape a man because "a guy either wants to has sex, or he doesn't," where Joyce laughingly dismisses the idea of a woman raping a man, saying it's "like putting a marshmallow in a parking meter"?

Then read this bit about Ms. Joyce McKinney showing up at a screening of the film in SLC.

I wasn't there, but I wish I had been. When Joyce asked

"How many people in here think Joyce McKinney kidnapped and raped the 300-pound, 6-foot-5-inch Mormon missionary?" She counted five people who raised their hands, and then quipped, "You're Mormons, huh?"

I would have said, "I can't say for sure that you raped the guy, but I most definitely believe it's possible for a woman to rape a man. You're making a facile and inaccurate conflation of arousal with consent. One does not automatically signal the other. As all those ads for Viagra and Cialis help to demonstrate, impotence doesn't mean a man has no interest in sex. In the same way, the fact that a guy has an erection doesn't mean he wants to do anything with it."

Which is basically what I did say in my review of the film.

And I must also add that it's feminism that helped me be able to see and articulate the fact that "arousal does not equal consent"--for both men and women. One more way feminism helps to dispel darkness and provide real equality.

Feminism and Food


Remember last time when I raved about Supersizers Go Regency, an episode of a British TV reality show in which a restaurant critic and a writer/comedian/performer try to recreate the gastronomic experiences of the past? Turns out there are 13 episodes on periods ranging from the heyday of ancient Rome to the 1980s. I find them utterly compelling and vastly entertaining. My favorite episodes so far have been the ones on the Regency, World War II, the 1920s, and the 1980s. I have two or three episodes yet to see.

I've learned things from each episode, and one thing I've learned from most is how meaty and boozy most diets of the past were. Bread, meat and booze constituted most diets. If you were rich, you ate mostly meat and drank strong booze--lots of it. If you were poor, you ate lots of bread (generally stale) and drank weak or "small" beer, because water wasn't safe--at least, not until the arrival of tea and coffee in England, which required the boiling of water. (Take that, people who say that drinking alcohol, coffee and tea are inherently immoral.) You ate fruit when you could get it, but vegetables were considered either sources of disease (the plague was blamed on vegetables) or just plain indigestible. Of course vegetables are somewhat indigestible--that's part of their virtue: the cellulose in them goes through you and helps keep your bowels regular and clean.

Meat and alcohol require lots of time--both to prepare and to digest. In excess, they also damage your health. People ate so much meat in the past that it killed them--drove them right into early graves, from heart disease or liver failure or whatever. Only a hundred years ago, the life expectancy for a well-to-do man was the mid 40s. That's pretty sad.

A vegetarian society was formed in England in 1847, but the diet took a while to catch on. As it did, it not only helped people avoid some of the health threats posed by a diet composed mostly of animal products, it also supported the women's suffrage movement.

Middle- and upper-class men often ate at clubs that excluded women and served (as you'd expect) lots of booze and meat. However, women who wanted to eat away from home occasionally ended up at vegetarian restaurants, which served neither meat nor booze. The diet appealed to women partly because vegetables take less time and work to prepare than meat, and this gave them a little more freedom from one of their primary shackles: the oven. In the more salubrious settings of vegetarian restaurants, and increasingly aware that their lives didn't have to be devoted entirely to cooking for someone else, they began to discuss ideas, like the idea that they might deserve the right to vote. Indeed, as the segment below notes, one prominent suffragist, Maude someone (couldn't catch the last name) commented with wonder that "the ranks of the militant suffragettes are mostly recruited from the mild vegetarians."

Check it out.

I hope to find a more detailed discussion of the relationship between vegetarianism and feminism, and if I do, I'll tell you about it.

go read this

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Yeah, I haven't posted in forever. I have some really good excuses, though, which I'll get around to explaining eventually. In the meantime, read this post on Career Women vs. SAHMs: Cage Match Round I from Letters from a Broad.

All I Do Lately

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Yeah, I know: all I do lately is post links and videos.

Hey. I'm busy.

And at least they're good links and videos.

buying sex entitles them to do anything they want

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Here's are two jolly little reads I came across this morning: a newspaper article and a scholarly study of why men use prostitutes. "Use," I think, is the operative word: many of the men interviewed for the study felt that prostitutes had few or no rights in the transaction, besides getting paid... And this even though most of the men are also aware of the violence, both physical and mental, used to coerce women into prostitution: "Of the men interviewed, 55% believed that a majority of women in prostitution were lured, tricked or trafficked."

Here's a paragraph in the study that really stood out for me:

Possibly to counter these feelings, men who buy sex are often committed to the idea that prostitution is an equal exchange of sex for money or goods. If, as many prostituted women have reported, prostitution is paid rape (Farley, Lynne and Cotton, 2005) then the payment itself (whether cash, food, housing, drugs) functions as the means of coercion to the sex in prostitution (MacKinnon, 2001, 2009). Against much empirical evidence a number of buyers insist that prostitutes truly enjoy the sex of prostitution. This highlights a major contradiction. While the buyer is often aware that it is his money and his purchase of her for sex that gives him the control while removing her autonomy and her dignity, he still seeks to convince himself that she both likes him and is sexually aroused by him. Perhaps this conviction is an attempt to reduce the cognitive dissonance of his sexual use of her under conditions he accurately perceives are not free or equal. Plumridge and colleagues (1997) pointed out buyers' firmly held but contradictory beliefs that on the one hand commercial sex is a mutually pleasurable exchange, and on the other hand that payment of money serves to remove his social and ethical obligations. Most interviewees said they assumed that to a greater or lesser extent, women in prostitution are sexually satisfied by the sex acts purchased by buyers. The interviewees believed that women in prostitution were satisfied by the sex of prostitution 46% of the time. One man argued that women who were "professional prostitutes" all like sex. Another said, "A normal woman is never as highly sexed as a prostitute. It would be wrong." Generally, the literature indicates that women are not sexually aroused by prostitution, and that after extended periods of time servicing hundreds of men, prostitution damages or destroys much of their own sexuality (Barry, 1995; Funari, 1997; Giobbe, 1991; Hoigard and Finstad, 1986; Raymond et al., 2002).

Something to Be Drilled or Hammered


Check out this article from the Guardian, which reports that "Researchers used brain scans to show that when straight men looked at pictures of women in bikinis, areas of the brain that normally light up in anticipation of using tools, like spanners and screwdrivers, were activated," while "Scans of some of the men found that a part of the brain associated with empathy for other people's emotions and wishes shut down after looking at the pictures."

Just to make it clear: the photos in question weren't merely photographs of beautiful women, or even scantily clad beautiful women; they were pictures of scantily clad women with no heads. The lack of anything that would indicate real female personhood is the most significant feature of this image, for instance, not the fact that it was painted by a "master" and is owned by the Louvre.

Also, the study points out that not all of the men "had very little activity in the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions that are involved with understanding another person's feelings and intentions" after seeing the images. The article doesn't elaborate as to why this was, but I'm guessing that explicit education on the fact that women are actually people, can achieve a lot in helping men to retain their empathy when it comes to women.

Divine, Transhuman Models

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I recently read a book I should have read ages ago, The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade. I've read so many works that reference TS&TP that at moments I thought I'd read it already-but I hadn't. I'm glad I've read it now, even though I found it fairly tedious. It's a general overview of the difference between homo religiosus and "non-religious man," first of all, not a detailed history of anything, so it lacks captivating details. More importantly, I personally find the general project somewhat spurious, this business of drawing a distinction between the religious and the non-religious human, as if a thirst for the transcendent is not something essential to human nature, but is instead something tacked on to us at previous points in history, and so can be collectively shed. OK, not every individual cares about transcendence, but as a species, I think we hunger and thirst for it, though we find it in different things: art, or science, or literature, or nature, and so on.

The book also assumes a homogeneity (rather than a variety) of religious experience, asserting that certain uniform and fairly rudimentary attributes are what makes one alive to the sacred, and that absence of these attributes makes one, by necessity, profane. For instance, Eliade seems to believe that one cannot be truly invested and alive to the sacred without a belief in a fairly anthropomorphic god. He asserts that homo religiosus

The Most Important Modern Convenience


This is an amazing story highlighting the role of women in a particular society, their commitment to efforts that improves communal life, and the many benefits that derive from that most basic of modern conveniences: safe drinking water delivered by pump and generator to people's homes.


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