Archive for September, 2010

More Jadelle furore

Posted in Jadelle Implant, New Zealand, Pro-choice on September 27th, 2010 by steph – 20 Comments

So, on Stuff.co.nz this morning there was an article titled ‘Implant to protect against teen pregnancies’, about the Jadelle implant (which I have written about previously). I understand that Family Planning hopes it will tackle teen pregancy rates, and I agree that this is one of the benefits of it. But it is also important for us to remember that this implant, which lasts for 5 years, is also a nice option to have available for women in long-term relationships; and one such woman is quoted in the article, saying that being someone in a long-term relationship who doesn’t want kids makes it a good choice for her. I suppose maybe I am just being pedantic about the article’s title, which to me somehow seems like it’s a bit close to “teen pregnancy epidemic!11!” territory.

Tha article also has some opinions from people opposed to the implants (for teenagers, specifically)

But there are growing concerns the implant will lull teenagers into a false sense of security, leading to further increases in STIs, particularly chlamydia.

STIs have already reached epidemic proportions, said Andrea Hunt, the area manager for Yrchoice, a life skills programme which targets year nine and ten students from Taranaki schools and encourages them to make healthy sexual choices.

“Like similar methods of contraception, it may prevent pregnancy – but it won’t prevent STIs,” she warned.

“There is a possibility that young people may think pregnancy is the worse thing that can happen to them, and not be aware of other dangers.”

To be honest, I don’t really think this is a good argument, because exactly the same thing is said about the pill all the time by people who are anti-contraceptive pill, and if you took away all contraception that didn’t protect against STI’s then you are essentially robbing women of their choice. I do think that adding another alternative is a good thing, because this may be the perfecct option for someone out there, and women having reproductive freedom makes me happy. And yes, I do acknowledge that Jadelle (obviously) wont protect against STI’s,  but I also think it seems unlikely that it will make a lot of teen girls go out and have unprotected (against STI’s) sex who wouldn’t have already done so. Yes, some people do think pregnancy is the worst thing that can come from having sex, but it seems unlikely that Jadelle will add to this. Women who ignore STI risks like that can do so while on the pill, or any number of other contraceptive methods too, and from there is becomes a slippery slope towards saying only condoms are ok for contraception. (Note: obviously, I am an advocate for condoms, and testing, and taking care of your reproductive health, and disclosure, and communication with partners. But I am also an advocate for choice, and trusting women).

This, I feel, sums up my attitude towards the situation:

But nurse practitioner Lou Roebuck, of youth health clinic Waves, said the risk of getting STIs while using the implant was no different from that of IUDs or injections. Waves provides sexual health services for people as young as 10.

“We see most young people being responsible about their sexual health these days.This is a really good, low cost option which is perfect for young people or people who have finished having their family.”

Woo hoo, options!

Anyway, what I really wanted to mention was this quote near the end of the article:

Student Alice Turnbull, 20, said she would be horrified if she fell pregnant but doesn’t want anything inserted under her skin.”I don’t want to be crazy and get into conspiracy theories. But this could be one way of starting to track people. You’re just trusting the people who administer it.”

I’m with her on the not wanting something inserted under my skin part, but then she lost me a little bit…I don’t know if Jadelle implants have GPS devices in them, or if people would be able to run a barcode scanner over you and know your information. It’s only 2010 after all; not quite at the hovercraft transportation dystopian future yet. (Although, speaking of contraceptive implants/tracking, you should totally check out The Carhullan Army).

Consent

Posted in consent, sex on September 15th, 2010 by steph – Comments Off on Consent

I’m pretty much in love with this post over at Blue Milk disputing the idea that asking for consent is a total mood-killer. What resonated for me was this part here

I don’t know why the idea has persisted that asking for consent is necessarily a clinical business – what is stilted about – more? do you want to? do you like? Because “mood-killer”? Are you kidding me? That moment when they close the space between you both and ask you to put your cards on the table – is this on or not, can I do this with you – is one of the most heart-flippingly exciting moments in all of existence. Eat those moments up because they are the episodes of your life that you will daydream about when you’re ninety years old. That anticipation – that moment when your asking is simultaneously both aggressive and submissive – it is what fuels a billion films and books.

All I can say to that is hells yeah. Consent, and asking; these things are fucking sexy. Anyone who busts out the consent form point of argument could do with reading this post, and thinking about the heart-pounding excitement and anticipation of asking if something is ok, or asking if something feels good, or asking if a certain thing is ok. Putting yourself out there is part of the experience. And even though getting turned down, or maybe having things go differently to what you had imagined might not be the most fun thing ever, Blue Milk once again has said it best:

Granted it is not pleasant when you’re turned down, and for the record, it isn’t easy turning someone down, either. Something is usually lost; the end of a good conversation at the very least, and sometimes even a friendship. But it is a gamble you take because you can’t bear another moment of not knowing; it is the gamble you take because when someone says ‘yes’ to you it is about the hottest feeling you’ll ever know.

Christina Hendricks and aspirational bodies

Posted in bodies on September 15th, 2010 by steph – 3 Comments

I’ve got to admit, I’m a fan of Christina Hendricks. Mostly because Mad Men is fab, and Joan is the shiz. Sadly, it seems that her beauty and her body seems to be a big focus of much of the attention she receives. I admit, I am pleased that a body type that isn’t often typically represented is being promoted: by this, I mean thinness is praised a lot, and she does not fit with the typical ideal. On the other side of this coin is that even though she isn’t very thin, her body is still within the limits of ‘safe’ pleasing aesthetic: large breasts and hips, narrow waist, classic hourglass. However, my point isn’t to discuss these two perspectives, but to go back to the idea of representation that I mentioned earlier.

This article I read recently talked about how much praise she has received of late, then mentioned that

She was even named by the British government as having the ideal body shape to which women should aspire.

This is where I have a problem. As I said above, I am happy about representation of more (more being a very relative term here…) diversity in body types in the public arena, but there is a real problem with these body types being held up as aspirational. What is generally held up in the media as an ideal body type is completely unachievable for me, full stop. I will never be a thin woman like the women that are considered TV-thin, or movie-thin, or jeans ad-thin. So holding this body type up as aspirational is, in my view, not a good thing. But I will never look like Christina Hendricks either. My body might be closer to hers than it is to Kate Moss’s body, but it is still an unattainable goal. So, because of this, I’m wary that representation of a different body type is now straying into aspiration territory – and in fact the word aspire is actually used in the linked article – which is problematic. I want to see diversity of body types represented in the media, but I don’t want any to be held up as what I, or any other woman, should aspire to look like. These aspiration figures will always be unrealistic goals, and the problem is how to promote greater representation of diversity while also emphasizing the message that the best way to look is the way that you already do, and that the bodies seen in ads or in movies are not the best, or better than the one that you have.

Sophie Elliot foundation

Posted in education, sophie elliot on September 15th, 2010 by steph – 4 Comments

One of the events on here for OUSA’s Women’s Week was an evening of talks about Safe and Unsafe relationships, including speakers from Women’s Refuge and Rape Crisis, as well as women who work in domestic interventions, and Lesley Elliot, mother of Sophie Elliot. Recently Lesley announced the formation of a foundation in Sophie’s name to educate high school girls about abusive relationships.

“We want to be the fence at the top of the cliff rather than the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff,” she told the Otago Daily Times.

Mrs Elliott will be joined as a trustee by three Dunedin-based people and Kristin Dunne-Powell, the former partner of television presenter Tony Veitch, who pleaded guilty to injuring her with reckless disregard for her safety.

I think this is great news; it’s been a while since I was in high school, but I don’t remember being taught much about the relationship side of relationships (as opposed to the sex side of them), and I think it is very important to discuss the variety of ways in which a relationship can be unhealthy, because people often imagine an unsafe relationship as being the stereotypical man-hits-woman type, when really it can be very complex and there are many types of abuse: physical, emotional, sexual, financial.

My only comment would be that I hope something like this exists for high school boys in some form or another, or that there are plans (by someone) to create it. Because of the stereotype of an abusive relationship, there are many things a man can do in a relationship that he may not conceptualize as abuse (such as restricting his partner’s time with her friends, or not letting her be in control of her own money) that may not be healthy, and I think high school boys could benefit from discussion about what is ok and not ok in a relationship, and the many forms abuse can take. Also, educating young men may help them to spot signs of unhealthy relationships amongst friends and talk to them about it (shades of the latest “It’s Still Not Ok” campaign ad where a work colleague/friend confronts the male protagonist about his behaviour towards his son).

OUSA Women’s Week

Posted in womne's week on September 12th, 2010 by steph – Comments Off on OUSA Women’s Week

Hey, you! Are you in Dunedin? Because this week on campus it’s Women’s Week. So think about heading on over if something on the program takes your fancy. It seems like a sparser program than other years, but I’m totes going to head along and eat a really phallic sausage and listen to the debate about feminists for the 21st century. Also, the evening talks about safe and unsafe relationships (including speakers from Rape Crisis and Women’s Refuge) look good too, but alas I am teaching and wont be able to go along.

Doing it wrong

Posted in advice on September 12th, 2010 by steph – 4 Comments

Via Jezebel, this list of “tips” for female employees was reportedly distributed to the entire HR department at Citibank.

I honestly expected the comments on the Jezebel post to be full of fury over this, but as well as he anger there were many were defending it, saying things like

Seriously Jezebel, don’t knock good advice. Equality is not about bitching about inequality, its about acting equal and in return being treated equally.

I won’t comment on the behavioral criticisms in this list, as I am not an expert. But I would agree that even I, a woman, would not take a woman who spoke softly while petting her hair, clamming up, simpering or giggling and gave weak ass handshakes seriously either

and

Let me see if I’ve got this straight . . .

This list gives genuinely helpful advice on avoiding certain workplace behaviors that are perceived as undesirable in the current, male-dominated corporate climate. Nowhere on the list does it say “all women do X” or “male-associated behaviors are clearly better than these others because of their inherent moral or intellectual superiority.” The list was written by a woman who has a Ph.D. in psychology and a decades-long career in employment counseling.

And yet simply because it makes some generalizing statements about *some* women, this list clearly must be a sexist atrocity worthy of our scorn and condemnation. This site falls into undergraduate-level gender studies analysis mode WAY too frequently lately, if you ask me .

There were comments such as this, saying that this list is helpful, and that hey, they don’t take women who do those things seriously either, so the tips are on point. But luckily the voice of sanity was also present, pointing out the fact that these “feminine” behaviours are learned behaviours, and that if these behaviours aren’t deemed acceptable, or are seen as a hindrance to getting ahead in the workplace, then it’s because society views “feminine” things as less desirable and acceptable. So the whole reason that the behaviours in the list are considered bad is because the same people who give advice like this list have decided that it isn’t conducive to success in business.

One of the commenters pointed out that there isn’t necessarily anything inherently wrong with behaviour such as “playing fair” or “sitting demurely”, but because these things are associated with femininity, and business is so often seen as a man’s world, then these things are seen in a negative light. Of course, this generalizes to the wider world as well: behaviour associated with being feminine is seen as less acceptable/desirable in general.

One of the very good points brought up in response to people saying ‘hey, listen to the list’ was that women here are being castigated for being “feminine”, but in reality they are not only recriminated for being too feminine, but also if they try to avoid these “feminine” behaviours and end up being too masculine. You know, the ball-busting, hard-ass, butch, tough, manly female coworker or boss. Women can’t win either way; the behaviour in the list is too womanly, but go too far in the other direction and that would be too manly, too unladylike. And not even too far in the other direction, because “too far” is an arbitrary amount determined only by whether a man is threatened by or dislikes her. Too far could mean barely any difference in behaviour, or quite a lot, or none at all. It’s not relevant, just like when a man calls a woman a slut it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how many men she has slept with.

So basically women are walking the finest of tightropes, and in all probability the ‘right’ balance of masculinity and femininity – or, as is presented in this list, assertiveness vs. femininity – does’t exist. The line is arbitrary, and the goalposts movable. So that’s why I think this list is terrible: because it implies that by following these rules, women can ‘pass’, and fit into a workplace environment, when .

Future events

Posted in events, patriarchy-free zone, we are optimistic on September 10th, 2010 by steph – Comments Off on Future events

I got an email today from Kate of We Are Optimistic, who put together the Patriarchy-Free Zone installation I mentioned a while back. Kate and Clare are organising an exhibition and symposium here in lovely Dunedin for October this year, and Kate provided me with the link to the site for it, which you can find here. I, for one, am very excited!

Lets Roar Loudly! A weekend of presentations and conversations for artists, musicians, writers, performers, academics and activists who are thinking about or using various disciplines to examine feminism and the everyday……………..

October 23rd and 24th 2010 in Dunedin.

We would love to hear from you if you have work you would like to present in this forum. Works presented might be finished work, works in progress, excerpts or simply starting points.

The weekend is open to anyone for whom these conversations are useful.

So any Dunedinites that might be reading this… start getting excited too! And you can find contacts for the collective on the blog site, so if you are interested in getting involved or participating you can get in touch. And if you aren’t thinking about presenting/exhibiting, then pass it on to anyone you think might be interested. I want to see a great turnout!

Anti-choice billboard win

Posted in Abortion, win on September 9th, 2010 by steph – 8 Comments

Best. Anti-choice. Ad. EVAH.

(Billboard in Toronto, via This is Hysteria).

Think of all those teddy bears that will never be hugged!!11!!1!!

Hey beautiful

Posted in catcalling, power balance, woman's place on September 9th, 2010 by steph – 13 Comments

Why are catcalls so upsetting? Why indeed, The Gloss.

This morning, some man on the street turned to me and yelled “damn girl, you looking fine!” And I responded pretty much the same way I always respond. I said “thank you!” And then the guy gave me a thumbs up, and I walked on, glad that soup-stained cat-ladies like us still do it for someone, thinking to myself “I am still hot to strangers and I haven’t even brushed my hair. I can eliminate 2 to 3 minutes from my morning routine. Score!

Now, look, I completely understand why people are offended by strangers telling them that they should perform sexual acts. That’s creepy and gross. This would be a different story if the stranger had said “girl, you should suck my dick.” But the generic “you looking, fine, girl?” cat calls? They’ve never really bothered me. And honestly, I’ve never really understood why so many women are offended by people telling them they look pretty on the street.

It isn’t really a good start when the “it never bothered me, so I can’t understand why it bothers other people” point is made. But, I’ve never been discriminated against/been slut-shamed/been expected to look a certain way, so I don’t get it. I appreciate that this post on The Gloss is apparently a genuine question about why women find it upsetting, not a denial, but the possible reasons brought up by the author are so quickly dismissed, when really they are pretty legit points.

Is it because it seems offensive that people want to pass judgement on your appearance without your consent? Eh, they’re allowed to have an opinion. You are too. Want to hang out on a street corner with me yelling at men about their bad haircuts and poor facial hair choices? We’re allowed to do that. It would be weird, but we could. I can bring vodka. It will be a party. An open-air judgement party.

Yes, people are allowed to have an opinion. But part of the rules of social conduct isn’t that you get to shout it to a stranger on the street. Want to think that chick is hot/ugly/wearing a dumb outfit/would be a great fuck? I can’t actually stop that. But it is offensive that people think they can comment on you/your appearance without your consent. Would you yell at someone on the street and ask “hey, what are your views on the 90 day trial period?”, or shout “are you going to U2?”. Social convention dictates that you don’t actually call out to strangers on the street and ask questions/comment/state an opinion. I know a lot of people will go on about how people are so isolated from each other, and we should just be like one big community, but honestly I have no problem with convention as it stands. I have no need to comment on people on the street, positively or negatively, because I don’t know them and they aren’t any of my business. The solution isn’t to get a bunch of women together to comment on the facial hair of men on the street, it’s to stop assuming we have the right to make a comment in the first place. Why do we feel so privileged, so entitled to the right to comment on other people that we don’t even know? I do not believe that we are entitled to that.

Is it because they’re treating you like a piece of meat and only remarking on your physical appearance? Dude, we’re all made of meat. Would it be better if they shouted “you look like someone who reads a lot of Chaucer, which is to say, my kind of woman!”? Well, maybe, but only insofar as it would be more creative. I think most guys who feel that way aren’t the guys who cat-call women.

My above comment stands: no need to comment on anyone, appearance or otherwise, so move along. So it isn’t really because it’s like being treated like meat, although that is a pretty sucktastic part of it. Who wants to feel like they’re up for scrutiny just walking down the street minding their business? But that’s the thing: being catcalled, or commented on, means that people think that you are fair game, that you are public property and their business. So even if it isn’t an objectifying “I’d fuck that” comment, you are still being treated like a piece of public meat, because “you look beautiful” puts you in a place where you are available to be critiqued, commented on, approved of, and your wishes aren’t relevant. So, a piece of meat for other people’s consumption.

Is it because there’s always a sexual implication, and this man would probably like to have sex with you if given the opportunity? Please. If you’re not… actually, just period, most men would probably like to have sex with you if given the opportunity. I’m not trying to demean men here, but yeah, the possibility of having sex with you has probably at least crossed the mind of most single men you interact with. Cat-calling actually seems sort of sad, because the minute men do that, they must know that there’s no chance whatsoever of actually having sex with you. I mean, hey, maybe if you’d been standing next to them waiting for the train and they’d struck up some sort of meaningful conversation about bands you both liked or something maybe it could lead to something. It will never, ever lead to anything with the guy who yells “you’re looking pretty, today!” at you from across the street. It doesn’t work. And men must know it doesn’t work.

The thing about this is that yeah, there is often is a sexual implication. But more importantly, is is about power. Just like rape is about power, splattering your opinion all over a strange woman on the street is about power too. Because it is an acceptable thing to do, shout at a woman on the street. This idea is embedded in our rape culture, and a man being able to say what he likes to a woman on the street (sexual or ‘harmless’) is indicative of the balance of power that exists, and puts women in their place, which is to be silent, receptive, looked at and talked about. Catcalling a woman isn’t about telling her you want to fuck her, because as the author states above, men probably know that catcalling wont get them anywhere. Men catcall because they can; they do it because it’s acceptable to talk about a woman you don’t know, to judge her and say whatever you want because you can. Catcalling is about power and dominance, and showing someone who’s boss. Catcalling is about making someone feel uneasy and uncomfortable and unsettled.

The post ends by discussing that maybe the problem with it isn’t the people on the street harassing you, but the societal attitudes that women should like it. I think that is the word harassment is used when describing the behaviour, then there is definitely a big problem with the behaviour and not just that idea we should like it. Harassment=bad, ok? Yes, of course the idea that we should be flattered is bad, because nobody should be flattered by catcalling (and most women probably aren’t), but the actual catcalling is terrible too. Both things – the behaviour and how we are expected to receive it- are terrible, and are indicative of attitudes towards women that reinforce the major power balance, and encourage the idea the women have their place, and it’s ok to put them in it.

Conditioning

Posted in Feminism on September 9th, 2010 by steph – 2 Comments

Now that LadyNews has finally caught up with the real world, and joined Twitter, I get the benefit of the super-awesome wisdom of some rockin’ feminists. This tweet from Natalie summed up something I have been thinking about a lot lately

Just because I identify as feminist, it doesn’t mean I have successfully shed all the conditioning I’ve been subjected to.

Lately I have been berating myself a lot for being a ‘bad feminist’, because I have noticed a lot of things I do and patterns of thought that I have, and they’re things I don’t like and don’t feel are representative of where I’m at with my feminism. But this tweet reminded me that some things, especially ones that take years to build up, aren’t broken down as easily as we would like. Years and years of endless conditioning isn’t something that disappears overnight, and I feel that for me it might take as long to shed as it did to become entrenched in the first place. So, shedding of my conditioned thoughts and behaviours and responses is still a work in progress. But I think awareness of this is the key, really.

Also, when I think ‘I am a bad feminist’ thoughts, I remind myself that ‘bad feminist’ is just part of my conditioning to think that I have to be perfect, and that small flaws are major, and that I won’t ever be good enough. And that’s something that is a huge part of what girls and women are being taught to feel.  So, I’m happy to give myself a mental slap on the wrist whenever I call myself a bad feminist.