Friday, October 29, 2010

The Glee Photoshoot

I've got to say, I'm not really a fan of it.  Like most of that photographer's work, it looks pretty tacky to me. I'm not terribly offended by it, though.  I get why it's problematic, I get why it does offend some people, but...  the only thing about it that really bothers me is that it looks cheap and trashy.

I do think that it was a bad decision to dress the women--and at 24, they are women, not girls-- in school girl outfits.  They obviously don't look like they're still highschool aged, but there is the problem of sexualizing youth, and putting the image of schools as sexy out there.  Yes, teens are often sexual, and the women do play sexual teens on Glee (hell, Quinn gave BIRTH.  That's about as sexual as it gets!), but they are not actually their characters.  The photoshoot isn't a couple of schoolgirls posing in lingerie-- it's a couple of adults posing in lingerie that is vaguely reminiscent of schoolgirl stereotypes, posed in a school setting.

Ok, so it is a little creepy.  But it isn't creepy because of Dianna Agron and Lea Michele.  24 year old women posing sexually for money isn't creepy-- and it wouldn't be creepy if they were stripping or having sex for money either, although it would be a questionable career move-- but dressing adults up as kids so that you can get a sexy teen photoshoot?  Well, that is creepy.  But... I don't really think anyone is supposed to be fooled into thinking they are teens-- the school theme is just because of the characters they play.  Still, it wouldn't have been hard-- and would have been much more interesting-- to do a photoshoot that wasn't a direct reference to the show and their characters, or that allowed them to be sexual in classier way.  Afterall, the shoot was for GQ, not Maxim.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The irrelevance of Gawker's attempt to shame Christine O'Donnell

I get that hypocrisy in our elected officials is an important thing to take note of, and I'm all for calling people out on it, but... Gawker's little "expose" on Christine O'Donnell did not do that.  True, she's totally a joke of a politician, and we know that she had sex back in college, so her current anti-pre-marital sex attitude seems a little do as a say not as I did-- the exact kind of attitude that gets parents to lose their children's respect-- but Gawker's piece is just-- not serving any real and legitimate purpose.

The piece says its about a one-night-stand, but all the details it actually gives are that he managed to get her clothing off, they didn't have sex, and she was aggressive about pursuing some kisses earlier in the evening.  Oh, and that she was utterly WASTED.  She made it clear she wasn't going to have sex.  That checks with her political positions, so that doesn't fall into the realm of important hypocrisy.  She wanted to do some making our and kissing.  Ok, but has she said that kissing isn't ok?  If she has-- which, ok, wouldn't shock me-- it isn't something I've heard about.  So again, not seeing hypocrisy.  Her clothes came off-- ok, I can see why that's problematic with the family values set-- but there is absolutely no reason to detail the state of her pubic hair.  That's utterly irrelevant, and exists only as a salacious detail-- plus, who really cares what her pubic hair is like?  Are they really trying to shame someone for not waxing?  I've been in women's locker rooms, and I can tell you that, while widespread, being hairless isn't as universal as some people make it out to be.  Also, theres' a curious lack of detail regarding how the underwear got off of the utterly wasted woman-- did she take it off?  Did he?   I'd honestly be curious to see what her recollection of the night was, especially since the anonymous author does represent her as being drunker than he, and since once they were in bed, his early and repeated descriptions of her as aggressive ended.

So, what's the take away?  She was aggressive about making out, but adamant about not having sex and seemed sexually inexperienced.  I don't see how this is an important expose on hypocrisy.  All I see is an attempt to embarrass her.  Quite frankly, her politics do a good enough job of that on their own-- and this just makes me think poorly of Gawker, for trying to use previous legal drunken sexual actions to shame her.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


In most conversation I have with people regarding sexuality and orientation, it usually seems that we talk about people who are straight or gay, rather than bi or the even broader label of queer-- and in my personal life, I know far, far, far more straight or gay people than I do bi people.  I can think of... three bi women that I know in real life, and only one of them is out as bi-- and she's poly and in an open relationship.  So it's sort  f surprising to me-- and awesome-- that there's been some bi visibility on tv lately!  I don't watch a lot of tv, it's true, but in two of the... three, if you count Jeopardy... shows I regularly watch, there have recently been bi characters.

How I Met Your Mother is definitely one of my favorite shows.  The characters aren't perfect, but they're so fun-- and Barney, the consummate playboy, reminds me a lot of one of my real life friends.  But even though all the main characters exclusively date people of the opposite sex, one of Ted's exes was recently shown getting married to a woman!  Without discounting her previous interest in Ted!  Meaning, she's bi!  And it's treated as no big deal among the rest of the characters!  To me, this is awesome-- but then, Lily occasionally alludes to sexual fantasies involving Robin, Robin briefly had a sexual fantasy involving... herself, and Barney and Marshall briefly fought over which of them Ted would be most likely to have a crush on when they thought Ted was interested in men.  So, there has been some nonchalance about sexuality in past episodes, but Rachel Bilson's character is the first to actually get involved with both men and women!  Go HIMYM!

Also doing good things in bi-visibility is Glee, with the darling Brittany and less darling Santana.  Both date boys, and yet also make out with each other and even SCISSOR!  Brittany loves Santana, but Santana just likes sex with anything or anyone hot!  And they're main characters!  And the rest of the main cast doesn't care!  Sure, their sexuality had been alluded to in the past, and they've used the idea of girl on girl action in seducing guys before, but of the the recent episodes showed them in bed together, making out for their own pleasure, no guys involved.  And acted like it was normal!  And they get to be real characters with both good points and bad-- well, they're still caricatures, as are all the cast members of Glee, but they're just as real and developed as the other kids are!

So, I've got to say, I'm pretty pleased with that, because I feel like anything outside of pure straightness gets ignored by a lot of society, and anything outside of pure straight or pure gayness gets ignored even more.  So yay for Glee and How I Met Your Mother.  Yay for treating bi people as completely normal.  And keep it up-- we need more of this in the world, because no matter what people are into, as long as it doesn't harm others, it's ok.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Planned Parenthood has a petition out right now to encourage congress to add free birth control to the new healthcare reform.  The text of the position is simply

"I support making prescription birth control available at no cost. The new health care reform law should make prescription birth control available to every woman without co-pays or other out-of-pocket costs to ensure that every woman has access to the birth control that works best for her. This will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and help keep women and children healthy."

Let's be honest, here.  No matter how many signatures this petition gets, I highly doubt that it will succeed.  So why do I think it matters, and why do I think it's important to sign it?  Because even if it does not pass-- the fact that individuals put down their addresses means their representatives will see that people do care about birth control.  And birth control is important.  It keeps women from getting pregnant, it regulates periods, and helps treat serious illnesses like endometriosis.  Even when women can't control their sex lives, if they could afford birth control, they can have a say in controlling their reproduction-- condoms take the cooperation of both partners, but a woman who can obtain birth control can take it without telling her partner.  This can be especially important for young women who still live with their parents, women who have abusive partners, or women who simply do not trust condoms.

As someone who is currently unemployed and who uses birth control, I've got to say I am a big fan of it being affordable.  I've been on it since I was 18, well before I ever had sex, and it does amazing things for my productivity during the week before my period.  I always took it for granted, because when I was in school, the copay was amazingly low-- and now it's gone higher, but it's still something I'm not willing to live without.  It-- and healthcare in general-- are free in many other countries of similar status to the US.  Having free birthcontrol won't turn us into a nation of Godless heathens who sleep with everything in site, but it will reduce the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies.  And I think most people can agree that those are good things-- both for the women and for society at large.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Full Frontal Feminism

I'm currently wondering what the ideal way to introduce a young woman to feminism is.

The first book of my quest to read a bunch of feminist texts was Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism.  Ostensibly, it's an intro guide to a feminism for young women-- highschool aged is my guess.  I wouldn't give it to a girl that age, though-- especially if she isn't already inclined towards feminism.  There is a lot of worthwhile information in the book, but I'm not a fan of the way it's framed-- a ton of swearing, and jabs at Republicans and religion.  I'm certainly not opposed to swearing-- I um, swear rather a lot-- but in something like this, an at least mildly academic introduction to a serious and important topic, it doesn't hurt to sound a little more serious.  It's serious stuff!  And, contrary to what some people might think about accessibility, if you're a young, confused, slightly uptight young woman, a bunch of swearing isn't terribly likely to speak to you.  It sure wouldn't have got through to me or my friends back in highschool.

And speaking of getting through to people?  I'm glad that Valenti noted that Republicans and conservatives aren't automatically bad people-- sure, some are, but a lot are just people with very different viewpoints who are also trying to do what they think is right.  Still-- she makes a lot of jabs at Republicans and religion, and i can't imagine that sitting too well with someone who was raised by religious or Republican parents that they love.  Though JD is liberal like me, when we met he was registered as a Republican, and one of our close friends here in Boston is also a Republican-- and you know what?  They're both genuinely good people who I (fairly clearly) respect!  Talking about the politics of the Republican party is one thing-- but the generalities there are my idea of wrong.

i also got annoyed at a little bit of hypocrisy there.  As I've said before, i don't think that being a feminist means you don't get to wear make up, enjoy all sorts of sex or enjoy not having sex, love your shoe collection-- or change you name when you get married.   Feminism doesn't demand that every choice and action we make be determined solely by our politics.  Valenti totally agrees on the makeup front-- after all, she wears it too!-- but she argues against changing your name at marriage.  I get that makeup and names are different thing, but I still think it's a bit hypocritical to say one is aok and the other is not.

All this said-- I'm a huge fan of her blogging, and her blog.  It's just that I'd rather direct them to Feministing than to Full Frontal Feminism.  Feministing isn't an intro though-- so what IS a good intro?

Friday, October 8, 2010


I have a formspring account.  I got it back when they were all the rage with the cool bloggers, and it languished for awhile, without people asking questions.  A bit ago, I finally got one! But... it wasn't exactly the sort of thought provoking conversation starter I'd been hoping for.  Instead, it was "how many men/women have you fucked?".
What I'm curious about is, in what will would that information actually further understanding of my writing-- or anyone's, for that matter.  In what way is knowing the number of people someone has slept with relevant?  I mean, I guess if I've slept with women, that could be relevant, because queer individuals often have different experiences than straight ones.  And I guess the experiences of a virgin vs. a woman who has slept with a ton of partners can also be relevant in a blog that talks about sexuality.  But as things stand-- it's pretty obvious that I'm not a virgin, and that I'm partnered to a man in a monogamous relationship.  So whether or not he's the first or the 100th person I've slept with seems... rather irrelevant.  One of the things I do here, as I mentioned before, is try to talk about sex without dwelling on my own sexuality.  I'm just one data point in a sea of people, so i try to think about the more interesting and unusual stories of friends, and the trends I've seen in people my age compared to what the media seems to think we all do.  But me, personally?  I'm kind of boring, people.  I'm monogamous and engaged.

So, the question remains-- why do some people think numbers matter, and that knowing how many people someone has sex with will give them insight into his or her mind?  the truth is, it just doesn't matter.  Knowing someone's number really tells you nothing about them-- a virgin can think of herself as pure, or just be someone who hasn't been in an environment conducive to finding a lot of compatible sex partners.  Someone promiscuous can be having sex because they enjoy it, or they might secretly hate themself and feel like they are sinning.  There's no way of knowing what someone thinks just from knowing their number, and someone's views on sex and sexuality equally do not predict the number of sex partners they've had.

The very idea that a number is relevant seems to stem from a rather old-fashioned view of sex-- the idea that good girls don't put out-- or from the idea that people will always defend their experiences, regardless of what they are.  The falsity of that can be seen easily, though; while some people who were promiscuous in their youth grew to be sex-positive educators-- like Susie Bright-- the opposite can be seen in Christine O'Donnell, who has a well known anti-masturbation and promiscuity stance, but has also said in interviews that she did have a lot of sex in her youth.  For all we know, the two might have had similar numbers of sex partners, but they have vastly different views on sex and sexuality.  The numbers just don't matter.  Like anything else someone has done, people will use a person's numbers and twist them into being an explanation for nearly any attitude.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How much does text play into your life?

I'm very much a feminist, but I haven't read a lot of feminist writing.  In fact, I've read almost none-- and most of what I have read is fiction, rather than theory.  One of the things I'm planning to do in the next couple weeks, in addition to job searching and wedding planning, neither of which are exactly my idea of fun, is to go read some of the actual text that's been published on feminism and gender studies.  Here at home I have the new translation of The Second Sex, a copy of The Feminine Mystique, and a very short book by Andrea Dworkin (which, based on the quotes of hers that I've read before, is probably all I can take of her in one dose).  I've got a couple of Jessica Valenti's books on order from the library, as well as Butler's Gender Troubles.  To even things out a bit, I'm even thinking of getting some books on gender studies from a male point of view-- Lionel Tiger style, or Warren Farrel, or someone else who I'm highly likely to disagree with-- but as with Twilight, I'll do them the justice of  reading their material so I can back my distaste up.   I think it's a pretty good starting base, but I'm very open to other suggestions as well.

One of the things I'm wondering is how much reading most people do on things they strongly believe in-- whether it's feminism, or religion, or a lifestyle path-- and how much of our decisions and opinions we come to on our own.  For me, my mindset is mostly a product of experience and observation, with some internet reading thrown in once I hit college.  In high school, I was a feminist, though I didn't really know what the term meant, and I certainly didn't realize that there were people out there who might disagree with me.  My parents were super egalitarian in the way they raised my brother and I, and I was always the smartest kid around.  I didn't watch TV, and I played super heroes with my guy neighbors, and went to ballet lessons. It wasn't until I got older and started paying more attention to the rest of the world that it hit me that something was off.

It started in highschool I guess-- but there, it started with religion, not feminism.  One of the ministers at my church had been caught in an affair with a married member of the congregation when I was in 8th grade.  I refused to attend church-- suddenly the authority I'd placed in ministers and religion had been smashed.  I read the entire Bible from start to finish my freshman year of highschool and concluded that I was totally cool with God and Jesus, even if humans sometimes messed up in pretty awful ways.

My embrace of feminism didn't start until sometime in college though, because I still was naive and insulated somewhat from sexism as sexism-- but I discovered it in college.  I still hadn't read anything at all that could be classed as feminist discourse, though-- I had to formulate my thoughts on my own, and came to decisions that, for the most part, I still hold to.  When I joined a sorority, when one of my roommates became a sugar baby, when I went to frat parties-- I hadn't read any of the things out there that talked about the implications of any of it.  And as a result, I made the decisions that made me-- and though my sorority may not have labelled itself as feminist, it was the first truly feminist group I ever became a part of.

I came to feminism and to identifying as a feminist, even with the negative stigma from the unrealistic stereotype, without ever reading any major feminist texts.  I came to feminism without even reading any of the major online blogs!  And yet, my take on feminism seems to be fairly consistent with the modern view-- that agency, autonomy, and choice in lifestyle and actions matter, that equality is what is important, and that women-- our bodies, our health, our decisions, our opinions-- are not disposable.  And yet, I still feel like I ought to read older texts, and any new ones that have prominence, whether I'll agree with them or not-- because I feel like I ought to know where feminism came from, and what ideological changes have occurred along the way.  It's funny, because I've never really been tempted to read any theological books-- I'm fully satisfied with my take on Christianity being based on my understanding of the Bible and discussions with ministers-- but for feminism, I want to read the ideological texts.  I want to know what other people are saying, what they think, and why they think it.