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February 26, 2009

Stupid Protest: Cerrie Burnell

Just a quick hit today on yet another group of stupid people outraged over nothing. We caught wind of this one on Feministing (via The Independent and Alas, a blog)...

A lot of parents are really not happy that Cerrie Burnell is a host of the BBC children's show CBeebies. Not because she's doing anything wrong - you'd think she was promoting drugs and unprotected sex by the way people have reacted - but because she is disabled. Yes, that's right. Parents have been leaving negative comments on the channel's website and even complained to the broadcaster all because Burnell happens to have been born missing the lower section of her right arm.

Complaints from parents have included claims that Burnell's disability might frighten their children, given them nightmares, or even - gasp! - make them ask "difficult questions". Oh no! What are we going to do if our children ask questions!? How bout fucking answer them! This is a clear case of parents not wanting to... parent.

Burnell's arm may in fact scare some young children, which is all the more reason we need to educate them about the different abled. Television needs more role models such as Burnell, so that kids can learn that we all come in various shapes, sizes, colors, etc. and "different" doesn't have to mean "scary" or "bad". If you just cover your kids' eyes and rush them away into their sheltered little worlds where everyone is exactly the same - instead of simply educating your kids about the various forms human beings take - then you are going to raise kids who are as prejudiced and closed-minded as you are.

They're trying to justify their disability prejudice with the idea of "protecting" their children from reality.

Burnell herself put it best:
“I think the negative comments from those few parents are indicative of a wider problem of disabled representation in the media as a whole, which is why it’s so important for there to be more disabled role models in every area of the media.

The support that I’ve received … has been truly heartening. It’s brilliant that parents are able to use me as a way of talking about disability with their children and for children who are similarly disabled to see what really is possible in life and for their worlds to be represented in such a positive, high profile manner.”
As you may have already noticed, I have a different approach to parenting than the "oh no! questions" stance. I would encourage my children to watch a show with differently-abled characters or actors. (In fact, I had a hell of a time coming up with even a few that I could remember and they were all on adult shows. I think there's a cartoon character on Nickelodeon, but I hate most cartoons so I haven't seen it).

Anytime I come across a show that has someone on it who is... "different"... I automatically want to watch it with my daughter and I truly believe that it will help to make her a more open-minded and respectful person. She already knows all the intricacies of same sex marriage law and she's got a clearer understanding of the difference between a "transgendered person" and a "drag queen" than the media does. That's in part due to the fact that we used to watch TransAmerican Love Story together (and now we watch RuPaul's Drag Race)... but more due to the fact that I answer her questions and I also teach her things before she asks.

She may not cross paths with someone disabled or gay or transgendered for quite some time, but when she does they won't be weird or different or scary. They will just be people.

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February 23, 2009

Stupid Protest: Banned Sex Books

I was just reading Women's eNews and I came across this gem in their Cheers & Jeers of the Week section:

"In Topeka, Kan., library patrons under 18 will be shielded from four books that a group called Kansans for Common Sense Policy finds offensive: "Sex for Busy People," "The Lesbian Kama Sutra," "The Joy of Sex" and "The Joy of Gay Sex." The books will be removed from open shelves and access restricted in the future, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported Feb. 20. Since the news came out, the library has had several requests for the books in question."

Okay, first let's just go ahead and get the business out of the way now:

So, you've got your Joy of Sex, because the kids today just love books that reached their height of edginess and popularity back in the 70s. You've got The Joy of Gay Sex, because so many of these right wingers love nothing more than obsessing about every intimate detail of gay sex all day long. I'd be willing to bet that the real reason behind banning these books for the under 18 crowd is so that they're available when the people responsible for the ban in the first place want to take them out, for "research" purposes. They're probably on inter-library loan for Rick Santorum or Sean Hannity half the time anyway.

Then you've got The Lesbian Kama Sutra, because they've got to keep all of those homo bases covered, and I have to say that I didn't know that there was a lesbian version of the Kama Sutra before I read this, and now I'm kinda intrigued, and isn't that always the way with these conservative protests? They draw a ton of attention to something that nobody was really interested in before (meaning that nobody was making a big deal about this particular book, not that nobody was interested in lesbian sex, obviously), and the whole thing just fails and backfires every time. They're keeping ESC Enterprises in business with their crazy shit and I love them for it, only I don't actually love them because they're a bunch of ignorant bigots. But I digress.

So I'm thinking that these are kind of weird choices for sex books to ban for teenagers, or maybe I just really missed the boat by not being well versed in the Kama Sutra by age 15. But then I read the first review of Lesbian Kama Sutra on Amazon, which was generally unfavorable but did include the claim that "this book might be good for a 15 year old just figuring out they might be a lesbian", so maybe the Kansans for Common Sense Policy know a thing or two that I don't.

Rounding out the list is Sex for Busy People, which I initially thought was the biggest misfire of the bunch, because it sounds like it was written for the "I have a Masters but then I got married" demographic of women that Sarah Haskins recently educated us all about. I reconsidered after learning that the book's subtitle is "The Art of the Quickie for Lovers on the Go", which seems like it could be really helpful for all of those high school students trying to fit a sex life in between basketball practice, drama club, filling out college applications, working at Starbucks, and studying for that big calculus exam. They're totally busy people!

More than anything, I'm just dying to know how the Kansans for Common Sense Policy decided on these four books in particular. Wouldn't you have loved to sit on on that meeting? I have so many questions. Did they discuss all of these books in detail? Maybe read passages out loud to each other, and then take them home for further review? Were there other books that they talked about that didn't make the final list for the ban? Why just the lesbian Kama Sutra? Is experimenting with the Kama Sutra okay if you're a straight teenager? How did a bunch of uptight conservatives in Kansas even know that a book called The Lesbian Kama Sutra existed in the first place? Do you think this ban is going to create a whole black market for these books, with students at Topeka High School selling them out of their lockers or whatever?

I think we should all work together and see if we can start a trend. Let's come up with a list of the best, more informative and fun sex books, and start recommending them to these conservative groups for bans and protests. Like, picture Bill O'Reilly going off on a rant about The Sex Bible. (But don't picture it in too much detail, and don't send us your therapy bills if you do.) That way, the protests will completely fail like they always do, but the books will get a ton of free publicity and sell more copies. Then a bunch of people all across the country start having better, safer, more satisfying sex, hopefully including a lot of the people from the conservative groups themselves, most especially the deeply closeted gay ones who are always the most annoyingly outspoken against gay rights because they can't deal with the fact that they so desperately want to be at home reading The Joy of Gay Sex with a hot guy instead of on the floor of the Senate denouncing gay marriage, right Mr. Craig? Then maybe we can reduce our population of uptight, sanctimonious, judgmental people by a little bit, and make the world a better place. Yes we can.

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February 22, 2009

Things Michael Savage Says

I figured I'd make the post title a little shorter because the qualifiers are so superfluous when it comes to this douchebag.

Here's what passes for an innocent, respectful-of-women observation when you're Michael Savage:
Savage: Roland, when you were there, were there still any hippie girls over there with patchouli oil still running to Kabul for the wild nights?

Roland (whoever that is): Never saw one, however, they're...

Savage: Well no, they've all come back, they're all sixty years old, and they're all in Code Pink. They're way past their prime, so there's only one thing left for a woman after her prime of sexual excess, and that's radical left-wing politics."
[Shakesville has the audio clip.]
You know, it really is sweet of him to be concerned, and if anyone is an expert on turning to radical politics to cover the fact that you're way past your prime it's definitely him, but as usual Mr. Savage underestimates us girls. Everyone knows that women are excellent at multi-tasking. So, we can quite capably handle our sexual excess and our radical left-wing politics all at once, at any age. Some of us who are really motivated even make time for sexual excess, radical politics, booze, reality TV, and occasionally telling people like Michael Savage to suck it.

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Kanye West dresses better than a lot of gay people

Or so he thinks. Or maybe not. I don't know. It's hard to tell what he thinks.

Apparently Kanye West was very ignorant about homosexuality in the past (you know, last month), but now all of a sudden he's seen the light. Or something. But he still doesn't get it. He's been doing a lot of blabbering lately, but isn't making much sense. It seems as though he has a good point in there somewhere - that's just struggling to get out. It seems as though he's trying to tell the world that it's wrong to be homophobic and that it's okay to be gay. However, his way of making that point is by regurgitating dumb stereotypes and expressing overall ignorance and idiocy. And by talking about rainbows!

Now this is what's so tricky about his comments... He hasn't actually said anything bad about gay people. In fact, I'm pretty sure he thinks he's doing an awesome job of letting everyone know that there's nothing bad about gay people. But he's not. Even if the stereotypes are positive ones, they're still stereotypes and they're still wrong and they're still ignorant.

Earlier this year:

"Gays know how to dress.”

“People always try to discredit gays altogether, but they really know how to dress. They dress good.”

“You got to peep at them really quick because if they see you looking at them they might think you’re looking at them in another way, so you have to keep looking away. If they catch you staring it’s like, ‘No dog, I’m looking at the gear!’”

What Kanye thinks he's saying: You shouldn't criticize gay people! They're awesome!

What he's really doing: Making a gross generalization (albeit a positive one) about gay people.

What he should have said: He could have mentioned some of the many prominent gay people in the fashion industry, which would have been more accurate than "gays know how to dress". He also could have pointed out some of the other contributions that have been made to society by homosexuals, without jumping to stereotypes.

Now, he regrets his earlier statements:

"Your dress don't give away whether or not you like a man."

"That's when I was ignorant to gays ... Because there's a lot of gay people who don't dress good at all. There's a lot of gay people that I dress way better than."

What he thinks he's saying: When I was trying to compliment gay people, I accidentally may have said something that wasn't always true. My bad.

What he's really doing: He's simultaneously complimenting himself, while trying to deny being gay. He's technically not saying anything incorrect... but he's not exactly saying it in the right way either.

What he should have said: He could have just said that he was wrong to make generalizations about homosexual people, period. Instead of claiming that he dresses way better than a lot of gay people, he could have simply said that your sexual orientation has nothing to do with the way you dress or any other stereotypical indicators.

Wait, there's more:

"Because stereotypically gay people got such good [style] ... they were smart enough to take a fresh-ass logo like the rainbow and say that it's gonna be theirs.

I've been collecting all of the freshest stuff that's rainbows – Denver Nuggets jerseys, BAPE shoes, Nikes with rainbows on 'em – and saying, 'Man, I think as straight men we need to take the rainbow back because it's fresh.'

I mean how is that a gay thing? Colors? Having a lot of colors is gay?"

What he thinks he's saying: I'm not sure what he thinks he's saying. Maybe he thinks he's saying there's nothing wrong or gay about dressing well, flashy, or in bright colors.

What he's really doing: He's repeating and reinforcing the stereotype that all gay people have good style and he's misunderstanding the symbolism behind and usage of the rainbow flag as a LGBT icon.

What he should have said: There's nothing wrong or gay about dressing well, flashy, or in bright colors.

Kanye is taking the rainbow back

And yet there's still more!
“Titles are very important. I like to embody titles, y’know, or words that have negative connotations, and explain why that’s good.

Take the word gay—like, in hip-hop, that’s a negative thing, right? But in the past two, three years, all the gay people I’ve encountered have been, like, really, really, extremely dope. Y’know, I haven’t, like, gone to a gay bar, nor do I ever plan to. But where I would talk to a gay person—the conversation would be mostly around, like, art or design—it’d be really dope.

From a design standpoint, kids’ll say, ‘Dude, those pants are gay.’ But if it’s, like, good, good, good fashion-level, design-level stuff, where it’s on a higher level than the average commercial design stuff, it’s, like, gay people that do that. I think that should be said as a compliment. Like, ‘Dude, that’s so good it’s almost . . . gay.’”


What he thinks he's saying: No more negative, homophobic language - I'm taking it back and making it my own!

What he's really doing: Trying to "take back" a word that isn't exactly his to take back. And trying to put a positive spin on a word that isn't inherently negative. We're all for trying to refeul words with your own connotations (ahem, evil slut) but "gay" is not actually a negative word. He's not wrong to acknowledge that homophobia is rampant within the Hip-Hop music industry, however that's a problem within that scene and not a problem with the word "gay". Oh and he's still reinforcing those old stereotypes about gay people being great at fashion, art, and design.

What he should have said: He could have said that it's wrong to use "gay" as a negative term, because homosexual people are just like everyone else. Again, he could have acknowledged the accomplishments made by gay people in fashion/design/art without implying that all gay people or only gay people are accomplished in those fields.

Our advice to Kanye: just shut up already.

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February 20, 2009

It's Official: PepsiCo is Going Down

If you've been reading the blog you know that we are all into the stupid protests lately. Personally, I've been really enjoying the "hunger strike" style protests, which generally involve some conservative group with a name like the American Family Pro-Life Morality Action League announcing that we should all stop eating Tostitos forever because their parent company treats their gay employees like actual human beings or something equally ridiculous.

One of their latest targets is PepsiCo, because it seems that Pepsi loves the gays and of course that cannot stand unchallenged. The American Family Association was up in arms about it awhile ago, and you'll all be happy to know that they have not forgotten. In fact, they've apparently been quite busy making it all official and stuff. They've got the official website (www.boycottpepsico.com), and of course front and center is the Boycott PepsiCo pledge for all of us to sign. They're claiming to have 136,844 signatures so far, and I'm going to go ahead and call bullshit on that right now, because we all know that at least 75,000 of those are people like us just fucking around and signing the thing as Trig Palin or Elisabeth Hasselbeck or Ronald McDonald or whatever.

There's also a link on the site to the full list of PepsiCo products to include in the boycott. The list itself isn't on the main page of the site, which I think was a smart choice. If it was, I'd bet that about 80% of the right wingers who visited the site would end up thinking "wait a minute, I have to stop drinking Pepsi and I also have to give up Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist, Mug Root Beer and Cream Soda, Lay's and Ruffles chips, all varieties of Doritos, Tostitos, Cheetos, and Fritos, Funyuns, Cracker Jack, Baken-ets Fried Pork Skins (whatever the hell those are), Gatorade, Tropicana Juices, Quaker Oatmeal and granola bars, Cap'n Crunch and Life cereals, Aunt Jemima syrup, and Rice-a-Roni? You know, maybe homosexuality isn't that bad..."

There was a video on the main page of the site of some horrible gay Pepsi commercial that the AFA was offended by, but it was embedded from YouTube so when you click on it now all you get is "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by PepsiCo, Inc.", which I found hilarious. So all that's left now is the description of the horribly scandalous material in question:
In Canada, a "bisexual" man came out of the closet on a commercial and declared his love for Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. In a more recent spot aired in the UK, a man drinks a Pepsi to find courage to ask someone out. He passes up two women and expresses interest in a man.
Notice the time-honored technique of putting the scare quotes around the word bisexual. It's that stick-your-fingers-in-your-ears-and-say-la-la-I-can't-hear-you approach, as if that little punctuation trick is going to help them wake up from this long national LGBT-tolerating nightmare that they all think they're trapped in. Maybe I'll start referring to them as the ~American *Homophobe* Association~ and see if that makes me feel better.

But the way that we know that they're really serious about this boycott and it's really legit....yes, it's true. They've gone and taken it to Facebook. It's a good thing they haven't discovered Twitter yet, or they'd be unstoppable. According to the Facebook page, they've already raised $310 for their cause. (Of course the donations to this "cause" go to the AFA, presumably to offset the astronomical costs of setting up a basic three page website, starting a Facebook cause page, and putting out a sanctimonious press release.) And according to a recent PepsiCo news release, in 2008 the company grew their net revenue 10 percent to $43.3 billion. So clearly Pepsi is fucked, and they might as well just file Chapter 11 tomorrow. If you're a Pepsi person, start making the switch to Coke now, because it's all over for them.

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February 18, 2009


Bad news, everyone. There's trouble on the horizon in the utopian paradise that is Republicanland. Pat Robertson is totally throwing down with Rush Limbaugh.

In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, Robertson criticized Limbaugh's repeated statements about wanting President Obama and his administration to fail.

You surprised people last year when you said you were impressed with Obama so far. How do you feel about him now, after several weeks in the White House?
He hasn't been as skillful in a number of areas. I think he's showing partisanship. What I said on CNN is that if he's not partisan and doesn't swing out at the left, he has the potential to be a great president. But look at his cabinet appointments. And the stimulus package is a disaster. He let [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi write the bill. He should have exerted more leadership about what went into the stimulus package. It's not over, but I still want to give him the benefit of every doubt, and I definitely hope he succeeds. It wouldn't be good for Americans for him not to. We don't want a president who fails at domestic and foreign policy.

So you don't subscribe to Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" school of thought?
That was a terrible thing to say. I mean, he's the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn't, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally.
[via Crooks & Liars]

Meow. How will Rush respond to this betrayal? Can this right wing political marriage be saved? Tune in for tomorrow's installment of The Conservative & The Clueless to find out.

In related news, with a $10 donation to Media Matters you can now get a Rush Limbaugh Doesn't Speak For Me! bumper sticker. Makes a great gift for any clueless Republican House members or Senators you may happen to have representing you.

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February 17, 2009

National Condom Week

February 14th-21st is National Condom Week, which we'd like to acknowledge by posting the awesomest condom commercial ever.

To satisfy all of your condom needs, check out:

And if something like this happens while you're having sex...

...make sure you're also educated about emergency contraception. Happy Condom Week!

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February 16, 2009

Kenny Chesney isn't gay. He's just slutty.

Kenny Chesney wants us to know that he isn't gay. In fact, he wants us to know that he's not gay so badly, that he'd rather be known as a womanizer.
Man, I was over 100 several years ago... There were years when I had a better summer than A-Rod, buddy. You know? I got on the boards quite often.
What guy who loves girls wouldn't be angry about that? I didn't sign up for that. I think people need to live their lives the way they want to, but I'm pretty confident in the fact that I love girls (laughs). I've got a long line of girls who could testify that I am not gay.
Now of course, my first thought is... Kenny doth protest too much. You'd think that a guy who really did sleep with over 100 women would be secure enough in his sexuality that he wouldn't need to worry about being called gay. Maybe he's worried that he won't make it to 200 women if all of the country music groupies start believing the gay rumors? That would be a real tragedy.

But he's upset because he didn't "sign up" for that, which really begs the question, where exactly does one sign up for that? Is there a website or something?

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February 15, 2009

Fresh Promise: Take a Bite Out of the Odds

We wrote last week about Go Red Day and the American Heart Association's campaign to raise awareness about heart disease being the number one killer of women. But obviously this isn't an issue to worry about only one day out of the year, so we wanted to pass along this info about the Fresh Promise campaign, which is ongoing until the end of the month. For this campaign, the American Heart Association is collaborating with Chiquita and Fresh Express, and they're offering a bunch of ways to get involved. (You know how much we love anything that involves Chiquita, so of course this campaign caught our eye.)

~During the month of February, Fress Express will donate 10 cents for every purchase of a specially marked bag of Fresh Express salad or Chiquita Fruit Bites at participating retailers. (The full list of participating stores can be found at freshpromise.net.) We know that people sometimes have mixed feelings about the "buy _____ and we'll make a donation to ____" style of activism. But grocery shopping is something that just about everyone has to do sometimes anyway, so if you do buy these types of products, it's good to know that you can make a small shopping choice that makes a small difference, because it does add up.

~If you participate in Fresh Funds, which is a free customer rewards program that lets you earn points for buying Fresh Express and Chiquita stuff, you can donate your Fresh Funds points to the AHA's Go Red For Women campaign. Donated points are being doubled for the month of February. If you're not a member, you can sign up at freshfunds.com - they've got other opportunities to donate your points for various causes throughout the year, so if you do buy any of these products it's not a bad idea to sign up.

~Show your support by uploading your picture to the Fresh Promise site and sharing your donation. You can also get 40 bonus Fresh Fund points if you share your story with the Go Red For Women campaign before the end of the month. And of course the Fresh Promise campaign is also on MySpace and Facebook.

Check out freshpromise.net for more information about this campaign and the Go Red For Women movement, plus some tips and recipes for heart-healthy cooking. By making good food choices, sharing our stories, and working together, we can take a bite out of the odds.

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February 11, 2009

V-Day Gifts at the Last Minute?

The Evil Slut Clique was planning to just ignore Valentine's Day altogether this year... but then we realized that some of you might actually have someone worth shopping for. So while we don't necessarily have specifically "Valentine" items, we definitely have a few last minute evil slutty ideas for that someone special. It's not too late!

Stupid Protests: PETA Plays KKK

Apparently being sexist wasn't getting them enough attention, so PETA has now decided to try a little racism.

"People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals knows how to grab attention. And show off its laundry. The animal rights group, which every year stages a protest at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, had two of its members dress in Ku Klux Klan garb outside Madison Square Garden on Monday.

Their goal, according to a post on the PETA website, was to draw a parallel between the KKK and the American Kennel Club. "Obviously it's an uncomfortable comparison," PETA spokesman Michael McGraw told the Associated Press.

But the AKC is trying to create a "master race" when it comes to pure-bred dogs, he added. "It's a very apt comparison."

The group passed out brochures implying the Klan and AKC have the goal of "pure bloodlines" in common." [USA Today]

I'm sure PETA was very excited about the publicity that they knew they would get from this little stunt, but do you think any of them stopped for even a second to consider how the people walking down that New York City street would feel about being confronted by KKK symbolism? Were people supposed to somehow be less offended or upset because the PETA members aren't actually representatives of the KKK? Most people on that street aren't going to stop to chat and hear the explanation for the outfits, and in my opinion the alleged 'good intentions' don't make the protest any less offensive anyway.

Actually, where PETA is concerned those are probably the wrong questions. I'm sure they did think about how shocked and offended people would be and considered that a positive outcome because of the press coverage that would come along with it. I guess we were all supposed to buy into their half-assed comparison of the American Kennel Club to the KKK and then all of our outrage over their racist protest would transform into passion for animal rights. Or something. And if someone who saw the protest or the coverage of it ended up feeling triggered, afraid, angry, or hurt, PETA apparently thought of that as collateral damage at best and a necessary shock to the system at worst.

It's hard to grasp how an organization with a commitment to "ethical treatment" right in its name can repeatedly decide that their cause is so just that it gives them the right to mock other causes in the most twisted and painful ways they can think of if they feel that it serves them. It's okay to stage a fake KKK demonstration on a New York City street. Who cares how people of color might feel about it? They should all become vegetarians anyway! And hey, it's okay to stage a girl-on-girl make out tour to promote your claim that vegetarians have better sex. Who cares what LGBT activists are fighting for right now? If this undermines them, too bad! Naked women in plastic, or in cages? Why not! PETA's run by a woman, so they can't ever be sexist or harmful to women. Want to make a point about the slaughter of animals? It's okay to co-opt Holocaust imagery to do it! The ends justify the means, right?

PETA is into the idea that "animals are people too". Maybe someday they'll figure out that they'd be a better, more ethical, and more successful organization if they started with the principle that people are animals too. But I won't hold my breath.

For more:

~PETA Dresses Up As KKK (Womanist Musings)
~PETA Racism Goes Into Overload (Feministe)

February 10, 2009

Newsflash: Bill O'Reilly is a Douchebag

Here's good old Bill mocking veteran journalist Helen Thomas. He gets an assist towards the end from Bernie Goldberg, which makes it even funnier considering that neither man has more than a passing familiarity with any concept of what real journalism is supposed to be. Also enjoy an appearance from Alan Colmes, who tries to stop Bill from going off the deep end before giving up and just laughing uncomfortably while presumably counting the seconds until the end of the segment.

[From Writes Like She Talks via Viva La Feminista's Twitter feed]

The good news about this is that it's inspired us to start working on a blog about Helen Thomas's amazing career for Women's History Month. (The other good news is that we're sure Ms.Thomas is so far above this that she won't lose even a second of sleep over these moronic comments.) O'Reilly and Goldberg will have to wait until Douchebag History Month for their turn.

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February 6, 2009

Go Red for Women

Today is National Wear Red Day!  By wearing red and making a donation, you'll help the American Heart Association support ongoing research and education about women and heart disease (our number one killer).

Go Red for Women celebrates the energy, passion and power we have as women to band together to wipe out heart disease and stroke. Thanks to the participation of millions of people across the country, the color red and the red dress now stand for the ability all women have to improve their heart health and live stronger, longer lives.

To find out what you can do to help support this cause: Take Action.  You can also check out ShopHeart.org to find apparel, accessories and more from sponsors of Go Red for Women.

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February 4, 2009

Look Who's Playing!

Today is the annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day. NGWSD began in 1987 as a day to remember Olympic volleyball player Flo Hyman (who died in 1986 while competing in a tournament in Japan) for her athletic achievements and her work to assure equality for women's sports. Since then, NGWSD has evolved into a day to honor achievements and encourage participation of girls and women in sports... and to address the continuing struggle for equality and access for women in sports.

NGWSD is typically celebrated across the U.S. with community-based events, award ceremonies, and other activities. You can view a calendar of events (by state) here. Each year has a different theme (such as "Play Fair" or "Get in the Game") and the theme for 2009 is "Look Who's Playing".

Now I'm not personally much of an athlete, unless you count having sex or playing "Dance Dance Revolution" on Wii (which are both really great exercise and fun - in different ways - but neither is going to get me to the Olympics). So the best way that I can honor female athletes today is to take a minute to showcase a few right here on the blog.

First off, you should all know what the U.S. women's badminton team has planned for 2009: They're going to Iran. As part of a broad bid to engage the Iranian people through educational and cultural exchanges, the Obama administration's State Department is sending eight players and four coaches to Tehran this week to participate in the Iran Fajr International Badminton Tournament (begins Friday). Past exchanges with Iran have involved athletes from other sports, artists, academics and professionals.

Another amazing female athlete in the news recently is Lindsey Van, 24, one of the world's best ski jumpers. Ski jumping is the last Winter Olympics sport still closed to women, so Van and nine other women from six countries are suing to get into the 2010 games. Van, who has been ski jumping since age 7, currently holds the distance record (for men and women) at the K90 ski jump hill in Whistler, B.C. that was built for the Vancouver Olympics.

The WNBA's website has up an inspiring piece entitled "How Has Sports Impacted Your Life? (Also, for a really great op-ed piece from WNBA President Donna Orender - and some other cool sporty stuff - check out the Athletic Women Blog).

We'd also like to recommend the site Game Changers: Change the Game for Women in Sport.

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New RNC Chair Wants to "Reach Out"

New RNC chairman Michael Steele was on Fox News Sunday this past weekend, and one of the topics was how the GOP can attract a more diverse group of voters.
WALLACE: You are one of the co-founders of something called the Republican Leadership Council which supports candidates who favor abortion and gay rights.


WALLACE: Does the GOP needs to do a better job of reaching out to people who hold those views?

STEELE: I think -- I think that's an important opportunity for us, absolutely. Within our party we do have those who have that view as well as outside and my partnership with Christy Todd Whittman was an effort to build a bridge between moderates and conservatives.

Let's pay a quick visit to the official 2008 Republican party platform and see what it has to say about people who "favor abortion and gay rights".

Maintaining The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.

We have made progress. The Supreme Court has upheld prohibitions against the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. States are now permitted to extend health-care coverage to children before birth. And the Born Alive Infants Protection Act has become law; this law ensures that infants who are born alive during an abortion receive all treatment and care that is provided to all newborn infants and are not neglected and left to die. We must protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement. We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion. Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life. We salute those who provide them alternatives, including pregnancy care centers, and we take pride in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.

Respect for life requires efforts to include persons with disabilities in education, employment, the justice system, and civic participation. In keeping with that commitment, we oppose the non-consensual withholding of care or treatment from people with disabilities, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, which endanger especially those on the margins of society. Because government should set a positive standard in hiring and contracting for the services of persons with disabilities, we need to update the statutory authority for the AbilityOne program, the main avenue by which those productive members of our society can offer high quality services at the best possible value.

Preserving Traditional Marriage
Because our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it. In the absence of a national amendment, we support the right of the people of the various states to affirm traditional marriage through state initiatives.

Republicans recognize the importance of having in the home a father and a mother who are married. The two-parent family still provides the best environment of stability, discipline, responsibility, and character. Children in homes without fathers are more likely to commit a crime, drop out of school, become violent, become teen parents, use illegal drugs, become mired in poverty, or have emotional or behavioral problems. We support the courageous efforts of single-parent families to provide a stable home for their children. Children are our nation’s most precious resource. We also salute and support the efforts of foster and adoptive families.

Republicans have been at the forefront of protecting traditional marriage laws, both in the states and in Congress. A Republican Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of states not to recognize same-sex “marriages” licensed in other states. Unbelievably, the Democratic Party has now pledged to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which would subject every state to the redefinition of marriage by a judge without ever allowing the people to vote on the matter. We also urge Congress to use its Article III, Section 2 power to prevent activist federal judges from imposing upon the rest of the nation the judicial activism in Massachusetts and California. We also encourage states to review their marriage and divorce laws in order to strengthen marriage.

As the family is our basic unit of society, we oppose initiatives to erode parental rights.

So the new head of the Republican party wants to reach out to those of us in the pro-choice, pro-gay crowd, as long as we're cool with the fact that his party's official platform calls for a bunch of laws and constitutional amendments that are totally anti-choice and anti-gay. Or, to put it another way, he wants to "build a bridge" between moderates and conservatives, as long as the moderates understand that they're actually wrong about everything and that the conservatives always get to win. Basically, he's asking if he can be our verbally abusive, manipulative, and controlling political boyfriend. Who wants to sign up first?

February 3, 2009

No, it's not the same thing...

Not too long ago, we had a little discussion (er, argument) about sex work. One of the biggest problems in arguing about sex work, is that so many people do not completely understand what sex work is (or more importantly, what it isn't). Sex work is not the same thing as sex trafficking or sex slavery. It just isn't.

So first, a little vocabulary lesson.
  • Sex work refers to the "commercial sex" industry and, while it is often used interchangeably with the term "prostitution", can actually include any income-generating activity or form of employment related to sex (prostitutes, exotic dancers, nude models, pornography performers, sex phone operators, sensual masseuses, dominatrices, etc.)
  • Prostitution is the act of performing sexual activity in exchange for money or goods. There are many forms of prostitution - some legal and some illegal (depending on where it takes place) - such as "street prostitution", "brothel prostitution" or "escort prostitution".
  • Sex tourism refers to traveling (typically from rich countries to poor countries) in search of sexual services.

Now here's the thing to remember... all of the above definitions have one common requirement: consent. That's right. Non-consensual "sex work" is not sex work. And that's where so many of the unnecessary arguments come from: people who can't differentiate between voluntary sex work and forced exploitation.

Still confused? Here's some more vocabulary...
  • Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of people for the purposes of slavery, forced labor (including bonded labor or debt bondage), and servitude.
  • Sex trafficking can include forcing victims into prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. Trafficking victims typically are recruited using coercion, deception, fraud, the abuse of power, or outright abduction. Threats, violence, and economic leverage such as debt bondage can often make a victim "consent" to exploitation. (The earliest definitions of "trafficking" in this meaning were used to distinguish the forced prostitute from the ordinary prostitute, allowing governments to sign anti-trafficking treaties regardless of whether they allowed the regulation of prostitution).
  • Sexual slavery refers to the organized coercion of unwilling people into different sexual practices (Just to be clear, this is not the same as the BDSM-term "sex slave" which is sometimes used to describe a consenting submissive partner).
  • Child prostitution refers to children having sex or sexual acts for money and should always be considered forced/non-consensual. (Under many laws this applies to anyone under the age of 18, although the age of consent varies).
Got it yet?

Supporters of prostitution or sex work do not condone forced exploitation or trafficking. If I defend the rights of sex workers, that does not mean that I'm suggesting people should be allowed to keep women as slaves or have sex with kids. There are a lot of flaws within the sex industry - no one is denying that - but to try to lump voluntary sex work together with the forced exploitation of women and children does everyone involved a huge disservice.

We recently came across two blogs debating the use of the term "sex worker", each addressing different points of view on the importance of terminology. It got us thinking on the subject even more...

Despite personally being against the sex industry, Anji of Shut Up Sit Down, defended the use of the term "sex worker":

When talking about sex workers, my friend is in the habit of saying “Sex workers, sic” while making quotation marks with her fingers, or using the term “prostituted women” instead. When challenged on this, she replied that she does not see it as work, so “can’t” use the term sex worker.

I pointed out that this was dismissive and disrespectful, and that whatever term a woman chooses to identify herself should be the word we use when referring to her.

[...]“Prostituted women” infers coercion or force, and women who define themselves as sex workers clearly do not see themselves as having been coerced or forced into sex work.

A response to the above blog by Marcella Chester on abyss2hope took a different stance:
There is a core problem with this position which seems to advocate for using the term "sex worker" as the default terminology.

[...]If all those in the sex industry are described in a way which gives them full agency then there will be no support to spend tax money helping those who don't in reality have full agency. Those who express urgency to rescue victims of sex trafficking, and to provide the services those victims need after being separated from their exploiters, can then be falsely labeled as infantilizing women or hating sex workers when they are directly opposed to those who do this through their exploitation of the "prostituted."

This lack of support for using the term "prostituted" as the default directly benefits those who are prostituting other people.

[...]The actions taken against most of those in the sex industry is what robs those girls and women (and to a lesser extent boys and men) of their agency. Calling those who were in fact prostituted by others "prostituted" is not what disempowers those children and adults. Overall this term is more accurate than "sex worker." Being accurate does not demean and dismiss those have in fact been prostituted.

Even the term ["]sex industry["] whitewashes the reality that the sex industry is also the sexual exploitation and rape industry.

[...]Using "sex worker" as the default clearly does nothing to empower a large number of girls and women.

We agree with Chester that victims of sex trafficking and children who have been forced/coerced into the sex industry should not be called "sex workers". However, no one is actually suggesting that they should be. Advocates of the term "sex worker" do not advocate using that term as the default for victims of sex trafficking, slavery, or rape; they advocate using the term "sex worker" as the default for actual sex workers. The term is not meant to empower victims of sex crimes, because the term does not apply to them.

This is the one major point that Chester's stance misses. There is a huge difference between a sex worker and a "prostituted" woman or child. The term "prostituted woman" is not always more accurate as Chester suggests. You shouldn't call a voluntary sex worker "prostituted" because that implies that this is something that was done to her - not that she has chosen her profession - whereas it does make sense to use that term (or one like it) for victims of trafficking.

Neither term should be used as the default for both situations because the two situations aren't even comparable.

Where Chester is right though, is in her opinion of the way law enforcement sometimes unfairly treats victims of the sex "industry" as criminals:
If children and adults are robbed of full agency and personal safety by sex traffickers, pornographers and Johns then no label will magically restore their agency. Yet the terms "sex worker" and "occupation" falsely position all those who are labeled this way as being fully willing participants who have full agency.

This view explains why those who are victims of sex traffickers have been treated by most police agencies as if they are criminals who are no less legally culpable than their traffickers. If those we call "sex workers" are genuinely empowered then they should be treated by the law in just this way. Allowing people their agency comes with legal responsibility for their actions.

[...]The majority of those who are in reality currently "prostituted" don't have a voice in this debate or their voices are controlled in the same way that their bodies are controlled. Acknowledging this fact is not what robs these children and adults of their agency.

[...]If we label children forced into prostitution as child "sex workers" and declare that once they reach 18 they have full agency we ignore the systematic violence done to them and we deny the real barriers which blocks them from successfully getting away from this exploitation. Barriers which don't magically disappear on someone's 18th birthday.

It is a serious problem that does exist, however the term "sex worker" is not the cause of this problem. One of the biggest causes is - what we've been referring to all along - the inability to differentiate a victim of the sex industry from a willing participant in it.

Another problem is the fact that prostitution shouldn't be a crime in the first place. Agree or disagree with the concept of sex work - the fact of the matter is that keeping it illegal does little to prevent it or to protect the men and women involved. If it was finally legalized (everywhere), regulated, and treated as an actual career/legitimate work, maybe then we could stop spending so much time punishing people and focus that energy on actually protecting the people who need protection.

The sex industry is really messed up in a lot of ways but we're not going to make that change by condemning or infantilizing the women that really do enter this industry voluntarily. That will not protect sex workers from the risks of the sex industry; it simply puts them at even more risk.

The least we can do is understand what we're talking about when we talk about sex work in the first place.

Some additional resources on the subject:

Related Posts: