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December 23, 2011

The AFA's Naughty or Nice List: Foot Locker

Our debunking of the American Family Association's annual Naughty or Nice retailer list continues today with Foot Locker. (If you're not familiar with this list or why we write about it every year, see our intro post here.) The AFA has put Foot Locker on their red list this year, which means they consider them to be a company that is "against Christmas" and that "may use "Christmas" sparingly in a single or unique product description, but as a company, does not recognize it". Let's investigate that.

Foot Locker uses the tagline "Celebrate Kicksmas" for their holiday advertising. Here's a screenshot from their website:

They also have a Kicksmas calendar that lists different deals and events and product introductions for the holiday season.

Kicksmas...hmmm, this seems to be a play on words of some kind. But which popular winter holiday could they possibly be referencing? Maybe that vaguely tree-shaped and star-topped object made of shoes in the image up above holds some kind of clue. Hey, you know what, you guys? I think they just might be talking about Christmas!

I understand that the AFA complains about stores saying "happy holidays" because they feel that the retailers are trying to make money from Christmas shoppers while refusing to specifically acknowledge the holiday that they're shopping for. (I don't agree with it, but I understand it.) But that's clearly not what's happening here. "Kicksmas" just seems like an attempt at a clever reference to their products, not to censor the word Christmas.

The AFA may feel like this isn't the best way to reference Christmas since Foot Locker is literally taking 'Christ' out by changing it to Kicksmas. But their red list is supposed to be for retailers that are against Christmas and refuse to acknowledge it, not stores who just happen to acknowledge it in a way that doesn't earn them an AFA gold star. We're rooting for Foot Locker to at least get bumped up to the yellow list by next year. Merry Kicksmas!

December 22, 2011

The AFA's Naughty or Nice List: 1-800-Flowers

Our efforts to debunk that American Family Association's annual Naughty or Nice list of retailers continues today with 1-800-Flowers.com. (If you're not familiar with this list or why we write about it every year, see our intro post here.) The AFA has put 1-800-Flowers on the yellow list this year, which means that according to them it's a company that is "marginal on Christmas" and "refers to Christmas infrequently, or in a single advertising medium, but not in others".

We've been taking screenshots of 1-800-Flowers.com since Thanksgiving. Take a look and judge for yourself:

So we can all clearly see how much 1-800-Flowers marginalizes Christmas, right? Seriously, I'd love to hear an explanation from the AFA about why they ended up on the yellow list, because aside from changing their name to 1-800-Christmas.com, I don't know what more they could possibly do to show that they're a pro-Christmas company. It's just one more piece of evidence that the AFA's annual protest is stupid on every level.

December 20, 2011

When will poor Victoria's Secret get off the AFA Naughty List?

Every year we have lots of fun writing about the American Family Association's "Naughty or Nice" list... and debunking all of their claims. It's become sort of a holiday tradition over here at Evil Slutopia.

Just to recap for those of you who don't already know about the AFA's list, every holiday season they organize a boycott of companies that don't use the word "Christmas" enough in their December advertising. They've compiled a list of national retailers and organized them into color-coded categories for easy boycotting.
Color Code:
GREEN: Company uses the term "Christmas" on a regular basis, we consider that company Christmas-friendly.
YELLOW: Company refers to Christmas infrequently, or in a single advertising medium, but not in others.
RED: Company may use "Christmas" sparingly in a single or unique product description, but as a company, does not recognize it.
Every year they promise that they're going to "continually update the list" but it never really seems that they do any actual research to update it. Poor Victoria's Secret has repeatedly been on the red list of anti-Christmas companies even though they're not very anti-Christmas at all.

Obviously, we don't agree with the AFA's belief that "Christmas" must be recognized by retailers and non-religious companies. We much prefer the all-inclusive "holiday" to "Christmas". But if the AFA is going to take a stand, they should at least do the research to back up their claims. Now, we could understand the AFA not loving Victoria's Secret for other reasons, but they're off base on this one but every year they refuse to update the list. (Check out our coverage from 2010 and 2009.) So once again we will prove why...

Let's take a look at a few screenshots from their website, as well as a few photos from their current catalogs and you tell us if they're "anti-Christmas":

Clearly this is a company that hates Christmas, right? You can see how they refuse to recognize this very special holiday and avoid using the term 'Christmas' at all costs.  Whatever, AFA. If you're going to take the step of calling for some of these companies to be boycotted, we don't think it's too much to ask that you at least get you research right before you do.

We suspect that Victoria's Secret is on the list for reasons that have very little to do with their Christmas advertising and much more to do with the fact that they sell sexy lingerie. Just look at how wrong they were about the company that owns Victoria's Secret, Limited Brands last year. This year they've moved them to the red list, but Bath and Body works is still in the yellow. Do they not realize that Limited Brands owns both companies and doesn't sell anything themselves, therefore doesn't have any individual advertising?


December 13, 2011

The AFA's War on the War on Christmas Begins!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! The American Family Association is again leading the charge in the War on Christmas by putting out their annual Naughty or Nice list of retailers. Blogging about this list is one of our favorite ESC holiday traditions, so we're excited to tackle this year's offering from the AFA.

If you're not familiar with the Naughty or Nice list, here's how the AFA describes it:

AFA's 2011 listing of top retailers and how they recognize Christmas

Color Code:
GREEN: Company uses the term "Christmas" on a regular basis, we consider that company Christmas-friendly.
YELLOW: Company refers to Christmas infrequently, or in a single advertising medium, but not in others.
RED: Company may use "Christmas" sparingly in a single or unique product description, but as a company, does not recognize it.

Criteria - AFA reviewed up to four areas to determine if a company was "Christmas-friendly" in their advertising: print media (newspaper inserts), broadcast media (radio/television), website and/or personal visits to the store. If a company's ad has references to items associated with Christmas (trees, wreaths, lights, etc.), it was considered as an attempt to reach "Christmas" shoppers.

If a company has items associated with Christmas, but did not use the word "Christmas," then the company is considered as censoring "Christmas."

Note: AFA does not list local or regional companies. Only nationally-recognized companies will be listed. This list only reflects a company's "Christmas" advertising and does not take into account other corporate policies AFA may not agree with.

And if you're not familiar with our reasons for writing about this list every year, here's a summary:

-There's nothing wrong with stores using 'happy holidays' instead of 'merry Christmas', and the "war on Christmas" exists only in the minds of people like Bill O'Reilly and the AFA. Christmas is celebrated openly pretty much everywhere in this country, but there are many other holidays that are also celebrated at this time of year and there's nothing wrong with stores choosing to use an inclusive term like 'happy holidays'. It's really not a big deal, as we said when we first wrote about this back in 2009:
Yes, the fact that some stores choose to use a general holiday greeting that applies to everyone is a horrible nightmare. Sometimes when I'm out shopping for gifts and someone in a store wishes me "happy holidays", I find myself losing my moral and spiritual bearings and beginning to question who I am as a person and reevaluating the meaning of life, and then I have to get a lemonade from Auntie Anne's and sit on a bench outside of Socks Appeal until I feel better. It's a challenging experience.

-Buying stuff at a store really has nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas anyway, so we don't see why Christian groups like the AFA spend so much time and effort every year on trying to force stores to be as "pro-Christmas" as possible. Someone attempted to raise this point on the facebook page of the One Million Moms (a division of the AFA), and this was the OMM's reply:
Teaching your family the real meaning of CHRISTmas is extremely important. Since the retail stores would like to profit from those who do buy Christmas gifts then they need to advertise what it is we are actually celebrating. Christmas, not Holiday. People do not buy Winter Solstice gifts, etc.
Ah, CHRISTmas, I see what you did there. It's pretty sad that they're so desperate to believe that there's a "war" on their holiday that they're reduced to obvious nonsense like claiming that only Christians buy and exchange gifts during the winter.

-The AFA uses this list as a way of trying to make money for themselves. Every year their action alerts on this topic are accompanied by sales pitches for their Christmas buttons and signs. This year they've also taken it a step further by listing the AFA Online Store as the first retailer on the green list.

-There are way more retailers on the green list than there are on the yellow and red lists combined, and it seems to grow more lopsided each year, which would make most rational people question just how big of a problem this really is. The green list has 54 retailers, the yellow list has 10, and the red list has 14. And, like last year, some of the entries on the yellow and red lists seem to be there just to make those lists look longer. For example, Limited Brands is listed on both the yellow and red lists for no apparent reason even though it shouldn't be listed at all because the retailers owned by Limited Brands are already listed separately. They also include stores like supermarkets and office supply stores that wouldn't exactly be at the top of most people's holiday shopping lists anyway. They also break their own rules about only listing "nationally recognized companies" by including regional stores like Belk and Meijer, smaller web or catalog-only retailers like Uncommon Goods, and stores I've never heard of in my life like Maurice's and Scheels Sporting Goods.

Finally, there's the fact that they're actually wrong about many of the stores that they put on their yellow and red lists being 'anti-Christmas'. So even if we were to overlook all of the reasons that a list like this is misguided and unnecessary and pretend that it's a totally legitimate idea, the execution totally sucks. If the AFA is going to encourage their followers to boycott these retailers during the holiday season, we feel that they should at least make some attempt to make a list that's accurate based on their own criteria. Every year they fail to do so, so every year we help them out by fact-checking their list. We like to think of it as our holiday gift to them.

Our posts about specific retailers on the 2011 Naughty or Nice list are coming very soon, but if you'd like to revisit the wars of Christmas past in the meantime, here are a few of our favorite posts from the last few years:

-Debunking the AFA's Christmas Boycott: Bass Pro Shops - Because stores that offer their customers free photos with Santa are totally out to marginalize Christmas. This post is from 2009 and they were moved to the green list in 2010, which we take full credit for. You're welcome, Bass Pro Shops.

-Debunking the AFA's Christmas Boycott and Our Long National Nightmare is Over: The AFA's Gap/Old Navy Boycott Ends - Gap and Old Navy are favorite targets of the AFA, but they really lost it when Old Navy ran an ad that mentioned Christmas along with other winter holidays including the Winter Solstice, which as everyone knows is a "pagan holiday...celebrated by Wiccans who practice witchcraft!" Oh, the horror. Of course, the AFA is just fine with all of the current Christmas traditions that were 'borrowed' from the pagans by early Christians.

-Debunking the AFA's Naughty or Nice List: Limited Brands - Our attempt to figure out how the AFA can be so fixated on Limited Brands and so wrong about them at the same time.

December 9, 2011

One Million Moms Protest Macy's For Firing Transphobic Employee

In the latest action alert from the One Million Moms, they're taking a break from obsessing over the imaginary "war on Christmas" to protest Macy's for firing a Christian employee. Here's what happened, according to them:

Macy's fires Christian for protecting women's dressing rooms from cross-dresser

Macy's has fired a Christian woman for refusing to violate her religious beliefs. Her offense? She prevented a man dressed as a woman from entering the women’s dressing room.

According to Liberty Counsel, Natalie Johnson says she saw the young man walk out of the women's fitting room and politely told him that he could not go back in because it was for women only. The cross-dressing young man claimed that he is a "female." Johnson said that he was wearing make-up and girl's clothing, but clearly he was a male. The cross-dresser was accompanied by five other individuals.

The group argued with expletives that Macy's is LGBT-friendly, to which Johnson replied that Macy's is also non-discriminatory toward religion, and that it would go against her religious beliefs to lie that he was a woman or compromise with homosexuality. The group then demanded to speak with a manager.

Johnson’s boss referred her to Macy's LGBT policy which allows "transgender" people to change in any dressing room they want.

The manager demanded that she comply with the LGBT policies or lose her job. Johnson refused to go against her sincerely held religious beliefs and was terminated from her job.

Macy's has essentially opened women's dressing rooms to every man. The LGBT agenda has become the theater of the absurd.
We found another source that confirmed the basic details of this story, minus the OMM's transphobia. It also included some quotes from Natalie Johnson, like this gem:
Asked if she would handle the situation the same way if given another chance, Johnson said she would.

“There are no transgenders in the world. A guy can dress up as a woman all he wants. That’s still not going to make you a woman,” Johnson said. “If you’re a man going into the women’s fitting room, I will kindly escort you to the men’s fitting room.”

Obviously we side with Macy's on this one. Johnson is free to personally disagree with the dressing room policy if she wants to, but if she's going to continue to be rude to customers who are doing nothing wrong and refuse to comply with the policy even after her manager tells her to, then Macy's was right to fire her.

The OMM's claim that Johnson was "protecting" the dressing room is offensive and ridiculous. If I'm a woman trying on women's clothes in the women's dressing room, why would I need to be protected from another woman doing the exact same thing just because one of us happens to be a trans woman? (If anything, a trans woman would be more likely to run into trouble with bigoted shoppers if she was forced to use the men's dressing room by a bigoted employee like Johnson.) The implication that all trans people are potential predators, or that lots of men are going to start exploiting this policy and dressing up as women to get access to the women's dressing room, or that men who really are predators are currently being thwarted by dressing room policies in the first place...well, to use the OMM's word, the entire thing is absurd.

So far it seems that Macy's is standing by their policy and has no plans to rehire Johnson:

Macy’s senior vice president of corporate communications and external affairs Jim Sluzewski issued the following statement:

“Macy’s is very proud of our philosophy of diversity and inclusion, and we welcome all customers into our stores. This includes customers of all races, ethnicities, ages, genders, faith traditions, countries of origins and lifestyle preferences. We strive to ensure that each customer is able to shop in a discrimination-free environment.”

The OMM was nice enough to gather some contact info for Macy's, so if you'd like to counteract their transphobic protest by contacting Macy's and thanking them for having and enforcing an LGBT-friendly dressing room policy, here it is:
Email Macy's President Terry Lundgren and urge him to immediately apologize to Natalie, reinstate her position with Macy's and put safeguards in place to protect women customers from men who would enter their dressing areas.

IMPORTANT! Personally call Macy's headquarters at 513-579-7000 and express your outrage at this injustice to female employees and customers.

Other numbers to call:

Jim Sluzewski, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications - 513-579-7764
Macy's Media Relations - Julie Strider, 646-429-5213

Terry J. Lundgren, President
7 West Seventh Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Primary Phone: 513-579-7000
Secondary Phone: 513-579-7764
Fax: 513-579-7555
E-Mail: Terry J. Lundgren, Macy's

We also looked up the contact info for the store where this incident happened if anyone wants to contact the store management directly:

Macy's San Antonio Rivercenter
151 East Bowie Street
San Antonio, TX 78205

December 8, 2011

Let's talk about Family Dollar opening on Christmas Day

It's pretty much common knowledge that we here at Evil Slutopia have pretty strong opinions about a lot of stuff. So of course, it's always interesting when we have trouble taking an official stance on an issue. Especially when we have trouble completely agreeing with each other.

The current issue at hand is the most recent One Million Moms action alert about Family Dollar stores allegedly being open on Christmas day. We don't completely disagree with them this time (shocking!) but we don't fully agree with their reasoning on every point either. Rather than trying to come to an insincere conclusion, this time we decided to just share our thought process... and see where it goes.

First, some background on this "alert" from the OMM's website:
Family Dollar Stores - Christmas greed at its worst

This Christmas, Family Dollar Stores is breaking new ground by opening some of its stores on Christmas morning. All other major discount retailers (Fred's, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, etc.) are honoring families by remaining closed to allow employees to spend time with their children.

In an internal memo received by OneMillionMoms, Family Dollar shamelessly shows corporate greed is behind the decision: "Only 2 people working per store on Christmas day. Each store needs to do $1100 in sales in order to break even, this is why we only have 2 people working."

This means on Christmas morning, while Family Dollar executives are sitting around the Christmas tree with their families, their employees will be leaving their children at home, just to make a few paltry dollars for the company.

A great many of Family Dollar employees are mothers, many of them single parents. Shame on Family Dollar for breaking up families on Christmas morning!
And here's our take on it... Maybe this will show the OMM how to actually discuss an issue, rather than just jumping to the most inflammatory conclusion. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Lilith: I'm sort of halfway between agreeing and disagreeing. On the one hand, I don't think anyone should be forced to work on Christmas day. However, if a worker isn't Christian (or doesn't have Christmas plans) and doesn't mind working, then what's the big deal? I'm sure there are plenty of employees who would want to make some overtime pay. If there are only going to be two employees there that day, is anyone necessarily being "forced"? Why is Christmas sacred? Most stores are open on Chanukah and Diwali and almost every other holiday.

Jezebel: I have mixed feelings about it. I don't fully agree with the OMM's reasons for being upset, but I also don't agree with Family Dollar's reasons for being open (if they actually are). I'm sure the Moms feel like Christmas is more sacred than any other winter holiday and wouldn't give a shit about people of other religions having to work on their holidays. My feeling is more that nobody should have to work on their holidays, although I know that's not always totally realistic or practical. I'm sure Family Dollar has some employees who aren't Christian or aren't religious or don't celebrate for whatever reason who wouldn't mind working on Christmas, but are there enough of those people that they won't have to force people who do want to celebrate Christmas to work instead? And do they as a company actually care enough about their employees to make that distinction in the first place? There's also the fact that the majority of this country happens to be Christian, and Christmas is also a federal holiday. That doesn't mean the whole world has to stop, but I feel like if I was, say, traveling in a mostly Muslim country on a major Muslim holiday, I would understand if stores were closed.

Lilith: See, that's part of the issue for me. I don't even really think that Christmas should be a federal holiday when none of the other religions' holidays are. The majority of this country may be Christian (although that is slowly changing) but there isn't a federal religion.

Jezebel: I agree that it probably shouldn't be a federal holiday. I'm just saying that as it stands now it is. Someone did comment on the OMM facebook page "I'm Jewish and I am offended it's such a huge deal when someone works on Christmas but for the Jewish holidays its no big deal."

Lilith: I feel like in this economic climate, it's not that outrageous for stores to need to stay open (vs. choosing to stay open out of pure greed). Not saying that's the case with them, but it's a good argument for staying open for some smaller brands.

Jezebel: I'm not sure about a store like Family Dollar 'needing' to be open on Christmas, just based on numbers alone - when you add up the costs of opening the store and paying the employees extra to be there plus the fact that there's probably not going to be a lot of traffic in the store, are they really making that much profit? The memo (if it's real) mentions how much money they'd have to take in just to break even and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of locations didn't meet those numbers. So is it really worth it, and does it set a bad precedent that other stores might follow? I feel the same way about stores opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving every year. In fact, I was more bothered by stores being open on Thanksgiving just to start Black Friday early than I am by this. I'm pretty sure Kmart was open all day on Thanksgiving. I don't get why that's necessary.

Lilith: Yeah, I agree. I was more disgusted by the stores opening up at midnight on Thanksgiving, than I am about stores being open on Christmas. Mainly because that's not a religious holiday - it's much more universal. Almost all Americans celebrate it in some way. And the Black Friday craziness turns me off in general. But I feel like this is kind of different. It's not that I completely agree with it, but I don't agree with OMM's reasons either. I know plenty of Jewish people who probably wish they could run out and grab some groceries on Christmas or even some Christians who are like "Oh no! I forgot ______!" and need to run out to pick something up. We forget something important on every holiday and it sucks when there's nothing open.

Jezebel: But I think there's a difference between something like a supermarket or a drug store choosing to be open for a few hours for 'emergencies' and a dollar store being open in a lame attempt to squeeze a few extra dollars out of people. I think it's definitely worth considering why a store chooses to be open.

Lilith: Well, Family Dollar sells all kinds of stuff that people might need at the last minute on Christmas and I wouldn't mind having at least one store around my neighborhood that was actually open. Family Dollar sells food, drinks, toiletries, diapers, cold medicine, detergent, etc. All stuff you might realize you need on Christmas and desperately need to find a store for (whether you celebrate Christmas or not). It doesn't bother me that they're open on principle alone. It would bother me if they don't give their employees the choice to stay home on the holiday. I've had jobs where we were open on a lot of holidays, but we were always given the choice to work or not, based on whether or not we had holiday obligations. There are a lot of jobs that don't give people off for Christmas - police departments and hospitals for example. Now you can argue that those jobs are way more important than Family Dollar and you're right.. but my point is that just because it's Christmas doesn't mean ALL THINGS MUST STOP. Especially when you know that if a store closed for Ramadan or something, then people would boycott. The only objection I have is if workers are forced to work or intimidated into working.

Jezebel: I guess I just come down on the side of not trusting most companies to treat their employees well. Maybe this year it's just one or two companies choosing to be open and they're giving every employee the choice about whether to work or not, but if they make a profit is it going to be a slippery slope in future years where more stores are open for longer hours and employees have less choice about whether to work or not? And in this economy with so many people looking for jobs, what's to stop companies from just firing people if they don't want to work on Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.?

Lilith: I don't necessarily trust any corporate entity to always do the right thing. But that's different than the theoretical question of "is it okay to be open on Christmas?" There isn't any evidence (yet) that employees have been treated unfairly or that they've even been asked to work on the holiday. So I feel like this is one of those times that the OMM is getting outraged over the wrong point. It's "OMG think of the poor children being left alone on Christmas!" when we have no idea if any of the Family Dollar employees in question even have kids or even celebrate Christmas. How do they even know that the employees that will be working will be leaving their families? Not everyone has a family or has plans for Christmas. Or some people might actually welcome something to fill that time if they are alone over the holidays. My daughter splits her holidays between me and my ex every year... the years that she isn't with me, I don't really feel like celebrating at all. It just seems like a big jump to go from "some employees will work part of the day on Christmas" to "Mothers are going to be forced to leave their children home alone on Christmas!" THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Jezebel: I also agree that they went a little overboard with the 'think of the children' stuff (and this is probably the first time they ever acted like they care about single moms), but on the other hand, just because someone doesn't have kids that doesn't mean that they 'don't have a family' that they want to celebrate Christmas with. Or you could have no family at all but be very religious and want to spend Christmas going to church. But hey, on the plus side for the OMM, Family Dollar uses the word "Christmas"! So at least they can be on the AFA's green list while ruining the holiday for mothers and children everywhere.

Lilith: I was looking at the Family Dollar website and I've yet to find any evidence that it's actually true. I wouldn't put it past the OMM to make up an issue (or just outright misunderstand/over-exaggerate something). And then when the truth comes out they will turn around and claim "they listened to our demands!" even though it had nothing to do with them at all.

Jezebel: Well that is their style. I was reading comments on their page about the 'Naughty or Nice' retailer list that the AFA does and people were talking about some store that didn't have decorations out before but now they do. OMM responded and they were like 'they must have listened to our demands...or they were telling the truth about waiting until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas'. Hmmm, which one could it be? They weren't saying "Merry Christmas" in October but they're saying it now that it's December...they've heard us loud and clear! So it would be no surprise if the OMM was off base about this issue too.

Okay wait, look at this from the Family Dollar Facebook page:
Oftentimes we are the only affordable store for customers in our neighborhoods. In response to customer requests, we decided to open stores to meet their needs:
• Our stores are open on a volunteer basis and less than half our store chain will be open
• Our stores will be open for a short day, only 10-3, allowing those who did volunteer to spend the morning and the afternoon with their families.
• Team Members are being paid double-time for their volunteering to work that day, which will provide extra money to those who may need it.
Lilith: Ah, see that makes it sound better. It's voluntary, it's not a full day, it's double-time pay, and it's based on the customer's requests. I think it's true that if you're really stuck on Christmas for last minute essentials, it's nice to have that option.

Jezebel: But read the comment below: "I did volunteer to work this Christmas, but I hear rumors next year it won't be optional and we will all be open. Let's hope that's not true." I understand their explanation but I also understand the concern that it will be mandatory next year.

Lilith: Yeah, I agree that's a concern. But I feel like, cross that bridge when you get to it maybe. Don't bash them for trying to do what the customers want because they might fuck it up.

Jezebel: Here's an update- The OMM shared an email that they got back from Family Dollar:
We appreciate your concern for our store team members working on Christmas day.
The decision to open some of our stores a limited number of hours (between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.) on Christmas day was not made lightly or in disregard for the sanctity of Christmas. We made the decision in response to the expressed needs of our customers, many of whom have no means of transportation to stores outside their immediate neighborhoods. If our stores are not open, they will have no place to go for food, health aides or other basic household supplies they may need even on Christmas day.

The Family Dollar Team Members who will work a half day on Christmas have volunteered to do so. They are very special folks, not only to us, but especially to the people they serve. We will open late in the morning so that they can enjoy Christmas morning with their families, and we will close early so they can have the rest of the day with their families. Team members who volunteer to work on Christmas will be paid double the wages they would normally receive for the hours worked. For many of our Team Members, this extra income is most welcome, especially during the holiday season.

Thank you for taking the time to make us aware of your concerns.

Howard Levine
Chairman and CEO
Family Dollar Stores, Inc.
Lilith: Cool. That's a good response.

Jezebel: I don't really have a problem with it based on that email. But at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if it turned into 'Oh sorry, nobody volunteered this time so you have to work' or 'we made so much money that now we're going to be open all day.'

Lilith: Yeah, I wonder what would happen in that case. Would they just not open? Or would someone be forced to work?

Jezebel: Maybe Family Dollar has some integrity and cares about their employees, etc. but what happens when some other dollar store that's a competitor of theirs decides they need to keep up, and they don't care?

Jezebel: The OMM added this note below the response from Howard Levine:
The internal memo that was not meant to get out was sent in by a manager that said it was open to volunteers (first), but if no one volunteered then the managers had to work in select stores. This is a trial to see how well it goes to possibly open more stores next year which may not be on a volunteer basis in the future. The extra pay makes families choose between money and time with family on Christmas. Their reply above is a lame excuse to be open. Most people make arrangements (transportation, etc.) before hand & for medical emergencies there are a few pharmacies that are open. Have not had a response from Family Dollar if they offer the extra pay for other holidays or over time in general if the employees are even allowed to work over 40 hours other weeks of the year.
Lilith: I don't even understand what that means. How do they know all this?

Jezebel: I guess OMM is claiming that someone who works there leaked it to them. Not that I really trust them to accurately explain what's going on.

Lilith: Yeah, I don't trust them at all. I'd sooner trust Family Dollar than the OMM.

Jezebel: Yeah, pretty much. Like we said, it's so like them to exaggerate a problem and then take credit for the 'solution'.

Lilith: There is so much wrong with that reply. First of all, they use ableist language ("lame" excuse to be open). And their argument that people make arrangements for transportation beforehand makes no sense. He just said that this is for the customers who have no means of transportation. What "arrangements" do they think these people are making? Hiring limousines so they can go to the grocery store? They obviously have no idea what it's like to be poor in this day and age. This is more of a class issue than a religious issue and the OMM is showing their fucking privilege.

Jezebel: Yeah, and are they trying to say that most people make arrangements beforehand for medical emergencies?

Lilith: Well apparently "a few pharmacies" are open. So if there's a medical emergency they can just travel across town. Maybe in their neighborhood there's an open pharmacy on every corner. And apparently they don't care about the employees who are "forced" to work on Christmas at these pharmacies. How much do you want to bet they protest those companies for staying open as well? But I really don't understand the extra-pay question. What different does it make if they offer extra pay for other holidays or other overtime? Would that be better or worse? Are they suggesting that only working on Christmas deserves overtime pay because it's so much more special and sacred than any other overtime work?

Jezebel: Yeah, the extra pay for other holidays question is kind of interesting. Can you imagine how the OMM would react if they were paying Muslim employees extra to work during Ramadan or something? But I'm not sure what they're actually getting at. Maybe they're suggesting that the extra pay is their way of getting people to volunteer? Like, they're leading good Christians astray by promising extra money or something. But whatever they're getting at, I think it's safe for us to say they're wrong about it.

Lilith: Well it's always safe for us to say that.

Jezebel: That really goes without saying.

December 2, 2011

Women for Herman Cain

The universe has given us a gift and that gift is Women for Herman Cain.

Women for Herman Cain is a slapped together one page section of Cain's campaign website that is (poorly) designed to convince us that Herman Cain cares about women (in a respectful, non-adulterous and harassment-free sort of a way) and women care about Herman Cain. Of course, they describe it a bit differently:

"Women For Cain" is an online national fellowship of women dedicated to helping elect Herman Cain as the next President of the United States.
Ooh, an online fellowship. Sounds prestigious. In fact, I think we'll start one too. Let's call it The ESC Online Fellowship for Calling Out Blatant Pandering By Sexist Candidates. Contact us to join.

Mr. Cain has been a strong advocate for women throughout his lifetime, defending and promoting the issues of quality health care, family, education, equality in the workplace and many other concerns so important to American women.
Hopefully that short paragraph tells you all you wanted to know about Cain's positions on the issues that matter to women, because that's all you're going to get.

Gloria Cain is the National Chairperson for "Women for Cain" and is the very special woman who Mr. Cain devoted his life to many years ago. Mr. Cain and Gloria celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary earlier this year. The couple has two children and three grandchildren and a legacy of family, friends, and community and church involvement.

"Women For Cain" was formed to inspire a national women's alliance in support of Herman Cain 2012 and Friends of Herman Cain. Please join our conversation to learn of volunteer opportunities and to be informed of issues and events surrounding the Herman Cain campaign.
Assuming that even one of the allegations of sexual harassment and/or adultery that has been made against Herman Cain is true, fuck him for naming her the "chairperson" of this nonsense.

So what else can be found on Women for Herman Cain? A lovely purple logo (at least it's not pink, I guess), a photo featuring a diverse group of female Herman Cain supporters that turned out to be a stock photo that has already been used on several other websites, and, of course, a big Donate Now button. The rest of the site is made up of testimonials that have been sent in by Cain's many many many female fans. Here's a sampling of the wisdom and insight to be found there:

Please don't let the opposition win, they are vile liars and will face God for what they've done to you. How can We the People choose who WE want (you!) if you allow them to run you off? Gingrich has DONE all the things they're accusing you of, and Romney is a RINO.. we call him Obama Lite. PLEASE don't give up. Speak up loud and clear that you are not giving up, and please let Gloria speak out again. I'll admit that when I heard that you sent $ to a woman w/out your wife knowing, it gave me pause.. I wouldn't appreciate my hubby sending $ to another woman w/out my approval... but then I thought about and discussed it with everyone I know. We came to the conclusion that you're a good man worth the benefit of the doubt. We figure that you're probably a very busy man who comes in contact w/ tons of people daily, and that you probably both have friends the other isn't friends with, and that you have helped other people, men and women, without discussing it, because that's just what you do, you're a softie (stop that now!) and got taken advantage of. That happens. I have NO doubts about you after thinking and praying about it. If Mrs. Cain is OK w/ what you did, I am. Please send her back to Greta again! That's between you two anyway. Lots of couples have separate money and do what they want with it. That is ok! Don't give up sir, please. Don't make me beg! Don't let the evil conspirators push you out of this race.

Okay, we'll give this woman half a point for the Gingrich comment, that was kinda funny.

I am a single mom of three children and two have autism. I like what Mr Cain has to say. He the only one that wants to talk about the REAL issues. Im tired of all the side tracking of unimportant accusations by people from years and years ago. Today is what Im interested in. And the tomorrow of our country is what I want to be talked about. Im voting for Hermain Cain.

Ah, the 'it allegedly happened a long time ago so who cares?' argument. Very solid.

Stay in the race. I am so turned off by these women who get their 5 minutes of fame - they set women back a century. They are an insult to sucessful working women. I have been successfully self employed in a male dominated industry, commercial real estate, and never once did I have a problem with any male counterpart. I was fortunate that I was mentored because I worked for it. So I can relate to you in your journey of success. You appear to be a very decent human being that genuinely will help anyone and you also appear to be a true gentleman. Its disgusting these women have taken advantage of you. They are the ones with questionable character, not you. It also appears that your wife is a true lady and has the character to see through all of these allegations to what they are - attempts to keep you from running because you are a threat to the status quo. If JFK was running today,my what a feeding frenzy that would be, yet he is an adored former president.

And the 'I've never experienced sexism myself so women who say they have must be liars' argument. We're on a roll now!

Mr. Cain, To me you are the embodiment of the prayers of every faithful believing slave who turned to ALMIGHTY GOD for deliverance from slavery and inequality. You are the embodiment of Martin Luther King Jr. 'I have a dream' speech. You are the only hope I have for a future in America!Be strong and of good courage Mr. Cain, Our God Reigns!

Based on the picture that accompanied this comment, it appears to have been written by a white woman. I don't even know where to start.

I truly believe THEHermanCain is exactly what America needs now. I appreciate that he speaks from his heart, has a plan for success, and is NOT a slick TV personality or debater. I worry that if the media succeeds in their "assassination by innuendo" it could be the end of our Republic. Will it continue to be that easy for progressives to destroy their opponents? We The People are the ultimate losers if they succeed.

This is one of many comments that blamed all of the allegations against Cain on the media or a liberal conspiracy or some combination of the two, because apparently Cain's candidacy is a huge threat to us because...well...um...I'm sure there are some very good reasons, and Cain's supporters will get around to telling us what those reasons are very soon.

Mrs. Cain, I'm so very sorry for the pain you've had to suffer at the hands of these seriously troubled women and those behind them. Such an elegant lady as you should never have to deal with such scum. My prayers are with you and Mr. Cain. I have no doubt Herman Cain is the person we need to restore our country to its God-blessed glory!

There's nothing like a nice dose of compassionate conservative Christian victim-blaming.

I absolutely believe that you can beat Obama in 2012. Remember Clarence Thomas and hang in there.

Ah, yes. Remember Clarence Thomas? I sure do.

Mr Cain, I want to thank you for running for President. Your decision to do so was not a selfish one, but one of a desire to help the country you love. You have seen the failures of the current administration and felt confident that your skills and talents could change America in a GOOD way, and you were willing to step in and do that! But now because of scheming women that can be swayed by money, attention or whatever else the reason may be, your reputation is at stake - not theirs as it should be. I do not believe these women are victims...I believe you are. Because of what they have done to you, your family and to the American people who have placed their hope for our country in you and your abilities, you are faced with a dilemma of what your life choices from here should and will be. I feel certain because you are a man of integrity and character that your decision has been bathed in prayer by you and Ms Cain, and those close to your family that love you. Much of America is joining with you all in prayer & fasting too.

I accept the fact that Herman Cain has supporters. I accept the fact that his supporters choose not to believe any of the women who are accusing Cain of sexual harassment or adultery. I can even accept that some people believe that sexual harassment doesn't really exist and was invented by us angry humorless feminists. But I cannot and will not buy the idea that "much of America" is joining with Cain not just in prayer, but fasting as well. I have limits.

Mrs Cain, I just want to say that you are an amazing woman to have to survive this liberal lynching of your husband. I and many other woman are standing by your man because he shows integrity, faithfulness, and inspiration. But we are also standing by you. I am praying for you to get through this one day at a time. The enemy may set doubts, but the Lord will clear your path. God bless you Mrs. Cain, soon to be First Lady( and you certainly own that title).

Liberal lynching? Oh.

Mr. Cain (aka The Hermanator)--It's very upsetting to witness your campaign and personal life subjected to this American 'impact of reality television'. It's pathetic and shameful women are so desperate for their five minutes of fame that they would position themselves against the greatest potential president Americans could be blessed enough to have.

This woman may be onto something with the reality TV concept. If Mrs. Cain chooses not to stand by her man, we look forward to seeing For the Love of Herman or Cain Train of Love on Vh1 very soon.

I cannot believe you had time for an affair. If you are ill and fighting for your life,suffering through chemotherapy,how can you have time between hospital visits and family time? Wouldn't you be too sick to participate in a make-believe affair? You are a triple threat to the Left!! I believe these "women" are looking for money and attention and have been groomed by the "Demonacrats" to be a bunch of bad actress'. The Left is desperate and they are low enough to break the law and lie. My husband and I are strong supporters. Don't let the bad guys win. Don't give up!! 999!!! :)

He's a triple threat? What, like he can act, sing, and dance? And I was going to be annoyed by the fact that this comment paints Cain's accusers as money-grubbing attention whores, but then I saw that little smiley face at the end and I couldn't stay mad.

Dear Mr. Cain, I am a 66 year old female architect in the State of Texas, and want to simply say... as a REAL woman I do not believe for one second any of these "women" that have crawled out from under a rock somewhere to defame you and bring pain to you and your family. They are pitiful creatures at the very least, and evil at the most. Isn't it convenient that they have suddenly become offended by supposed advances by you now after all these years, my goodness, poor babies, how have they been able to bare up under the pain for all these oh so many years... LIARS, LIARS, LIARS...GO GET THEM HERMAN AND PLEASE DO NOT QUIT!!!!

I also hope you pursue a slander, libel, defamation of character suit against this moneygrubbing, lying woman.

Hello, Herman Cain, you need to focus about this America" and don't even listen to all this women ,that they don't have nothing good to say about you... they they are money hungry... and women like this, Don't care or don't have no "SHAME to go on TV...to use lies, for money...somebody has been paying this women. They make me sick to my stomach.....they need to start digging a hole on the ground n till they rich china' So, Mr,Cain put your 2 feet on the ground and do your duty....you are here to do, a job....that we in "America" need you......You can not give up.... your or the man....Like God said be for you were born he already knew what you were going to do,if not GOD himself, will remove you from earth....

I do not believe a single one of the "women" who have accused you. I believe you to be a God-fearing man who loves his wife and children. Don't let Satan and his demons win. Stay true to the Lord's will and stay in this race.

These testimonials are great because I'm really learning so much about why Herman Cain is a great candidate for women and why women support him. So much helpful insight.

We need a first lady to bring back grace and style back to the White house..We need you.

Cool, let's throw in a random slam on Michelle Obama cause why not?

I don't believe allegations that have been run thru the media and pray for you and your wife daily.

Okay, I get it, the media is horrible and liberal and evil. But how would this woman like to find out about allegations like this if they're not "run thru the media"? I guess Cain's accusers should have showed up at her house to tell her about it personally.

So what have we learned from Women for Herman Cain? We've learned that the allegations against Cain are nothing but a liberal/media conspiracy perpetuated by lying women (or "women" who aren't like REAL women) who only want money, attention, and/or fame and who may or may not be in league with Satan. We've also learned that the Cain campaign thought it was a good idea to post all of these testimonials instead of, say, some information about Cain's positions on the issues and plans for the future that might actually be helpful to women voters. And in a way I guess this teaches us everything we need to know.

Rumors are swirling tonight that Herman Cain may drop out of the presidential race tomorrow. If that turns out to be true, I'll be so grateful that we got to enjoy Women for Herman Cain as a lovely parting gift. And I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to Women for Newt Gingrich.

November 15, 2011

How do you handle rape jokes on Twitter?

We want to share an incident that happened to us on Twitter last night because we think it raises some important issues. Yes, we know, try to contain your shock that we would speak out about something and get ourselves into trouble, but in this case we felt it was something worth saying. To be clear, we're not trying to call this person out or shame them publicly or whatever by blogging about this, we're trying to get at the larger issues involved. (We thought about blurring out her name in our screenshots but we realized that it would be really easy to go to our Twitter and figure it out in about two seconds, so we didn't.) But we're not encouraging anyone to contact her or anything like that, we just want to talk about the situation.

Here's what happened. We were checking Twitter when we saw this tweet pop up in our stream:

It was late and I was a little tired, so I had to read this tweet over about five times just to confirm that yes, she was comparing paying $13 for parking to "getting raped". We decided to address it because we feel like rape jokes are never funny and making light of rape is really not okay, but we tried to be polite about it:

This was her reply to us:

We're not sure if this was just her way of saying 'I can say whatever I want' or if she was trying to somehow argue that it was okay for her to use the word rape because we use the word slut. We understand and respect that there are legitimate arguments against reclaiming words like slut, but we don't think that's really comparable to making inappropriate comments about rape. But no matter which way she meant it, we quickly realized that we weren't going to have any kind of productive conversation with her about it. (At the same time that this was happening, someone else also replied to her and jokingly said that they didn't see what "penetrative and oral sex" had to do with parking, and her reply was "$13 is outrageous at emergency".) We decided to just unfollow her and drop it, so we replied one more time to tell her that we were unfollowing and why.

As far as we were concerned it was over at that point. We were going to unfollow her and figured that she would probably unfollow us too. Well, it turns out that while we were writing that second (and last) reply to her, she not only unfollowed us but also blocked us. This seemed a little excessive to us considering that we had only tweeted at her once at that point. It's not like we had gone on some 50 tweet long 'angry feminist' rant or tried to give her a lecture on Rape Culture 101 and she had to block us to shut us up. In fact, it turned out that she was the one who wasn't done discussing it (read up from the bottom):

Ah, the good old "PC Police" argument. It seems a little weird in this context, though. It's not like we were talking to her about cultural appropriation or some other 'liberal cause'. We were asking her not to compare something as serious as rape to something as trivial as the price of parking. That doesn't seem like a massive stretch of the boundaries of political correctness.

She still wasn't done. In fact, the next tweet was so long that it needed help from TwitLonger:

Like we said above, we understand that some people are going to find our name offensive and that's fine. (Although again, we object to the idea that it's offensive in the same way that using the word rape can be offensive.) But it's kind of funny that it apparently didn't bother her when she followed us on Twitter in the first place, and is only a problem now because we called out something that she said. It's also a little problematic to tell someone who complained about a rape-related comment to "get fucked".

At this point the other guy who had commented on her original tweet made the mistake of trying to defend us a little bit and got a multi-tweet answer for his trouble:

It's interesting to us that she kept insisting that we were "policing" her or "forcing our ideas" on her because we tweeted at her once and politely asked that she not make light of rape. And that's exactly what she was doing even though she claims she wasn't - comparing rape to something as inconsequential as paying 13 bucks at a parking garage is pretty much the definition of making light of rape. We're also confused by her comment that "nobody minds" jokes about Jews - actually we do mind, and so do a lot of other people, and if we saw an anti-Semitic joke in our Twitter stream we would call that out too. It just seemed like a strange defense to us to say that other kinds of offensive jokes are tolerated by some people so rape jokes should be too.

She continued to reference the incident while talking to other people about totally unrelated topics, saying things like "just my humble uneducated opinion...in case anyone wanted to jump in and PC the convo" and "Rent is this city is ridiculous (don't compare it to any kind of sexual act though) #eyeroll". (Rape is NOT a "sexual act"!) We never tried to tweet at her again after our second tweet and we also didn't reference it on our twitter again in any way. To us her reaction seems like a case of protesting too much, but obviously we're biased.

We feel like what we said must have affected her since she kept talking and talking and talking about it. In fact, we might not have addressed this at all if she hadn't reacted so strongly and gone on at such length about her right to make rape jokes on Twitter. But we're curious about what other people think and if anyone else has experienced something like this. Was she right that we should have just quietly unfollowed her without saying anything? How do you handle it when you hear someone making rape jokes (or jokes that are racist, homophobic, etc.) or comments that make light of rape? We'd love to hear some feedback on this one.

November 8, 2011

Cosmo's Editor Kate White Doesn't Understand Consent

Last month we wrote about a really problematic piece of advice printed in Cosmopolitan magazine (written by Cosmo's resident douchebag "guy guru" Ky Henderson). In the "Ask Him Anything" column, Henderson proved that he has no clue about what is or isn't consensual sex by giving some really terrible, harmful advice to a woman who complained that her boyfriend would initiate sex while she was asleep even if she had already said no. Henderson's response not only dismissed his behavior as evidence of something "good" ("he is a dude" and "he thinks your hot") but he actually went as far as to insist that she make sure not to act "as though he's doing something wrong". He also suggested that she initiate more spontaneous sex to keep him happy.

As we explained in our original blog, there is so much wrong with this advice - it is not only offensive, but dangerous - because it never properly addresses the issue of consent. Her boyfriend's behavior is wrong and inappropriate because 1) he is trying to initiate sexual activity with her when she is not in a position to consent because she is asleep and 2) she has already said no to any sexual activity in that situation and he is persisting anyway. This isn't happening because "he's a dude" but because 1) he's not respecting his girlfriend's boundaries and not listening when she says no and 2) he apparently doesn't understand how consent works anymore than Henderson does.

We tweeted many many times to Cosmo (and to Ky Henderson directly) about how dangerous this advice is and requested an apology and a correction. We received no response. Then we tweeted to Cosmo's editor Kate White directly, asking her to "correct & apologize for this harmful advice":

That was on October 19. Finally today (November 8 - how prompt) Kate White responded with possibly the least useful apology that we could have even imagined. She wrote "I’m sorry if the line was offensive. The author was being facetious."

What? What is she even talking about? Which line does she think we were offended by? (How about all of them!) And since when is "being facetious" an excuse for condoning non-consensual sexual activity. It isn't. There's nothing funny or "facetious" about it.

Apparently Cosmo's own editor doesn't understand consent either. (Or apologies for that matter. The "sorry you're offended" apologies are the most meaningless.) So maybe we need to teach her a lesson about it...

Contact Cosmo and tell them that non-consensual sex isn't funny, isn't okay and isn't good advice. Demand an apology (a real one - and a public one at that) and a correction.

To submit a comment to Cosmo:

To contact Cosmo on Twitter: 

November 7, 2011

Obligation Sex: Is Trading Sex for Favors Okay?

For some reason, why women have sex seems to be a hot-topic issue right now. Within only a few days, I came across two separate pieces that address the issue of women having sex for reasons other than enjoyment. (Can you imagine the media or the scientific community ever devoting  time to why men have sex? It's pretty much a given that men have sex because they want to have sex and there's only really attention given to ways to make that easier for them, such as Viagra).

First, the other day I came across a tiny little survey piece in the October 2011 issue of Redbook, debating whether it was ever okay to trade sex for favors:

In a recent poll, 68 percent of REDBOOK readers said they've offered the goodies in return for a good deed from him. The rest of you said it's wrong. Both sides sound off:


"Sometimes I want sex and I want ice cream, and sex is a good incentive. Either way, we both win!" -- Danielle Blue, Kalamazoo, MI

"I once lifted up my shirt and said, 'Do you ever want to see them again?' so he would vacuum for me. He said he'd do anything I wanted!" -- Anne Travis, Manchester, TN


"That's off-limits for us. Otherwise, you can expect your husband to demand sex in return for doing nice things. No, thank you!" -- Diana Brown, Houston

"Sexual favors are a special treat - I don't want to change, and he should know that I'm doing something for him because I want to." -- Carolyn Canales, Arlington, TX
I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I do agree that women should be having sex because they want to, not out of some obligation. But on the other hand, I support sex workers' rights and find nothing "morally" wrong with trading sex for money or favors. (Readers: I'd love to hear your opinions on the subject.)

Mostly, I feel like it isn't right for anyone else to tell you how to handle your own sexual activity.

Also, although they technically gave both "sides" of the debate, even the "Why Not?" side seemed to be strictly within the confines of a relationship - trading sex for ice cream and vacuuming isn't exactly as controversial as some of the other stuff women might trade sex for, so the whole thing came off kind of slut-shamey in a passive-aggressive roundabout way.

In a moment of synchronicity, I received a press releasae today from HealthyWomen.org titled "New Survey Reveals Women Having Sex for Obligation Not Enjoyment". It cited a recent WomenTALK survey done by the National Women's Health Group and EmpowerHER.

From the press release:
Naomi Greenblatt, MD, a board certified psychiatrist specializing in women’s health, said the WomenTALK data aligns with her clinical work in the field.

"There seems to be a growing trend in women having sex for obligation, not enjoyment purposes, "Dr. Greenblatt said.  "Women say there are only 24 hours in the day, and they simply are not prioritizing sex."
However, upon reading the actual findings of the study, I didn't really come to the conclusion that women were having sex out of obligation. Among the findings:
  • 51% of women believe engaging in sexual activity a few times a week is considered "sexually healthy" but only 30% actually engage in sexual activity at this level.
  • 76% of women in committed relations are very happy with their relationships but only 33% of women are extremely or very satisfied with their sex life. (39% are "somewhat or not at all" satisfied.)
  • 41% of women said they are engaging in sexual activity less often than they would like (citing reasons such as being too tired - 32%; not having a partner - 31%, being too stressed -23%; being insecure about their body - 22%; lack of desire - 20%).
I'm not sure how they came to the conclusion that this means women are having sex out of obligation. Most of the women surveyed seem to be having sex less often than they want. Women don't seem to be prioritizing sex and don't seem to be fully aware of all the health and relationship benefits sex can bring... but there's no reason to believe that they're having sex for the "wrong" reasons. If anything, they're not having sex for the wrong reasons. (Not that there are ever really any "wrong" reasons to make a personal choice about what to do with your own body, but you know what we mean.)

So readers, weigh in on the "sex for favors" debate in the comments but please refrain from slut-shaming if possible. (There's a difference between saying you would never do something and suggesting that it's wrong for someone else to do it.)

Hey AFA: You don't know shit about your own holiday

Personally I think it's a little early to be talking about Christmas, but the American Family Association has already started sending out action alerts about the so-called "War on Christmas", naming companies that allegedly don't "recognize Christmas" on their websites and in their advertising. (Of course, this is extra of ridiculous because they started in October when most stores hadn't even started advertising their holiday sales in the first place.)

The AFA's favorite argument for why stores must mention Christmas (and only Christmas) is because it is such a special and important holiday and way better than any other holiday ever. Saying "happy holidays" or - gasp - acknowledging Christmas alongside "lesser" holidays like Chanukah, Kwanza or Yule/Solstice is blasphemous because it doesn't pay recognition to Jesus. And what better way to honor our savior than by shopping? (But only in stores that decorate in red and green and use the "C" word!)

Since the AFA won't stand for anything at Christmas time that isn't CHRISTMAS (and gets especially pissy if you dare acknowledge anything pagan-based), we thought we'd would just remind everyone what their so-called "Christmas" is really about. They're right - it's about Jesus Christ. Only it's not. But yet it is.

I don't know if these geniuses over at the AFA think that Santa and the reindeer and evergreen trees covered in lights were actually in the Bible, but the truth is, Christmas as we know it today has very little to do with the birth of Christ. Much of it was "borrowed" from pagan celebrations and some of it is just commercialized made-up stuff. So what's the big deal if a retailer doesn't go Christmas-crazy?

So we thought we'd remind the AFA exactly what they're complaining about by listing some of the "Christmas traditions" that likely came from earlier pagan traditions.

  • December 25
The date of Jesus's Nativity is never actually mentioned in the Bible. What did always take place during that time of the year was the Winter Solstice. There were a lot of ancient holidays associated with the Solstice that paid homage to various "sun" deities, including Sol Invictus and Saturnalia. Sol Invictus ("Invincible Sun") was the official sun god of the Roman empire and was the focus of a festival on December 25 to celebrate the "birthday" of the Sun. Saturnalia was a major holiday for the ancient Romans and paid homage to the god Saturn. Celebrations involved feasting, drinking, gift-giving and the lighting of candles. (December 25 was also the date of the birth of Mithras, the Iranian sun god. There are a lot of similarities between Mitras and Jesus.)

In the 4th century CE, in an attempt to convert the pagan masses to Christianity, Christian leaders adopted many of the traditions of Saturnalia for Christmas and named the last day as Jesus's birthday. Yule was a Germanic pagan winter festival that was also equated with Christmas once the Christian calendar was adopted. Various scholars have suggested that Jesus' actual birth date may have been closer to September or April, but no one knows for sure. One thing we can be sure of, is that it likely wasn't December 25th at all.
  • Exchange of Gifts 
The main focus of the AFA's campaign is about retailers honoring Christmas because gift-giving is what Christmas is all about. The claim is that it represents the gifts that the three wise men gave in honor of Jesus's birth but the truth is, exchanging gifts wasn't a tradition associated with Jesus until at least the 4th century. In pre-Christian Rome, it was a Saturnalia tradition to give gifts and it didn't become a Christmas tradition until Jesus's birthday was moved to December. The Catholic Church later associated this with the gift-giving of Saint Nicholas.
  • Candlelight Services
Candlelight services for Christmas Eve also originated from paganism. Pagans often lit candles to celebrate the holidays associated with the Winter Solstice (the shortest and darkest day of the year).
  • The Evergreen Tree
For a long time, many pagan cults worshiped trees and sometimes decorated them. Often clippings of evergreen trees were used to decorate the home during the Solstice in ancient Greece, Rome and Eastern Europe. (In Egypt palm trees were used.) Because the trees stayed green throughout the winter, they represented eternal life. These pagan cults were recruited to Christianity when the Church co-opted the tradition of decorating trees for Christmas.
  • Mistletoe and Holly
Years before Jesus was born, mistletoe was used by the Druids to decorate their homes in the Winter. They believed that it had special powers of healing and fertility. Scandinavians associated the plant with their goddess of love which may have inspired the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. The early Christian church replaced mistletoe with holly, but it is still a custom today to kiss under the mistletoe.
  • Yule Log 
 This is one tradition that they didn't even bother renaming... It is obviously derived from Yule solstice celebrations. The Yule log was burned in the hearth as part of the traditional Yule celebrations in several European cultures.
  • Christmas Ham
The tradition of cooking a Christmas Ham was derived from the tradition of the Yule boar. The "sonargoltr" was a boar sacrificed as a tribute to the god associated with boars, harvest and fertility, as part of the Yule celebration in Germanic paganism. This eventually evolved into the tradition of eating a Yule ham or Christmas ham. Often the Catholic Church used the ham as a test of those who converted from Judaism. Authentic converts would enjoy the ham without issue, while non-truthful converts would decline to eat the non-kosher meal.
  • Caroling and Wassailing
The practice of singing Christmas carols from door to door was likely derived from Winter Solstice celebrations as well. The Anglo-Saxon tradition of "wassailing" predates the celebration of Christmas in old England and in ancient Rome there were groups of costume singers and dancers called Mummers who traveled from house to house entertaining the neighbors. These were likely the precurser to Christmas carols. 
  • "X-mas"

    The AFA really hate the abbreviation "X-mas" but it might actually be the only Christmas tradition that actually does have to do with Christ. Yep, that's right. All that "Keep the Christ in Christmas" complaining about X-mas is totally misguided.

    It is a common misconception that "X-mas" is a modern attempt at taking away the religious aspect of Christmas, but the truth is that "X" stands for Christ. The Greek word for Christ is Χριστός (Xristos) meaning "savior". Legend has it that Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity because he had a vision of the Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P) intertwined - the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ - so the letters "XP" or just "X" was often used to stand in for "Christ". It became popular to use "X-mas" as shorthand back in the 16th century.

    So there AFA! If you're going to tell other people how to celebrate Christmas, then maybe you should take a look at the way you celebrate first. Because you're basically celebrating a pagan holiday and pretending that it has anything to do with Jesus, even though it doesn't. (Note: We're not saying there's anything wrong with the way that people celebrate Christmas. Just that it's completely ridiculous for the AFA to boycott businesses for not acknowledging Christmas in the ways that they see fit without having any knowledge of where their holiday traditions actually came from.)

    November 3, 2011

    Keep Raising A Stink In November With Breast Cancer Action

    Breast Cancer Awareness Month is officially over now, which means that the pinkwashing is starting to die down, and we won't be seeing as many products plastered with pink ribbons on our store shelves.

    But that doesn't mean the opportunity to take action is over. I actually think this is a good time to contact companies or organizations and give them feedback on their Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaigns. Something like this (just pick and choose whatever applies):
    Dear Company/Organization,

    I didn't buy your pink product/participate in your campaign this October because you didn't clearly explain where the money was going or what it would be used for/you were only donating two cents per item/your contribution is capped so I have no way of knowing if my purchase is actually adding to the donation/you were giving the money to an organization that spends more on cocktail parties and executive salaries than real activism/you weren't actually making a donation or doing anything but slapping a pink ribbon on your product to "raise awareness"/the Attorney General told me not to/your pink product contains ingredients that may actually cause cancer. Please do better next year.

    This year, Breast Cancer Action's anti-pinkwashing campaign is called Raise A Stink, and the target is Susan G. Komen for the Cure's new perfume:
    Pinkwashing has reached a new low this year with “Promise Me,” a perfume commissioned by the giant of the breast cancer movement, Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Promise Me contains chemicals not listed in the ingredients that: (a) are regulated as toxic and hazardous, (b) have not been adequately evaluated for human safety, and (c) have demonstrated negative health effects.

    Two chemicals of primary concern in Promise Me include Galaxolide and Toluene:

    * Galaxolide is a synthetic musk that works as a hormone disruptor and has been detected in blood, breast milk, and even newborns.
    * Toluene is a potent neurotoxicant linked to a variety of demonstrated negative health effects and is widely known as one of the toxic trio. Toluene is banned by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA).
    Breast Cancer Action has also done the math and determined that the manufacturer of the perfume is donating only $7.97 per $59 bottle to Komen, and they estimate that only about $1.50 per bottle will actually go towards research. They are asking people to join them in sending a message to Komen asking them to recall the perfume and stop engaging in pinkwashing.

    Did you see any particularly ridiculous examples of pinkwashing this October? Let us know in the comments and, more importantly, let the companies know how you feel about it.