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September 22, 2011

The One Million Moms Protest "Pornographic" Lane Bryant Ad

The One Million Moms had been a little boring for awhile there, but they've stepped up their game recently and are now outraged about everything from ice cream to vibrators. They're also very mad about the cover of the new Lane Bryant catalog, which was very inappropriate if their action alert is to be believed:

Lane Bryant Models Go Topless to Sell Clothes

It is nothing new for retailers to use skin in ads to promote their clothing line, but this is a first for Lane Bryant. Their new catalog features five topless models on the cover wearing only jeans. They have barely covered themselves with their hands or each others hands and arms to prevent this from being pornographic, but it could easily be categorized as soft porn. The models are intimately posed as well.

Lane Bryant chose this image for their cover, but the rest of the catalog is designed like most clothing catalogs with the models wearing the clothing line they sell. There is a small section promoting their Cacique Intimates line which would resemble a Victoria's Secret catalog.

These catalogs are coming through the mail to customers who signed up for them and reportedly to some who didn’t. This topless ad is also being used in their store front windows in malls and shopping centers. The catalog is available to view on their website as well. It is displayed at the bottom of their home page.
It's kind of entertaining that the Moms proclaim to be so offended by this ad, and at the same time they're very thorough in explaining every single possible way for everyone to get a good look at it. It's kind of like their action alerts about TV shows that mention every minor irrelevant detail about the show so that you know they're watching this offensive and inappropriate material very carefully.

Lane Bryant, owned by Charming Direct, Inc., is affiliated with Cacique Intimates, Catherines, Fashion Bug, Sonsi, and Loop 18. The ad is offensive, completely inappropriate, and should be removed from their store fronts and website immediately. Lane Bryant needs to abstain from using nudity or partial nudity in future ad campaigns if they value their customer's opinion and business.
So what does Lane Bryant do if they also value the opinions and business of the people who aren't offended? Oh wait, I forgot, the OMM and their precious and delicate special snowflake children are the only ones in the world who matter.


Please send an email letter to Lane Bryant (Charming) and request the removal of this topless ad campaign from their stores and website. Also, urge them to refrain from using this type of advertising in the future. An apology statement from the company for sending the soft porn catalog to people's homes would be appropriate and appreciated by customers and families as well.

As you might imagine, by this point we were dying to see this "soft porn" catalog cover for ourselves, and since the Moms were helpful enough to tell us that the image was available on Lane Bryant's website, we went and checked it out. Please make sure to brace yourself, clutch your pearls, and get any impressionable children out of the room before you scroll down to view this very explicit, highly offensive image.

Shocking, isn't it? The way you can see their entire...arms. All of those exposed elbows! What a bunch of whores.

First of all, and this probably shouldn't be first because it's kind of a sidebar to the main issues here, but it was my first thought because that's just how I roll, so here goes. The Moms must be watching some seriously boring softcore porn if they're putting this cover photo into that category. Actually, now that I think about it...is there not boring softcore porn? The phrase just makes me think of 14 year olds staying up late to secretly watch Cinemax, but even then I've got to believe that they're seeing a little bit more than women who are fully clothed from the waist down touching each other's upper arms. But I digress, and I blame the Moms for even making me think about this for so long.

I don't find this ad to be at all shocking or offensive, but at the same time I can say that it's obviously worthwhile to address the fact that there are plenty of ads out there that feature naked women for no good reason. I just don't think that this is the best example of that. In this case, you can even make the argument that the ad is selling the idea that "plus sized" women are beautiful and sexy and should feel comfortable showing off their bodies if they choose to. And yes, of course Lane Bryant is selling that message so that they can sell some jeans, and I'm not saying that there can be no valid critiques of this image. I just don't think that 'this catalog is porn and Lane Bryant should apologize for sending it to people's homes' qualifies.

I get that the Moms are allegedly all about protecting the children, but this is a catalog for women. Is it really that big of a parenting challenge to keep your kids from seeing it, or if they do see it, to tell them that it's not for kids? I just have a hard time believing that kids are going to be dying to get their hands on this "pornographic" catalog, or that they'll be horribly traumatized if they do happen to catch a glimpse of this photo.

The other thing that bothered me about this action alert was an issue that the Moms were surprisingly understated about for once. There's only one reference to the models being "intimately posed", but I suspected that they weren't just bothered by the fact that the models were topless, but also interpreted their poses as, like, totally gay. A quick skim of the comments on the OMM's facebook page confirmed that yes, the "lesbian touching" was a big part of the problem for many of the offended Moms. (There was also a fair amount of fat-shaming coming from some of the pious Christian mothers who commented.) I'm sure some of you might have to take a minute to come to grips with the fact that if you have ever touched another woman's bare hand or shoulder or elbow, you might be a lesbian. Please remember to think of the children and refrain from such inappropriate behavior in the future.

Once again the One Million Moms have cooked up a totally overblown panic over basically nothing, while ignoring so many other things going on in the media right now that might actually be harmful to children. I know better than to hope that they'll ever wake up and get it right, so I guess I should just be glad that wrapping brown paper around Lane Bryant catalogs and pints of Schweddy Balls ice cream keeps them occupied.

September 20, 2011

Scholastic's Girl Stuff

So it's Book Fair time again in Lil' Lilith's school district. For those of you who are not parents (or who do not vividly remember their childhood or who had a sad, deprived childhood)... twice a year at every school in our district, the PTA hosts a "Book Fair" for the students where they can purchase books. Scholastic gives the PTA a small percentage of the money earned, so it serves as both a school fundraiser and an opportunity to encourage reading.

I have always been a big supporter of the Book Fair. I can't even think about how much money I have shelled out over the years and when Lil' Lilith was younger (before having your mom come to school was an embarrassment) I used to volunteer, working the register or helping kids select books. This year, I flipped open the Scholastic "sneak peek" flier, excited to see what great new reads Lil' Lilith could bring home... and I saw something that really bothered me.

There was an entire section called "Girl Stuff". Girl stuff? What!? What exactly is girl stuff Scholastic?

The books listed under "Girl Stuff" include the following titles:
  • 13 Gifts - When Tara steals the school mascot in order to make friends with the popular crowd, she gets herself into a heap of trouble! [Teen Fiction]
  • Faith, Hope, and Ivy June - When push comes to shove, two Kentucky girls find strength in each other. [Teen Fiction] 
  • Stir It Up - More than anything, Anjali wants to become a celebrity chef. Will her dream of a cooking reality TV show come true? [Teen Fiction] 
  • Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl - Recipe for disaster: 4 parties. Add 2 friends and 1 crush. Divide by 1 mean girl out to ruin Nikki. Mix well and cringe! [Favorite Series]
  • Tomorrow Girls 2-Book Special Value Pack (Behind the Gates and Run For Cover) - In a terrifying future world, four girls must depend on each other if they want to survive. [Adventure]
  • The Vampire Stalker - What if the characters in your favorite vampire novel left their world -- and came into yours? [Teen Fiction]
  • In a Heartbeat - Amelia must face a heart transplant in order to live. Eagan's sudden death prevents reconciliation with her mom. This powerful story brings together two girls through one heart. [Teen Fiction]
Note that there was no "Boy Stuff" category.  The other categories in the flier include "Thrills and Chills", "Super-Hot Series", "Great Reads" and "Popular Picks".

As far as I can tell, the only common factor that ties these books together is the fact that they all seemingly have a female protagonist. That's it. That alone makes them "girl stuff" according to Scholastic.

Are boys incapable of reading a book with a female protagonist? For years, girls have been expected to read books with mostly male leads, relate to those characters and enjoy the content.

Earlier this year a study published in Gender & Society confirmed what we all already knew: there is in fact a gender bias in children's literature. Of course, we've known this for years. I knew this when I was a new parent, book-shopping for Lil' Lilith (back when she was actually "little"). I knew this when I was writing my undergraduate thesis on feminist issues in children's literature. I knew this when I myself was a child and an avid reader. But finally after an entire century of inequality, this fact has been touted across the Internet as if it's actually "new" information.

The study, based on nearly 6,000 books published from 1900 to 2000, found that males are central characters in 57% of children's books published per year (compared to only 31% having female central characters); male animals are central characters in more than 23% of books per year (compared to 7.5% female); on average 36.5% of books each year include a male in the title (compared to 17.5% female) [via ScienceDaily.com].

With so many books for kids and teens already focusing on males, why would Scholastic feel the need to categorize the few that do not as "Girl Stuff"? It is important to have an equal number of male and female characters in books - and particularly those who demonstrate non-stereotypical gender behavior - but this does not mean that these books are therefore books for boys or books for girls. They're just books.

Neither the "Great Reads" and "Popular Picks" are sorted by gender. So why these books? Is it because books that focus on female characters or stereotypically female-centric topics are somehow lesser than the "Great Reads"? "Women's Fiction" has never been fully accepted or respected as a valid part of the literary tradition. Nathaniel Hawthorne once even referred to female writers as a "damned mob of scribbling women", dismissing their writing as trivial. It's really a shame to see fiction for young women and girls being treated the same way. 

Labeling these books - or any books - as "Girl Stuff" is problematic for two reasons:

1. It's bad for girls. Not only is it sexist, but it is also limiting to female readers. If these books are for girls, who are the rest of the other books for? Just for boys? Are girls going to learn the lesson that books are not intended for them unless they are about them? If girls are not interested in these "Girl Stuff" books and would rather read about history, politics, war, natural disasters, ghosts or mystery (all books listed elsewhere in the flier, but not as "Girl Stuff") how are they supposed to feel about that? 

2. It's bad for boys. This categorization also limits male readers. In our society, still the worst thing you can say about a boy or man is that he's too girly or otherwise "female-ish". Most of the worst insults you can throw at a male are those that compare him to females or question his maleness (and his hetero-maleness at that) -- bitch, sissy, pussy, faggot. So if there is a boy that would rather read, say, a book about a female teen who wants to be a celebrity chef instead of a book about male soldiers in the Vietnam War what does this label of "Girl Stuff" do to him? He'll most likely be afraid to buy it lest he risk mocking and bullying. So he buys a less-interesting, less "girly" book or perhaps he will just forgo reading altogether. It is true that in the U.S., statistically, boys are falling behind girls in literary achievement - so why would we want to make it even harder for them to read what interests them, furthering widening this gap and reinforcing the stereotype that boys are reluctant readers?

Charles London (a.k.a. C. Alexander London), author of  the Accidental Adventure series, recently wrote on the subject of "boy books" for the Huffington Post and makes the same point that I am trying to make here about "girl books". I'm going to quote him at length, because so much of what he wrote was just that good...
When we label certain kinds of books "boy books" we are not only reinforcing a certain idea of manliness that doesn't include all boys, we are also cutting boys and girls off from a lot of books they might actually like. Sure, many of them won't, but the reading experience of each individual needs to be considered. It is not about gender, but about why each person reads and how. Reading choices do not exist in a vacuum.[...]

There are going to be boys who are habitual readers and boys who are not, boys who crave adventure, excitement and fart jokes and girls who do too.

Putting my books, or Captain Underpants or Shark Wars or the like into a gender ghetto as "boy books," reinforces gender stereotypes that leave no room for a boy who likes poetry or a girl who marks Shark Week on her calendar as if it were a national holiday. Boys and girls alike want a well-told story; boys and girls alike want characters they can feel connected to; boys and girls alike are as varied in their tastes as adults. Gender generalizations, while seductive, don't serve the goal they're usually intended for -- getting young people to read well and to read widely. 

While categorizing books by gender does seem to make steering kids to books easier, this is not something that should be easy. Matching mood, ability and expectation with a creative work that might also inspire, entertain, educate or enlighten a budding reader demands a broad knowledge of the material that's out there, a sensitive ear to the wants and needs of the child, and an understanding of the values of parents or the community. [emphasis mine] 
Seeing as almost all of the titles listed as "Girl Stuff" are also labeled as "Teen Fiction", I think that would have been a more appropriate category. Then any teen (or tween) who happens to find these books interesting can feel free to check them out, without feeling that these books aren't really for them.

Boys and girls both need to be exposed to books that feature positive, strong protagonists of both genders. But in the end, if we want our children to read, we need to be less restrictive in what is "appropriate" reading material for their gender. Let boys read about romance and fairies and magic... let girls read about sports and action and fart jokes... let your children be who they are without putting them into boxes that say "BOY" and "GIRL" which limit them from the full experience they could be getting from the world.

September 13, 2011

Cosmo's Hypocritical Grooming Advice

The sex tips article in the September issue of Cosmo is called Guys Answer Your Sex Questions In 20 Words Or Less. They've been really into these Twitter-style super short tips lately, because they're lazy always up on the latest trends.
Cosmo put out a call for your sex Qs, and dayum, we were impressed with the variety of carnal topics you're curious about. We posed 75 to a panel of well-informed men and told them to be brief yet brutally honest.
Considering that Cosmo tends to just write about the same three or four "carnal topics" over and over, I'm sure they were impressed. It doesn't really translate into the article though, which is just the same recycled tips warmed over yet again. The only difference is that this time they're being served to us by a panel of "experts" that includes a host from Cosmo Radio, the creator of a website for wingmen, and former Cosmo editor and known douchebag Ky Henderson.

Amid all of the insights produced by this distinguished group of men, this gem caught my eye:
#10 Are unshaven legs (or other body parts) a turn-off?

Hell, yes. Shave that. It's not 1973 anymore. -David
Well, David seems like a perfectly charming gentleman, doesn't he? Personally, I would be happy to spend as much money and time as necessary to rip every hair out of my body with hot wax just to avoid offending his delicate sensibilities. I'll also be sure to abstain from wearing flared jeans, listening to Dark Side of the Moon, or making any references to "women's lib", lest I remind dear David of his aversion to the early 70s.

In case you're curious about the qualifications and expertise that David has that landed him a spot on this prestigious panel, it turns out that he's a respected scholar with a PhD in...just kidding, he was a contestant on The Bachelorette and wrote a book called The Man Code: A Woman's Guide to Cracking the Tough Guy. The book currently has only one review on Amazon.com - a one-star review entitled "Easily One of the Worst Books Ever Published". The reviewer calls the book a "complete waste of time" and the author "clueless", "a jerk", and "a media whore who simply wants attention". The moral of the story is, of course, that just because Cosmo says someone is "well-informed" or an expert, that doesn't make it true.

It turns out that grooming was a hot topic this month, because the issue is revisited later in the list.
#70 Would you ever not hook up with a girl because you weren't groomed down there?

Wait, guys are supposed to groom down there?! (Kidding. But no, we would never worry about that.) -Ky
Oh. Of course. In case this wasn't clear to us already. This is something that we, as women, should always worry about, for the comfort and enjoyment of men, because after all, this isn't 1973 anymore. But men? Men would never worry about that.

(Sidebar - We went into our Cosmo archives and pulled out the January 2011 issue, which features some of Ky Henderson's trademark horrible advice as well as an article called "The New Male Grooming Obsession (They call it 'Back, sack, and crack'.)" I'm re-traumatizing myself by remembering that painfully stupid title just to point out that Cosmo cannot go more than a few months without either recycling the same tips or giving tips that totally contradict each other, and this time is no different. Apparently back in January some men did "worry about that". Maybe they've had some kind of Man Symposium since then and officially taken 'manscaping' out of the party platform.)

Cosmo gets away with publishing this crap advice, which is the total opposite of the "fun fearless female" motto that they're supposed to be all about, by hiding behind 'it's not us saying this, it's our guy experts!'. As usual, it's clear that Cosmo preaches fearlessness while selling insecurity.

September 12, 2011

True Blood Season 4 Finale

A few weeks ago we asked the question "will the jumbled True Blood Season 4 make sense by the finale?" There has been a lot going on this season and so many of the storylines seemed disjointed. Only three episodes from the finale, we wondered whether the writers could possibly tie it all together in time.
Jezebel: My test for how exciting this episode is, is going to be whether I'm tempted to check the Jets game during it.
Lilith: That's a good test. If I'm tempted to check the Jets game, then we know it's total crap.
Check it out here, at ESCTVblog.com

Elle Helps Us Put Skin Care In Perspective

I was flipping through the September issue of Elle magazine when I came across an article called Urge Overkill by Elizabeth Hayt. It's the touching story of the author's emotional journey towards learning how to stop screwing up her face by using way too many skin care products. It begins like this:
My face is revolting!” I cried out from the examining table the instant David Colbert, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, stepped inside his treatment room one Monday afternoon back in March.

"I wouldn't say revolting," he replied, laughing lightly.

"In revolt!" I declared. "It's the Arab Spring of my skin." My complexion - once so clear, calm, and under control - was now in a rage.

The Arab Spring of her skin. Well, at least she's not blowing the situation out of proportion! It's perfectly reasonable to compare your skin problems to entire nations full of people struggling against oppressive regimes. I mean, we've all been there. Stubborn blackheads that take forever to clear up? Just like Muammar Gaddafi's extended refusal to bow to pressure and give up control of Libya. Broke a nail and can't get in for a manicure until next week? Totally reminds me of how Hosni Mubarak initially refused to step down before finally giving in after weeks of protests in Egypt. And just this morning when I successfully combed through my long, super thick hair, it immediately called to mind the Tunisian people's ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which helped to set the Arab Spring in motion.

This is why we love women's magazines so very much. They're so down to Earth and relatable.

September 10, 2011

Let's All Be Gay!

We recently wrote about Carson Kressley children's book You're Different and That's Super,  mainly because the OMM referred to it as "promoting the homosexual lifestyle to children". We were wondering how exactly a book about unicorn who stands out in a crowd of ponies could possibly encourage kids to be gay.

We tweeted about it and got to thinking... so many of the books that allegedly promote gayness, don't really mention being gay at all. You're Different and That's Super by Carson Kressly and The Boy With Pink Hair by Perez Hilton, are two examples of children's books written by gay celebrities that send the message that it's okay to be different (without specifically saying anything about being gay).

Harvey Fierstein's The Sissy Duckling tells the tale of a male character who exhibits behavior that isn't stereotypically "male" enough... but never actually mentions sexual orientation. Then there are the books like And Tango Makes Three, which tells the true story of two male penguins who raise a baby penguin together. Of the few books that do address the issue of homosexuality directly (such as Heather Has Two Mommies, Daddy's Roommate, King and King) none of them actually encourage kids to be gay. They just promote tolerance and understanding about people who are gay.

I personally believe that people don't just wake up one day and decide they want to become gay; I believe people are born gay. There's only one kind of "promoting gayness" that these books can do... Encouraging kids who already know that they are gay to feel better about themselves.

The more people like the OMM and the AFA go on about books trying to make kids gay, the more we laugh at how ridiculous that idea is. So we decided to come up with our own (fake) children's book that really does encourage kids to be gay.

Here are a few excerpts:


Think it'll be a best-seller?

September 9, 2011

You're Different and That's Super!

So you probably already know that the One Million Moms are outraged over the fact that Chaz Bono will appear on Dancing With the Stars

You're Different and That's SuperIn their action alert on the subject, they also objected to the fact that openly gay Carson Kressley will also appear on the show and mentioned that he is the author You're Different and That's Super, which they describe as "a children's book promoting the homosexual lifestyle to children". We almost overlooked that little detail, as we were writing our blog about Bono.

A children's book promoting the homosexual lifestyle to children? Are they serious?  

The book, which was published in 2005, tells the story of unicorn trying to find his place in a world full of ponies. Trumpet is a little orphan colt who stands out from the crowd because of his white coat, golden mane and loud whinny. When Trumpet starts to grow a horn, he is ostracized for being different. However, it ends up being his differences that make him super! When the barn catches fire, Trumpet uses his horn to unlatch the bolt on the door and save the other ponies.

It does not "promote the homosexual lifestyle"... rather, it simply sends the message that it's okay to be different! Now of course, Kressley is gay. So it's not unreasonable to assume that he may have been thinking about gay and lesbian kids when he wrote this book, but the book isn't about that. It doesn't tell the story of a gay pony or encourage kids to be gay. It simply sends the message that being different - for whatever reason - is okay and in fact, is what makes you special. 

As proof, we've excerpted a few reviews of the book, to show that this story can appeal to any child who is different in some way

From Amazon.com:
Carson's book is outstanding, especially for any child growing up feeling differently whether from asthma, diabetes, birthmarks, wheelchair bound, maybe a lisp or even that super smart kid or shy kid who is often viewed as strange or weird. Trumpet is a true ambassador for the young person who feels they just don't fit, or think, or feel, the way the other kids appear. Trumpet proves that different can be mighty super! Yay for the vision of Carson Kressley in addressing this valid and important matter. -- J. Warren [emphasis mine]
I was reading this book to my 3 grandchildren, ages 6, 13 and 15. The older child is autistic. I wanted something that would make him feel special even tho he is different. I also wanted the other children to realize how special and different from each other they are. I started asking questions afterwards and they gave me great answers. They got it. They heard what I was saying. I thought the book was a great read. I also happen to really like Carson Kressley. -- Leia1952 [emphasis mine]
This is the sweetest book -- a friend of mine gave it to her son at Christmastime. He as one arm that never developed properly and this book was not only nice for him, boosting his confidence, but for the other children: teaching them not to treat him poorly just because of his arm. Thank you, Carson!-- Anonymous [emphasis mine]

This isn't going to encourage kids to become gay. It will encourage kids that feel different in some way (or are treated as though they're different for some reason) that there's nothing wrong with that! It's going to teach them about tolerance and acceptance - both of others and of themselves.  (This is basically the book that Maggie Goes On A Diet should have been.)

What parent could possibly be against a book that sends that message? A member of the One Million Moms I guess. We recommend that every other parent reads this book to their kids.

September 8, 2011

5 Things We're Already Sick Of Hearing About Chaz Bono On Dancing With The Stars

The new season of Dancing with the Stars doesn't premiere until September 19, but we feel like we've already heard more about it than the last few seasons put together thanks to the presence of Chaz Bono in the cast. A lot of people have a lot of feelings about Chaz being on the show, and unfortunately (but predictably) much of the commentary has been ignorant and transphobic. The same stupid arguments keep popping up again and again in the comments that we've read, so we put together a quick roundup of the main things that we're already tired of hearing about this situation.

1. Dancing with the Stars is supposed to be a family show! Won't someone please think of the children?

This is one of the most popular arguments that keeps coming up, even though it doesn't make much sense. FoxNews.com even cut right to the chase and posted an article called "Don’t Let Your Kids Watch Chaz Bono On 'Dancing With the Stars'". According to them, if "vulnerable" children see a transgendered person on TV, it will screw up the development of their own gender identities. The One Million Moms got into the act too with an action alert warning Christian families against watching the show. And here are a few representative comments from the cast announcement on ABC.com:
It saddens me that we can no longer watch this show with our children. We do not approve of the line up. ABC, please make this a family friendly show in the future and maybe get actual stars or change the name of the show! Thank you.

I think it's an atrocity. I and a lot of my friends and everyone I come in contact with, will definitely not be watching this show. There is no way I'd want my grandchildren to be exposed to this. Chaz did this of her/his own accord. They need to be reading the Bible and following God's word. Chaz is part woman and I guess part male, who would want to be like this unless for publicity.

Now, I rarely watch DWTS, but unless they've drastically changed the format recently and I missed a memo, the last time I checked it was a reality show about dancing. They're not going to open each episode with a long monologue about transgendered people. In fact, if parents didn't tell their kids that one of the contestants was a trans man, most of them probably would never notice or care.

And even if it does come up on the show, is it really that big of a deal? If all of these ignorant people can find all of this time to complain about this online, I'm sure they could take five minutes to figure out how to explain the issue to their children with an age appropriate level of intolerance and bigotry. The unfortunate thing is that these people don't realize that they're doing more harm to their kids with their transphobic freakouts than the mere presence of LGBT people on TV could ever dream of doing.

It's also not as if DWTS was the most wholesome and "family friendly" show of all time before this. The OMM gave a shoutout to the skimpiness of some of the costumes in their action alert, and previous seasons have featured people like Kendra Wilkinson (Playboy), Lance Bass (gay), Kim Kardashian (sex tape), Brooke Burke (Playboy, Maxim, Stuff, FHM, etc.), and Pam Anderson (Playboy, general Pam Andersonness). I guess having a gay man (Carson Kressley) and a trans man on in the same season has just crossed the line. Maybe ABC can atone next season by filling the entire cast with Palin family members.

2. Chaz is only doing this to push the LGBT agenda.

What would a manufactured controversy like this be without the "gay agenda" argument? At least bigots like the One Million Moms are predictable:
Both [Chaz Bono and fellow contestant Carson Kressley] are LGBT rights advocates and promote this destructive lifestyle. DWTS is helping them create visibility for the LGBT community. This is completely unacceptable and Christians should not watch the show, no excuses! ...Email ABC Network and let them know that we will not tolerate these subjects being forced into our homes.
Did you hear that, Christians? No excuses! Don't let the OMM catch you watching the first two members of the LGBT community to ever participate in ballroom dancing. Because if you watch a gay or transgendered person dance on a TV show, you might become gay, or spontaneously decide that you're transgendered too, or start to cultivate one tolerant and accepting bone in your body, or...something.

We have to wonder how some of the people who are complaining now would have reacted if we were going around putting out action alerts and petitions last season asking DWTS to ditch Bristol Palin and stop promoting an abstinence-only agenda. And while we're sure that the producers of the show knew what they were doing and how much publicity they would get with their "controversial" cast choices, we still thought that DWTS executive producer Conrad Green dismissed the "LGBT agenda" argument really well in his comments to the Hollywood Reporter: "We don't have an agenda of any sorts. I think of the 120 celebrities we've put on the show, we've had, I think now, three transgender or gay contestants. If that's a homosexual agenda, we're not doing very well at it."

3. All variations on calling Chaz "she", "him/her", "she-male", "she'll always be Chastity", etc.

The really sad thing is that some of the people doing this actually thought they were being witty and clever. (We did get a laugh out of one polite bigot on ABC.com who referred to Chaz as "Mr. or Ms. Bono".) I'd almost pity them if I wasn't too busy being offended by their willful ignorance. I don't even really know where to start with this...but I do know where to end. Chaz is a man. He, him, his. Period.

4. Is Chaz going to be paired with a male or female dancer?

The One Million Moms made a point of mentioning this in their action alert and we've seen a bunch of other comments about it elsewhere.
Kressley will be paired up with a female dancer, and since Chasity [sic], transformed to Chaz after her sex change in 2009, will also be paired with a female dancer. [OMM]

I can't stomach the thought of watching Chaz dance with another girl. [Moron on Facebook via Buzzfeed]
This is a little confusing to us. First there's the obvious reason - since Chaz Bono and Carson Kressley are both men and DWTS apparently has no plans to experiment with same-sex dance partners anytime soon, they're both paired with women. But beyond that...well, would the people who are offended that Bono and Kressley are even part of the cast in the first place feel better about the situation if the show had decided to throw same-sex partnering into the mix as well?

The producers claim that part of the reason that they haven't tried any same-sex couples is because then it might look like they were trying to promote some kind of agenda, or pair people based on sexual orientation, rather than just putting together a ballroom dancing competition. We're not sure we entirely agree, but this argument makes a hell of a lot more sense than whatever nonsense the One Million Moms of the world are trying to sell.

5. I'm totally not transphobic, but Chaz still shouldn't be on the show because he's fat, ugly, not a real celebrity, etc.

Yes, we know that it's the internet and Chaz is definitely not the first DWTS contestant to be fat-shamed or otherwise criticized for their looks, and it's certainly not the first time a cast member has been called out for not really being a "star". But a lot of the comments along these lines about Chaz seem to be particularly forceful and/or venomous - we don't remember people caring this much about the fact that Steve Wozniak was not exactly a hunk or a star - and it ends up coming across more like an excuse for some thinly veiled transphobia. This comment from ABC.com illustrates it perfectly:
Although I am not bothered by Chaz Bono's gender reversal, I think he is such a terribly poor choice for DWTS because he is so obese and trashy looking. I am a grandmother that would be opposed to his participation based on his transgender status if I had children in the home.
It's hard to refute that very logical argument.

As an antidote to all of that transphobia and ignorance (yes, we know that those words really got a workout in this post, but sometimes it just is what it is), here are a couple of our favorite posts about this topic:

-Chaz Bono on TV: Explaining Heterosexual Dancing to the Children from Tranifesto:
The Dancing with the Stars website is littered with these concerned comments – How am I going to explain this to my five-year-old? What will I tell the children? We’re not going to be watching this season, because I don’t want my children to see this!

I understand. It is concerning when children are exposed to heterosexual dancing. At best, a man dancing with a woman seems just a tad bit edgy – and worst-case scenario, it’s just plain immoral. After all, you know what dancing leads to! I believe they covered that a long time ago in the movie Footloose (when today’s concerned parents were kids).

-Dancing with the Stars: A Great Opportunity to Talk to Your Kids from Queen of Spain:
So thank you One Million Moms and Fox News for making a big deal out of all of this. It gave me the opportunity to discuss the transgendered community with my children. It gave me the opportunity to remind them that everyone is different. It gave me the opportunity to discuss bigots, hate, and evil. And it gave me the opportunity to show the world that some of us mothers are not afraid to talk to our kids and we know exactly what to tell them: the truth.

September 7, 2011

Maggie Goes On A Diet

There is a new, self-published children's book due out in mid-October that tries to tackle the issue of childhood obesity. It tries... and fails... miserably... and painfully.

Maggie Goes on A DietWe first learned of this book on ONTD and could barely believe our eyes. The book Maggie Goes On A Diet tells the story of a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a "normal sized girl" who becomes the school soccer star.

The author, Paul M. Kramer, has self-published a handful of books on various issues, including Bullies Beware!, Do Not Dread Wetting the Bed and Divorce Stinks! but this time he has really just messed it up. There are so many things wrong with this book.  

First of all, the title is extremely problematic. "Diet" has a very negative connotation, as it often refers to weight management, rather than healthy eating. Some diets can be dangerous to your health and weight fluctuations as a result of yo-yo dieting can be dangerous and actually be detrimental to your weight loss goals. Young children should not be dieting at all. Pediatricians do not recommend that prepubescent children - even those who are overweight - cut calories, as they run the risk of stunting their growth. Some researchers have suggested that dieting among teenage girls actually leads to a greater risk of them being overweight in the future.  

While the character in the book is 14, last month Barnes & Noble had listed the book as being for young readers age 6-to-12 and Amazon said 4-to-8 [via ABC]. Apparently both sites have now edited the recommendations to age 8 and up, but we still feel that is too young. Eight year olds should not be dieting! Therefore they have no need for role models who diet.

Healthy eating and exercise may help someone lose weight, not everyone is destined to have the same body type. Some people will always be bigger or smaller than others, regardless of how healthy they eat and how much they exercise. When people have unrealistic goals that aren't met by eating well and exercise, they may turn to unhealthy methods of weight loss.

The book probably should have been called "Maggie Eats Healthy" or "Maggie Gets Healthy" instead of "Maggie Goes On A Diet". But the title isn't the only problem. The plot itself is also unrealistic, as are Kramer's goals for the book.  

"My intentions were just to write a story to entice and to have children feel better about themselves, discover a new way of eating, learn to do exercise, try to emulate Maggie and learn from Maggie's experience," he told Good Morning America. He continued, "kids can be mean and she has decided to do something about it, to take things into her own hands, try to change her own life, try to make herself healthy by exercising. She does want to look better. She does want to feel better and she does not want to be teased."

Not only are childhood diets unhealthy and counterproductive, but according to weight-loss expert Joanne Ikeda, co-founding director of the University of California at Berkley's Center on Weight and Health, pointing out imperfections in a child's body does not empower them to adopt good eating habits. On the contrary, it actually decreases their body image which ups their risk for unhealthy behavior. "Body dissatisfaction is a major risk for eating disorders in children all the way up through adulthood," she said.

Also, the happily-skinny-ever-after message is misleading. Kramer implies that being thin equals being happy, having self esteem and not being teased, but this just isn't always the case. Nor is it impossible to be happy and feel good about yourself if you don't lose weight. In the book, Maggie becomes popular after losing weight and her bullies become her friends. (Why oh why would she want to be friends with jerks who used to mock her and only like her now that she lost weight?) 

It approaches the issue of teasing and bullying from the wrong direction, by blaming the victim for being too different. It sends the message that if people are teasing you, then the problem is you. You need to change yourself to be more like everyone else. You need to lose weight. No, how about the problem is that these kids are being assholes? Rather than forcing the victim to change, a better approach to bullying prevention is to address the behavior of the bullies. Both Maggie and the kids teasing her about her weight, need to learn the lesson that it's okay to be different.

Maggie's boost in confidence and self esteem shouldn't be dependent on her weight loss. The goal should be about getting healthy and feeling better physically. But she should learn to feel good about herself regardless of her weight. Kramer's book sends the message that in order to be happy, you need to change yourself when the message should be about self acceptance.

Kramer has defended the book, asking that people not judge a book by its cover. But how can we not? Even the cover sends the wrong message. If the actual goal of the book is to teach kids to make healthy choices - like eating right and exercising - then shouldn't the goal be about feeling better and having fewer health issues? That is not what is portrayed on the cover. Instead, we see Maggie looking in the mirror, holding a pink party dress that is a few sizes too small... and envisioning herself thinner (and therefore, more stereotypically "beautiful" by our society). The focus is on image and size, not health.

I'm sure that Kramer meant well and hoped this book would help kids. He probably sees himself amongst the likes of Michelle Obama and the Let's Move! campaign against childhood obesity. But he's doing it wrong.  He clearly didn't do any research on the subject before writing this book.

Just so we can end this on a funny note (well, funny and sad)... here are a sampling of the "tags" that Amazon users gave this book:


At least we know we're not alone on this one.

Could E-Cigarettes be a "Healthier" Alternative to Smoking?

CONFESSION TIME: For weeks I was getting emails in my Inbox for something called an "e cigarette". For a long time, I totally thought it was some novelty item. I skimmed the email and saw that "e cig" stood for electronic cigarette (or "electric cigarette"). It still sounded bizarre and surreal to me. Why would I want to smoke electronically? How does one smoke electronically anyway? I imagined elaborate hookah pipes that you plug into wall sockets or battery powered cigarette holders that blow the smoke directly into your mouth. I kid you not. I really thought about this.

Then I read that it was, in fact, an electronic device that simulates a real cigarette. This confused me even more. For a minute, I thought it was an online game of some sort. (The "e" threw me off.) I had absolutely no interest in pretending to smoke cigarettes. What person with any kind of life would want to do that?

In hindsight, I should have known better. (It is painfully embarrassing to realize how stupid it was of me not to understand, but we all have our moments I guess.) When I finally realized what an "e cigarette" actually was, I was intrigued. For those of you who still might not know what it is, an  e cigarette is sort of a cigarette substitute. When you "smoke" it, it produces a vapour that contains nicotine and tastes similar to a real cigarette, but without the other harmful chemicals and odors.

This really got me thinking... Is the e cigarette really a "healthy" alternative to tobacco cigarettes? And could the e cigarette be used as a tool for quitting smoking altogether?

Since I don't smoke, I went to my favorite "smoker" for his opinion. He has been trying to quit for a long time, but it hasn't been easy. According to him, the e cigarette looks and feels a lot like a real cigarette. Unlike the nicotine patch or gum, he said the e cigarette allows him to still feel like he's smoking. Whether this will help him quit entirely is unclear, but he said he did significantly reduce the amount of cigarettes he smoked in a week thanks to the e cig.

According to a website that sells them, the electric cigarette "is one of the best attempts to deliver the experience of smoking, with a huge decrease in the negative health problems that are associated with smoking". However, there has yet to be any concrete agreement among researchers and health organizations on the benefits and adverse effects of e cigarettes.

Since they're still so new, there haven't been that many conclusive controlled studies yet. Therefore the true health effects are not yet known. In July 2009, the FDA discouraged the use of electronic cigarettes, however the American Association of Public Health Physicians has come out in support of them, particularly because of their potential for decreasing the effects of second-hand smoke. A 2010 Boston University School of Public Health study deemed that electronic cigarettes were safer than real cigarettes and might aid in smoking cessation. Other studies have suggested that while e cigarettes aren't "good for you", they don't necessarily pose a higher risk than any other nicotine replacement treatment.

They might be healthier than real cigarettes, but even so, they're still not healthy. They still contain nicotine, which is addictive and comes with its own health risks. However some people might weigh the health risks of e cigarettes vs. real cigarettes and choose the e cig as a "safer" alternative. Also, since they are reusable (as they have changeable refill cartridges) they are theoretically a "greener" alternative to smoking because they'd put a stop the nasty cigarettes butts that are always littering the sidewalk.

My "test subject" said that he thought it might be helpful for smokers who are fiending for a cigarette but are stuck in a non-smoking area, like a bar, restaurant, or non-smoker's home. Now that New York is even cracking down on smoking in outdoor public places, like parks, this might be a viable solution for some smokers. I personally love this idea, but I can see how it might upset smokers. From a totally selfish perspective, I would prefer people to smoke the e cigarettes than real ones, because then I wouldn't have to suffer through their stinky, unhealthy secondhand smoke. Although every person has to make the decision for his or herself and weigh the risks on their own.

What do you think? Have any of our readers tried the e cigarette? Have you found it helpful in quitting smoking/reducing your smoking? Did you experience any negative side effects? Would you recommend it to a friend?

September 4, 2011

Am I asking him to give up too much?

I was flipping through the September 2011 issue of RedBook the other day and noticed a Q&A advice column that rubbed me the wrong way. (What, did you think we only read Cosmo?)

In the "It's Complicated" section, Karen Karbo, so-called "advice guru" answered the following reader letter:
Am I asking him to give up too much?
I'm divorced and have three kids. Two years ago, I met a guy seven years younger than me. I've fallen hard for him, and my kids adore him. But I can't have any more children -- I had to have a hysterectomy. He says he wants kids, but he also says he wants to stay with me. Is it wrong for me to continue this relationship? --L.R., 33, Alabama
In a word? No. Let's say, for the sake of argument, you let him go so he can find someone with whom he can have children. There are uncertainties all along the way: What if he doesn't meet anyone? What if he does, and she can't get pregnant? What if they have kids but are miserable together? Yes, having biological children of your own is one of life's great experiences, but it's not the only one. You and he could adopt or create a bigger family in other ways. Now, if he decides he needs to leave because of this issue, cross that bridge when you come to it. But it's not your job to make the decision for him.
As a single parent, I found Karbo's advice to be extremely problematic. The main issue is that both 'L.R.' and Karbo are framing the entire issue in terms of what is fair to him. Both are ignoring two more pressing questions is this fair to L.R.? and most important, is this fair to the kids? I think it is extremely selfish of both L.R. and her boyfriend to continue this relationship - and continue to allow her children to grow more and more attached to this man - without knowing if they have a viable future.

I have dated plenty of men who I knew were not going to be in my life for the long haul, sometimes because they said they didn't want kids or because I just knew we just didn't have long term potential. In these cases, I was always very cautious about my daughter having too much contact with these guys, for fear that she would get attached to someone who I knew wasn't going to be around forever. (Now, obviously, I can't ever truly know that a guy will be around forever, but at least I can protect her in the cases when I know they won't be.)

There are more than two people in L.R.'s relationship - in addition to the two adults, there are three children to think of. (Oh god, think of the children, I feel like a member of the OMM.) It seems like this guy really does want to be with L.R., but he also knows that he wants to have kids, something L.R. can't physically do. So he is the one who has to make a decision... sooner rather than later. It's not about whether L.R. is asking her boyfriend to "give up too much". It's about whether he is going to decide in a few years that he's giving up too much. He needs to be willing to make a decision once and for all and spare her (and her kids) the inevitable heartbreak.

Now of course, we all know that there are plenty of ways to build a family. There is adoption, foster parenting, surrogacy, etc. - all options that are potentially viable solutions for L.R. And while I don't know the ages of L.R.'s children, but there's a pretty good chance that this guy would also be completely satisfied being a step-parent to her kids. Karbo is right that there are a lot of uncertainties - he might never have kids with or without L.R. - but the real issue isn't whether L.R. should "let him go". Rather, it is whether he feels the need to go (or might feel the need sometime in the future). It is not L.R.'s job to make the decision for him, but as a responsible parent she should demand that he makes the decision for himself, now.

This is not a "cross that bridge when you come to it" kind of issue. They've already been together two years and her kids already adore him. How many more years of her life is L.R. supposed to waste on a man who may wake up one day and decide he wants to make babies with someone else? How much more attached is L.R. supposed to let her kids get to a man who might just abandon them someday so he can "have biological children of his own"?

I'm not saying that this is automatically a dealbreaker, but this is a conversation that should've been had earlier in their relationship and needs to continue being had until they come up with an answer. It's not something you just ignore and hope it goes away. That's not fair to anyone in this scenario.

Related posts:
(What is it with magazines telling women to just sit back and ignore this kind of thing?)

    September 1, 2011

    Way to go BlogHer!

    Just a mere 3 hours ago, we posted a blog about a problematic questionnaire we found while registering for BlogHer12. [Read the original blog here: Dear BlogHer: Transgender is not a sexual orientation]

    In what is possibly the fastest response and resolution of a issue that we've ever encountered, Elisa from BlogHer commented on the blog just a few minutes ago:
    Hi there. First, I did want to let you know why we bother asking about orientation at all. As you have noticed, we do a lot of outreach to various diverse communities within our community. We do this when seeking panel submissions, speaker suggestions, and of course attendees. We ask about race and orientation in our registration survey, because we want to know if our outreach is working/helping.

    Second, you make a totally valid point that lumping the T in with the LGB in our orientation question is not appropriate.So, I've removed it. Finally, I can't remember anymore why we would have offered G/L/B as a choice in addition to just Bisexual and Gay/Lesbian. So, to simplify things, I've removed that too.

    Thanks for the feedback.
    We were so impressed by the way they handled the issue and resolved it in minutes, that we wanted to give a little shout out saying so. Like we said in the original blog, we hated to criticize BlogHer for trying to be more inclusive and we're glad that they're acknowledging that not all attendees are the same (unlike some other conferences). So props to Elisa and BlogHer for fixing their error so quickly! If only everyone else who ever mixed up LGBT terminology would handle it the same way.

    Thanks BlogHer! See you in New York in 2012!

    Dear BlogHer: Transgender is not a sexual orientation

    I just registered for the 2012 BlogHer Conference! Yes, we know that the Blogher11 just ended, but next year the conference is coming back to New York so we already know that we have to go!

    While registering I noticed something on the questionnaire that I found problematic. (We noticed this last year as well, but we were still surprised to see it again this year.) Amidst all the other 'demographic' type questions about race and age, there was a question of sexual orientation.

    The choices are 'Bisexual', 'Gay/Lesbian', 'Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual', 'Heterosexual', 'Transgender', 'Decline to state' and 'Asexual'. Now we have to give BlogHer some credit that they're even acknowledging that there are more types of people other than Heterosexual and 'Not Heterosexual'. (You'd be surprised how many questionnaires basically have these choices.) So we think it's great that they're trying to be more inclusive.

    But they're still doing it wrong.

    First of all, 'Transgender' is not a sexual orientation. Just because 'LGBT' is a popular acronym, doesn't mean that each letter signifies a sexual orientation. According to About.com's Civil Liberties section, a transgender person is "someone whose personal idea of gender does not correlate with his or her assigned gender role". Gender identity and sexual orientation are often associated, but they are not the same thing.

    The fact that you can only choose one option and 'Transgender' is one of them, is problematic. You can be Transgender and Heterosexual. You can be Transgender and Gay/Lesbian or Bisexual. You can be Transgender and Asexual. Since you can't choose more than one option, it almost feels as though they are asking the women of BlogHer "Are you a straight woman? Are you a gay woman? Or are you not really a woman?" This is really problematic and offensive to me, because trans women are women, period. By classifying it as a sexual orientation, not only do they limit transgender attendees from filling out the questionnaire fully, but they are also perpetuating an ignorant misconception to anyone else reading the questionnaire.

    Personally, we don't think it's any of BlogHer's business if you're Transgender or not. Since the conference is open to everyone, not just women, it seems unnecessary and overly invasive for them to want to know if we were born as biologically female or not. (Not that anyone should feel the need to hide who they are... only that it should be their choice to disclose this information rather than be asked.)

    If BlogHer is going to start asking whether or not we're Transgender, then why shouldn't they include some other gender identities as well? Cisfemale, Cismale, Transfemale, Transmale, Intersex, Genderqueer, etc...

    The 'Transgender' option isn't the only confusing part of these choices. Why are 'Bisexual' and 'Gay/Lesbian' listed separately and then again in combination ('Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual')? Is there really some kind of gay-bi-combo that I wasn't aware of?

    Personally, I think there are varying degrees to sexuality - much like the Kinsey scale - and often the black-and-white, clear-cut categories of straight, gay and bi don't always work for most people. Bisexuality isn't usually 50% male, 50% female like some people think (and it certainly isn't the "I'll just sleep with anyone" stereotype that some people believe). I also understand that sexual behaviors don't always match sexual desires or sexual identity. There are women who sleep with other women but don't identity as lesbians, just as their are lesbians who sleep with men, and so on...

    In addition to the choices given, there are still other orientations... such as pansexual or polysexual. (Hell, there's even objectum sexuality.)

    I hate to criticize BlogHer for trying to be more inclusive. We're glad that the conference is acknowledging that we're not all mommy bloggers and funds official parties like the Queerosphere Party (organized by the always awesome Deb on the Rocks). I just feel like if you're going to do it - do it and do it right. Don't half-ass it. Don't mix up terminology. If you're not the most informed person on the subject that's okay, find someone who is. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a few comments telling me all the errors and omissions I made in this blog post alone, but at least my heart is in the right place!

    I know BlogHer's heart is in the right place too. But heart isn't enough when it comes to true inclusiveness. You also have to be accurate.

    Update: Way to go BlogHer!