Tag Archives: gender

Porn Studies Hits Newstands

Well, not newsstands so much, since academic journals rarely find shelfspace next to Newsweek or Cosmo. Wait, does Newsweek still exist? I can’t keep it straight anymore which of the old school pubs have folded.

Porn Studies is a new academic journal about porn [NSFW if having "porn" spelled out in giant letters on your screen is NSFW]. It’s mindblowing that such a thing didn’t exist until now, right? Porn is soooooo fascinating! This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about the new journal and why I think we need more porn-talk, not less.

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The ethics of porn-making and porn-consuming have been front and center lately when the “real” identity of porn star Belle Knox was revealed by a fellow student at Duke. She’s done a pretty solid job of reclaiming the momentum of the story by speaking out about feminism, privacy, misogyny, and double-standards, though she’s also been put through the ringer of woman-hating bullshit that we put women through when they speak things that make us uncomfortable.

If you are a porn-consumer (and most people are), then you should be thinking critically about how your porn is made, who stars in it, who profits from it, and what compromises are made along the way. I’m not saying you should stop watching (I won’t), but you should start asking why we hold only the woman on screen accountable for the content, and not her porn-consuming classmates who enjoy it, or the porn-producers behind the camera who make it.

Related Post: Why we need more sex on TV

Related Post: Why is oral sex so frequently uni-directional?

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Happy 80th Gloria!

Gloria Steinem turned 80 today and is still killing it all over town. Gail Collins wrote a particularly excellent birthday card at the New York Times, but I also committed my thoughts on Gloria to paper (er…screen? We have got to get some new idioms) for Role/Reboot.

Screenshot_3_25_14_12_23_PM-2I was recently talking to my mom about how segmented the “movements” are these days. Where are the great thinkers? She said, Where are the great leaders pushing us forward to be better? The Martins? The Glorias? She’s right, I think, that there really aren’t singular “public faces” to movements anymore. Maybe Sheryl Sandberg comes the closest, but even her momentum and appeal is limited to certain demographic wedges. Individuals become flash points, like Sandra Fluke, or Trayvon Martin, but their influence doesn’t sustain over decades.

The way we consume media has become so fractured and specific that for one person to try to galvanize a large swath of the public is rarely feasible anymore. We’ll change the channel to one of the 900 others, or close the browser and open a new one. There are pockets now, specific strains of ism or anti-ism, that we choose subscribe to based on our politics and affiliations. When Tina Fey skewered Jezebel on 30 Rock, which side did you fall on? When Ta-Nehisi Coates berates the President, who do you think is right?

I don’t think it’s a bad thing that we have these sub-affiliations, I think it’s just an indication of how fucking complicated these issues are. I just finished Lynn Povich’s The Good Girls Revoltabout the 1970 sex discrimination lawsuit at Newsweek. In the recollections of some of the participants was a certain reluctance to admit that, actually, they hadn’t wanted the jobs they were suing for. Most of them certainly did (and  they all deserved the opportunity to compete for them), but some felt that the movement was so all-encompassing that to opt-out or question any part of it was to undermine it. They didn’t want to jeopardize the group to protect themselves, even though their interests didn’t always line up 100%.

It was an interesting angle that I wasn’t expecting Povich to address. It’s not all rah-rah. One person or committee or caucus can never speak for everyone, so the goal has to be about creating options, not dictating how we utilize them.

Related Post: Raunch humor and feminism.

Related Post: When celebrities talk about feminism, the good, bad, and ugly.

 

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What I Read in 2013

I read a lot in 2013. Some combination of new proximity to my local library, an enthusiastic book club, and my first shot at the quiet and uninterrupted solitude of single-living has resulted in me cranking through the stacks at record pace.

I believe who we read is in many ways as important as what we read. Which voices do we bring into our homes and absorb into our worldviews? Are they just like us? Older? Younger? Poorer? Richer? Colorful?

Some organizations, like VIDA, formalize this count by comparing bylines by gender at major publications. Here’s how my 2013 reading list shook out:

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Included in that blue chunk in the top right were new books like Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, Junot Diaz’ This Is How You Lose Her, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, and Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanahas well as a few overlooked classics, like Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. 

Not that 40 is by any means some sort of definitive line in the sand, but I think it’s interesting that most of what I read (with the notable exception of Veronica Roth’s YA Divergent trilogy) was written by real live grown-ups. You know, not 25-year-olds.

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Lastly, was any of it true? I find that, as I get older, my preference for non-fiction gets stronger. I read more journalism, less bloggery, watch more documentaries, fewer blockbusters, read more memoirs, fewer pieces of fiction. Seems like the real world is plenty full of good stories without having to make them up. Cases in point include Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo) and Random Family (Adrian Nicole LeBlanc). I still read a buttload of fiction, but I only expect the slice of non-fic to get fatter every year.

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So what were my favorites? Read everything I mentioned above (especially the Boo and Adichie). For wild cackling on the train, I suggest Mindy Kaling’s memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? For when you have six solid hours on the couch and you need an epic American tale, pick up East of Edenwhich I finally read and adored this year. For the quirkiest love story of the year about an autistic astronaut and his bald wife, read Lydia Netzer’s Shine, Shine, ShineTo deepen your love of great American cities, read Dan Baum’s Nine Lives (New Orleans), You Were Never in Chicago (Neil Steinberg), or Detroit (Charlie LeDuff). And when you really want to be stunned by what magic tricks a book can do, dare yourself to try Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son.
 
What did you read and love in 2013, and what’s next?

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Top 5 Gender-y Stories of 2013

The year of the open letter. The year of twerking. The year of Lean In. The year of Melissa Harris-Perry. 2013, kids, dammmmn.

For Role/Reboot this week, I recapped the stories that dominated our feeds, walls, front-pages, and dinner table conversations. From Miley to #fasttailedgirls, what the hell happened this year?

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P.S. I’m really sorry we have to revisit Miley. Again.

Related Post: My original post on Miley

Related Post: I read Lean In so you don’t have to.

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Dating like a feminist

Last week I joined Molly and Brian on Vocalo’s Feminist Wednesdays to talk about dating while feminist. As usual, it was a blast and a half. What part should gender roles play in modern dating? How much should we rely on traditional who-does-what? Should we just mimic the gays? They seem able to figure this out without pointing at genitalia as the reason one person should or shouldn’t buy the other person dinner…

Listen away!

Related Post: Dating should not be a meal ticket.

Related Post: Why online dating is hard for guys.

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How to Have a Conversation on a First Date (Or: How Not to Have a Conversation on a First Date)

Today’s Role/Reboot post comes to you inspired by the following Facebook exchange:

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I realized after I posted this that it might not be a gendered issue, but I don’t date women, so I really have no idea. There are probably lady-monologuers out there, too. That said, I do think there’s something about the economics of dating (especially online dating) wherein men are encouraged to try to impress, and women are encouraged to sit back and be impressed. The thing is, I’m mostly impressed by curiosity, which gets lost if you’re too busy telling a twenty minute story about CrossFit.

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Related Post: Why online dating sucks for men.

Related Post: OkCupid by the numbers!

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A Christian and an Atheist Talk about Sex: Watch What Happens!

I am SO excited about this post. A few weeks ago, I wrote about what counts as “real sex.” I find that our traditional definition, (penis in vagina) is pretty limiting and sometimes damaging because it a) is insulting to queer people who have sex in non-p-in-v ways, b) reinforces a pleasure disparity (because the “main act” is something that most women don’t orgasm from) c) perpetuates the mythic importance of female virginity d) contributes to rape culture by deeming certain forms of sexual violence “more traumatic” than others.

A blogger named Jonalyn politely pointed out that she had a few issues with my piece, and when we started to tweet-debate the topic, she suggested we take our conversation to a bigger stage. Her site, Soulation, is a hub for people who want to explore Christianity compassionately and thoughtfully. We recorded a video debate that was supposed to last for 15 minutes and went on for 40 because we were having THE BEST TIME. I’m not kidding, it was by far the most fun I had that week.

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It may shock you to hear that I am not, in fact, a Christian (I know, SO shocking). When Jonalyn reached out about recording our conversation, I was initially wary of jumping into unfamiliar waters where our perspectives would inevitably boil down to a clash of “sex is for fun!” vs. “sex is for God!” I am pleased to say that we both played nicely and used our listening skills to try to find common ground. Surprisingly, there was lots of it! 

It’s not often that I get the opportunity to debate this stuff with someone who approaches it with the same level of enthusiasm that I have for sex talk and approaches from a different angle with different core assumptions. Such a treat!

Get more of Jonalyn on Twitter!

Related Post: Talkin’ harassment on Vocalo.

Related Post: Can you be married and sexist? Yep.

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An Abortion Story: Robin

This is not a blog about abortion, per se, but I try to make it a blog that is sometimes able to put faces and stories to political dialogue that floats so far from the surface of most people’s reality. Abortion is one topic for which that is particularly important; without real stories it is just a line of text on a bill that disempowers women to control their bodies, disempowers doctors from doing right by their patients, and replaces the complicated realities of imperfect birth control and sexuality with hyperbolic dogma. We need the stories.

So today, Robin has graciously shared hers. Remember, 1 in 3. You are not alone. If not your mother, sister, daughter, than your classmate, friend, or colleague. You can’t pretend it is those women, because it’s not; it’s everywoman. From Robin:

*    *     *     *

I knew the moment it happened. This was spring break my freshman year in college. I was in a committed relationship with a long term boyfriend who I thought I would marry, Tom. When we noticed the failed choice of contraception, I immediately knew. I tried not to let my anxiety over the situation color my life while I waited the 4 long weeks to take a pregnancy test. I went back to college, went to class and went about my life, all the while with this knowledge plaguing me. The more I thought about it the more anxious I became.

Before knowing for sure, I made the decision that if I was pregnant I would have an abortion. I didn’t tell anyone that I thought I might be pregnant but I thought Tom might know. I asked him, if I were pregnant, would he want to know? He thought about it and said yes. When the day came, when I just couldn’t stand it any longer, I told my best friend what was going on and asked her to take me to the store to buy a pregnancy test. This was something I had never done before. Up until that moment, I had been super careful, never even having a scare. I bought the one that is supposed to tell you a week early. It came with 3 tests. We went back to the dorm and I took 2.

Both came back negative.

But I didn’t feel relieved. I still hadn’t gotten my period and I still had the weird sensation. A week went by and still, no period. So I took the last of the 3 tests.

Positive. Pregnant.

And so I did what any freaked out girl would do. I went and bought more tests to make ABSOLUTELY SURE. I had done my research into a clinic. Those 4 weeks of anxious thought had brought about research into my options. I made an appointment first thing in the morning 3 weeks later. I then made the hardest phone call of my life; I called and told my mom. I didn’t have enough money and insurance wouldn’t cover it. She was really quiet and then asked me if I was ok, and if I was sure that this was what I wanted. Through tears I told her yes, it was. After telling me everything would be ok and that she loved me, she asked me if I wanted her to come. In the end, her own health issues prevented her from being there.

Then I called Tom. Another tearful conversation later, he told me he had guessed. I told him what my decision was and he agreed. Tom came with me to the clinic. We spent all day there. Initial visit including an ultrasound, a session with a psychiatrist, paperwork, blood work, etc. Everyone asking “is this what you want?” They came and got me from the packed waiting room about 6 hours after we arrived. I was awake for the whole procedure. I cried for the entirety while the nurse tried to get me to talk about anything else. It took all of 5 minutes. They put me in a recovery room with other women, all of us in recliners.

I remember the oddest things. They pointed out a speck on a monitor I was told was my baby. They had put covers on the lights in the procedure room that resembled blue sky and clouds and after the doctor gave me the meds, they seemed to move. The psychiatrist gave me a small yellow rock to keep. The brown leather recliner was heated for comfort. I remember a woman barely older than I who told me she had 4 other children at home and couldn’t afford another.

I left recovery and the clinic. I went home. And life went on. February 22 is a day that always makes me second guess, even now, 7 and a half years later.

But I know I made the right decision. I also know that were I to become pregnant today, I would choose to have the child. I am in a different place in my life. But that’s the point. It’s my choice to make.

*    *     *     *

As a reminder, this is just one woman’s story. It’s not representative of anything except that reproductive rights are intensely personal.

Related Post: An abortion story from K.

Related Post: 40 years after Roe

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The most dramatic thing to happen on Grey’s Anatomy. Ever.

More dramatic than the bomb in the guy’s chest? Than the house made of candles on the hillside? Than the plane crash that killed Lexi and Mark? Than the shooter who roamed the halls of Seattle Grace? More dramatic than the time that Meredith died? I know, right? That show is craaaaay.

Screenshot_10_28_13_11_10_PM-4Yes, what happened on Grey’s Anatomy two weeks ago was true drama (skip to 34:00). For those of you who quit this bad boy when it jumped the shark half a decade ago, Meredith and Christina are still best friends, but much else has changed [SPOILER ALERT. Ha, as if anyone waits with bated breath for Grey's spoilers]. Meredith married Derek and they have two adorable children, Zola and baby Bailey. Christina got married and then divorced when her husband Owen couldn’t abide by her consistent refusal to have children (I mean, come on…. she told him that when they got together, but that’s not the point…) They are both still surgeons at Seattle Grace (renamed Sloane Grey Memorial).

What drama could this mundane divergence of paths produce? There were no bones protruding from skin, no organs spilling on to slick linoleum floors. Nope, no guts and gore here, just good old fashioned human drama. Christina and Meredith had planned an elaborate surgery. Meredith’s day took a turn with kiddie emergencies left and right. Christina boxed her out of the surgery and replaced her with a more prepared doctor, Dr. Bailey. And then this:

Meredith: You stole that surgery from me. 

Christina: I am sorry. I really wish you could have been in there with me. 

Meredith: I worked my ass off to do that surgery with you and you stole it from me. That was low.

Christina: Meredith, you were unprepared, you were unfocused, and you were late. I didn’t steal that surgery from you. I rescued that surgery from you, because you couldn’t do it.

Meredith: I understand that you believe you are god’s gift to medicine, but I am every bit as talented and competent a surgeon as you are.

Christina: No, you’re not. I’m sorry, but you’re not. And that’s, that’s okay. You have different priorities now. You’ve cut back on your clinical hours. You log less time in the OR, I mean, you don’t do research. And I get it, I mean, you have Zola, and baby Bailey, and you want to be a good mom.

Meredith: I don’t believe you! You are saying that I can’t be a good surgeon and a mom.

Christina: Of course not! Dr. Bailey’s a mom, and she was fantastic in there! 

Meredith: Then what are you saying? 

Christina: I’m saying, I’m saying… Bailey never let up. She lives here. Callie? Never let up. Ellis Grey [Meredith's mother] never let up. And I know you don’t want to be your mother. I’m saying, you and I started running down the same road at the same time, and at a certain point, you let up. You slowed down. And don’t say that I don’t support that, because I do. You made your choices, and they are valid choices, but don’t pretend they don’t affect your skills. You are a very good surgeon, but we’re in different places now. And that’s okay.

Ahhhhh, oh Grey’s, I love you so. For all the deserved flack it gets for melodrama and oversimplified dialogue (whenever Shonda wants you to get an emotional point all she knows how to do is repeat it three times with different inflection. I need you. I need you. I need you. Check it, she does it on Scandal too), she does tap into the political side of female friendship with some serious know-how.

I would rather have conversations like this than landslides and biker brawl mayhem in the emergency room any day. These conversations are hard, way harder than corralling sexting interns or sobbing family members, and they feel real. Your friends will make different decisions than you would make for yourself, or than you would make for them. It’s hard, because you love them, and you trust them, but you’re scared for them, and you’re scared for yourself. You don’t know what’s right or what will happen and when someone who has been running the same race as you for a long time suddenly veers left or slows down or speeds up, it’s hard not to wonder if you should be following suit. Trying to read your own motives and values in the shadows cast by people you love and trust… that shit is complicated and lovely and challenging.

Take notes, Shonda, and keep it up.

Related Post: How Grey’s got gay marriage right. 

Related Post: How The Good Wife gets the second wave vs. third wave tension right

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Gavin McInnes and the Myth of “Real Masculinity”

Have you guys seen the Gavin McInnes video on HuffPo Live yet? The co-founder of Vice let loose during a panel on masculinity with a petulant, aggressive, woefully misinformed tirade about how:

a) Feminism makes women sad

b) Women are trying to be like men

c) Women who work and men who take care of kids are working “against the natural order”

It was baaaad. The other panelists responded well, especially Professor Mary Anne Franks, but McInnes’ volume and tone (he calls Franks a “fucking idiot”) make a rational conversation really, really difficult. I’m reminded of an unrelated line in a Slate piece about Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card: “There are those who think that the failure of the world to agree with them, and their embrace of violence as a solution, somehow makes them the strong ones and the world the weak ones. But violence is such an easy solution, the emotional coward’s way out of actually dealing with the existence of those who disagree as legitimate equals.”

There is so much in his position to argue against (Um, what about gay folks? Um, working outside the home doesn’t necessarily mean working all night like a crazy person. Um, yes, childcare is exceptionally important, why would we deprive dads of participating? Um, since when has a “natural order” ever led us towards anything but discrimination and prejudice?) but I am mostly just sad for him. He clearly believes in what he’s spouting, that this ambitious, aggressive, chest-pumping version of masculinity is the only way to be a “real man.”

Here’s my piece about McInnes’ outburst, feminism, and all of the work we still have to do:

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Related Post: Ta-Nehisi Coates, street harassment, and being a “real man.”

Related Post: Hey guys, women are not a different species

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