Recently in Feminism Category

Check it out: something we feminists always knew is finally supported by researched evidence: having the courage, self-esteem and commitment to equality involved in identifying yourself as a feminist actually makes it more likely, not less, that you'll enjoy healthy relationships and find sexual satisfaction.

These are the conclusions of a study by Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan of Rutgers, published this week in the journal Sex Roles. A press release about the article states that

It is generally perceived that feminism and romance are in direct conflict. Rudman and Phelan’s work challenges this perception. They carried out both a laboratory survey of 242 American undergraduates and an online survey including 289 older adults, more likely to have had longer relationships and greater life experience. They looked at men’s and women’s perception of their own feminism and its link to relationship health, measured by a combination of overall relationship quality, agreement about gender equality, relationship stability and sexual satisfaction.

They found that having a feminist partner was linked to healthier heterosexual relationships for women. Men with feminist partners also reported both more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction. According to these results, feminism does not predict poor romantic relationships, in fact quite the opposite.

The authors also tested the validity of feminist stereotypical beliefs amongst their two samples, based on the hypothesis that if feminist stereotypes are accurate, then feminist women should be more likely to report themselves as being single, lesbian, or sexually unattractive, compared with non-feminist women.

Rudman and Phelan found no support for this hypothesis amongst their study participants. In fact, feminist women were more likely to be in a heterosexual romantic relationship than non-feminist women. The authors conclude that feminist stereotypes appear to be inaccurate, and therefore their unfavorable implications for relationships are also likely to be unfounded.

So there you have it: it's not only personally rewarding to BE feminists, but to date and marry them.

Systematic Rape on an Unprecedented Scale

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If you haven't already read it, you have to read this horrifying article in the NY Times on the brutal, vicious rapes being perpetrated in the Congo. Watch the video that accompanies the article as well. As both the article and the video state, "While rape has always been a weapon of war, researchers say they fear that Congo’s problem has metastasized into a wider social phenomenon," and sexual assault is being used to terrorize on an scale and with a viciousness that are unprecedented.

I'm currently working on a paper about trauma and religion, so I've been reading analyses of trauma. One text I'm reading argues that

to be called traumatic--to produce what are seen as symptoms of trauma--an event has to be more than just a situation of utter powerlessness. In an important sense, it has to entail something else. It has to involve a betrayal of trust as well. There is an extreme menace, but what is special is where the threat of violence comes from. What we call trauma takes place when the very powers that we are convinced will protect us and give us security become our tormentors, when the community of which we consider ourselves members turn against us or when our family is no longer a source of refuge but a site of danger.

I would say that applies to the family of humanity, not just one's immediate family. You just don't expect another human being to tie you to a tree for four months and gang rape you every day. You don't expect another human being to shove a block of splintery wood so far up you that your reproductive and digestive organs are beyond repair. And you sure as hell don't expect them to do it to you just because you're female. But that's why this is happening. And while violence against women this vicious, this brutal, is not wide-spread in the US, it is by no means unknown or uncommon--just watch any crime show and see how many of the crimes depicted involve the sexual torture and intentional degradation of women.

Warren Jeffs Found Guilty

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I was triumphantly relieved to read that Warren Jeffs, "prophet" of the Fundmantalist COJCOLDS or whatever it's called, has been found guilty in Utah of two counts of being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl. He faces more charges in Arizona as well.

The arguments of the defense in all this just sound so gross. I'm glad the jury focused on the fact that the girl was 14, and that she was told that if she didn't submit to this marriage she didn't like, she'd go to hell. Those are, I think the most relevant issues in the matter.

Hormone-Mimickers Produce More Girl Babies

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Here's a very upsetting story announcing that "Man-made chemicals blamed as many more girls than boys are born in Arctic" because high-levels of gross toxins (particularly those in flame retardants) in the food supply "can change sex of child during pregnancy," and here's another saying the same thing, but with slightly different details.

It's horrifying, how nasty and icky we've let our food supply get, and there are definite challenges to be faced in the village in Greenland where only girls have been born. But I can't help thinking that if the chemicals worked the other way--if they changed the sex of the baby from a girl to a boy--walrus carcasses absolutely laden with this gross stuff would be sold in certain countries as a way to avoid having to abort unwanted female babies--just turn them into boys during the first three weeks of gestation!

The only comfort is that the world so loves its baby boys that there will probably be swift action now to clean this nasty stuff up.

Using Your Granddaughter as Pin Cushion

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Here's a story that has so upset me I scarcely can articulate all the reasons why: a 31-year-old Chinese woman went to the doctor because she had blood in her urine; turns out she has 26 sewing needles embedded in her body; and the likely explanation is that when she she an infant, her grandparents stuck all the needles in her because they were upset that she wasn't a boy. Some of the needles have worked their way into vital organs; one needle has broken into three pieces in her brain.

OK, I'm really distressed by the fact that female fetuses are so often aborted in India and China; I'm horrified by female infanticide. I realize that what I'm about to write is obvious, but those aborted fetuses and murdered infants don't have to live with the knowledge that their families didn't want them because they were female. I'm not saying it's better to be killed as an infant than to discover, at age 31, that your grandparents (whom you were probably trained to love and respect) were disappointed enough by your sex that they'd try to kill you, but I am saying that I find it hard to wrap my mind around how that might alter your view of yourself, your family and the world.

Of course, women do have to live with the knowledge that the world considers them of secondary importance, and largely disposable. But hey, we have our ENTIRE LIVES to come to terms with THAT fact, because basically not a day goes by when that message isn't communicated. But there's something about finding out one day that you have a needle in your brain put their by your grandparents that just takes things into a different realm for me--I can't imagine how that would change your fundamental experience of yourself and your world. I think it would make me afraid even to lie down and put my head on a pillow.

The world is a sick, sick place.

In Case You Have or Are Interested in Breasts

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Over the weekend I read A History of the Breast by Marilyn Yalom, which should be required reading for anyone with breasts or an interest in them, which I realize doesn't cover everyone but covers a lot of people. The book was fascinating, and full of memorable illustrations and photos, including a set depicting a "Bosom Ballet." It told me many things I'd never considered which were obvious once they were pointed out to me, like the significance of the name for the kind of animal we are: mammalia, coined by 18th-century Swedish physician Carolus Linnaeus, comes from the Latin term mammae (milk-secreting organs) and literally means "of the breast." So as a group, warm-blooded animals with a four-chambered heart are named for an attribute only half of them share: the ability to produce milk for suckling their young.

It also answered a question I'd been wondering about lately: Why is that galaxy up in the sky most of us can't see any more because our night skies are so marred by light pollution, called "the Milky Way"? Why is it considered milky? Why not "the Sparkly Belt"? Why not a lot of things?

Well. Turns out we have Greek mythology to thank for the name. Yalom states,

Marriage Manifesto

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My friend Troy is awesome. He is not only gay (sexual orientation) but queer (social identity) and after the four panelists had spoken in the Brokeback session at Sunstone (see the intro and the excerpt), I asked him to come up and make a comment, in part because he knew all four women on the panel, and in part because I knew he'd deliver both a queer-positive and a woman-positive message. He gets it: he understands the patriarchy is the basic problem, and claims that one reason he's such a decent, enlightened person is because he has listened to the women in his life. He also doesn't take the "oh, I'm gay and it's such a source of heartache" approach to homosexuality--he acknowledges that people go through that stage, but at some point, he says, embrace your gayness! Love yourself for who you are! Be positive about all the fabulous aspects of gayness, instead of trying to retain as many elements of straightness as you possibly can.

Troy does a radio show in Salt Lake called Now Queer This. He's working a documentary about some brouhaha in southern Utah over legislation to define a marriage as existing only between one man and one woman. He has filmed orthodox Mormons, gays, and polygamists as part of the movie.

Troy gets this as well: alternative marriage is alternative marriage, and so he supports the decriminalization of polygamy. Independent polygamists get it too: many support legalization of gay marriage between consenting adults because they realize that it will pave the way for decriminalization of polygamy among consenting adults. (Which many in the gay community find distressing.) My family, which is well stocked with Mormon Republican lawyers and judges who find both gay marriage and polygamy revolting (one is counter to god's will, and the other is entirely god's will, but not something anyone with any self esteem and a real love for her spouse would ever do if she could possibly avoid it), understand that point as well--and they're really afraid.

Feminist Carnival, Again

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At the beginning of the summer I strayed from my commitment to blogging about feminism, but there at the end, when I started preparing for Sunstone, I got it back.... Anyway, the current carnival is up at Redemption Blues. I've perused some of the other very fine offerings--in particular I was struck by this post about the Stained Glass Ceiling: Rankism in Action on My Left Wing. The author, Breakingranks, neatly summarized my experience with Mormonism:

Lately, PR folk have been fond of the idea that markets are conversations. This implies a level playing field where people negotiate as equals and make fair exchanges. However, the spiritual authority hijacks the market. The spiritual authority stands on a platform and preaches to the masses. Spiritual authority is one (man's) vision imposed on all others, winning pre-eminence through guile, mass mobilization, and acts of verbal violence. The spiritual authority dictates reality, recording their vision on the world as if people were blank tapes. Perhaps spiritual authority does win in the marketplace of ideas and values, but perhaps we should ask ourselves why there should be a marketplace at all. And if there is a market, doesn't a diverse world imply niche markets of ideas instead of some beady-eyed guy shouting transcend, transcend, transcend!

Also wonderful: this post, Owning Beauty, on Basket of Eggs, about the significance of a beautiful blue dress she'd made.

Just As God Made Me

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Old Testament Weirdness

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In the comments to yesterday's post on Brokeback Mountain, CL Hanson notes that she learned at BYU that "in [Mormon] culture woman is the disposable person." That's something learned in college myself, albeit in a bible lit class, when I read this gruesome story in Judges 19, which I'm going to tell now, and then we're going to take a break from this topic, since it doesn't seem wildly popular. [OK, I lied: there's a followup here.] Plus, I'm almost done with the paper and will have time to write about something else for a while. But here it is, without further ado, one of the grossest stories from the Old Testament:

In Judges 19, we get the story of a Levite from Mount Ephriam whose concubine leaves him in order to return to her parents' house, an activity labeled "playing the whore against him," or valuing her own desires above his. The Levite eventually goes to fetch his concubine, and on their journey home they stop in Gibeah, where the men are "Benjaminites," meaning both that they are of the tribe of Benjamin and that they have sex with other men. The Levite sets up camp in the street of a city, only to be implored by an old man not to lodge there--instead, the old man offers the couple shelter for the night.

Beginning in verse 22, we read

Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. [Note: in case you don't get it, they're using "know" in the biblical sense, this being the bible and all.]

[23] And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.

[24] Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.

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