Saturday, March 03, 2012

Define A Not-Slut Woman For Me, Please

If you step back from this last Rush a**holery a bit, what do you see?

That the old sexual double-standards are well and thriving! Women who like to have sex are sluts. Men who like to have sex are...? Studs? Even heterosexual men who have sex with many different women are admired. They "scored."

But women turn into sluts by having sex. A stud would be a positive label but a slut is a negative label, never mind all the attempts to take the term back and to expand it into concepts such as "book slut" for someone who loves reading.

The studs and sluts game is a zero-sum one, at least in the wingnut world. That's an important point to make. The studs can only "score" by turning many women into sluts who are then subject to contempt. But if the studs fail to score, the women temporarily escape the label of a slut but the studs lost. Sexual love as a war game.

These double-standards smell moldy like something brought down from the attic, something old. But nope. They are alive and kicking right now.

Hence the question I posed in the title of this post. What is a not-slut woman like? A virgin who has spent her whole live in a secluded convent? A married woman who has only had sex when wanting to get pregnant while making absolutely sure that the missionary position is applied and that she gets not one tingle of pleasure out of it all?

That's not the context in which Rush Limbaugh and others called Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute. That context is all about stopping women from speaking up, stopping women from participation in the public arena and stopping women from being uppity in general, and the weapon used there is to first equate a woman with her sexuality and then berate that sexuality.

Rush Is Sorry

So Limbaugh apologized for three days of woman-hating vitriol. Like this:
For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week.  In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.


My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.
Do you think that is a good apology, now that advertisers are deserting him in droves?

Here are a few of the things he said about Ms. Fluke:
“What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her?” Limbaugh said on his radio show on Wednesday. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”
The conservative radio host continued on to joke, “OK, so she’s not a slut. She’s ‘round heeled.’”
Just a bad choice of words, eh? He should have called her what instead? A harlot? A whore? There are not very many words you can replace in those sentences without replacing his meaning.

Do a reversal on Rush's statements by substituting Viagra for the birth control.

Why should I pay towards Rush's Viagra in my health insurance premia? He's just using it to screw everything in sight, to become the ueberslut of all sluts. Ugh.

Indeed, why should I pay for his deafness treatments in my premia? It seems they are a consequence of his illegal use of drugs, after all. What does it make me if I pay for them? His drug provider or at least someone who enables his immoral lifestyle.

Well, if Rush's long diatribes against Ms. Fluke were not really intended against her, personally, who was he attacking in this comment:
“So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal: If you are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I’ll tell you want it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
All us other Feminazis!

Continuing with that earlier reversal, Rush can keep those videos of him having Viagra-enforced/reinforced sex with the other earth worms. (I always think of him when turning over a new bed in the garden because of those white fat grubs in the soil.)

Speaking about turning over the soil, look what else cropped up?

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Perfect Limbaugh Storm?

Probably not, but suddenly his woman-hatred provokes condemning comments! I can't quite believe this.

To put that into perspective, I have written about that little turd in our societal punch bowl for years* and it has been like shouting into a barrel. I sound good to me and that's about it.

Now that I got that cup of bitterness down (and used up all proper vessel metaphors) let me share my happiness on Mr. Viagra getting into at least a little trouble:
True to form, Limbaugh responded to Fluke’s testimony by calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” And a few of his sponsors aren’t happy about it. In the wake of criticism, Sleep Train Mattress Centers is pulling its ads from the radio show. “Thank you for your concern. We are currently pulling all our ads with Rush Limbaugh,” the company tweeted.
Sleep Number beds also announced that it is pulling ads from the program. “Recent comments by Rush Limbaugh do not align w/our values, so we made decision to immediately suspend all advertising on that program,” an employee of the company tweeted. Quicken Loans later on Friday followed suit, pulling ads over Limbaugh’s “inflammatory comments.”
Whether ProFlowers will or not remains to be seen.

President Obama chimed in:
President Obama injected himself Friday into the controversy over Rush Limbaugh's comments about a Georgetown University student who testified on contraceptive coverage -- effectively elevating the issue, with some Democrats even trying to raise money off it. 
The president called the student, Sandra Fluke, on Friday afternoon to express his disappointment in the "personal attacks" against her, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
Limbaugh, on his radio show earlier this week, had called Fluke a "slut" following her comments in favor of mandatory contraceptive coverage. 

"The fact that our political discourse has become debased in many ways is bad enough. It is worse when it's directed at a private citizen who was simply expressing her views on a matter of public policy," Carney said. 
He said Obama called Fluke to express disappointment about the attacks and "thank her" for exercising her right to speak out. 
The phone call came as lawmakers across Capitol Hill were weighing in, and as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee incorporated Limbaugh's comments into its fundraising campaign.
And the Republican politicians are finally following suit:
House Speaker John Boehner's office earlier in the day scolded Limbaugh. Though Boehner opposes the mandate, spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement that "the speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate" -- in reference to Limbaugh's remarks.
If you think "inappropriate" is a rather cowardly adjective to choose in this context, what do you think of Saint Ricky's comments?
Of Limbaugh, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said: “He’s being absurd, but that’s you know, an entertainer can be absurd. He’s in a very different business than I am.”
So Santorum thinks that calling women sluts and demanding to see videotapes of them having sex is just absurd entertainment? This is the Saint Ricky of the late twelfth century who believes that women in the labor force was a serious mistake, who believes that artificial birth control is sinful?

He has sold out there as the moral conscience of us all, the throne he is demanding for himself.

We shall see what happens on this issue. It's pre-elections and women's votes matter. But that alone doesn't explain the sea change. I think that comes from some kind of partial awakening among the American women. I hope so, at least.
*Since 2003!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different: How Presidenting Is Done in Ireland.

Just because the rant of the Irish president is so much fun and because we never get to hear this type of a rant from the powers that be in this country. Via Daily Kos:

But Will The Republicans Do It? Condemn Limbaugh's Misogyny?

By publicly disassociating themselves from Rush Limbaugh's comments on women in general and Sandra Fluke in particular:
More than 75 Democratic lawmakers are calling on House Republican leaders to condemn radio host Rush Limbaugh’s controversial remarks on Sandra Fluke, the law student who was barred from testifying about contraception before a congressional committee.

On his radio show Wednesday, Limbaugh referred to Fluke as a “slut” and “prostitute” and accused her of demanding to be “paid to have sex” because Fluke advocated for easier access to birth control.
Sure, the Democrats are using this for political advantage at a time when some women, at least, seem to be waking up to the new Tealiban (Taliban+Tea Party) threat. Women are the crucial constituency for Obama's re-election, based on recent polls.

Despite this, the question of the Republican Party being in the pocket of Rush Limbaugh really needs airing. The man is a misogynist, racist bully.

And he's not only attacking Sandra Fluke. He's attacking much wider groups of women, as is his wont:
Limbaugh added, “So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal: If you are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I’ll tell you want it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
Reverse that and apply it to the story about Limbaugh and his Viagra! On second thoughts, don't.

Today's Shallow Thought

I love new snow, especially when it falls at night and you can see the flakes drifting down against the darkness. It gives me joy.

Blunting the Blunt Amendment

This is good news:
The Senate voted 51-48 Thursday to set aside a measure letting employers omit insurance coverage for health services they find morally objectionable, part of a fiery debate that is reshaping the presidential race and congressional campaigning.
Democrats argued that the amendment, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) would allow employers to refuse coverage for any service they dislike, including vaccinations, mammograms and drug treatment.


Republicans said the issue was religious freedom. The Blunt Amendment, they said, would have carved out a so-called conscience exemption to a new requirement under President Barack Obama's health law that all health plans cover an array of treatments, including contraception, at no additional cost to workers.
What's great about that amendment is that it would have given all employers the legal right to figure out how various treatments might offend them morally and then just not cover them. As I wrote earlier, a Christian Scientist employer could refuse all health insurance which covers conventional medical services! Imagine the savings! Worth becoming a Christian Scientist for that.

But the politicians who supported the Blunt amendment did not see it that way at all. For them it was all about the harlots:
The only Republican to oppose the Blunt Amendment was Olympia Snowe of Maine, who announced her retirement this week. Three socially conservative Democrats supported it: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

There's Dignity and Then There's Women's Dignity

The Republican governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, defining the term "dignity" for us:
In November of 2010, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) joined the public outcry against the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) security precautions in airports by describing body scans and mandatory pat downs as crossing “the line” in regard “to people’s concerns about privacy” and “beneath the dignity” of air travelers.
And the Republican governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, defining the term "dignity of women" for us:
Following a public outcry, McDonnell revised the measure to exempt women from the more invasive procedure, but not before encountering the wit of comedian Jon Stewart, who characterized the bill as “a TSA pat-down inside their vagina.” McDonnell addressed the contradiction between supporting mandatory ultrasounds for women and opposing “invasive” TSA pat downs during a radio interview this morning on WTOP and claimed that there is no comparison between the legislation and the enhanced security procedures:
MCDONNELL: There are things that are required in the interest of public safety, like TSA procedures. There are ways to accomplish the same result without an invasive patdown. [...]
I believe this is something that respects the dignity of women by making sure they have necessary information.
Bolds are mine.

The definition of "dignity" has that odd gendered aspect among social and religious conservatives. I first came across it in the writings of the current pope (when he was still the youthful Cardinal Ratzo). He offered us wimminfolk "dignity" as opposed to rights, fairness or equality.

Given the seriousness of such a trade-off it's crucial to know what conservatives mean by "women's dignity."

Hence my gratitude for McDonnell who tells us that the state of Virginia must subject women who seek abortions to a medically unnecessary ultrasound because those women might not know they are pregnant!
I believe this is something that respects the dignity of women by making sure they have necessary information.
I did suspect that the conservative idea of "women's dignity" had to do with someone having to protect the little ladies from themselves. I've seen glimpses of this in earlier writings but they are disguised as "the essential nature of women" or similar gobbledegook.

Birds Of A Feather Fly Together

This recent poll is representative of almost all political polls I've seen in the large differences that exist between Republicans and Democrats on most any topic:
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that climate change is real — the highest level in two years — as the public trusted its own observations of rising temperatures, a poll said Tuesday.


The poll showed a sharp gap depending on ideology, with 78 percent of supporters of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party saying there is solid evidence of climate change compared with 47 percent of supporters of the rival Republican Party saying so.
Duh, you might say. As the title of this post says, similar birds (or people) gather together and isolate themselves from other birds (or people). Hence the differences between Republican and Democratic views.

But that "flying together" now has an extra aspect:

If, for instance, Republicans mostly get their information from Fox News, then what Fox News tells or does not tell becomes crucially important. If Republicans and Democrats now get different reports about that thing called "reality", then any initial value disagreements could become stronger, right? The birds which fly together develop more identical feathers.

That's bad news for political debates. It's one thing to disagree on values. It's a totally different thing to disagree on both values and facts.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Knock, Knock.

"Who's there?"
"A woman guest on a major Sunday political show? Please, let me in!"
"Not unless you are an extreme wingnut lady. Or the Secretary of State."

From Media Matters:
During a month when the issues of birth control and women's access to health care flared up and became major topics of debate on the presidential campaign trail and in Washington, the Sunday morning talk shows once again loaded up their programs by hosting newsmaker interviews with men. Lots and lots of men.

And of the four women booked this month, just one, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was associated with the Democratic Party, despite the fact Democrats currently control the White House and the Senate. "We complain about this all the time," a Democratic aide told Media Matters.
But they did have Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann on as guests!

All this is weird considering that the Republicans keep arguing that the mainstream media is biased against them. But perhaps it's their continuous growling and barking that has created a playing field so sloped that only Hillary Clinton managed to get invited from the Democratic side of the aisle.

And yeah, the lack of women in the political media becomes shockingly obvious when the topic is about women but discussed mostly by men.

Meanwhile, in Alabama. The Transvaginal Ultrasound is Baaaack!

From Rheality Check:
The Alabama legislature is considering a mandated vaginal ultrasound bill in an attempt to restrict safe abortion care, or as State Senator Linda Coleman (D - Jefferson) says "a state-sanctioned rape bill."
The bill explicitly includes mandated trans-vaginal ultrasound.
The proposed bill is out of the committee.

I love this:
The chairman of the Alabama Senate Health Committee said he doesn’t see a conflict of interest between his support for a bill that would require physicians to perform ultrasounds on women seeking abortions and his company, which sells the type of equipment the bill would require.
Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, voted to move Senate Bill 12 out of committee last week because he said it’s a good bill that would help “a mother to understand that a live baby is inside her body.”
Both parts are fun. The former is a weird shadow of other Republican values, having to do with money, and the latter tells us what certain conservatives think of women's cognitive abilities.

Senator Reed seems to think that women who seek abortion don't know that they are pregnant! Perhaps that aquarium inside the woman (which really belongs to Senator Reed) could contain something else which gives similar symptoms. A shrimp?

Sigh. I also love the emotional manipulation (the terms "mother" and "live baby").

So what does the proposed bill do? A few snippets:
b) Prior to a woman giving informed consent to having any part of an abortion performed or induced, and prior to the administration of any anesthesia or medication in preparation for the abortion on the woman, the physician who is to perform the abortion or a qualified technician shall:
(1) Perform an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant woman, using either a vaginal transducer or an abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly.
(2) Provide a simultaneous verbal explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting, which shall include the presence and location of the unborn child within the uterus and the number of unborn children depicted. If the ultrasound image indicates that fetal demise has occurred, a woman shall be informed of that fact.
(3) Display the ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them.
Page 41 (4) Provide a medical description of the ultrasound 2 images, which shall include the dimensions of the embryo or 3 fetus and the presence of external members and internal 4 organs, if present and viewable.
5 (c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to 6 prevent a pregnant woman from averting her eyes from the 7 ultrasound images required to be provided to and reviewed with 8 her. Neither the physician nor the pregnant woman shall be 9 subject to any penalty if she declines to look at the
10 presented ultrasound images. 11 Section 4. (a) The provisions of Section 3 shall not 12 apply to an abortion provider or facility in the case of a 13 medical emergency.

There's that transvaginal ultrasound again! But this proposed bill would also let all sorts of people sue a medical provider who didn't perform the mandatory ultrasound! For instance:
Section 6. (a) Any person upon whom an abortion has 18 been performed without compliance with this act, the father of 19 the unborn child who was the subject of the abortion, or the 20 grandparent of an unborn child may maintain an action against 21 the person who performed the abortion in knowing or reckless 22 violation of this act for actual and punitive damages.
That aquarium belongs to a whole lot of folks in Alabama! Not sure why siblings of the woman (or the man) can't sue. The more the merrier, right? Could a rapist sue over the lack of an ultrasound in the abortion performed on the woman he raped?

The whole thing sounds very poorly written. Unless all ectopic pregnancies are defined as medical emergencies, the proposed bill would require an ultrasound and a description of the embryo even in that case. And in the cases of partial miscarriages.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On Fashion and Feminism

This was an eagerly discussed topic about a month ago. As is my wont I got all tangled up in the definitions and never wrote about any of it. Once in a while I took the topic out, thought about it, got confused and put it back. Now it's shop-soiled, tattered, the way some clothes in final markdown sales are. And, as usual, I'm way off in my timing.

The gist of the conversation, as I understood it, was whether fashion could be feminist and whether it is OK for feminists to be fashion-conscious. That's where things got tricky for me, because the term "fashion" is one of those terms ("freedom", "dignity", "democracy", "religious freedom") which have many different meanings, some almost opposite to each other. And given the way I am, I had to go on this long thinking trip about what people might mean when they say "fashion."

Defining concepts is a delightful enterprise for me but I get that others find it as appetizing as horse food. Still, if in my mind the word "fashion" is about the annual forced changes to make women buy more and more badly-made but expensive clothes which hurt and if in your mind the word "fashion" is about the human desire to decorate their bodies for the pleasure of others, well, we are going to have a very odd conversation.

So definitions are necessary. As I followed some of the discussions, I noticed that many people focused on the clothing industry and its exploitative nature. The people making all those fashionable clothes are usually poorly paid women. Others focused on the modelling industry, its message of extreme skinniness and its focus on thin white upper-class women as the most likely market for the final products.

Yet others seemed to speak about independent craftspeople creating wearable art. And many spoke about the way fashions are anti-feminist in promoting clothes which bind, hamper and make walking about difficult. Several comments were about the poor quality of much of women's clothing, even the expensive labels and about the difficulty of finding anything fashionable in larger sizes in general.

The reason I give you that summary is that if the original idea is about making fashion into something feminists can embrace its practicality clearly depends on what we mean by the term "fashion."

From that angle certain things about fashion will have to be dropped into the dustbin before I can embrace the idea as feminist. Well, probably most things about the actual fashion industries and how they work. No more labor exploitation, no more focus on only one body type, ethnic group and income level. Women should demand better quality in the clothes that are available. The average quality of men's clothes is higher than that of women's clothes, while the prices men pay can, in fact, be lower.

So what does that leave me? The idea of clothes as fun, as part of the decoration of the body for both information purposes and so that others get some fun from seeing you slither into the room. That part I can embrace! Indeed, I'm going to embroider some snakes all over the back of my old jeans jacket. Their heads will peak over my shoulders when viewed from the front!

But fashion is not quite that innocent if we expand it to mean "costume", the way human beings have used dress as a way of showing social hierarchies, group membership and other information about a person.

Clothes and accessories are still used for that purpose. A Rolex watch and a well-cut fine wool suit on a man are not just about keeping him practically covered and aware of the time. They also send a message about his wealth. In a similar fashion (heh), a woman wearing Prada or Chanel is telling us about her social class and income.

That social role of clothing has in the past led to laws which dictated how fancy the clothes of the lower classes could be. Only the aristocracy could wear silk and velvet in many European countries.

This is the sinister role of "fashion" (as in "popular clothing"): To keep people in their "proper" places.

It is especially sinister for women. Neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran require that men veil themselves before going out, for example. But even more generally, the dress of women has traditionally been used to interpret their sexual morals. This has not been the case for men.

I have veered quite far from the initial question of this post, but doing so has clarified my thinking (and bored you). I think fashion could, indeed, be something feminist and exciting, a way of showing to the world what your basic values are. But only some of us have the freedom to do so.

What are your thoughts?

Embroidery by me.

How The Ringwraiths Do Politics. Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

This Nazg├╗l governor of Wisconsin (Lord of the Rings reference) is facing a recall election. He thinks this is the pits because:
“Well, we’re focused,” Walker responded, “but it’s a huge distraction, not just for me, for the legislature. I mean, it’s $9 million of taxpayers’ money just to run this. Think about the number of kids we could help, think of the number of seniors we could help in our state with $9 million that we didn’t have to waste on this — this frivolous recall election.
Delicious! So very delicious if you have been following what governor Walker has actually done with taxpayers' money during his sinister reign.

Helping the children and the elderly? He probably would sell them if that helped the job-creating corporations.

Well, I may be going too far there. But knowing who funds these Ringwraiths (coughKochbrotherscough) it's pretty obvious that Walker has different priorities for the use of tax receipts than the care of the elderly, say.

He may not lose that recall election. Too many Wisconsinites (Wisconsinians?) have been mesmerized by those burning red eye holes. But he deserves to be recalled.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Women & the Academy Awards (by Suzie)

While many media outlets cover women's fashion at the Oscars, few will note that men dominate, especially in the more prestigious categories, and this reflects the filmmaking industry in general. Read Martha Lauzen at the Women's Media Center:
According to the annual Celluloid Ceiling study released by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women comprised only 18 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films in 2011. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 2010 but a decrease of one percentage point from 2001.

By role, women accounted for 5 percent of directors, 14 percent of writers, 18 percent of executive producers, 25 percent of producers, 20 percent of editors, and 4 percent of cinematographers last year. The abysmally low number of women working as directors is especially troubling, as women comprised 9 percent of directors in 1998—so much for creeping incrementalism.
Also, you should read Melissa Silverstein at Women and Hollywood, who put together the video above. Feminists who don't care about Hollywood may still recognize that media from a male perspective shapes our culture.
ETA: I've been checking on the Oscars at the NYT, and I was shocked by the large ad for Giorgio Armani. The models are frighteningly thin.