Sunday, February 3, 2008

Missing the Point

Well, it appears feminism is still pretty well misunderstood. This article in the NY Times pissed me off today. It pits second and third wave feminists against each other and suggests we need to kiss and make up.

The focus of the article is Jennifer Valenti, founder of Feministing and author of Full Frontal Feminism, and Marcia Pappas, head of the NY state chapter of NOW. Ms Pappas released a statement this week indicating that she (and in her capacity, the NY state chapter of NOW, and by extension, a significant proportion of feminists) felt betrayed by Ted Kennedy in his decision not to back Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. She accused him of not being able or, perhaps, willing, to handle a female president. The brief article compares the women, who have very similar backgrounds, and contrasts them, highlighting where they appear not to agree.

So, two women with similar backgrounds disagree and the NY Times needs to comment on it? Is this news? There are as many different types of feminisms as there are feminists and not all will agree all the time. Radical, liberal, cultural, Black, Jewish, eco, post-modern, socialist - and that just scratches the surface. The Times article seems to be looking to reinforce the so-called "rift" between second and third wave feminists. Third wavers have been accused of not paying proper respect to the second wavers for all the progress they stimulated, that they wouldn't have the opportunities they have without the hard work the second wavers did. They're accused of being privileged and ungrateful and abandoning much of what are seen as the basic tenets of feminism (i.e., wearing heels and make-up - seriously). Second wavers are often painted as bitter, resentful old bitches who are jealous of the youth and opportunity in the third wave movement.

Wow, pitting two groups of women against each other. What gain could that possibly have? If we pit them against each other, maybe they'll get so caught up in their un-ignorable need to be catty, they'll forget about fighting the patriarchy?

The answer, however, is not to encourage these girls to sit down and work out their differences. They both serve in different capacities. I think we're fortunate to have so many different women working for us. The more diversity among the leadership, the more women will see someone like themselves and feel better about themselves and possibly see themselves as having options. Isn't that part of the goal?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ongoing Cesarean Controversy

Birth experiences are as varied as the women who have the babies. My own experience with Miss Thang was at times the most amazing and spiritual event and, at other times, completely miserable. I'm not even talking about pain (back labor). I labored for 28 hours before a completely unsurprising Cesarean birth (I had gestational diabetes and prepared myself for that possibility, though it didn't happen for the reasons I expected) and I had some pretty poor care (in terms of the way I was treated) except the nurse who helped me with the epidural, she and the anesthesiologist were two of the brightest spots of the whole experience). I had some really rotten nurses who pretty much treated me like a piece of meat - like they worked at Sizzler and I was a crappy steak. Oh, and the surgeon who helped get my baby out had absolutely no bedside manner, though she was an amazing surgeon. I was in the hospital for five days, the lactation consultant actually made everything worse and we were so sleep deprived (ever spent time in a hospital? they don't let you sleep) Mr B ran a red light at a huge intersection on the way home (we were fine, if a little shaken).

I have never regretted having a Cesarean birth. A lot of women feel like they did the whole birth thing wrong if they end up having a Cesarean, but I'm fine with it. Yes, I had gestational diabetes and that made it a possibility, but I've never wasted a moment feeling bad about it.

Why am I babbling so about this? Because 25% of births in the US are Cesarean and there are significant risks to both the mother and fetus/infant in the event of a Cesarean birth. I'm not going to go into the details of that, but it is a disturbing trend. Many people think that it's because American women can't be bothered to be inconvenienced by the messy birth process and prefer to schedule birth like a hair appointment. It turns out, this may not be the case. Nobody is really disputing the 25% figure, the question is whose idea is it? Are women requesting them or does it originate with the doctors? Research is starting to show that women are not requesting them in the rates originally thought. has an interesting collection of articles relating to this topic.

So, that leaves the medical community. According to this essay from the Annals of Family Medicine, one of the reasons for the rise in Cesareans was that doctors became concerned about complications arising from breech births (fetus coming out butt first) and Cesareans appeared to be less risky. More recent follow-up studies indicate that this may not be the case and now we have scores of physicians who are reluctant to deliver breech babies vaginally.

Another group of women who physicians are now reluctant to deliver vaginally are women who have already delivered via Cesarean. There is apparently increased risk of uterine rupture (along the scar) during vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC). Newer research suggests that fetuses can cope with such a rupture until an emergency Cesarean can be performed. Unfortunately, most hospitals lack sufficient staff to for this to become the norm. It also may be the case that repeat Cesarean births may be more risk to the mother (infection and hemorrhage) than VBAC.

So, here we are, another women's health issue where our choice is limited because someone else thinks they know what's best for us. Another women's health situation where the doctors' knee-jerk response is to do something that makes their lives easier; to hell with the patients (without whom they wouldn't have a job). I find it really hard to trust the medical community when they're constantly coming back and contradicting themselves. Now, I understand how the research process works and that there's always new information coming in, but what I don't understand is why so many women need to be guinea pigs. That's what all the women in the new research have been - guinea pigs. Does this happen to men with issues of the magnitude of childbirth? I can't really think of anything. The first birth control trials were held in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. The women were not told they were guinea pigs and they were given pills with three times the doses recommended today. This was a conscious decision by the doctors in charge because they wanted to make sure it was a success (success being defined here as women not getting pregnant while they took the pill). Two women died during the trial, apparently healthy women; no autopsy was performed to find out the specific cause of death.

Men get to make decisions about the things that affect them most. When do we get to know what that feel like?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Just Good Cinema

My vote for most amazing movie of the year, the most deeply affecting, is Juno. BitchPhD articulates very clearly why this film is a triumph in the creation of female characters, but everyone will probably take something different from the film.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sometimes Two Heads Aren't Better Than One

Wow, I can't believe it's been that long since I've posted. Sheesh. It's been frightfully busy at work. I've basically taken on twice the workload (with increase in pay, thank you), but there's also driving involved and I'm just plain pooped! There really isn't enough time sometimes.

I am not a close follower of presidential politics. I stay informed, but I don't get off on watching every little sound bite and analyzing the day's races. This race in general is of particular interest to me because it's the first time women's issues have ever been primary during an election. White, middle-aged wealthy men don't care about teenage girls' reproductive rights or whether they get paid the same as the boys at McDonald's.

That said, there's this YouTube video of Hillary Clinton getting heckled:

"Iron my shirt." Isn't it pretty fucked up that that's the best he could do? I imagine he had this fantasy of "puttin' that bitch in her place," but he really just came off sounding like a dumbass. Is he criticizing her for anything in particular? No. He's trying to tell the world she has a vagina and isn't acting the way a person with a vagina is supposed to act.

I'm still not sure where this fear comes from, this fear that propels people to try to tear apart an entire gender. People really can't give a legitimate answer why Hillary deserves vilification. She isn't squeaky clean, but she doesn't eat babies (as far as I know). So, why the 'tude? Why is she the object of so much vitriol? Why is it so nasty? When a man is criticized, his performance is generally on the line. When a woman is criticized, her character is more often impugned.

Why her, in particular? This country has elected far less qualified individuals, they just all happen to possess penises and I can't figure out why that makes a person qualified for that job. I mean, there's that old joke that God gave men two heads and only enough blood to run one at a time, so wouldn't a president capable of maximum blood flow be the clear choice? Is it womb envy? Is the patriarchy so terrified of the awesome power that is Woman that it must tear her down at every opportunity, lest she come to her senses and rise up and take back the world?

Hoo! Sorry, I got a little carried away with the drama. Nobody really knows why this continues to happen. Stereotypes are notoriously resistant to amendment. Hell, when we get confounding information about a stereotype we hold, we create a subgroup rather than adjust our perspective. We really need our convenient mental categories. But why do they have to be so damaging?

Someone please explain this to me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Confession Time

Hi, my name is Crazy Bitch and celeb gossip is my guilty pleasure. I'm not sure why because there's a part of me that would be perfectly happy if all celeb gossip dried up today. It's brain rotting garbage and perpetuates so many evil ideas about women and men. I've watched that TMZ TV show a couple times and I can't figure out why it even exists (it seems I only like to read the gossip blogs because I've never really liked any of the gossip shows).

Why am I bringing this up now? Well, I take pretty much everything I read in the blogs with a grain of salt. A big one, like the salt licks you can leave for deer. Today, however, one of the blogs printed a quote from Adrian Grenier, who is on the HBO show "Entourage," which I've never watched. Supposedly he had an exchange with a woman in a bar and after asking her all of two questions, closed with "So, how about we go home and I fuck the shit out of you?" Her response was reportedly "No thanks." Gee, how could a girl turn down an offer like that?

I don't know that this actually happened as reported, but I imagine it's an exchange that's played out in bars all over the place with different men and women in the starring roles. Grenier's proposal, while perhaps not consciously intended as such, is really quite violent. He's essentially suggesting that they go to a place that's unfamiliar to her and he spend a few minutes doing something to her using language that implies that her needs aren't even secondary. He's going to do his thing to her, donate some DNA and have done with it, from the sound of things.

There may be other contexts where such a suggestion would have a slightly different meaning. For example, whispered into the ear of a partner during a boring party could yield completely different results. Sometimes things change when the person in question is known to the intended woman and a guy might be able to say something like that and have it come out sexy rather than disgusting.

I wonder how many people have had success with a line like that and what the result was?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tit Wrap

Sorry I've been absent. Work has gotten a little hectic temporarily and there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done without making myself nuts (which I've so far avoided).

What the hell is that picture? Well, it's a breast cancer awareness basket. Yes, a basket in the shape of a pink ribbon. This is awareness run amok, my friends.

I was a the grocery store with Mr B today and saw breast cancer awareness wrapping paper. I don't remember exactly what it looked like, but I think it was kind of gold with shiny foil-y leaves, I don't think it was holly, but something bushy with pink foil berries on each. It wasn't ugly paper, it just seemed pointless. "Hey look," I said to Mr B, "tit wrap." He laughed.

Pink marketing seems to be out of control. You can find a pink stand mixer, golf clubs, golf tees, t-shirts, scarves (really ugly ones, too), scrapbook paper, slippers, baking tins, cookie cutters, rubber stamps, beads, jewelry (most of it ugly), socks, teddy bears, coffee mugs, dickies (!), dog tags, sportswear, carabiner clips and coasters. There's more than that, but I'm getting annoyed typing all this.

Why does this piss me off? I mean, isn't it a reflection of attention paid to an important women's issue? Not really. One problem is there's no way for a consumer to be sure how much of their purchase is going toward actual breast cancer research or treatment. Another problem is that almost all of the items mentioned above are "girly" things, things that men are not likely to purchase. Where are the breast cancer awareness ties? What about breast cancer billfolds with a pink ribbon embossed on the front?

A bigger problem is that it's objectifying. It's a "women's issue," but what about other women's issues? Does heart disease in women get this much attention? Heart disease is the leading killer of women in the US. Can we buy little heart disease awareness cookie cutters (yes, I know we can buy heart-shaped cookie cutters, but that isn't the same thing)? And what about dickies? Can I get my dickie fix and support heart disease at the same time?

I'm just not sure it's a coincidence that so much attention is being paid to this particular part of a woman's anatomy. I'm glad women's health issues are getting more attention, but perhaps boobs would be ok with sharing the spotlight?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Who really is the Biggest Loser?

"The Biggest Loser." Why am I watching this? For the uninitiated, it's a supposed to be a show to help people lose weight. A bunch of fatties are rounded up into teams and each team has a different trainer. The trainers seem like they really get to know and care about their teams. Every week they engage in different "challenges" that are basically ridiculous feats of strength and/or endurance that are designed to demonstrate the amazing things they can do with their changing bodies. One of the things that really bugs me is that the whole show leads up to the "weigh-in" at the end of the show - it's all about the numbers. I understand that it has to do with how the show is set up - the "winner" each week is decided by who had the highest percentage of weight loss, so, of course they're going to focus on the numbers.

In my experience, focusing on the numbers made me crazy. I used to be very focused on my weight, specifically the number. I would weigh myself at least twice a day and any time the numbers didn't go down I'd feel like shit. To me, it looks like the "contestants" on this show have to deal with the same thing, only they're doing it in front of the world. The weigh-ins are an exercise in humiliation. Everyone gets up onto this gigantic flat metal scale (that looks cold) and there's a giant digital readout next to them that flips forward and backward through numbers until it lands on the contestant's weight. So, it's basically a picture of a person and a number. To make matters worse, the men have to take their shirts off before stepping on the scale. The women don't, but they're already down to their sports bras while everyone else weighs in. The women spend more time in less clothing than the men.

Doctors are going on and on about all the awful things that can happen to you when you're fat, how fatties can't get knocked up (the doc made sure to say that even "overweight, not just obese" women can have trouble). They had a rubber heart they dipped into "vat of fat" (human fat, literally) to demonstrate how hard it is for the doctors to operate on a fat person's heart. Just gross on so many levels.

It's always about making the doctor's job easier, isn't it? That's why we often have to give birth on our backs (against gravity).

For this most recent bunch of episodes (a midseason time filler), the teams are composed of pairs of friends/family (mother/son, brothers, mother/daughter, and so on). Tonight's challenge involved each pair in harnesses and hooked up to what looks like an oversized weather balloon. They have to go across a large distance and the balloons produce wind resistance and require more effort on the part of the contestants. Not a big deal in and of itself. The problem I have is that the pair that comes in last gets penalized 2 points at the next weigh-in. They work their asses off and finish the challenge and get penalized for it. It's like that motivation-by-humiliation tactic.

Unfortunately, the show is also inherently sexist (besides the clothing thing). Men tend to lose more weight (sheer numbers) and tend to lose it faster than women. The creators of the show tried to get around this by relying on ration of weight lost to total weight. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have worked because no woman (in 3 seasons) has won. Even in the last season, 3 of the final 4 were women and the one man still won.

The only reason I do watch the show is because I find the psychological transformation fascinating. Though I don't always agree with the means, the resultant empowerment and increase in self-esteem is really cool to witness. It's really cool to watch a woman who clearly doesn't think she's worth a shit learn how to have compassion for herself, which is a far better gift than weight loss.