Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Musings

I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions. I stopped years ago after I realized I never saw them through. So, in resolving not to make resolutions (not something I did specifically, I'm speaking metaphorically) I resolved to tackle problems as I see them. This has resulted in me being unable to deny issues when I see them for very long. Not necessarily the most convenient, but it hasn't been a bad policy overall.

It isn't that I don't think that NYRs don't work. They absolutely can. The problem I have is the psychology behind them (if you can imagine that!). A lot of people make resolutions because it's a tradition. But then they feel like crap about themselves when they give up 2-3 months into the new year. People seem to experience a lot of pressure to change something about their physical appearance, usually losing weight. So, a typical New Year's Resolution is made under a bit of duress, to change something about themselves that is notoriously difficult to change, and then abandoned because it was too much to take on at once. Then the guilt and shame set in.

Oh yeah, sign me up!

Now, I don't think it's a bad idea to periodically take stock of one's . . . whatever (life, situation, job, etc) and seriously think about all of the options available, no matter how impossible they may seem. But, do it because you want to, not because you think you have to. Change things that you want to change, things that will help you be 100% yourself, not because you're worried about what other people might think. Instead of resolving to lose weight (a really ambiguous prospect that implies there's something wrong with they way you look), resolve to take better care of yourself. Find a tolerable way to eat more vegetables, find a doctor who listens to you, be pickier about who you let into your life, go to therapy and find out how you're getting in your own way (spoken by someone who just went back to therapy).

I have a few ongoing "projects" I've been working on that I'll continue to work toward in 2008. I'll get licensed in 2008. I'm working on eating more vegetables to help me get my blood sugar under better control (so I'll feel my best and stop getting sick). I'm also trying to walk more because it helps control my blood sugar and because it keeps my back from hurting. I'm trying to bring my own reusable bags with me to whatever grocery store I go to. I want to make more time to read. These are all things I want to do for me.

Make your resolutions because you want to do something for yourself in the upcoming year. The rest of us think you're fine the way you are!

Thanks to SVJ for getting me thinking about this stuff!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Outdoor Industry Hates Fat People

I went to REI today to pick up a new water bottle. My hooded raincoat finally gave up the ghost after 4-5 years, so I thought I'd poke around and see what I could find. I knew there wouldn't be too much in my price range, but REI's usually at least worth a look.

Not one plus-sized windbreaker-type coat to be found (I didn't look at every coat in the place, so I can't say there weren't any in the whole store). There were 2 that came in size XL, but they were too generously cut through the shoulders yet I couldn't comfortably zip them up. Now, I'm not that fat and it really felt shitty to not be able to zip up a coat without holding my stomach in. I have other very cute coats that fit very well and look great, but I do like to do outdoorsy stuff and I can't wear a faux leather fuzzy leopard lined coat that doesn't have a hood while I dash around in the rain (or to the bathroom in the morning while camping). I live in Oregon and this time of the year it can rain every day for a week or more - umbrellas aren't very useful going from the car to the grocery store. I want a damn raincoat!

Yes, I could buy a coat in the men's department. I've done it before. But I'm also short, so they come down almost to my knees, the arms are too long and the shoulders are usually too broad. Why should I have to, anyway? Why can't I buy something that fits in the women's section? You can't make something that fits a fat girl by simply increasing the proportions. Often our proportions are different (Old Navy, are you listening?). I realize it isn't possible to buy something off the rack that fits perfectly, but a little more thought could go into the stuff.

Hiking and camping is still apparently the domain of skinny people.

Just a Few Little Words

I noticed something interesting this morning. It would be an understatement to say that I'm a music nut. Music has always been one of the most important things in my life (I'm currently devouring Jim Walsh's book about The Replacements, a Christmas gift from a musical partner in crime). Nearly every spare minute of my life is crammed with music - in the house, in the car, on the 3 block walk from my car to the building my office is in, on the bus, I've even brought my laptop to hotel rooms so I can listen to music if I want. I'm also extremely picky about what I listen to. I'm not quite a musical snob because I listen to plenty of things my music snob friends wouldn't deign to experience (Third Eye Blind, for example).

Since I've listened to so much music in my life, I love a good cover song, both studio and live (one memorable highlight, Paul Westerberg covering "I Think I Love You" the last time he played here). So, I was understandably thrilled when I found Information Society's cover of Madonna's "Express Yourself" (for a Cleopatra Records tribute to Madonna). (I was also a huge Madonna fan when her first major record came out in 1984). I've been bopping around to that and a few others I found recently (on the Madonna theme, KMFDM reinterpreting "Material Girl"). This morning I was in the car and it struck me that IS's version of that song makes it sound sexist. I assume most of the members of IS are straight guys because they changed the pronouns in the song. Here's a sample:

"Don't go for second best baby

Put your love to the test
You know, you know, you've got to
Make her express how she feels
And maybe then you'll know your love is real

You don't need diamond rings
Or eighteen karat gold
Fancy cars that go very fast
You know they never last, no, no
What you need is a big strong hand
To lift you to your higher ground
Make you feel like a king on a throne
Make her love you till you can't come down"

"And when you're gone she might regret it
Think about the love she once had
Try to carry on, but she just won't get it
She'll be back on her knees"

There's also a woman's voice that periodically comes through and says something about "one woman with many faces." If I recall, that line refers to Eve and her "blunder" and how all women are essentially similarly "defective." Not exactly complimentary.

In doing something so small as changing the pronouns, they've changed the message of the song. Madonna's version is about empowerment, about taking a different approach in a relationship. This version is about subjugation. Changing the pronouns changes the meaning because women and men, despite having very few fundamental differences, occupy different roles in our society's hierarchy (this was a recent revelation to Dan Savage, whose column I typically enjoy). The image evoked by "she'll be back on her knees" is different than the image conjured by "he'll be back on his knees."

Another one of those million little things that happen every day that reinforce the status quo and make any degree of equality seem just out of reach.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Funny For The Weekend!

LETTER FROM A FARM KID (now at Camp Pendleton, San Diego, Marine Corps Recruit Training)

Dear Ma and Pa:

I am well. Hope you are too. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer that the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay... practically nothing. Men got to shave but it's not so bad... there's warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie, and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you 'til noon when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much.

We go on "route marches," which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.

The country is nice but awful flat. The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move, and it ain't shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join up before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding on in.

Your loving daughter,

(found at

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The F Word

In time for the holidays, here are some links that will make you feel good about yourself or give you something to think about.

In the first, kateharding over at Shapely Prose suggests that a lot of people may harbor a fantasy of being thin.

She also discusses the startling idea that bodies might all be different.

The last two are from Bitch PhD and Fatly Yours about the similarities between anti-gay and anti-fat prejudice.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Listen To Your Body

More than anyone else, that's directed toward me. I'm struggling with being sick. I really hate it. After reading this post from little light, I realized it's probably because I feel so vulnerable and powerless. Guilty, too. I have a wonderful partner. We've been together for 11 years and we have a 4-year-old daughter (Ms Thang) together. Whenever I get sick it all falls on his shoulders - cleaning, figuring out and making dinner and taking care of Ms Thang (tending to her thousands of requests per hour, helping her clean up after half her dinner ends up on the floor and the bath). Now, for a normal cold, I'm completely out of commission for about a day, 50% for another day or two, 75% for another day or two and then I'm ok. During those days, I'm home for some or part of the day and will do light housework so things don't get too overwhelming for him (yes, I occasionally do too much for others - I'll yap about that some other time). As I write this, I'm realizing that I'm also dealing with side effects from last night's cold medicine - I'm really out of it and my forearms and hands feel like they have more energy stored in them then I can possibly use (the latter is called akathesia and is extremely uncomfortable). So, I have that going for me, too.

Obviously, if I'm writing about it, this has proven not to be a normal cold. Well, it started that way at the beginning of December. Then I got better. For a while. Then I got sick again, got a sinus infection and took antibiotics to get rid of it. I think I'm actually on round three by now and, though I didn't get a sinus infection, this time it's moved into my lungs, which is highly unusual and somewhat troubling. My doc, a naturopath, gave me a bunch of stuff that prevented the sinus infection that has become standard and now I'm on the second round of stuff from her that is supposed to help me kick this completely. I really prefer this approach to something like antibiotics, but it gets really expensive. I've spent over $100 on various herbal and homeopathic supports (vs. $5 for a prescription of azithromycin), which I really believe in after having very good experiences using them to help my body heal itself (this doc has never steered me wrong and I trust her completely - her solutions usually have much more long-term effects and go farther to solve the actual problem), but $100 in the week before Christmas hurts a little financially.

I'm also pissed because I feel like I'm being denied the Christmas experience. I'm not religious, but I freaking love Christmas. I decorate my house, Mr Bitch puts lights up outside, I'm a freak about Christmas music and I love wrapping presents. I'm way behind on my shopping, I haven't bought any new Christmas music and I haven't wrapped a single present and I hate it. I'm also planning to have a bunch of people over Christmas Eve and now there's a chance it won't happen and that makes me feel really sad. Not just because I've been really isolated since being sick, but because having a too-small house full of people eating, talking, laughing and listening to music is one of the most fun things I can do. It's a lot of work, so I usually only do it a couple times a year, but this year I may not get to. I'm not good at patience.

I feel like I'm whining, so I think I need to move on. I can say that I do have a pretty good idea of why I keep getting sick, which means there's something I can do about it. That always makes me feel better. It's a long-term solution that requires a lot of investment at the front end and there are also some food issues wrapped up in it. I've been insulin resistant for years and it's apparently entwined with polycystic ovarian syndrome (which is a whole other can of worms that I'm not interested in dissecting today and probably won't in this forum, anyway). The solution is very simple - keep my blood sugar within normal limits. When I do this, my immune system is rock solid, when I don't I start getting sick a lot. Hmmmm, interesting. The funny thing is that before I started getting sick this year I was starting to exercise again and adjusting my diet (not going on a diet, but making long-term changes) to start getting my health under control again. Too little, too late, I suppose (for this round, though not in general).

I'm really trying to take each day in stride, but that's so damn hard for me. I generally have a lot of energy and schedule my days in a way that usually requires a good amount of energy and I resent having to power down for a while. The vulnerability piece is there, too, but I think that's too deeply rooted to allow for more focused examination.

I think I may have the motivation to get back on the horse, though. Message received.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Seriously Funny

In addition to being a crazy bitch, I've also been known to be a crafty bitch, so I got a huge kick out of this:

Women of the World

Barbara Walters's response to Rush Limbaugh's comments about Hillary Clinton:

What's Wrong With the Way We Look?

No, that isn't the imperial plural. Nor is it an entreaty to flood me with mail about what's literally wrong with the way I look.

This caught my eye a couple days ago. It's a series of pictures of celebrities before and after Photoshop. Faces have been smoothed out until they look like plastic (Britany Murphy looks like a RealDoll (Google it if you're not sure - but be warned, it's really weird and very NSFW) in her after pic), breasts are made to look perfectly symmetrical and full (Penelope Cruz, Katherine Heigl), butts are slimmed (Kelly Clarkson) or plumped (Eva Longoria) and there is nary a hair out of place. The thing that really fries me is that every one of these people look anywhere from fine to amazing
before Photoshop. Oh, and there's only one dude pictured and all that was done to his picture was to smooth out some lines and erase a red mark on his forehead.

There are so many things going on in these photos, I'm not sure where to start. Interestingly (and rather sadly), it's a clear example of the disconnect between femininity and physical activity - women who are more than just a little toned are viewed as unfeminine. So, how can these celebrities work out like crazy (like most people would have to in order to maintain a red-carpet-ready physique) and not build muscles? The answer is that they do, it's just airbrushed away. It's very obvious in the Cameron Diaz picture. In the before picture she has ab cuts visible just above the waistband of her jeans. In the after picture, they're gone. Eva Longoria's arms were subjected to similar distortion.

Why? Are women really the weaker sex? If that were really the case, wouldn't those pioneer women have been incapable of the backbreaking physical labor required to raise children and maintain the home (often including working with Pa in the fields)? How would women be able to carry water across long distances (because when that particular chore needs doing, guess who does it?) if they were so weak?

It seems that women are perceived as weak when it's necessary for their appearance to be pleasing to someone. Female bodybuilders used to be criticized by judges for looking too "masculine," meaning their bodies became indistinguishable from male competitors and this somehow rendered them inferior female competitors.

What can we do about this disconnect between femininity and physical activity?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

So What Else Is New?

Rush Limbaugh hates women.

I know, not exactly a startling revelation. This is the man who once suggested that women aren't fit for combat because:

"If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections and they don't have upper body strength. . . On the other hand, men are basically little piglets. You drop them in the ditch, they roll around in it, it doesn't matter."

Now, that's offensive to men and women, as far as I'm concerned. Mr Bitch is no piggy. If you tried to drop him into a ditch, it would look something like what happens when you try to put a cat in water.

Yesterday, on his talk show (to a reported 14.5 million listeners), Rush asked whether Americans will want to watch a woman age before their eyes. He asked this question in response to a picture published of Hillary Clinton looking kind of wrinkled and rather like a woman her age (60) who hasn't gone under the knife or needle.

WTF kind of question is that? How is that pertinent to her qualifications to run this country? Maybe we should take her measurements, too. This is a perfect example of the "men age like wine and women just age" double standard. Nobody asked if we wanted to watch an idiot do stupid shit before our eyes either time Bush ran or if we wanted to watch Nixon get uglier, because it didn't matter. Limbaugh even said that when men age they look "more authoritative, accomplished and distinguished." So, a man who displays signs of aging can be, according to this logic, assumed to be a better authority figure, have accomplished more and is "marked by eminence". Wrinkles + penis = eminence. Wrinkles + vagina = hag.

With these two examples of Mr Limbaugh's attitude, it's very clear that he, like many other Americans, believes that gender is fixed and innate, that men and women are fundamentally different. (Why this automatically puts women on the bottom of this particular dichotomy, I'm not sure.) By this logic, men and women are simply "wired" for different roles in our world. Women are supposedly naturally caring and men are the breadwinners. This is called a "legitimizing myth" and it's one of the things dominant groups use to maintain their powerful position. They provide what sound like reasonable arguments for keeping another group down. If men and women are fundamentally different, then women should stay in the kitchen and not worry about things like careers (or politics). It's called a myth because there's no basis in fact. That's right, there is no research that demonstrates that gender is firmly anchored in chromosomes, nor is there any that shows that men and women are fundamentally different. Fathers without partners manage to be just as nurturing as women and women have, time and time again, fulfilled a myriad of traditionally masculine roles.

I'd also like to take a moment to thank Hillary for resisting societal pressure to have plastic surgery or other so-called "procedures" (Botox, I'm lookin' at you). Our culture so reviles age, but I think most women get better with age. With age comes wisdom and wisdom can't be purchased, implanted or injected.

PS My grandpa, with whom I was not close, was a genuine old fart, union-supporting democrat. When Rush became House Speaker he made bumperstickers on his ancient (and very cool-looking) printing press that read "Flush Rush."

PPS Rush also apparently needed to weigh in on the Swedish army's decision to remove the penis from the picture of a lion on the coat of arms. He called it an example of "chickification."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Crying Is Good For Both Men and Women

Jeez, I guess I've been out of commission for a bit. I think I'm done with illnesses (mine as well as family's) for a while, so I should be able to post more often.

One of the more frustrating double standards we have in our culture is the one about emotional expression. Essentially, emotions acceptable in women are pretty much everything but anger. For men, anger is really the only acceptable emotion and it isn't often thought of as "emotion," for example, angry outbursts by men aren't typically thought of as "emotional displays." This double standard is extremely limiting for both men and women, as the ability to express a full range of emotions is a sign of good mental health.

It's also physiologically healthy to cry. In addition to the simple catharsis of a good cry, it turns out we really do cry out our emotions. According to a 1999 study (yes, it's old, but I don't remember anyone really talking much about it), tears contain substances that protect the eyes as well as proteins from stress-related hormones. Dr William Frey, a US biochemist, has found a number of interesting things about tears. Identical twins aren't more similar in their crying than fraternal twins (twin studies are the gold standard in genetics research - you have an automatic control group perfectly matched on nearly all dimensions) and women's crying has nothing to do with hormone fluctuations.

Frey investigated the contents of so-called "emotional tears," tears released during emotional crying, "continuous tears," tears released to keep the eyes lubricated and "reflex tears," those that occur in response to an irritant. It turns out there really is a difference in the tears produced in response to something upsetting as opposed to chopping onions. These tears contained prolactin and ACTH, both physiological indicators of stress (prolactin
promotes lactation in women, but also appears at higher concentrations during stress; ACTH - adrenocorticotropic hormone - stimulates the adrenal cortex, something that happens during stress). The buildup of stress hormones has been correlated with depression, anxiety, sleep problems, fatigue, headaches, backaches, skin complaints and even IBS, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. So, holding onto those tears may help you feel "stronger," but it may be doing more harm than good. This may be one of those times in our society where what's truly best for us isn't in line with what we believe will induce positive perception by others.

So, here we have another way in which our society's limiting of normal expression could be damaging to your health. Woo hoo!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wow. . . just. . . wow

I'm so mad, I don't know whether to spit, scream, cry or throw up - or maybe a little of each. According to this ABC News article, a 22-year-old Halliburton employee working in Iraq was gang-raped by a bunch of her co-workers and Halliburton and the US government are trying to cover it up. I know this kind of shit has happened before and will happen again, but I'm having an especially visceral reaction to this one.

Jamie Leigh Jones will have a chance to tell her story on "20/20" (not sure when) and most women who go through similar ordeals never have a chance like that (being white probably helps). Unfortunately, due to the fact that US contractors in Iraq are relatively safe from US law, and they definitely wouldn't be tried in an Iraqi court, there is little likelihood those men will face justice.

This woman (who was younger than 22 at the time) was drugged and repeatedly vaginally and anally penetrated against her will, and it sounds like she was physically and emotionally abused in other ways, as well. What about civil court? Well, you try going up against one of the biggest and most notorious corporations in the world and see how far you get! KBR, another company involved and connected to Halliburton (I'm sorry I don't have more details, business structure is somewhat elusive to me) is trying to ensure the case is heard in arbitration - meaning there wouldn't be a recorded transcript of the proceedings and that Jones wouldn't have a voice of her own. Halliburton has won 80% of it's arbitration cases.

This is yet another case of men who really believe it's acceptable to treat a woman as though her sole purpose is their sexual fulfillment. They drugged her and completely stripped her of her humanity and treated her worse than a blow-up doll.

Where, exactly, does this extreme hatred for this woman come from? I mean, you don't do something like that to someone you like, right? So, how did this woman go from co-worker to sub-human? Or, was she viewed, on some level, as sub-human all along? Women considered attractive frequently report feeling like they're treated like public property - that, somehow, a bunch of people agreeing that a woman is attractive is sufficient to view her as separate from her Being (similar, I think, to pregnant women being fair game for judgment and unsolicited advice). Was there something different about her, or did those men have the same attitude about all of the women with whom they worked? How is this OK, and how is this
not reflective of the patriarchal structure of most of our world? This doesn't happen with anywhere the same frequency to men, and on the occasions that a man is similarly victimized, it's inspired by homophobia (erroneously equated in many men's minds with "acting like a woman").

I know there aren't really answers to any of my questions, but, like so many other questions, it's important to keep asking them.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Still A Lot Of Work To Do

With a great blog like the f-word coming out of the UK, I guess I need an occasional reminder that not all women in the UK are like-minded. I've been sitting here for much of the day trying to figure out how to write about this Daily Mail article (as I deck the halls and take care of a sick kid and Mr CB puts up the outdoor lights). I try hard not to be judgmental, but this is pushing it for me.

It seems an 18-year-old woman from the UK has married a 30-year-old Egyptian man and his family has been very welcoming to her. Not a big deal, it even sounds like a happy story, though neither really speaks the other's language. Oh, but keep reading. This young woman ran away to Egypt to marry a man she met on a family holiday the previous year. He stood her up and the next day she met another man who proposed the next day. Shortly thereafter, her parents managed to lure her back to Britain. She saved up her allowance (yes, seriously, her allowance), bought another plane ticket to Egypt and worked in hotels until she was able to find her man again (a couple months). They are still navigating the legal hoops, but in the eyes of the family, they are married.

What does this mean for Amy, who for most of her life has enjoyed considerable freedom as a citizen of the UK? Well, since her beloved prince doesn't want her to work (because it is "not for women") she will spend her days indoors with the other wives, waiting for him to come home. Though she stated a preference to wait to have children, her husband's family (and most likely her husband) have other ideas and it doesn't look like she has much choice in the matter. What if she regrets her decision? She might not, particularly since her husband took her passport.

Wouldn't that raise some red flags for many women? I know, naive question on my part. I really want to know, though, how does one reconcile that? How is that OK? "He loves me so much he doesn't want me to leave and will make sure I can't?"

Why does this bother me so much? Because this woman hasn't a clue what she's getting herself into. Most likely, she will end up converting to Islam and will start wearing a veil and will be pregnant before she'd like to. She won't be allowed to work and won't be able to go anywhere without her husband for at least a few years. She's giving up a lot of freedom and choice for a narrow and idealized view of love and marriage. Reality is: love doesn't conquer all. It simply isn't sufficient to make a marriage work and it isn't sufficient to make a person happy (and this comes from a fairly happily married woman). Many women learn this lesson, but for this woman in particular, it's going to be a very hard lesson and she may not be able to do anything about it once she gets there.

She seems so very dazzled and overwhelmed by the attention and her sudden change in status - going from schoolgirl to wife can make a young woman think she's more mature than she is. The excitement of adjusting to new roles and a new culture can mask any gut-level anxiety, too. This young woman is young and in love and, as many of us know, that can make a person blind. But when your husband has your passport, there isn't really a lot of room for oops.

A Funny For the Weekend!

So, it isn't just us humans. . .

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Angry Men and Happy Women

Some researchers at Arizona State University discovered that people tend to label male faces as angry and female faces as happy. They wanted to find out if this was a product of stereotyping or due to the influence of some other factor so they manipulated a number of different factors.

In a timed trial, people more quickly label male faces as angry and female faces as happy. Further analysis revealed that this was a very strong and very unconscious association. When they flipped the conditions and asked subjects to label faces as male or female while facial expressions were manipulated. People identified angry faces as male and happy faces as female even faster.

So what, right? Well, it's hard to say exactly why this happens, but it seems less likely that it's strictly due to stereotypes, i.e., it may be a deeper process than stereotyping. One theory is that the facial features (masculine or feminine) associated with anger - heavy brow and angular face - overlap features associated with masculinity. Features associated with happiness - soft features and roundness - overlap typically feminine features. So, it appears the anger expression makes a face seem more masculine - the more masculine a female face is, the more effectively it communicates anger.

Maybe this has something to do with the general lack of acceptance for anger in women. Historically, anger is the only emotional expression acceptable for men and the only emotion women aren't allowed to express, to the point where we get called nasty names when we display anger. Research has shown time and time again that people have enormous difficulty when they perceive someone has violated gender norms and an angry woman fits that bill rather well, doesn't she? If this isn't due to stereotyping and is a much deeper process, it would be much harder to fight against or change.

Just a thought. . .

Monday, December 3, 2007

Getting Out of Iraq Doesn't Guarantee a Better Life

Someone needs to explain to me why this is ok. Teenage girls who fled Iraq with their families in the hopes of establishing a more stable existence in Syria are being forced into prostitution. They start out dancing for men in nightclubs who throw cash onto the dance floor, but this quickly turns to arranged sex with audience members.

One young woman (16 years old) said she was left at the Iraq-Syria border by her father after her cousin "took" her virginity. These women are viewed as unclean for events not of their choosing and have no future if anyone finds out what they have done.

So, how is this ok? How can these men do this to these women and turn around and condemn them for it? I realize these are very naive questions, but I just don't fucking understand it. Even when they are "rescued" and sent to protection centers, their commitment to their families, who often aren't in a position to be able to provide support, is so strong that they will escape and return to the clubs.

Being thousands of miles away from these events, literally and figuratively, it's easy to turn a blind eye from the problems these women have - problems that seem insurmountable from my cozy spot on my couch. Unimaginable (to many) oppression, poverty, abuse, neglect. Not to mention likely depression, anxiety, and PTSD, which
often are connected to nebulous physiological problems. Imagine how much more difficult day-to-day living as a woman with few options becomes when forced to deal with flashbacks, panic attacks or migraines.

We all have a responsibility to keep the flame of awareness alive. Spread the word.


This is "Crotchy." It appears to be some kind of hand made toy that will be auctioned on Ebay. I'm not really sure how I feel about it. The legs and feet suggest female, whether that's the intent or not.

Art or objectification?

Don't Have a Cow

Now, I love "The Simpsons." I've literally been watching it since the shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. On one of the episodes tonight, Bart randomly fills in blanks on an IQ test form and is moved up into a different class when he scores well into the genius range. Suddenly, the whole family is taking part in cultural activities, such as attending an opera, which Bart and Homer mock the entire time.

Lisa has been a genius since the beginning and never receives that level of support from her family. Hmmmmm. . .

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Don't Be Poor In The US

Now, it's no secret that on most issues I'm a bleeding-heart liberal. I've never tried to hide it, but I don't get into arguments with people (generally strangers) like I used to because I don't think it does much good and I'm not interested in changing people's minds (which never happens, anyway). I also tend to keep my mouth shut about things on which I don't feel informed - I generally suck at keeping track of specific individuals in the government, for example. I don't remember who Trent Lott is (though I definitely know how to find out), but I do find it hilarious that he's resigning and suddenly there's a young gay man who claims they had a physical relationship of some sort (those are the sort of details a girl can sink her teeth into). My bleeding-heart is tempered with realism - I believe we should take care of our elderly and our children and people who are unable to work, that we should all have access to health care and we should do more to support families, but I know any such systems have problems and are abused.

Why do I feel the need to divulge all of this? I'm really not sure. I always strive not to judge people and to make sure people know that I respect their views, regardless of what they are. So, I guess I need to do a little care-taking of my readers. What am I pissed off about today? That half a million people might be cut from the WIC program. For those of you who don't know what WIC is, it stands for Women, Infants and Children, a federally funded program administered by state governments that provides vouchers for things like milk, eggs, cheese, juice, cereal and peanut butter to low income pregnant women and women with young children. Most people who are on the plan need it and benefit greatly from it. Without that support, many of these people would not have access to fresh dairy in their diets. How is it abused? Women go on the program, use their vouchers to buy what they are allowed to buy and then sell those items for cash (usually they're drug users).

Why might they get kicked off the program? Is it Bush's fault? Well, it kinda is Bush's fault (from the Tuesday USA Today article):

"Bush has proposed spending $5.4 billion for the program next year, an increase of about $200 million, to serve 8.3 million people. The caseload, though, has increased to 8.5 million since his budget came out in February. Prices for products such as milk and cheese, which account for about 40% of WIC food costs, have soared. Because of that, the report says, the proposed spending level will cover fewer than 8 million people."

So, because our president can't see what he's done to the economy (yes, that is mostly his fault, too) and doesn't seem to give a shit that prices on these essential foods have skyrocketed to the point that it's seriously impacting people's abilities to feed themselves. Many people in our government and many people in this country don't know what it's like to not be able to feed your family and they don't seem to care that a significant portion of our country's population struggle with this on a day-to-day basis. This isn't fair.

I know life isn't fair, believe me. But there are some things that just shouldn't fall into that category. What is and isn't fair shouldn't extend to basic issues like food, shelter and health care (yes, this is a basic need). Those should be a given (though not abused). I don't have any ideas how to solve these issues, but I think it's important to keep talking about them.

Crazy Ladies

Every now and then there's something I discover that carries overwhelming meaning for me and I have to share it. In this case, it's something I rediscovered.

In 1975, the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" came out. It was based on Ken Kesey's 1962 book of the same name and starred Jack Nicholson (post-"Chinatown" Nicholson, so there was huge buzz about it). The film was shot at our very own Oregon State Hospital (the water cooler thingy Chief Bromden throws through the window at the end is on display in the Administration building). Interestingly, after meeting with a particularly odious lawyer in connection with a legal dispute over the film's earnings, Kesey vowed never to see the film. He never did.

OSH is a bit creepy. First, it's really old. Established in 1883 as the Oregon State Insane Asylum, the original buildings that are still there look like they're from another time, almost as though they fell out of a wormhole. OSH may also seem a little creepier if you know anything about the history of mental health treatment and have some idea of things that were carried out in the name of mental health and safety. There were all manner of strange therapies that to modern ears sound more like torture (different "water cures" and insulin therapy for starters) and probably felt that way to the patients. It's understandable that many of the patients' families didn't know what to do with them (many were - and still are - genuine safety threats), but early psychiatric treatment stripped people of their dignity and other human rights.

Then there are the tunnels. There is a system of tunnels under OSH that are still used (at least in 1996) for transporting things around the hospital grounds (i.e., food carts) when it's wet outside (though I'm told the tunnels leak a little). The story is that the tunnels are part of a more extensive system that connected to the Capitol building. I don't know if that's true, but it's a little weird and adds to the mystique of OSH.

It probably also seems creepy to people because, to put it bluntly, crazy people are mysterious. They sometimes do very strange things and the average person (and sometimes the experienced clinician) doesn't understand why. OSH houses some of the most severely disturbed people in the state - people who have done things many of us consider "terrible."

So, back to "Cuckoo's Nest." Since I wasn't old enough to care about films in 1975, I can only imagine that there were different kinds of hype intended to get publicity connected to the film. One magazine (I can't find which) sent a photographer and social scientist to live on Ward 81 for 36 days.

Some of the images are disturbing. In many of them the women look haunted, terrified, despairing - because they are. Restraints, self-harm, during and after electroshock treatments. Scary shit. Real shit, though. It's a stark reminder of what women have had to deal with. Women, even the US (though it's at least frowned upon here), are still institutionalized for choosing not to conform to standard gender roles and expectations. Does this happen to white, heterosexual, middle-class men? Not so much (not that role strain isn't a genuine problem for men, but that's not my point).

Check out the photos. You may not like every picture, but you won't forget it.

By the way, as I was looking up some info on OSH, I found an interesting bit on the history of mental health treatment in Oregon.

The Oregonian did an interesting series a few years ago that included some amazing shots of some of the abandoned areas of OSH.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Why Crazy Bitch? and What is Feminism?

I think I should say a word or two about the title of this blog. Both words are extremely pejorative and may ruffle a few feathers, but I think it's important to try to take some of the negativity out of them and the phrase itself. Many of us who identify as feminist have been referred to as crazy bitches and it's a badge I wear proudly. Yes, in fact, I am "one of those."

So, what is feminism, anyway? I'm glad you asked. Allow me to illustrate:

I saw this quote from Pat Robertson a couple weeks ago. I'm not sure where it came from, but I doubt it's taken out of context.

"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

I wonder if he truly believes the crazy shit that comes out of his mouth, or if it's for ratings (by ratings, I mean cash). Staggeringly stupid and illustrative of the religious right's complete misunderstanding of feminism.

Now, I really don't care what people's politics are as long as it's something they've thought about (I draw the line at anything resembling hatred). Regardless of your politics, this sounds crazy and ignorant. Conservatives have been blaming the women's movement for the decline of the nuclear family and I can understand why they might think that, though it's far from true. But how do we make the leap from wanting equal pay to witchcraft and infanticide?

What about the countless men that walk away from their families? Where's the conservative moral outrage for that? You'd think there would be more outrage directed toward them, since women are only good for mothering and need someone to support them. Why are they off the hook? Now, I know most sensible conservatives don't listen to people like Robertson. The problem is that the wackos that make it into public consciousness (like Robertson) have it out for women.

We chicks can't do anything right, can we?

But back to my initial question: what is feminism? To a lot of women it's an "f word," something seen as an extreme point of view, even though many women are feminists and don't know it. You are a feminist if you think women should have choices in their lives - the choice whether or not to have a child, to work, to have sex outside a relationship, be leaders, be athletes, say "no" (whatever that means to you) and eat ice cream without fear of rejection if she doesn't look like a barbie doll.

The point is not that women should absolutely do all the things I mentioned above. The point is that we should all be able to choose. You don't have to go the route of go to college, snag a guy, marry him, have his babies and quit your job if you don't want to. Go ahead and be a stay-at-home-mom, if that's what you really want to do and you don't have desires being thwarted by close-minded idiots. But if you want to go to college and get an advanced mathematics degree, do it.

Welcome to Crazy Bitch!

I didn't start thinking about my own blog until recently, I mean, who really cares what I have to say? Well, I've decided I don't care. You might read it, you might not. You might not like what I have to say, you might not.

Yes, this is a feminist blog. Yes, I'm "one of those." Occasionally I'll focus on mental health issues here, because that's the lens through which I view most things. I like to rant, too.

We'll see what happens. . .