Thursday, November 19, 2009

Real Women Have... left hip, apparently.

Now that's something we can all aspire to.


Now that's something to which we can all aspire.

(The grammar police are in my head - I can't help myself.)


So this raises an interesting question. Why does she feel like she has to deny an obvious photoshop gaffe? My impression is that the people whose images are so often heavily altered really don't have any say in the matter. Does she bear responsibility for this? Is she at all to blame? Who do we hold accountable for all the body image bullshit that's so prevalent in the beauty/fashion/celeb industries?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Things That Make Me Smile

My life is kind of stressful and complicated right now. So it's a good thing that certain basic pleasures can easily make me smile. My daughter made me laugh out loud three times in a 20 minute period last night. And this morning watching this baby panda sleep made me smile. I know - a sleeping baby panda. He's not even doing anything! Moral of the story: sometimes a sleeping baby panda and a good cup of coffee are all you need to get you through the morning.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

For those of us with kids:

I love this because it
  1. works off the assumption that kids can make a difference
  2. educates them on the global issue but then asks them to discover what the needs are in their own communities
  3. helps them design and implement a doable project
  4. has them pause and reflect on their work once it's completed.

They get a lot of the lip-servicey stuff at school and from PSAs. But I'm glad there are resources out there to help them move beyond the lip service and get their toes wet in real advocacy and action. I can't wait until my kids are old enough to really get into projects like this. Until then, they'll just have to learn whatever you learn by tagging after your parents at the soup kitchen.

Check it out here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Weblog Awards

Cass tells me I've been nominated for a Weblog award, which is funny because I went there Friday and voted for FWD in the Best New Blog category and didn't even see my own nomination. So anyway, go there and vote for me, or for FWD, or for whomever you feel like voting for. And thanks to whoever nominated me.

The 2009 Weblog Awards

Friday, November 13, 2009

Video of the Day

Just 'cause that's what kind of mood I'm in. Have a good weekend.

The view from my window

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Social Construction of Masculinity

I saw this truck in the library parking lot a few months ago, and took a picture, but forgot to post on it until now. Mostly because I'm avoiding posting on other, more substantive topics.

At first glance this truck just made me giggle, and try to figure out which of the men I had just seen inside the library was the proud driver of such a vehicle. I concluded it was probably shaved-head-goatee-tatoo guy. But there's a lot more to ponder here as well.

Large red truck, confederate flag in back window, two skull and crossbones bumperstickers, one bumpersticker saying 'Bad ass boys drive bad ass toys,' and one unreadable sticker
Click on the image for a larger view.

For one thing, there's the general feature of our culture which ties up one's identity with one's possessions - most especially one's vehicle. In many ways, you really are what you own/drive/wear. But this vehicle is especially striking because of what it says about the construction of masculinity in our culture.

First, obviously, there's the confederate flag in the rear window. I assume this is meant to firmly position this guy in the dominant racial group. It says "I'm the norm, and you're the other. So suck it." Or something like that. Or maybe it's just an anti-federal gov't or anti-governmental-control thing. Whatever. Either way, it's an assertion of individual power, a refusal to submit to authority or conform to current cultural pressures. It's a general symbol of defiance. Beyond that, check out some of the details here. That little decal under the handle of the tailgate says "Bad ass boys drive bad ass toys." Then there's the flame coming up from the Ford symbol, and the skull and crossbones on the back window. These I assume are all part of the message "I'm dangerous, bad, not to be fucked with." But the license plate is maybe the most interesting feature. It says "CHETR01." Because real men cheat? I'm guessing that's the idea here.

Of course, these are all integral parts of masculinity as it's constructed in our culture. Heaven help the man who doesn't conform. In fact, the less he conforms to these cultural expectations, the more likely it is that he'll feel the pressure to get a "bad ass" truck and put these kinds of messages all over it. Never mind how transparent the gesture is. It reminds me of people who have to go around constantly telling you that they're not racist. If you have to explicitly say it, so conspicuously, all the time, then perhaps there's a problem. In my experience, people who aren't racist/sexist/ableist/whatever, don't really have to tell you that, because their words and actions consistently reflect their underlying attitudes and beliefs. If there's no question that they are, then there's also no need to explicitly tell you that they aren't, right? So this kind of posturing in a man just leads me to suspect that deep down underneath it all, he really feels like a bit of a girly-man.

But this is more complex than the not-a-racist case, because the thing this man is aspiring to is problematic on its own. It's sad that there's so much pressure on men to conform to this ridiculous and stifling notion of masculinity. It's sad that those who fail to comply are so often viciously punished by their peers. And it's sad that we, as a society, ever got to the point where we thought this was a valid, positive identity for one sector of our population to aspire to. Like I've said before, patriarchy hurts men too. And here, in the library parking lot, is a startling, amusing, and sobering example of this dynamic.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veteran's Day

Let's thank WWII vets for defeating Hitler and making America safe for lunatics who compare our leaders to Hitler

In other Veteran's Day news:

Thirteen major military and veterans groups have joined forces to try to force one senator — Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — to release a hold that he has placed on a major veterans benefits bill.

Coburn has been identified by Senate aides as the lawmaker preventing consideration of S 1963, the Veterans’ Caregiver and Omnibus Health Benefits Act of 2009, by using an informal but legal practice of putting a hold on a bill.

Coburn’s staff did not respond to questions, but Senate aides said the first-term senator has expressed concern about creating new and unfunded benefits and wants the opportunity to amend the measure.

One of Coburn’s suggestions is to divert money from unspent economic and job stimulus programs to cover costs of new benefits for veterans and their families, according to sources who have discussed the issue with Coburn’s staff.

So far, at least, Senate leaders don’t want to let Coburn offer any amendments because of the precedent that would set to delay other legislation. Actual funding for benefits traditionally is handled separately from the bills that authorize the benefits,
Senate aides said.

This from the same Senator who has enthusiastically supported earlier war-spending bills that neither specified where the funds would come from, or specifically cut spending somewhere else in order to fund the war. But where were his "principled objections" then? No, we can enthusiastically send them off to be killed and mangled in a war, but we can't provide the most basic care they need when they come home injured and disabled. Compassionate conservativism for the win!

The Poor Dear

AIG's Benmosche Threatens to Jump Ship
The executive is chafing under constraints imposed by AIG's government overseers, particularly a recent compensation review by the Obama administration's pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, according to the people. AIG, 80% government owned since a rescue last year, is one of the companies under Mr. Feinberg's purview.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Under the Bus

We finally have a health care bill that's making some progress, so yay, right? But what did we have to do to accomplish this? Throw women under the bus, of course. In multiple ways. I'm still too burnt-out to write this myself, so here's a roundup.

First, there's the vagina tax. Tbogg at Firedoglake writes:
Just lay back and think of it as a Vagina Added Tax

Hey ladies! Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas thinks you should pay more for your insurance because you chose to have all that crazy plumbing with its nooks and crannies down there instead of a good old fashioned American penis.

This was an unhealthy choice on your part… like taking up smoking.

And Sharon Lerner asks Where's the Birth Control?

None of the bills emerging from the House and Senate require insurers to cover all the elements of a standard gynecological "well visit," leaving essential care such as pelvic exams, domestic violence screening, counseling about sexually transmitted diseases, and, perhaps most startlingly, the provision of birth control off the list of basic benefits all insurers must cover. Nor are these services protected from "cost sharing," which means that, depending on what's in the bill that emerges from the Senate, and, later, the contents of a final bill, women could wind up having to pay for some of these services out of their own pockets. So far, mammograms and Pap tests are covered in every version of the legislation.

Granted, Congress can't--and shouldn't--get into the business of spelling out every possible cause for a trip to the doctor. No one wants the process to collapse under a mountain of requests from special interest groups à la the Clinton mess in 1993. But women, half of all adult patients, are not a special interest group. And since both the House and Senate bills include lists of specific services that must be covered by health insurance companies and be provided without asking patients for additional money, it's hard to understand why all the services provided in a basic well-woman visit to the gynecologist isn't on them along with maternity care, newborn care, pediatric dental and vision services, and substance use disorder services.

And we haven't even touched on the abortion issue yet:
From Ezra Klein's A very bad deal to pass a very good bill:
Opposition from anti-abortion Democrats, driven in large part by aggressive activism from the Catholic Church, forced Democratic leadership to allow a vote on Bart Stupak's amendment limiting elective abortion coverage from both private and public insurers on the exchange.
Because of the limits placed on the exchanges, most of the participants will have some form of premium credit or affordable subsidy. That means most will be ineligible for abortion coverage. The idea that people are going to go out and purchase separate "abortion plans" is both cruel and laughable. If this amendment passes, it will mean that virtually all women with insurance through the exchange who find themselves in the unwanted and unexpected position of needing to terminate a pregnancy will not have coverage for the procedure. Abortion coverage will not be outlawed in this country. It will simply be tiered, reserved for those rich enough to afford insurance themselves or lucky enough to receive from their employers.

And finally, in Stupak Amendment Passes; 64 Dems Ask for Primary Opponents Rayne lists the hall of shame and calls for Dem primary opponents to run against them:
It’s a fundamental part of our belief system in the Democratic Party, that women have a right to privacy in their reproductive health care decisions. We’ve fought long and hard to protect this right.

And now we’ve seen decades of work to protect this fundamental human right dashed by our own Democratic representatives.

Many of you are going to say you’re walking away. And many more are going to rant and rave and carry on for a while.

This is when it’s time to gather resources and plan more carefully for the next phase in what is a lifelong effort. Democracy isn’t easy, after all. And she’s not cheap. We’re going to have to continue to fight, but we’re going to have to become even more effective.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nothing to say

...or actually, just too busy to say it. And thinkin some stuff through. And not in the mood to write.

I do have one thing to say about yesterday's elections, though. This morning the media is billing the election of Republican Chris Christie in the NJ governors race as a major upset and some sort of message to Democrats across the nation. OK. But here's the thing. I'm glad Christie won, Republican or not. Because his opponent, Jon Corzine showed his true colors by making fat jokes about Christie and engaging in fat shaming. I don't care what your politics are: if you think that kind of behavior is acceptable, you don't deserve to win. I don't pretend to know what role that campaign debacle played in the swing away from support of Corzine, but I would hope that a lot of voters who chose Christie over Corzine did it because they were turned off by the narrowminded hatefulness involved in Corzine's fat shaming behavior. Maybe that's overly optimistic, but there it is.