Friday, October 30, 2009

Last Minute Costume Ideas!

As I mentioned before, Amanda at The Sexist has been doing her fair share of pointing out the ridiculousness that has become women's store bought Halloween costumes. She even gave readers a how-to for informing your friend that their costume is racist (we all have one).

Planned Parenthood NYC gave us some pretty awesome ideas that are witty and raise awareness. So I figured I should see what kind of inspired and educational costumes I could come up with.

Granted some of these are pretty specific to Mother Jones, but that just means you should be reading it. :)

Your Friday Awesome

In honor of Halloween...VAMPIRES! Fifty of them. Organized by soul, sparkles and the more traditional characteristics:

My husband is pretty sure I am obsessed with vampires a la Videogum's theory that America loves anything with fangs:
Does it have vampires in it?

This is only partially true, because while I loved Buffy, watch True Blood and have read all the Twilight books (though before the first was a bestseller - thank you, very much), I draw the line at The Vampire Chronicles.

For a while I blamed my like of vampires on reading Interview with the Vampire at fourteen, but my stifled squeal of delight as I scrolled down the chart above was not the appearance of Lestat. Nope. It was Bunnicula.

That's right the celery sucking bunny.

*You can see a larger version in all its gory glory at I09.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Women's Liberation: The History of Birth Control

Newsweek has a pretty good (and sometimes terrifying!) slideshow on the evolution of birth control. It makes me thank science that I hit puberty in the decade that I did.

Below is one of the slides on the Dalkon Shield.

Mother Jones (where I also sometimes blog) exposed the dumping of the product in developing countries in 1979, calling it "The Corporate Crime of the Century."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How to Get Me to Hide You In My Facebook Feed

There are two reasons (so far) I will block people from my Facebook Feed:

1. You post uniformed things about how abortion and gay marriage should be illegal or voted in the "Kill Obama" poll.

2. You participate in crap like this:

According to the application, "Send Big Beautiful Boobs to your friends. It will brighten their day!" No. No, it will not.

Gang Rape on a High School Campus is More than "Unfortunate"

Severe trigger warning.

This past weekend, a 15 year-old high school student was gang raped for two hours outside her homecoming dance while a group of people (students and adults) watched.

This horrific crime occurred just up the freeway from where I live and I have been surprised by the coverage the case has received in the local media. Reporters and police have repeatedly underscored that while the survivor is physically recovering, she has suffered an emotional and psychological assault as well.
"She was raped, beaten, robbed and dehumanized by several suspects who were obviously OK enough with it to behave that way in each other's presence," said Lt. Mark Gagan, a patrol supervisor in the city's Northern Policing District.
While I am sure that this crime is recieving more attention than others because of where it took place, it also seems to resonate with the local police and media because of the underlying fact that people watched a girl getting viciously gang raped and did nothing to stop it, "What makes it even more disturbing is the presence of others. People came by, saw what was happening, and failed to report it." Some reports suggest that the crowd cheered the direct perpetrators on.

This is the result of a rape culture.

But, this incident also points to the many short comings of our schools - places where our children and teenagers should be safe.
The courtyard is pitch-black at night, making it difficult to see into it from 23rd.

"(Lighting) is an ongoing issue for all our sites," school district spokesman Marin Trujillo said. "That particular section does have lighting. Could it be better? That's something we're always reviewing."

The school district plans to install surveillance cameras by January at the campus, a project long in the works. Plans for new fencing have been in the works since March.

"It's unfortunate that we weren't able to have this finalized a little bit sooner," Ramsey said. "But we've been on top of this issue (safety). Our board is working very proactively to make sure we stay on top of the issue."
While we cannot place the blame solely on the school - the people who perpetrated this atrocity are to blame - we can certainly fault the school, the district and the state, for not making the safety of it's students a higher priority.

The budget crisis that California schools are facing is nothing new, and certainly not limited to higher education. But lack of funding and a reluctance to place student safety as a top priority also helped to facilitate this assault and that is not just "unfortunate." A fifteen year-old girl is now the survivor of a vicious gang rape.

However, we must also be clear that lighting and staffing will not solve this problem by themselves - they are not the only ways we can work to keep our communities safe. The disturbing roots of the culture that permits this type of hatred to exist run deep, and often in broad daylight.

Update: Anna N. at Jezebel asks some good questions about the crowd mentality.

Rules for My Unborn Son - How (not) to Teach Masculinity

There is a new book coming out called "Rules for My Unborn Son." It was sent to BoingBoing's Mark Frauenfelder, who responded, "Lamond's rules are good advice for sons, as well as anyone else, really." Hmmm, well yes, advice based on general etiquette is usually good for all people.

The book is based on the blog "1001 Rules for my Unborn Son," and is just one more attempt to shore up the author's own masculinity while making sure his kid also adheres to his version of what it is to be man. Nevermind that his kid might be gay, or trans, or born a girl.

Moreover, this poor kid is going to have to memorize 1,001 rules to be the right kind of man his dad want's him to be?!? I feel sorry for the kid. But, I also feel bad for the guy who wrote this, since he too feels his identity is based on a masculinity that can be broken down into a set of stringent rules - and on his youth and cool factor.

Lets move on to the advice, that Mark characterizes as "specific tips for living a life of kindness, politeness, and preparedness," shall we? Yes there are some nice general tips for, oh...I don't know not being an asshole, like thanking your bus driver. But, then we get into the "men must be strong and fight" ones: "Aim for the nose," "A man's luggage doesn't roll." Oh right, because being a man means unnecessarily lugging a duffel bag, causing your shoulder and back to be sore for the rest of trip and your clothes to be wrinkled, instead of using a convenient roller? Tell that to pilots (who of course are all manly men, unlike the flight attendants who are all ladies or pansies).

But, here is the real winner:
"Remember, the girl you're with is somebody's sister. And she's perfectly capable of kicking your ass."
While it's nice to know he thinks women are as physically capable as the Paul Bunyan/Don Draper prototype he has raised, there is a whole heap of crap wrong with this:
1. The girl you are dating is only of value because she is defined by her relationship to a man (we assume the threat is from her unidentified brother, and not her sister).

2. You will only ever date young women, god forbid she have other relationships, like oh...being someone's mother.

3. The author feels that he has to put in a very specific rule that breaks down to simply "DON'T BE A RAPIST" or any form of abuser, but really, this rule is all about not committing date rape.
I can only hope that when I have a son I will have taught him about respecting all people and provided him with the tools to create his own healthy sexuality, so that I don't have to remind him to not beat or rape his dates - whoever they may be.

Image via 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son blog.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Your Friday Awesome

I Heart Guts, makes biology fun with posters, t-shirts and plushies, but they also use their genius for good, by donating to Medical Students for Choice and the awesomely named group of bike-riding OB/GYN's - Menstrual Cycles.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Although...there should be no asking of anyone's hand since it is a decision made by two equal parties to enter into a partnership, but still a very clear message about the inanity of marriage inequality.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Wednesday Awesome

Because the moving testimony of Philip, an 86 year-old veteran, can't wait until Friday:

...The woman at my polling place asked me do I believe in equality for gay and lesbian people. I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her: what do you think I fought for in Omaha Beach?

...I have seen with my own eyes the consequences of caste systems and that make some people less than others, or second class. Never again. We must have equal rights for everyone.

Who else needs a tissue?

Halloween Sans Cleavage

The lady blogs have been railing against what seems to be the only option for store-bought women's Halloweeen costumes, "The Sexy [fill-in-the-blank]."

Amanda at The Sexist has kept a running list of all of the truly horrific ones. Forget the old standbys of "Sexy Cop" and "Sexy Pirate," they have been joined by "Sexy Finding Nemo" and "Sexy Clown." (Really? Really.)

When o filthy grandeur! lamented that she and her fiance wanted to go as Batman and Robin, but the only store-bought versions were sexy - and therefore, not practical as crimefighting garb - I couldn't help but share the versions that I made for my husband and I two years ago.

Today she shared them on her blog (note the lack of cleavage and sensible crime-fighting shorts) and I am still really proud of them. Mine was made almost entirely out kids t-shirts, and I made both the shorts and gloves without a pattern (jersey is really handy that way). The only store bought pieces were my husband's mask and gloves since I didn't have time to figure out how to make the bat ears stand up.

I also still can't get over my husband's stoke of genius to make sound effect signs. They made for super cool photos and instant introductions since strangers wanted us to pretend to thwart them.

So, here is to decidedly non-sexy Halloween costumes! Moreover, here is to practical superhero costumes that do not involve short skirts and high heels. Maybe next year we'll have to finally do the gender bending switcheroo (did you know there was actually a girl Robin named Stephanie?) and I'll be Batman, even if that mask is a bit confining.

And by the way, superhero costumes are also practical in other ways: capes keep you warm and utility belts are all kinds of handy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cartoons Get Sexier - Except for Tinkerbell Who is a Lesbian

The sexification of the cartoon characters of my childhood is nothing new. Of course in the world of creepy marketing, by sexification I mean smaller torso's, giant heads, and inappropriate posturing...

First it was My Little Pony - that's right, ponies. Imaginary ponies, made sexier by raising the butt and giving them a come hither look:

Then it was Strawberry Shortcake. Somehow making her skirt longer made her creepy. Oh wait, I know it's that over the shoulder boudoir photo shoot vibe...

And then it was Rainbow Brite and her entourage, who hit puberty and became the primary colored lolitas:

Which is why I was actually excited when I saw the new version of Tinkerbell. Oh sure, she is still super skinny, blonde and suffering from lollipop syndrome, but what was once the most creepily sexual (and mute) cartoon character ever has had a reverse makeover. The only body modification she has undergone is having feet that are a bit larger so that she can walk now and has actually been given an outfit that won't flash her fairy bits.

But, Oh Noes! That means she is a lesbian. Yep, if your kid puts leggings and boots on under that mini dress, she is gonna grow up to like the ladies. But, hey, at least she won't be freezing her faerie ass off.

Tinkerbell image from
Alas! A Blog, My Little Pony images from Celebrate Your Naughtiness (though not when it comes to ponies), Strawberry Shortcake from, Rainbow Brite from Jezebel.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Things I Read This Week

Deeply Problematic hosted the sixth Carnival of Feminists.

The Shriver Report is out and according to Girl with Pen, it is pretty awesome.

A justice of the peace in Louisiana denied an Interracial couple a marriage license "for the children's sake." But, he's not, yeah.

Bitch magazine says what we all secretly hoped. Googling your date isn't creepy, its a safety measure.

Speaking of safety...Double X thinks that getting roofied, being found by a cop on the sidewalk, and ending up in the ER isn't reason enough for your BFF to get out of bed and come help. PSA: if any of my friends end up in the ER I will get out of bed at 4am or any other time to you (or my friends' friends, or their friends). But then again, I wouldn't have left them roofied at the bar to begin with.

On an awesome note: Ruth Frith won the gold and set a world record in the shot put at the World Masters Games - at the age of 100.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Your Friday Awesome

Posting has been light (or rather, nonexistent) this week since I've been in DC for work. Unfortunately I missed the National Equality March by two days. 200,000 people marched on DC alone.

Photo via Yahoo News.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Things I Read About This Week

Melissa McEwan gave us an amazingly thorough and concise explanation of rape culture in Rape Culture 101.

And as if to underscore the existence and of rape culture, a UK cosmetics company is marketing lip gloss that comes with a kit to test your drink for date rape drugs.

And the movie that keeps us talking...Annalee Newitz thinks Jennifer's Body was the victim of crappy marketing, more specifically trying to market a feminist horror movie based on the sexist and exploitative rules that Michael Bay would use.

Moving on to the glass ceiling, Wired told us about thirteen women who passed all tests to become astronauts - doing even better on some than the men who would eventually go to the moon - but were denied the chance to do so becuase they had not flown experimental aircraft (which they could not do because of gendered limitations within the military) and because they would get their period...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Your Friday Awesome

We already new that Sweden was awesome, besides giving their citizens things like healthcare and parental leave, they have given the world Ikea. It turns out their sixth graders are just as with it as their parents.

The sixth graders reported Toys 'R Us to a self-regulatory agency within the International Chamber of Commerce because its 2008 catalog featured “outdated gender roles...boys and girls were shown playing with different types of toys, whereby the boys were portrayed as active and the girls as passive."

These are pages from the current ad for the area where I live:

Yep. Pretty much.

Evidently, the action was the culmination of what can only be assumed to be a pretty awesome lesson plan:
The group’s teacher explained to the local Sm√•landsposten newspaper that filing the complaint was the culmination of more than two years of “long-term work” by the students on gender roles.

Thumbing through the catalogue, 13-year-old Hannes Psajd explained that he and his twin sister had always shared the same toys and that he was concerned about the message sent by the Toys"R"Us publication.

“Small girls in princess stuff…and here are boys dressed as super heroes. It’s obvious that you get affected by this,” he told the newspaper.

“When I see that only girls play with certain things then, as a guy, I don’t want it.”

Classmate Moa Averin emphasized the importance of children being able to be who they want even if “guys want to be princesses sometimes”.
Right you are Moa.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thanks Senator Franken

I'd forgotten that you could actually watch CSPAN and not cringe. Thanks to Senator Franken, I remembered that democracy in action can actually be thrilling (though here is a severe trigger warning, Franken telling the story of what Jaime Leigh Jones survived is horrifying):

From Think Progress:
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.” Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, Franken said:
The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law … And today, defense contractors are using fine print in their contracts do deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court. … The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court [and] Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen.

It passed 68-30.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Austin Chronicles: Robots, Beer and Socio-economics

The Austin Chronicles are an ongoing series about a California gal (me) who decided that Texas during the Bush Administration would be the best place to get a graduate degree in Women's Studies. I learned much more living in Texas than I did in school.

Before I left for Austin, other people were far more concerned about how I would pay my bills than I was. One of my mom's friends was really excited by the prospect of bartending downtown at Coyote Ugly, "Just think of the tips!" My mom suggested that it might actually be something to look into, since it could be considered participatory observation, suggesting that I write my thesis on it. But I did not have to squeeze into leather pants, dance on a bar, and pour tequila down frat boys throats to gain a better understanding of social mores, socio-economics and gendered performance while paying my bills.

I had barely hung up my tuxedo shirt and bow tie, before I got a call for a job with the catering company. It turns out, the company did a lot less catering and a lot more slinging of booze, so the next day I found myself in the center of a convention floor surrounded by kegs at ten o'clock in the morning.

I, and my wares, had been delivered to the exact center of the floor with the help of Angel, a very nice guy with tattoos covering his neck and knuckles, who reassured me that "This is gonna be easy. You've only got two on tap: Lone Star and Shiner Bock." I of course didn't ask him to explain the difference (Shiny what?) since I didn't want to look like a complete idiot. Nor, did I tell him that I had never touched a keg in my life.

I had gone to undergrad at a small liberal arts college where everyone lived on campus and everyone at the party would be fined a thousand bucks and threatened with expulsion if Public Safety found a keg in the room. Upon graduation, I went straight to San Francisco where no one is willing to haul a keg up three flights of stairs. And while I may have lived in the land of micro-brews (my dad even had a brief foray into brewing very dark European-ish beers, first in our garage and then opening up a small pub), once I hit drinking age I was limited to what was carried at the corner liquor store and what the bars in my neighborhood had on tap, which was increasingly being taken over by the hipster co-opted Pabst Blue Ribbon.

My inked guide interrupted my brief panic attack - complete with visions of killing convention attendees with exploding kegs - "Oh, and because of the union contract, I have to tap all the kegs, sorry."

"Oh, hey, no problem," I said as blase as I could possibly muster while silently thanking the beer, union, and minimum wage gods. I then watched as he coaxed a light beer, the likes of which would only be imbibed ironically in my former Mission neighborhood, from the steel drum labeled Lone Star, and a darker one from the other one which was conveniently missing the part of the label with it's name - so for now, it remained "Shiny."

At that point, I heard a string of swear words and laughter behind me. I turned around to face two bleached blondes who, though they were both about 5'4", looked like they could probably take Angel in a fight.

"Hey Angel! Setting up without us?" said one of them in a voice that betrayed the pack of cigarettes she smoked a day. The other one swore at her cellphone, slammed it shut, and started stuffing the tails of her tuxedo shirt into her pants.

"Yeah, Steph here is helping me, but you're gonna be seeing a lot of me since I have to tap all of them."

"No shit! You got hired?"

I would find out later that there was an odd and incestuous relationship (both professionally and otherwise) between the national company that held the contract for all temporary service work (what the uninformed would call catering) at the local convention centers and hotels, and the company that had hired me. I was a contractor for a contractor for a contractor. Angel had been hired by the contractor at the top of the pyramid. I tried not to think about what kind of ding that left in our paychecks. Instead I was relieved that I'd been referred to as a familiar, which meant the two girls who I would have made sure not to make eye contact with in junior high PE, assumed I wasn't the newbie I really was.

Katie and Jamie introduced themselves, Angel hopped in his golf cart to go set up the next beer island somewhere in the vast expanse of the convention hall, and I was left with the girls, who asked if I'd counted the cups yet. I looked at the giant pile of plastic cups under the table, "Um, no? I didn't know we were supposed to...I've never actually done one of these before."

That was it, I had revealed my weakness.

"Oh, really? Angel didn't tell you? We have to count all of the cups before and after so they can make sure we aren't drinking any." I attempted to join the chorus of eye-rolling. I was evidently going to learn a thing or two, besides how to tap a keg, since I had no idea how you would sneak a beer standing under thousand watt fluorescent lights in the middle of a convention floor.

I gathered cups from under the table (I would count A LOT of cups while wearing a tuxedo shirt) relieved that, like Angel, Katie and Jaime's personalities couldn't be judged by their hard exterior, while I frantically searched for a labeled keg of the Shiny Something-or-other. Thankfully, the yellow and brown label was on the first keg I smacked my knee against: SHINER BOCK.

Dear reader, you may already familiar with this Texas staple (and in fact it has by now made it's way to the taps and liquor aisles of San Francisco), or you may be trying to figure out why I was so perplexed by such a simple name, but let me explain to you that I am a visual learner. And, as we have discussed before, not everything in Texas is spelled like it sounds.

I had learned about Lone Star on my first trip to the grocery store. The Official Beer of the Republic of Texas (no, really) was sure to make itself known, if not from end cap displays, it's ubiquitous presence in undergrads' grocery carts. From the price point, I figured it was the state version of Pabst.

But that morning, I had been surrounded by kegs of something that sounded like it was filled with glitter-covered chickens, or maybe a rare kind of black eye that made the victim cluck like one. I wasn't about to say something that to me sounded like clucking. I was relieved to finally discover, not farmyard animals, but a Bavarian brew.

Secure in my knowledge of what I was serving, Jaime, Katie and I made small talk while we counted approximately 789 cups. Topics of conversation included why I would come to Texas from California, of all places, and what a dipshit Jamie's boyfriend was. By that point, early arrivers had begun filing in and I started to pay attention to what kind of convention our beer island was in the middle of.

There was a whirling thingamajig to by left. To my right, was a shiny full-color graph that I'm sure I would have understood better had I taken the second semester of AP Calculus. And straight ahead of me was some sort of interactive video display that had a smattering of skinny guys in jeans, tennis shoes and glasses trying not to topple over an entire row of displays as they jumped up and down and waved their arms.

The spectacled attendees looked a bit like the throngs of 28 year-old coders, programmers and engineers (all the same to everyone, but them) in San Francisco that moaned about taking paycuts the size of a teacher's salary after the tech boom busted, but there was something just a tad different about these folks. It wasn't just that Fluvlogs and Converse had been replaced with Nike's and hard-soled shoes. The bits of conversation that I picked up weren't about cascading style sheets and Google, but things like velocity and joules (things I vaguely remembered from high school physics), and yes, NASA contracts.

I scanned the room for some sort of signage that could put everything into context. Above the heads of the crowd, banners declared this "NI Week:National Instruments Worldwide Graphical System Design Conference and Exhibition." Uh, huh...

That wasn't much help until I remembered the great hulking brick called a T1-81 I had to buy for Alegbra II so that I could figure out cosign without really knowing why I was figuring it out in the first place. But, graphing calculators were made by Texas Instruments. National Instruments made something much cooler: Robots.

Sure, they make other things like kinetic cooling systems (the whirling thingamajig), but they also make honest-to-goodness, oh-my-god-I-loved-Short Circuit-because-the-main-character-was-named-Stephanie, robots. I had come to Texas expecting cowboys, or at least Republicans, and here I was in the middle of nerd-central (I assumed they were not Bush-era Republicans since they believed in the crazy notion of science).

I'm not trying to belittle the people that make robots. We have already established that I am a nerd of a different ilk. Nor were these folks geeks. These were not your everyday geeks of the video game and cosplay, or even coding, variety. These were honest-to-goodness, Stephen-Hawking-would-be-proud, nerds.

And I was one of three girls in the center of it all who was there to serve them beer. Free beer.

I would learn later, that the open bar is the bane of the bartender's existence. When the bar is open, the wallets are closed. No open wallets, no tips. But, it seemed that rule did not apply in the land of robots. As Jaime and Katie poured perfect beers faster than I could say "ROBOTS!," I chatted up the people that will send us to Mars and find viable alternatives to oil, and brought in the tips that we would pool at the end of the day.

Don't get me wrong, there were women nerds holding their own, and showing up the boys on the convention floor, but they weren't up for drinking before noon as much as their male counterparts. And you can forget the belief that nerds don't know how to talk to girls. If we were going to characterize these male nerds as anything, I would actually say they were quite chatty.

Unfortunately, my genuine interest in mechanical ways to perfect brain surgery and the details of NASA contracts started to be misconstrued (probably helped by mass quantities of free beer) and I began to hear this refrain:

"Hey, so do you know of a good place to hang out tonight?"

Translation: Thanks to our casual culture and your public position, I don't have to actually ask you out and be bothered with the fear of rejection to a direct question or stress about figuring out what to do, but really, I am asking you out so that I have a story to blog about.

"Not really, I've been here two weeks."

Translation: Thanks buddy, I thought we were talking about robots. I mean you even kept eye-contact and didn't stare at my boobs. But, I've got a boyfriend, and really, I have no idea where we should "hang out" because I've been in Austin all of two weeks.

I would soon find out that receiving half-assed proposals (and some more direct ones) while wearing an ill-fitting tuxedo shirt were not a side effect of free beer or robots.

To be continued...

PS: (Shameless Spousal Promotion) If you make robots or just think they're cool, check out my husband's project ONE HUNDRED ROBOTS.

Photo from Flickr user littlelostrobot

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekly Reads

Madeleine Albright lets us dig through her jewelery box.

Science Teacher says that public drinking fountains (and public schools) are going the way of the dodo because our idea of "public" is changing.

Paige McBee said most of the things I thought about 9, but has a better grasp of its sociological context than I do.

It was a pretty disappointing week for the gamer in me. Not only is new Left 4 Dead campaign only two crappy chapters, the long awaited female character in Halo ODST is one giant chauvinistic fail.

And, since I missed Your Friday Awesome since I was busy turning 30 (!), here's a little chuckle, thanks to RMJ:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Okay, One More Thing About Roman Polanski

But, I'll let the Women's Media Center say it:
The Women’s Media Center (WMC) calls on the media to focus their coverage of Roman Polanski’s recent arrest where it belongs: on the crime he committed, the rape of a child...Too often, the media is complicit in misrepresenting or silencing the victims of sexual assault. The Women’s Media Center calls on the media to report the unfolding story of the Polanski arrest and possible extradition with clarity and specificity. The rape of a child is at the heart of the case. That is not disputed, and should not be represented as subjective.
Read the entire thing here.

PS: Really, Peg Yorkin? Really?


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