Tag Archives: Huffington Post

Can Sex Positivity Be Negative?

Last week, Kelly Rose Pflug-Back wrote for Huffington Post about how the mantra of sex-positive feminism has actually been negative for her. She, like many people, had suffered sexual trauma, and the attitude that she perceived as “just have some more orgasms! orgasms for everyone! woohoo! sex!” wasn’t helping her. In fact, it made her feel guilty for not being a “good” feminist.

I really struggled with her essay, especially the portion that suggested we default to treating our partners like survivors:

Given the alarming prevalence of rape and sexual violence in our society, perhaps all of us, regardless of gender, should begin with the assumption that all female-bodied partners we have (and, realistically, quite a few of our male-bodied partners as well) are survivors.

To me, assuming your partners are survivors (or would like to be treated as such) deprives them of the agency to tell/show you how they’d like to be treated. I know that I, personally, do not want to be treated like a survivor, and I would resent someone who approached me with that attitude.

That said, Pflug-Back’s essay has prompted a ton of really interesting conversations about the limitations of sex-positive feminism and the shortcomings of the movement’s messaging. Check out more thoughts on what sex-positivity really means (hint: does not equal orgasm counting) in my new Role/Reboot piece.



Related Post: Body positive NSFW tumblr

Related Post: Body Positivity doesn’t mean throwing skinny women under the bus


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Filed under Media, Republished!, Sex

Sunday Scraps 79

1. BINDERS: Amanda Hess for Slate makes a similar argument to mine earlier this week, and I’m into it. Binders full of women leads to cabinets full of women. Not an ideal process, not an ideal phrase, but not the wrong idea either.

2. OBAMA: Love this piece by Ta-Nahesi Coates for The Atlantic on the particular burden of carrying his “people.” Cool comparison with a 1936 boxing match in which Joe Lewis was knocked out by Max Shmeling.

3. HARPER: From Letters of Note, an excellent, excellent letter from the reclusive Harper Lee to Oprah Winfrey when O picked Mockingbird for the book club.

4. CLINTONS: How’d the Clinton/Obama relationship evolve from primary bashing to cooperation to Clinton’s epic convention speech? NYMag investigates.

5. SPAIN: What do you do if the country you call home can’t support your kids’ ambitions? Carlos Duarte writes for the Huffington Post about watching his daughter leave Spain in search of more than it can offer her.

6. MARKS: The joy of punctuation. Little-known, lesser-used punctuation marks that never quite hit the mainstream.

Related Post: Sunday 78: Inigo Montoya, Rebel Wilson, Roxane Gay, the truth of the VDay kiss.

Related Post: Sunday 77: Replacement refs, Urban Cusp, Jennifer Weiner


Filed under Books, Gender, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

Sunday Scraps 72

1. ZOE: British Olympian Zoe Smith strikes back at body haters in an extremely articulate and extremely badass blog post.

2. RACE: Nicole Moore at the Huffington Post addresses the recent announcement that Nina Simone will be played by Zoe Saldana and the controversial history of casting famous black women.

3. KATRINA: For the New Yorker’s Letter from Louisiana Katherine Boo reports on one town’s reaction, years later, to Katrina evacuees.

4. WRITING: How do contemporary writers address texting, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, FourSquare, Skype and the like in new fiction? The Millions addresses the “awkward but necessary role of technology in fiction.”

5. WHITE HOUSE: New York Times profiles White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett on her role in the Obama administration, especially during his courtship of female voters.

6. MEDITATION: Men’s Journal follows one man’s journey into total silence and total boredom in a 10-day meditation course at Dhamma Giri in Western India.

Related Post: Sunday 71 = Cosmo around the world, Helen Gurley Brown, Dr. Ann McKee

Related Post: Sunday 70 = Louie CK interview, boys in dresses, tween books


Filed under Body Image, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Sports

Female figures are, by definition, “feminine.”

Let’s take a break from our regularly scheduled rape programming today and talk about something else. Back with more rape news, rape commentary, rape apology, rape debate, and legitimate/forcible/date/stranger/marital (and more!) rape next week.

Is Serena Williams a bombshell or what?

Via Huffington Post

I love Serena Williams. When I play tennis, I literally pretend I’m her and I placebo-effect myself into being better at tennis. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and my butt looks enormous, I channel her. Her big butt is the product of genetics and incredible effort and fitness and I smile at myself because my big butt is the product of genetics and (slightly less) exercise and fitness (and also cupcakes and pasta, but those are fabulous things too).

The Huffington Post headline with the bombshell pic was this:

Serena Williams’ Tight Dress Shows Off Her Feminine Figure

The dictionary definition of “feminine” is “pertaining to a woman or a girl,” but what do we mean when refer to a “feminine” figure? We usually mean voluptuous, right? Large breasts, hourglass shape, round hips. We think curves. We think Kim Kardashian, Venus de Milo, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Rabbit. We think va va voom, hubba hubba, and men yelling out SUV windows with raunchier iterations of “damn, girl!”

But which women are we willing to say have unfeminine figures? Flat-chested women? Narrow-hipped woman? Thin women? muscular woman? Trans women? Obese women? These all sound like women with figures that are “pertaining to a woman or a girl,” no?

New York Times Magazine

Here’s another picture of Serena Williams with her sister Venus on the cover of the New York Times Magazine (side note: The profile is good too). Same woman, same figure, but I doubt that most people, including the HuffPo titler, would describe her figure as feminine in this picture. Powerful. Strong. Ripped. Awesome. Inspiring. Probably not “feminine.”

Some bodies are curvy, some are not. Some have breasts, some do not. Some will bear children, some will not. Some will win Grand Slams, most will not. But female bodies are all, by definition, feminine.

Related Post: Does Kim Kardashian widen the spectrum of “acceptable” body types?

Related Post: Curve Appeal and American Apparel’s Next Big Thing contest.


Filed under Body Image, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Sports

HuffPo and the Changing Iconograpy of the Abortion Debate

Have you seen the front page of the Huffington Post today?

As of 12:58pm CT

Yowza, kinda smacks you in the face, doesn’t it? I’m not a huge fan of journalistic sensationalism, of which this most certainly suffers, but sometimes the digital equivalent of stomping your feet and screaming at the top of your lungs is necessary.

The lack of a rape exemption is only the most egregious piece of an egregiously sexist platform. The fundamental problem here is that the Republican party (not all Republicans, mind you), does not value the autonomy of women over their reproductive health. You want fewer abortions? Promote comprehensive sex education. Help women afford birth control the way you help old men get erections. Block discrimination against gay and single parents who want to adopt. Give me social services that might actually help me raise a child if I chose to carry to term an unplanned pregnancy. Give me choice and agency.

Do you remember when the established iconography of the abortion debate was the clothes hanger? Neither do I. History books tell me that there was a point when ending back alley abortions and protecting women from harm was a respected goal.  Do you remember when the mental, emotional and physical health of women were prioritized above the potential of a fetus? It was not that long ago.

For those of us born in the 80s, as far back as we can remember, the representative image of the abortion debate has been a bloody fetus. The pro-life movement has been very effective (kudos?) at convincing us all that the question we need to be asking no matter the circumstances of the pregnancy is “what about the baby?” It used to be, “what about the woman?” and the shifting popular imagery illustrates that ideological change.

Mike Huckabee went as far as to call out exemplary Americans who were the results of “forcible” rape, as if their contributions to our culture justified the suffering of their mothers. What about the women that hemorrhaged to death after clothes-hanger abortions? Might they have changed the world for the better? What about teenaged girls who didn’t get a chance at college because no one taught them how to not get pregnant and they were left with no options? Might they have cured cancer or written masterpieces or saved the world? Potential for greatness is not the unique province of unborn fetuses.

Related Post: The Republican Roadmap for Your Reproductive Future.

Related Post: Things that are not the opposite of misogyny.


Filed under Gender, Media, Politics

Word of the Day: Anomie

You know how when you study for a test, you reach a point where you just cannot cram another fact or figure or strategy or whatnot into your brain without forcing some previously committed idea out your other ear? It means you’ve hit your capacity.

I have reached that point with the news. Not all of the news, mind you, just the lady-bashing news. It’s not that I don’t care, or that I don’t want to be informed. It’s just that the weight of the horribleness has just crushed any ability I have to care about a specific issue. I see “birth control” or “transvaginal” or “conscience clause” in the headline of an article, or in the outraged tweet of a friend or colleague, and I just cannot bring myself to click. I know what it will say, horrible things, and I know how I will feel, powerless.

This week Argentina decided to allow rape victims access to abortions. Yay? Is this really the kind of verdict I’m supposed to get excited for? Should I feel encouraged? It’s like we are climbing out of a deep hole, and while we scramble and scrape our way out, Rick Santorum is at the bottom of it digging us closer to the molten core of the Earth.

My friend Lori Day wrote an essay for the Huffington Post called “The Loneliness of Being Female in 2012.” She writes, “What is at stake is women’s ability to have authentic and freely chosen lives — nothing less….I sometimes write about anomie. It’s one of my favorite words, acquired in college Sociology 101, describing the moral disconnect one can feel between his or her own personal values, and the values and laws thrust upon the individual by society. I am writhing in anomie these days, and it is a very lonely place.”

I couldn’t agree more, so props to Lori for putting the word out there for all the other lonely people to rally around.

Related Post: The fundamental differences are just too much.

Related Post: Who would think that “age-appropriate” and “medically accurate” are word you wouldn’t want associated with sex-education?


Filed under Gender, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex

Snooki: “When it comes to sex, I’m definitely a guy.”

Feminism is a tricky word. I’ve posted my definition on this blog before:

My feminism is about allowing individual desires to take precedence over societally proscribed roles and assumptions. It’s about men being nurses and teachers, women being firefighters and executives, but it’s also about giving boys and girls (and men and women) the complete spectrum of ways to be successful and saying, “the world is open to you, treat it well and do with it as you will.” Being a boy, or a girl, or gay, or straight, or something that is not so easily labeled, should not determine your path or limit your options.

Let’s invite some other folks to join this conversation, ones without the benefit of a liberal arts education and years spent in gender studies classes. Snookie? JWoww? Why not!

In a recent Huffington Post interview, the two Jersey Shore stars were asked about feminism, and here’s how it went down:

HP: Do you consider yourselves feminists?

JWoww: No.

Snooki: What does “feminist” actually mean?

HP: It can mean a lot of things. But in this context I was thinking about your approach to sex and sexuality and how bold and unashamed you are about it.

Snooki: Then yes.

JWoww: I thought feminism was derogatory in a sense. Have you ever seen “Borat?”

HP: I have.

JWoww: There were feminists in “Borat” and they were like [to Borat] “You’re so stereotypical!”

Snooki: I’m sure it means different things. But to us, we’re just strong women.

JWoww: I’m just myself.

Snooki: We’re not “girlie girlie.”

JWoww: I think we’re more like men because we do show our sexuality and burp and fart.

Snooki: When it comes to sex, I’m definitely a guy.

HP: You don’t see that from a lot of other women on TV.

Snooki: All women are like us. They’re just scared.

Jwoww: Yeah. Filtered.

Snooki: Sam [Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola, another “Jersey Shore” roommate] is a little freak, but she just doesn’t say anything. But I know she is.

JWoww: Closeted freak!

*      *       *      *      *

What makes me sad is that I feel like if Snooki and JWoww had had the education that I’d had, chock full of Ariel Levy, Alix Kates Shulman, Mary Wollstonecraft and Gloria Steinem, we might actually all be on the same team. As it stands, they don’t have the vocabulary or the background to discuss the damage of slut-shaming or gender stereotyping in non-Jersey Shore language. And I can’t bring myself to use word like “smoosh.”

We all would agree, I think, that telling women to hide their sexuality for fear of societal disapproval is no good. I would add that telling men to play up their sexuality to bolster their reputations is also no good. Dictating to any segment (by age, gender, orientation, etc) how much sex is okay, how much is too little, and how much is too much, is no good. So in summary…. it’s all bad.

Related Post: Feminism in the context of Maslow.

Related Post: Why I want a Kardashian to wink at me.

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Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Media, Sex

I Don’t Like Places That Discriminate Against My Friends

A few months ago, we had a bad experience at a local bar when a waiter referred to my latina friend as “the tan one.” What may have just been poor word choice turned ugly when the owner of the bar half-assed an apology (“I’m sorry you are so sensitive, etc”) and refused to acknowledge that his employee’s words were problematic.

We haven’t been back to the bar since.

I don’t like spending time in places that make my friends feel ostracized, excluded, or uncomfortable. Even if the issue isn’t “mine” (i.e. I’m not latina), I don’t want my patronage going to institutions that discriminate against people I care about. It’s why I have a hard time shopping.

Earlier this week, Lisa Wade at Sociological Images wrote a really amazing explanation of all the reasons she’s not married. She was responding to Tracy MacMillan’s bizarre HuffPo piece from February, but I think her passionate reply stands alone. Here are a few of her bullet points, though they are all worth considering:

  • I’m not married because I don’t want or need the state’s approval of my relationship and  I certainly don’t want it interfering if we decide to part.
  • I’m not married because the history of marriage is ugly and anti-woman; because I don’t like the common meanings of the words “wife” and “husband”; and because even today, and even among couples that call themselves feminist, gender inequality in relationships is known to increase when a couple moves from cohabitation to marriage (and I don’t think I’m so special that I’ll be the anomaly).
  • I’m not married because I don’t want to support a discriminatory institution that has and continues to bless some relationships, but not others, out of bigotry.

That last one really gets under my skin in a good, thought-provoking, mentally-itchy way. If there was a restaurant that wouldn’t allow my black friends to eat there, I wouldn’t want to eat there. If there’s a bar that won’t let my gay friends drink there, I wouldn’t want to drink there. Marriage is obviously 1000 times more complex and important than where I choose to fork over $14 every Tuesday, but the principle is sticking point for me.

I don’t know if I want to get married, and this 500 word post is obviously not the place to parse that extraordinarily large question. And I know that every couple can shape a marriage into whatever structure pleases them and meets their needs, and I respect their right to do so. And maybe, if and when the day comes where I’m seriously thinking about getting married, it will no longer be an institution that discriminates against my friends. Who is to say.

Bottom line is, I have no bottom line. I’m just musing, is all, so let’s come back to this in ten years, okay?

Related Post: Grey’s Anatomy does a surprisingly nuanced portrayal of the idiosyncrasies of marital law.

Related Post: Do guys ever think about their weddings?


Filed under Gender, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

“A Rich, Raunchy, Elemental, Down to Earth Sound”

Here’s poet Alice Walker on the word “slut” and the SlutWalk movement:

Alice Walker

I’ve always understood the word “slut” to mean a woman who freely enjoys her own sexuality in any way she wants to; undisturbed by other people’s wishes for her behavior. Sexual desire originates in her and is directed by her. In that sense it is a word well worth retaining. As a poet, I find it has a rich, raunchy, elemental, down to earth sound, that connects us to something primal, moist, and free.

The spontaneous movement that has grown around reclaiming this word speaks to women’s resistance to having names turned into weapons used against them. I would guess the police officer who used the word “slut” had no inkling of its real meaning or its importance to women as an area of their freedom about to be, through the threat of rape, closed to them.

The same person who sent me this quote also sent me a letter published at the Huffington Post, in which a list of black women and organizations that support them explained their particular hesitation to associating with the SlutWalk movement. “As Black women, we do not have the privilege or the space to call ourselves ‘slut’ without validating the already historically entrenched ideology and recurring messages about what and who the Black woman is.” The point, if I’m understanding it correctly, is that hypersexualization of black women and the particular history of rape and sexual assault perpetrated against them imbues the word “slut” with a special kind of horror that white college girls in bustiers did not consider.

The writers of the letter add, “Even if only in name, we cannot afford to label ourselves, to claim identity, to chant dehumanizing rhetoric against ourselves in any movement.” I think their complaint is a fair one. I mean, I can afford to label myself a slut if I feel like it. I’m white, well-educated, and politically articulate. I don’t have a personal or cultural history with the word, so by adopting it I can make a “statement” that actually says nothing about my sexuality at all.

I think what concerns me most, gauging from this letter, is that from a branding perspective, SlutWalk managed to miss the mark and alienate a huge swath of potential supporters.

Related Post: An allegorical conversation about philanthropy to better understand victim-blaming.

Related Post: SlutWalk Chicago, 2011.


Filed under Gender, Sex

Sunday Scraps 16

1. MUSIC: John Legend covering Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Sidenote: Heard a dance remix of “Rolling” in a Boystown bar last night and it was excellent.

2. SEX SYMBOL: Watch Jon Stewart trade fire with Chris Wallace about comedy, partisanship and the roll of the modern media in politics. Sigh.

3. INTERVIEW: Mac McClelland of Mother Jones participates in the Feministing Five interview series. She never meant to be a reporter, but oh hey, now she’s the Human Rights reporter and bounces from the Congo to Haiti and back.

4. MONEY: Another story on the many factors of the gender pay gap. This one focuses on the skill of negotiating. They’ve got it, I don’t. Let’s fix it.

5. WORK: This was my habit in 4th grade. It worked for about 20 minutes at a time.

6. LESBIANS: Go Magazine has an excellent and varied list of their favorite lesbians. Among them, Autostraddle founder Riese Bernard.

Related Post: Sunday from the Hamptons and Sunday from my couch in Massachusetts.


Filed under Art, Gender, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People