Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity

I love that Jon Stewart is parlaying his celebrity into political action. I think a rally to counter Beck's and Palin's is long overdue and I think Stewart, from what I know, is as good of a leader as any.

I'm less thrilled about the name.

You could even say I'm angry.

The implicit message behind the "Rally to Restore Sanity" is that individuals influencing America's current political climate are "insane." Crazy. Wacko. It's Stewart pointing at a picture of Beck and circling an index finger around his ear. And it pisses me off.

No one in Stewart's entire machine thought twice about invoking the experiences of an entire group of people who are already oppressed and using them for their own purposes. This kind of language only serves to reinforce the existing and damaging stigma against mental illness. It both pathologizes the lack of critical thought characteristic of Glenn Beck's particular brand of bigoted conservatism, in some ways removing personal responsibility from individuals who choose to adhere to that political ideology, and fails to actually address the flaws behind it. At the same time, it reinforces that crazy is universally a bad thing. Crazy needs to be eliminated to fix America.

And what about the 26.2% of Americans who experience a diagnosable mental illness in a given year, Mr. Stewart? You're telling one out of every four people: your experiences and opinions are not valuable. Your experiences are worth less than mine. That's a terribly progressive message to be sending.

How difficult would it have been to title the event differently? "Rally to Restore Reason"? "Rally to Restore Common Sense"? Probably not terribly taxing.

(Why am I posting about this here? Because if 26.2% of Americans experience mental illness in a given year, probably half or so of those are women. I can't fight for women's rights unless I fight for all women's rights. For more on how mental illness and disability in general are a feminist issue, I recommend this post at The Curvature, this post at The Gimp Parade, and the archives at FWD/Forward.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

feminism, beauty standards, and compromise

Hey, people. I originally posted this to my tumblr (where I often blog or reblog about issues related to feminism--it's great for collecting links or relevant posts) but felt it was relevant to repost here, especially given Kenyon's particular fashion scene and the effort that often goes into even getting ready for class.


Today in my Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies class we had the beginnings of a really interesting conversation about the performance of femininity and cultural beauty standards and rituals (before we were cut short by time constraints). It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I’ve become more involved with both feminism and fatshion online.

I tend to justify the amount of energy I put into beauty/fashion by arguing that as a fat woman, it’s subversive of me to do so. It’s transgressive for me to be well-dressed and happy in public, because the vast majority of society believes that fat women don’t deserve to dress well or aren’t worthy of being held to the same beauty standards as other women.

But I’m well aware that it would be equally or more transgressive to stop performing femininity and continue to be happy. I continue to perform femininity in large part because it is the easier choice for me. It is easier for me to be considered conventionally attractive and conventionally well-dressed than to wear whatever I feel like wearing regardless of the consequences.

I can push the envelope in small ways: I can wear leggings with tunics, and clothing that is similarly both trendy and revealing of my fat body; I can stop shaving my legs, and go bare-legged in short skirts with my legs all hairy; I can wear my curly hair down around my shoulders even though it takes up a lot more space than advertising and current fashion suggests it should.

But I’m not going to shave my head or get a buzz-cut, even though I want to, because in six or so months I’ll be interviewing for my first real, grown-up jobs, and I need to look like society’s image of someone mature, and responsible, and conventional, and that means having an actual hairstyle, not just a few months of stubble. And when I go to those interviews, I’m going to put on tinted moisturizer and pressed powder and blush and eyeshadow and mascara and eyeliner.

Hell, tomorrow, I will put on mascara and eyeliner, and put goop in my frizzy, thick, curly hair to “tame” it and feel like a horrible feminist while simultaneously feeling horribly self-conscious of my hairy legs. As women, as feminists, we are constantly presented with impossible choices. I don’t think there are any right answers here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Favorite Blogs

Hey everyone!

A few people at the meeting on Sunday asked for blog recommendations. I have a few that I read regularly and will list here, but if you have favorites, please post them in the comments!

Feministing: Young Feminists Blogging, Organizing, Kicking Ass
Oh, Feministing! Feministing is a great blog to start reading when you're interested in activism and want a broad variety of news from a feminist perspective. Jessica Valenti and Courtney Martin (speakers at Kenyon last year) are both editors, as is Jaclyn Friedman (coming September 24th).

Jezebel: Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing.
Jezebel is my "I should be doing reading for class but I'd rather look at pictures of puppies and read feminist critique of popular culture" fix.

Yes Means YES!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape
This blog lists many contributors but the most frequent is
Thomas Macaulay Millar, a pseudonymous writer who tackles the same issues as the book Yes Means YES! with an awesome feminist perspective.

Racialicious focuses on the intersection of popular culture and race.

Emily Nagoski, Sex Nerd
Emily's blog is particularly interesting because she is a health and sexuality educator and comes from a scientific perspective on many sexual issues.

Vagina Pagina: Vulva la revolucion!
Vagina Pagina is not a blog but rather an online community (started on Livejournal) "that offers a supportive, progressive, body- and sex-positive environment in which to discuss issues related to female sexual and reproductive health and wellness." Vagina Pagina has innumerable informative resources on these topics and is an awesome place to go for questions about health and sexual wellbeing.

My current favorite blog is not explicitly feminist or gender-focused at all but just for fun: The Non-Consumer Advocate ( is a fantastic blog about one woman's experiences with consumption and her attempts to consume less and more consciously.

I'm interested in seeing what blogs you all read and what you think of the ones I listed here, so let me know in the comments!