Oscars Fashion Redux: Why Can’t We Be Nice?

I adore fashion, particularly red-carpet parades of the rich and famous during awards season. It’s not the most feminist of customs (it’s the kind of idealism that can lead to a distorted self image) but it’s as American as baseball. Celebrity worship is one of our past times, for better or for worse. Seeing our icons float across a crimson sea in works of art, high on excitement is a form of voyeurism that makes me happy. If only it didn’t get so ugly, so quickly.

Fashion chatter—both professional and amateur via social media—has become awfully mean spirited. More often than not, women are the targets and the critics. It makes me wonder if loving the fashion parade is a betrayal of feminism.

It always starts out sweet and complimentary. Red-carpet reporters ask everone, “who are you wearing?,” tell them they look gorgeous and congratulate them. Moments later, the insults begin. Fashion bloggers try to out-snark one another. Newspaper reporters slip in casual insults to make their copy stand out on the wires. And the worst comments come from average anyones. Message boards, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates in the past 48 hours have focused on the “stupid,” “tragic,” “blah,” “slutty” or “boring” of certain women in certain dresses. In my feeds alone, Angelina Jolie was objectified (too hot) and vilified (too skinny). Jennifer Lopez was slut shamed (really too sexy). Meryl Streep and Glenn Close were called old (these folks have been unfollowed, trust). And everyone tried to find a way to insult Melissa McCarthy without calling her fat.

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Sexy Feminists Read: ‘The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies’

Need we say anything beyond that awesome title? Just in case, we’ll add that Lynn Messina‘s adorable mocku-relationship book/chicklit novel (buy it here!) takes place in a near future when a virus has turned “99.9999 percent of human males into zombies,” thus making dating … challenging. We talked to her about books for ladies, zombies, vampires, and challenging relationships.

Since you wrote about being a “chicklit” author for us, first we’ll ask: Is this chicklit?

On one level, it’s absolutely chick lit. I self-consciously and intentionally hit every chick lit convention I could think of. But I poked fun at them too. For example, my characters frequently drop the names of famous designers, but they are the most ridiculous names I could think of. So I’m not sure if something can be the thing and the thing it satirizes at the same time.
And how do you think that market has changed in the time since you wrote Fashionistas?
Publishers would have me believe that the chick lit market has completely dried up since Fashionistas. My manuscripts have been roundly rejected for being chick lit at a moment when chick lit no longer sells. In the meantime, I think readers have gotten more sophisticated. When chick lit blew up, publishers increased their output to the point where they couldn’t sustain quality. Readers figured that out quickly enough and grew suspicious and scornful of the label, a label that, to be fair, invited a fair amount of scorn all on its own. I’m not sure where the market is now–whether the backlash is still in full force or starting to recede. Personally, I’m trying my darnedest to create a backlash against the backlash. How am I doing?

Links for Sexy Feminists: Resilient Ovaries, Math Lessons from Mom, and more …

Our ovaries may not be shriveling as much as we thought!: Or at least they might not in the future thanks to stem cell research reported on CBSNews.com

We’re so over people thinking girls are “hard-wired” to suck at math: Jezebel breaks down some new findings, showing, mostly, that moms need to talk about math with their daughters more

More on Chris Brown: YourTango explores whether abusers can reform

This is just sort-of cute: And it has a photo of Madonna in the English countryside with chickens; thanks, Hello Giggles!

Sexy Feminists Read: ‘Much Ado About Loving’

A dating blogger and a PhD in medieval and renaissance literature picked through the best of novels new and old to glean the relationship lessons held within, and the result, Much Ado About Loving, breaks it all down for you. Being passionate readers and obsessive relationship analyzers, we couldn’t wait to pick it up — and talk to co-author Maura Kelly, a seasoned relationship writer (and the onetime dating blogger in the pair), about her heroic efforts with Jack Murnighan to bring us love advice from the likes of Gatsby and Jane Eyre.

Why look at old novels for wisdom about relationships?
Because the real experts on love have been around for a while! There’s a reason why great novels are embraced generation after generation; it’s because their insights ring true through the decades and centuries. The great novelists are so great because of the timeless lessons they impart. There’s plenty we moderns can learn from them.

In Defense of Single Mothers

Single mothers have always been picked on. Not only are they doing the hardest job in the world on their own, critics call these women morally bankrupt, their “choice” a disgrace to family values and they often times find a way to link single parents to rising rates of poverty and crime.

But now we know that women have more earning power than ever (though we still have a long way to go)—more than men in some professions, and that many are postponing motherhood so that they can invest in themselves, establish a career, and offer a stable life for themselves and their children. And haven’t we finally killed that antiquated mindset that marriage is the ultimate end game for all women?

Apparently, no. A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that  most of the nation thinks single-parent households are detrimental to society.

Detrimental to society? Really? War is detrimental to society. The constant assault on women’s reproductive freedoms is detrimental to society. “The Bachelor” is detrimental to society. Loving, capable parents—one or two, gay or straight, multicultural or homogeneous—are about the best damn things our society has. We need to start supporting them in real, effective ways. Not pointing a finger of shame at them is a start. Offering affordable child care, not discriminating against working mothers, and offering them flexible job training and after-school programs for their kids are just a few others.

Studies like this always piss me off. The focus group is a tiny sliver of society (2,961 people in this case) but media attention makes these opinions speak for all of us (they don’t). And they’re hardly objective. This poll cites data that shows children who grow up in single-parent households have a greater likelihood to commit a crime or not go to college. Conduct the study a different way and you’ll see the reasons behind these trends are more directly linked to the lack of social welfare programs needed in certain low-wage, high-crime areas, the lack of adequate women’s health care and birth control, and the overall victimization and neglect of our most needy members of society.

Women become single parents for so many reasons. It’s the perfect family for some, a necessity for others. So let us cheer on the women who consciously, responsibly and excitedly choose to have children on their own—how lucky is that kid to be so wanted and loved? And let us support the women who find themselves with an unexpected pregnancy they choose to keep, and those who end a relationship for the betterment of themselves and their child. These women have a challenging road ahead and deserve the supportive Village that’s so often quoted as being necessary to raise a child, not the critical one that seems to turn its back if the baby doesn’t come from a happily married couple.


Birth Control Status Update: Our Poor Vaginas (and Wombs) Under Attack

My, isn’t ladybusiness suddenly so very hip to discuss at cocktail parties and presidential interviews and press conferences and Congressional hearings! We had no idea such a wide cross-section of men was so interested in woman-centric discourse. In fact, the status of such debates — over birth control insurance coverage, abortions, and everything in between — changes so often lately we can barely keep track. But we are going to start trying, right here, right now. Here, an update on where things stand; we’ll do our best to continue either updating this post or posting anew as the multiple political attacks on women’s health continue:

The Latest on Insurance Coverage for Birth Control: The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops is working to make sure they — and any other employers with objections to birth control — don’t have to provide insurance coverage for contraception for their employees. Never mind that this money isn’t coming directly from the collection plate at Sunday mass to begin with; rather, it is paid for by insurance companies that cover the employees. For more info, visit NOW’s website.

UPDATE: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has proposed an amendment that would allow insurance companies and employers to deny coverage for any service they deem against their own beliefs, including birth control, maternity care, HIV/AIDS treatment, mammograms, cancer screenings, and more. For information visit the Center for Reproductive Rights’ website.

UPDATE: The Blunt amendment was defeated, though Arizona is considering its own state law that would do the same thing.

UPDATE: The Obama administration has presented a plan to allow for insurance companies to cover birth control for employees of religious institutions without using premium money directly from those groups who morally object to it.

The Latest on Prenatal Testing: Republican flavor of the week Rick Santorum also would like to restrict amniocentesis coverage because, according to him, it “more often than not” leads to abortion. These prenatal tests determine whether pregnant women have infections such as toxoplasmosis, hepatitis B, syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV, among other problems whose effects can be curtailed with such advance warning. For more info, check out this petition at SignOn.org.

The Latest on the Campaign Trail: Santorum says he’s not obsessed with preventing women from using birth control; he’s just opposed to Obama’s insurance mandates overall. “The issue is not contraception,” Santorum said on MSNBC. “The issue is government-mandated health insurance. That to me is completely on message The federal government, first off, shouldn’t be mandating any kind of health insurance and specifically going after churches, saying they have to do things that are against their principles and faith.”

Meanwhile, on Meet the Press, Sen. John McCain urged fellow Republicans to “get off” the contraception issue, adding, “I think we ought to respect the right of women to make choices in their lives.”

The Latest on Sex Ed: Utah Governor Gary Herbert has vetoed a state bill that would have outlawed discussion of contraception in high school classes.

Links for Sexy Feminists: Girls in science, Catholics in birth control, and more …

Girls like science and technology: The suddenly kick-ass Girl Scouts of America released a study showing girls dig math, science, and technology but don’t see these lucrative fields as possible careers. We hope this means a new generation will see that programming computers is more lucrative than selling cookies. Though Thin Mints still rule.

Catholic bishops hate birth control: Of course, we already knew that, but now they’re threatening legal action against the Obama administration’s plan to make insurers cover contraception — even though this is a compromise after an earlier plan would have made religious institutions directly responsible for paying for their workers’ birth control. Sigh.

While we’re at it …: The Center for Reproductive Rights is launching an email campaign to urge the Obama administration to lift age restrictions on emergency contraception. Seriously, everyone: Why are we so into making people have unwanted kids?

Why do men love jailbait porn?: A fascinating analysis on Jezebel from Hugo Schwyzer.

Life and love after being part of the sex trade: Check out this deeply personal account at YourTango.

If you’re wondering why we shouldn’t let Chris Brown continue being a pop idol: Here are some good reasons, via Feministe, Hello Giggles, and others.

Valentine’s Day Gifts for Men

Hey, you know what’s gross? Those ads all over TV right now where a guy buys a girl some overpriced rocks on a string or a ring, and she lives happily ever after and cries and stuff because oh my god this is all she ever wanted in life. (And don’t even get us started on the Victoria’s Secret ads implying women are all dying to receive the gift of ludicrous underwear.) Valentine’s Day, at its core, isn’t evil: Great love is hard to find, so we see nothing wrong with celebrating it. We’d rather celebrate it every day without crass commercialism lurking, but whatever … Love is about compromise, so we’re willing to give Valentine’s Day a chance, but only by celebrating love with our partners as equals. Corporations want men to believe women are demanding bitches, and they want women to believe they deserve to be demanding bitches. We say fight the patriarchy by focusing on couplehood — and by giving the good men we love thoughtful tokens of our affection.

A few ideas, which apply equally to heterosexual women wrestling with sexist holiday traditions and queer women who need some inspiration, too:

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Lady-Friendly Sex Toy Stores Across the U.S.

Move to a new city and you’ll have to find a new hair salon, dentist, gynecologist, massage therapist — and, more difficult than any of those, a great, classy, clean, comfortable place to buy your vibrators. As a public service, we compiled this list. Please let us know if there are more we should add — we can’t be everywhere at once!

Babeland (Seattle, Brooklyn, New York City)

Coco de Mer (Los Angeles)

The Pleasure Chest (Los Angeles)

Early to Bed (Chicago)

Eve’s Garden (New York City)

Forbidden Fruit (Austin, Texas)

Good Vibrations (San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, Calif.; Brookline, Mass.)

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‘Thinking Gender’: WWII Sexism, Female Slave Owners and the Feminism in Salsa Dancing

Salsa dancing in Taiwan. Sexism in the SS. Dowry deaths in India. Child activists in the abortion wars. Mayan women writing plays critical of the patriarchy. Female architects and textile makers. Female coal miners. Female slave owners before and during the Civil War.

All these subjects, and more, were part of the 22nd annual “Thinking Gender” conference, held at UCLA. Organized by the university’s Center for the Study of Women, the conference hosted more than 120 scholars (mostly female) from around the world. There were four sessions, each with five panels apiece. In short: A whole lot of gender relations talks to cover. Here are some of the highlights:

Gender Stereotypes

“Dirty Work: Women and Unexpected Labor.” The labor in question referred to everything from prison guards to coal miners, and this panel was well worth attending because it was both interesting and discomfiting. The first scholar to present in this panel was Shelly M. Cline, a history student from the University of Kansas. Her paper was on gender discrimination in the SS, particularly against women who guarded prisoners in the Auschwitz death camp. “The state asked them to do a man’s job, but didn’t offer them an equal partnership,” Cline said, going on to talk about how, as a result of being treated badly by their male colleagues, many of these women took out their frustrations on prisoners in increasingly terrible ways as a way to try to get respect from the men. (That is not to say, Cline added, that these women’s actions were any more brutal overall than their male colleagues’.) When WWII was over, and the Allies put these women on trial, they only won equality by being given punishments as severe as the men.

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