Dubai: Ancient Repressive Laws vs. Tourist Marketing

witw-logoNina Strochilic investigates the tension between Dubai’s conservative laws — a Norwegian woman was recently sentenced for claiming she was raped (though subsequently pardoned) — and its desire to be a world tourism hotspot. Women in the World has more.

The Legacy of Helen Thomas

imagesHow long are we going to keep bombing Iraqis?
How does the President intend to commemorate “Mission Accomplished” after five years of death and destruction?
Is every Iraqi a terrorist?
The President has said publicly several times, in two consecutive news conferences a few months ago, and you have said over and over again, we do not torture. Now he has admitted that he did sign off on torture, he did know about it. So how do you reconcile this credibility gap?
Would the administration agree to a referendum in Iraq to see what the people really want?
In the immediate aftermath of President Obama’s succession of President George W. Bush, there was a period of public breast-beating on the part of reporters who bemoaned the easy ride Bush and his underlings had gotten on the war in Iraq. The American media should have asked tougher questions, investigated the administration’s claims more thoroughly, and been more willing to stand up to the man who styled himself a “war president” when he claimed America had never tortured prisoners nor occupied Iraq against the will of Iraqis.

Thanks, The Atlantic, That’s What We’ve Been Saying…

SFcoverSMSince we published our book, Sexy Feminism: A Girl’s Guide to Love, Success, and Style in March, we’ve received our fair share of mixed reviews. Of course we did. It’s a book about feminism. The cover has glossy lips on it. The title has the word “sexy” in it. All of these things pretty much require a careful, even skeptical analysis. Sometimes we got that, sometimes we got worse, and many times we received lovely, thoughtful praise. We’re thankful for all of it (you can review most if it here, Google for more of the less-civil discourse).

Today The Atlantic wrote the kind of thoughtful review we’d been hoping for all along. Rather than picking apart all of our chapters–on dieting, bikini waxing, sex, fashion, female friendship, etc.–as “feminist or not” (in itself notsomuch a feminist act), it revisited the wonderful wealth of books that set out to do just what we did: speak to young women about feminism in an approachable, deliberate way. Our primary goals for our book were to educate and incite discourse, the latter being the most important of the two. Getting women to embrace feminism as cool, doable and–yes, ok, sexy–would be a bonus.

The Atlantic‘s Jordan Larson cited books published from the 1970s to today that celebrated feminism as a right and righteous act for young women–from Feminism for Girls: An Adventure Story to Manifesta and Full Frontal Feminism. We’re honored to be included in this bunch, as they influenced our feminist identity and led to us writing our own book.

Larson doesn’t gush about Sexy Feminism, and indeed raises some questions and concerns that should be raised any time a new feminist text hits the marketplace. And that’s why we’re thankful for this piece. It encourages everyone to seek out these books–all of them–read them, think about them, and decide for themselves what their own brand of feminism looks like.

And then talk about it.

Girls And The Future of Feminism

TuesdaySome of the most powerful leaders of the feminist movement today are females who aren’t yet old enough to drive. They can’t get into an after-hours club to see a favorite band, order a drink, buy cigarettes or vote. But they are talking about reproductive justice, sexual expression, and political accountability better than anyone right now.

It’s slowly, but loudly becoming clear that millennials (and younger) are not only relevant to the feminist discussion, they are shaping it. The online space has exploded with blogs about teens and feminism—namely, by feminist teens. Feminist academia is understanding, on a curriculum level, that studying this demographic is essential to understanding the very history of women’s studies, and most certainly it’s future. Young girls from Austin to Afghanistan are inciting the most provocative feminist discourse right now by simply living—and defending—their convictions.

Feminism is far from dead, as headlines so exhaustingly decree. In fact, girls are killing that very idea. Consider these young ladies who are leading the way:

Tuesday Cain: This 14-year-old from Austin became the center of an Internet media frenzy by speaking up about reproductive rights—in an awesome, witty way. When the Texas legislature recently voted to approve a sweeping round of abortion restrictions for the state, Tuesday joined her parents on the Capitol steps to protest. Her sign, written on the brightest power-pink poster board, read: “Jesus isn’t a dick; so keep him out of my vagina!”

Awesome, right?

She was immediately attacked by the conservative media, jerks on Twitter, and even her own state’s legislators. They called her a whore. They called her parents child predators. They called her ugly and yelled in her face. Her dad, pictured with Tuesday in the photo, wrote this eloquent defense of Tuesday and feminism[Read more...]

Remembering Helen Thomas

HelenThomasTrailblazing journalist, unabashed rabble-rouser, and a die-hard patriot, iconic reporter Helen Thomas holds a special place in our hearts.

Her career ended in controversy, but every other moment was extraordinary. She opened doors for women in journalism, and broke down the gender barrier of many institutions, including the National Press Club. She sat in the front row in the White House briefing room and often set the tone, always pushing for transparency, even well into her 80s. She covered 10 presidents–from Kennedy to Obama–and never stopped asking questions. She died July 20 at the age of 92. Here are some of the best tributes to this truly revolutionary woman:

Politico has a video montage of some of Thomas’ most badass confrontations in the White House briefing room. And even more on YouTube.

CNN’s Candy Crowley said of Thomas, ”She did not live perfectly, but she lived passionately and she made a difference. She was not about being the first woman to do this or that. She was about making sure she was not the last woman to do this or that.”

CBS’s Bob Schieffer recalls his colleague’s remarkable career.

Journalists take to Twitter to remember Thomas and share some unforgettable moments.

Former President Bill Clinton said of Thomas, “Her work was extraordinary because of her intelligence, her lively spirit and great sense of humor, and most importantly her commitment to the role of a strong press in a healthy democracy.”

“What made Helen the ‘Dean of the White House Press Corps’ was not just the length of her tenure, but her fierce belief that our democracy works best when we ask tough questions and hold our leaders to account.” - President Barack Obama

Equally Nudged: A Plea for Lasting Domestic Partnership Despite Gay Marriage Gains

domestic-partnership-certificateSexy Feminist co-founder Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s domestic partner, A. Jesse Jiryu Davis, argues for the Defense of Domestic Partnership in this guest post. (Yes, that’s our domestic partnership certificate there, and, yes, we both have a lot of name confusion. You can learn all about that here.) 

My girlfriend and I are gay-married. That’s how we joke about it to friends. We’re a straight couple, but we got domestic-partnered July 17th last year. We’d moved into an apartment together the day before. As soon as we’d gotten all our boxes into the new flat on 14th Street and had a night’s sleep, we took the muggy subway to the New York City Clerk’s office and got ourselves hitched.

We got our domestic partnership as soon as possible because my girlfriend, Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, is a freelance writer. Health insurance for freelancers is ruinously, unjustly expensive. New Yorkers have the substantial advantage of the Freelancers Union’s group plans, but even so, minimal health insurance with the Freelancers Union costs ten times what it would cost us to add Jennifer to my generous corporate health plan. To add her, we had to be spouses or domestic partners. We don’t want to marry now, if ever, so we chose domestic partnership.

[Read more...]

The End of DOMA and Prop 8: Why We Were Finally Ready 2004, when gay and lesbian couples began marrying on the San Francisco courthouse steps, nervous Democrats worried that the spectacle of wedded bliss would turn future elections against them. They cautioned against being too supportive of gay causes, lest mythical “middle America” be turned off by too much enjoyment of equality.
Hard electoral losses in 2004 were credited largely to opportunistic bigot groups pushing state anti-gay measures to turn out the Republican base. Conservative Democrats were quick to say I Told You So.
“I believe it did energize a very conservative vote,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said at the time. “I think it gave them a position to rally around. I’m not casting a value judgment. I’m just saying I do believe that’s what happened.”
“So I think that whole issue has been too much, too fast, too soon,” she added. “And people aren’t ready for it.”
It only took ten years for marriage equality to go from political poison to electorally essential.
Twelve states, the District of Columbia and five Native American tribes now permit same-sex marriages, including the Midwest states of Iowa and Minnesota. Democratic lawmakers now routinely tout gay rights records during elections. The sitting vice president, then the president and first lady, all publicly supported it and were greeted not with shock or scandal but with shrugs of “it’s about time.”
What happened?
First, the simple passage of time. The electorate is getting younger and less socially conservative, as well as less demographically rigid. Young people voting for the first or second time aren’t concerned with who’s sexing whom, and they think your concern over it is more than a little creepy. Those legislators who can read the polls realize this country isn’t going back to the ’50s, no matter how loudly they shout about Adam and Steve.
For another, the world has gotten smaller. Our greater technological connectedness ensures that we see one another’s lives more clearly. The greater presence of out gay and lesbian people in media, as well as greater attention to the dangers of bullying and forcing people to hide who they are, can touch even those who do not personally know an openly gay person.
And last, gay people have gotten married, and the earth has not caved in. The skies have not fallen. Serpents have not begun to speak in human tongues, or whatever the hell apocalyptic scenario was supposed to ensue. Brave men and women, American heroes all, stood up proudly with those they loved and declared their intentions to build a life together.

We were always ready, it turned out, for that.

Bringing Down DOMA, Putting Prop 8 in its Rightful Place the token gay lady at Sexy Feminist, I am especially ecstatic to share my thoughts on the Supreme Court’s rulings today.

To fully illustrate my glee on today’s decisions, I direct you to this little meme from Buzzfeed.

Seriously, my first thought is: finally. (As well as a huge sigh of relief.)

Not only was the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) deemed unconstitutional, but the court also dismissed California’s Proposition 8 case. The latter truly surprised me. My initial prediction was that the justices would strike down DOMA, but leave the notorious proposition alone. While long-term effects of the Prop 8 decision are a bit vague, it is clear to me that the court declared that the petitioners do not legal standing. In essence, the Supreme Court has validated the lower courts that have rejected Prop 8.

Now, I’m hopeful that with both positive outcomes, our country’s justice system will pave the way for future progress. That is to say it will be much harder (if not impossible) to defend discriminatory laws still on the books in individual states.

And for the states that have already legalized same-sex marriages, the defeat of DOMA carries an extra significance: your marriage is now federally recognized. (I think this calls for a second wedding and/or honeymoon, right?)

And speaking of the Feds, the President did not disappoint me. Obama released a statement on the landmark decision. The money quote: “The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.”

To paraphrase my latest Facebook status, I knew I would live to see this moment, I just didn’t know it would come so soon. The snowball that began rolling at the beginning of my formative years is now a bona fide avalanche. In the decade plus since I’ve come out, I’ve witnessed the airings of “Queer as Folk” and “The L Word,” Massachusetts legalizing same-sex marriage, Ellen DeGeneres becoming a household name, the defeat of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; my home state of New Jersey legalizing civil unions, my residence of New York legalizing same-sex marriage, and today, the highest court in the land validating it all.

Now, as MC Hammer once rapped, we’re too legit to quit—in every sense of the phrase.

Fighting the War on Women … with Guns! the cultural War on Women carries on with few signs of subsiding any time soon, people and organizations continue to try to find ways to fight back against the misogyny that pervades our society.  One Texas non-profit organization thinks it has the answer: provide firearms and weapons training to vulnerable women.  While this may sound appealing to some, this is hardly a solution to an ideological problem.

The Armed Citizens Project of Houston is dedicated to providing people in “mid-high crime areas with defensive shotguns, for free!”  (The exclamation mark is theirs.)  Their homepage boasts that they are “[f]ighting the war on women, one free shotgun at a time.”  According to founder Kyle Coplen in an interview withMSNBC, the (stated) reasoning behind his organization is to decrease the crime rate by providing people with guns.  However, that same MSNBC article cites studies indicating that women are less safe with guns in their homes than they would be without them.  But the ACP’s mission has another glaring problem: It treats the War on Women as a literal war, rather than an ideological one.
[Read more...]

Why We Need More Naked Women

It says a lot about the state of our relationship to our bodies that I cried from watching this simple video (embedded below) about a simple photo project: Jade Beall is putting together a book of real, untouched black and white photographs of real women’s bodies. Looking at these gorgeous images, with all their supposed “flaws,” you realize how seldom we see other non-model women’s bodies. You also realize how critical it is that we do so.

We’re so used to thinking that women’s bodies are for straight men’s enjoyment that we forget there could be real advantages to presenting images of the naked form outside of Victoria’s Secret ads and Playboy pictorials. This is where women’s bodies, and even sexuality, truly becomes empowerment. I recently did a boudoir photo shoot with my sister, Julie, who runs Chicago Doll Photography, and it is empowering, as a real woman, to treat yourself like a model in the good ways. You don’t have to objectify yourself to feel the effect; there’s simply a power in treating yourself as worthy of being photographed this way, as if you are as “beautiful” as those VS models. It starts sounding cheesy pretty fast here, of course: You are beautiful! You do deserve it! That’s only because the ad industry has taken these images and these ideas from us and used them to sell products to us that supposedly make us more beautiful since advertising began.

This is why we called ourselves Sexy Feminist — because feminism like this is sexy, and wonderful, and delicious, not because we’re trying to be sexy to straight men. This is what the female gaze looks like, cast upon other female forms:

Watch the video, donate money, volunteer to pose, spread the word, buy the book when it’s out — we should all do whatever we can to support The Beautiful Body Project, and anything else like it.

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