Links for Sexy Feminists: Against “Dieting”, Safer Sweatshops, Women Vote in Pakistan, More

Against the “Diet”: A poignantly inspiring tale of a woman who watched her father waste away due to self starvation and vows to embrace her own plus -ize figure. If you’re ever at a loss for body positivity, may we recommend reading and rereading this compilation of advice from fat women who love their curves. Meanwhile, having broken the “We don’t want fat people” Abercrombie story, Business Insider charts a precipitous drop in the brand’s popularity following the story.

Safer Sweatshops: On the other end of the fashion cycle, we were encouraged to hear that several prominent retailers are committing to improve factory conditions in Bangladesh.

Rethinking Choice: One woman’s interesting take on the semantic argument between “Life” and “Choice.”

Surprise!: Greater access to and education about birth control leads to fewer abortions. Interestingly, education in the study led many women to conclude that an IUD was the right choice for them, suggesting that the long-term solution may be underused.

Sex Positivity: Thanks to Jezebel for this primer on the so-called “looseness” of the vulva. NSFW.

Mommy Life: One woman’s story about coming to terms with postpartum depression and accepting that her husband could be the better caregiver at the beginning.

Activism Works: The Florida teen whose science experiment caused a minor explosion has had charges dropped after internet activists accused the accusers of racism. Meanwhile, though Disney has publicly backed down from its Merida makeover, only time will tell if they’re changing her back.

Women in the World: Pakistani women braved threats of violence to vote this past weekend, while Kuwaiti women are gaining grounds for athletic competition. Coming from a different religious perspective, Israel has struck down the mandate that women and men be segregated on public bus rides through conservative neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Canadian students created this funny and thought-provoking spoof of gender roles in advertising.

Are 40-plus Celeb Moms Shopping at Eggs ‘R’ Us?


Pregnancy seems to be on the rise for over-40 celebrities like Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Kelly Preston and Naomi Watts. These women seem to have the proverbial “it all” – stardom, riches and family. They make it seem so easy to have a career, delay pregnancy until they are in their 40s, and begin a family on their own terms. If they can do it, we can, too … Can’t we?

Probably not. Anything’s possible, but the way most women’s fertility clocks work, it is unlikely that these women’s children are biologically theirs. It’s no one’s business but their own, but since they are in the public spotlight, it does send a message that pregnancy in your 40s is easy. However, research shows that most of the time, it is not.

The last thing we want to do is pile onto the “hurry up, settle down, your eggs are wasting away!” panic the media often foists upon us. But in this case, the tabloids are peddling an opposite, and impossible, fairy-tale ideal. In the spirit of helping women to pursue every life option they want, we think it’s important to know: The only surefire way to put off children until well into your 40s and beyond is to get an egg donor or a surrogate when the time comes — or to freeze your eggs, an expensive but increasingly popular option, when you’re still in your 20s or 30s.

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Links for Sexy Feminists: Marriage Equality, lessons from Steubenville, and more …

Marriage Equality: The Supreme Court has now heard two cases, each of which could lead to a redefinition of marriage. There is also a chance that the court could refuse to redefine marriage, instead giving the issue more time to develop. But to refuse to broaden the definition of marriage would put them on the wrong side of history, Stephanie Coontz argued following Obama’s public endorsement last May: Straight people have already changed the definition of marriage. BeyondMarriage, meanwhile, makes a case for reframing marriage, family, and healthcare rather than focusing on marriage equality.

Pink Equality: On the lighter side, Facebook users are doubtless aware of the campaign to change all profile pictures to a pink and red equals sign. If you’d like to show your solidarity in a more quirky way, HuffPo has gathered some alternative examples.

Moving Past Steubenville: One high school teacher’s heartwarming narrative of talking to her ninth graders about consent.

Was Feminism Hijacked? A thought-provoking piece in Al-Jazeera argues that whether women are told to “lean in” or to “have it all,”  the feminist icons delivering the message are undercutting the movement.

Dating While Feminist: A great piece on how to negotiate that oh-so-tricky part of life.

Women in Prison: Oklahoma explores rehabilitating nonviolent female criminals.

Retro Housewives: Meanwhile, New York magazine unleashed a furor with a purposely controversial piece on the “retro wife.” When reached for interview by the Atlantic, Kelly Makino, the woman profiled in that piece, points out that systemic societal biases against women contributed to her decision and that she doesn’t consider herself a traditional housewife.

Cleaning House: Exercise your right to not be judged for a messy house!


Links for Sexy Feminists: Women Working, Domestic Violence, Silver Vixens, and more

Women Working: Women face and handle workplace stresses differently than men, according to a recent study covered in the WSJ. What’s more, they often face subtle stereotyping after becoming new mothers.

James to Janice: The etiquette of addressing a friend’s gender transition.

Single and Loving It: A great piece on why simply being married (or single) isn’t the magic bullet for your life.

Feminism and Abuse: One woman’s perspective on an abusive ex sheds light on the damage the patriarchy did to the male abuser.

Silver Vixens: Portraits of women who let their natural silver shine.

The Girls Controversy, Continued: Film Critic Hulk Smash compares Lena Dunham’s show favorably to The Sopranos in an astute critical piece.

Does Feminism Overlook Motherhood for Abortion Rights?

While mainstream media often try to pit feminism against motherhood (our stance: that’s bullshit), there’s no doubt that conflict exists for working mothers. Guest blogger Guinevere A. Murphy, Ph.D. reveals how returning to her high-level career in science after giving birth to a child made her question, then value, feminism.

The beeping machines and the loud voices in the crowded delivery room fell silent in the instant I saw the tiny, crying baby. My baby. A long minute later, they placed the wet, pink, perfect little human in my arms. A warmth and light effused my being, and without even a slight hint of cliché, I thought wonderingly, “This is the best moment of my life,” with an absolute certainty and fervor beyond anything I’d ever experienced.

Everything changed in that moment. I had to separate my life into pre-Evie and post-Evie epochs, like B.C. and A.D. The overwhelming love I felt for my baby gave me a clarity and sense of purpose I hadn’t realized was missing before.

I came to realize after Evie’s birth that my devotion to my career in science had become in large part an act, one that I put on, among other factors, because of my whole-hearted belief in what is popularly attributed to a feminist ideal of the high-achieving career woman, but I’ve since come to realize originates more from an out-of-control, greed-dominated corporate culture. Marissa Mayer famously went back to work after just a “few weeks,” and worked from home while still healing from delivery. Her decision to do this largely contributes to the idea of motherhood as merely a minor bump in the road of one’s career trajectory.

I went back to the office at six weeks. It’s not hyperbole to say that my every instinct cried out against walking out the door most mornings, and nights I mourned if I was home even five minutes late, for the precious hour we had together before bedtime. My experience illustrates why feminism is still needed in the U.S., one of four countries in the world without mandated paid maternity leave. This angle wasn’t lost on me at the time, but above all, I felt a furious, overwhelming sense of betrayal, by the feminist movement.  [Read more...]

Links for Sexy Feminists: Wishing rape on rapists, prioritizing marriage over kids, and more …

If you read one thing today, it should be Jessica Wakeman’s piece on The Frisky about this week’s Central Park rape victim publicly wishing rape upon her rapist. It’s an interesting debate: Is it ever okay to wish rape upon rapists, molesters, etc.? And we agree with Wakeman’s answer, which is: no. But we can’t blame the surprisingly vocal victim for her intense feelings this soon after the attack, of course, either.

While we don’t agree with certain reports that it’s the End of Men, we don’t mind a good “Call to Arms for Decent Men,” from Jezebel. And speaking of decent men, we aren’t a bit surprised by a survey on YourTango that shows counseling professionals think straight moms should prioritize their husbands over their kids. Don’t worry, you’ll take care of your kids, and they’ll turn out fine. But everybody will be happier if Mom and Dad are loving each other and working together.

new poll by the Society for Women’s Health Research concludes that two in five women of childbearing age don’t use birth control, mainly because they don’t think they can get pregnant. Wait, what? When we read that, we paused, suspicious of the survey having a biased angle. But, nope. It was conducted by a nonprofit women’s health group, reviewed by medical professionals and published in medical journals. Polls don’t represent the total population, of course, but this one reveals a scary truth of which we need to be reminded: lack of honest sex education hurts women, period.

Your activist link of the day: Help Equality Now fight Female Genital Mutilation by sending a message to the Indonesian government asking for the repeal of a Ministry of Health regulation that legitimizes the brutal practice.

Feminism vs. Motherhood

It probably goes without saying that I believe feminism and motherhood are not mutually exclusive. But feminism continues to be targeted as the cause of parenting woes rather than the solution to them. Labored rant to come on the new Sexy Feminist sister blog, Stay tuned for launch this month.

I am impressed, however, by the balance and sound arguments in the New York Times‘s latest Room for Debate round table, “Feminism vs. Motherhood.” There’s an attachment parenting advocate who defends being feminist while breastfeeding and co-sleeping; an unapologetic workaholic mom who believes being the best that she can be is the best thing she can do for her children; a grandma who reminds us we need stop judging each other—a mom of a special-needs child echoes that sentiment; that lady who thinks French moms are the creme de la creme; and a mothering traditionalist (think: 1950s housewifery) who blames feminism for pretty much everything wrong with society and its children.

The latter argument is a given in this debate, and though hers is not alone in attacking feminism for causing women to devalue marriage and family, in this debate it’s hardly the loudest. Mostly because for perhaps the first time I’ve clicked on an article with a headline like “femimism vs. motherhood,” (and there seems to be a new one every day), I see  a wealth of perspectives. Though each essay was written and published independently, the series reads like a conversation. It gives me hope that we can have civil, educated, open-minded debates with other women on this topic. Because the one thing we all have in common—whether we sling our babies with us everywhere or formula-feed while working 60 hours a week—is that we all struggle with balancing the demands and importance of raising our children while maintaining our identities as individuals.

Doing both is perhaps the hardest thing about parenting and I believe the most important.

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.


Learning How To Date When You’re A Divorced Mother

I’ll be upfront and say that this whole dating thing is really weird for me. I got married at 20 to my college boyfriend and split up 16 years later, now with two kids. The dating I did in my teens couldn’t really be called dating. And my marriage was a dysfunctional mess that started off with bad dynamics that only got worse. As my therapist reminded me, by the time I was 36 I needed to spend a lot of time learning about myself, the kind of life I wanted and what kind of partner I wanted to go with that. That’s been easier said than done.

Since the split I’ve made plenty of time for sex but not really for dating. I figured out pretty early on that I needed sex on a sort of maintenance level to offset the stresses of my job and raising two preteens. It took a while for me to open that door but once I did I had no problem finding willing partners, mostly men I’d already known. But in order to do so, they had to accept the the terms of my relationship: You take what little time I can squirrel away from work and kids, and you never meet my children.

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Sexy Feminists Read: Jennifer Baumgardner’s ‘F ‘em: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls

We’ll admit it: Jennifer Baumgardner is a bit of a longtime feminist crush of ours. The Manifesta co-author (with Amy Richards) and Third Wave activist offers up a collection of essays on current feminist topics, from motherhood to Lady Gaga, in her new book, F ‘em. We chatted with her about the changing state of the movement, the feminist merits of Eminem and Louis CK, and abstinence worship.

How has feminism changed since you wrote Manifesta?

I guess the obvious things are the things that we didn’t anticipate at all like the Internet and social media and the ways that feminists have popularized the idea that gender might be on a continuum as opposed to just sexuality. That means there’s a lot more room for men.

How have your own feelings about feminism changed since then?

I used to be a little bit more bumper-sticker-slogan. And in some ways I’m more radical. Before I didn’t really trust that I had to figure out these things for myself. At 41 I’m a little bit better at figuring it out. For example, my assumptions about what abortion was like that were based on talking to people who were in the business of lobbying. I’ve realized that those political institutions didn’t have to be my focus.

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