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December 16, 2004
Gender identity.
posted by house9 : link : track it (0) : read comments (5) : post comment

Are you familiar with butch and femme as gender identities? These are designations primarily in the queer community that describe how "masculine" or "feminine" one is, or perceives oneself to be. They exist on a spectrum with many gradations, and it is extremely important to some people to identify at one specific point on the spectrum, and not much or at all to others.

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a colleague, who identifies as a lesbian and who also identifies as femme, about the implications of holding a particular identity - or not holding one - along the butch/femme spectrum. She said that for her, claiming a femme identity means reclaiming and revaluing certain aspects of femininity that are devalued in the general society, but especially historically devalued in lesbian culture, or that make lesbian identity invisible. This femme identity extends even into her spiritual life, as she is drawn to female-affirming religious practices and pagan systems that celebrate certain things, like childbirth and domestic activities, traditionally associated with feminine energy.

On the other hand, it can be argued that that traditional association of gender with certain activities, energies, and traits can be seen as having evolved from patriarchy and to claim them is somehow complicit with oppression. Certainly that argument was popular during the 70's, at which time "butch" and "femme" identities were rejected in favor of a conscientious androgyny. I struggle with this a lot - I do a lot of activities and dress in ways that make people assume that I identify as femme, but I adamantly do not, and for some reason am sensitive about it. Why is it so important to me to reject a femme identity? What does it mean to reject it? That's a question I revisit frequently, usually without a satisfying answer.

I realize that if you're straight and of unambiguous physical gender, a question of gender identity may not have come up in quite this way. But what do you make of the butch/femme spectrum? Has it come up for you? Do you hold a gender identity that goes beyond your body parts? Do you feel at all genderqueer? Was this identity-formation something intuitive or natural, or did you choose it consciously? How do you feel this affects your life? What do you think might be different if you identified differently (or, what challenges do you think face people who identify differently)? What does it mean to hold a gender identity or to reject identifying as one particular "notch" on a gender-related spectrum? What are you really accepting or rejecting?

Big questions. Maybe you can tackle at least one part of them.

November 28, 2004
posted by alison : link : track it (0) : read comments (5) : post comment

I think we had this one last year, but what are you reading? What do you read when you want feminist inspiration? What about your trashy or relaxing reading books? How are womyn portrayed in those?

November 02, 2004
Rape fantasies.
posted by house9 : link : track it (0) : read comments (10) : post comment

Is everybody keyed up about the election? Good, let's acknowledge that. I'm nervous about it, too. This is why I'm not going to ask a question directly related to it.

I'm single/celibate and have been for some time. Thus, in search of some sort of *ahem* outlet, and not to get into the whole pornography debate, because that's not really the focus of this question, I've taken to reading the occasional erotic story. In the course of this, I've noticed an overwhelming preponderance of stories classified as "non-consent" - that is, stories eroticizing coersion and/or rape. Just from totally unscientific observation, I'd say it's by far the most common genre. Some are written by men, some by women, and some by people who don't identify their gender.

On the site I read most frequently, there's also a bulletin board, and the topic of rape fantasies was raised on it recently. That is, someone had written a "non-consent" story, and she was having some mixed feelings about what it meant to eroticize rape in her fantasies and in her writing. Other respondents chimed in with much the same ambivalence. Some felt that because it was "just fantasy," it was a harmless way for people to explore their feelings; others felt that it turned them on but they were ashamed about it; others, that it reflected having been taught the negative messages that people deserve to be raped and secretly want it.

What do you think? Do you ever have rape fantasies? What do you make of them? Or the fact that they're apparently so common? Do you think that if internalized sexism were less entrenched and rape were less condoned, it would change whether people considered the subject erotic?

October 27, 2004
Image of the Hidden Body
posted by kerri : link : track it (0) : read comments (1) : post comment

Natalie Anglier, author of Woman: An Intimate Geography, articulates the various perceptions of women. Representing her own feelings, Anglier writes:

...the idea of pairing wine and women isn't a bad one, as the acidity of the vagina in health is just about that of a glass of red wine. This is the vagina that sings; this is the vagina with bouquet, with legs" (53).

Compare that to another view of the female body:

"As recently as the nineteenth century, physicians argued that the uterus competes directly with the brain for an adequate blood supply. Thus any effort a woman made to nourish her mind through education or career could come only at the expense of her fertility" (85).

Is patriarchy or sexism a result of how society or an individual perceives the female reproductive system? How does this come into play with the role of women in the 2004 elections?

October 15, 2004
posted by april : link : track it (1) : read comments (3) : post comment

I've been a party to a handful of really heated debates between feminists recently (those of you who belong to the LiveJournal feminist communities probably know what I'm talking about). I was going to ask you all about the usefulness of subcategories of feminism in light of the divisiveness those categories seems to create sometimes, but then a friend posted something a million times more positive.

What she wrote about was her "feminist utopia" - the vision she had of (in this case one specific aspect of) an ideal feminist world. That seems like the perfect thing to come back to periodically, to revisit and revise your own ideas, but also to remember the things we are all working for.

So that's your assignment for this week (or however long it takes you - this could be a very complex question): tell the rest of us about your feminist utopia. You don't need to worry about what's realistic or how to get there (although if you have ideas, by all means share). Just think about it.

October 03, 2004
Body Image
posted by alison : link : track it (2) : read comments (13)

I've been contemplating my post-baby body as well as the topic for the first issue of meowpower - body image. I know that at times, I feel icky about myself, but sometimes I love all the curves that my body has presented. I also know that in the past, my body image has, at times, been horrid while at other times, it's been good.
My question is thus: how is your body image? What do you do to maintain your body image? How do you cope with medias fixation on what your body image should be? What do you think of diet plans where exercise (and in fact healthy eating!!) are a side factor of losing weight? How about the current round of makeover and plastic surgery shows? And, if you have a negative body image, how does that impact your feminism?

September 23, 2004
What She Said!
posted by morgaine : link : track it (0) : read comments (5) : post comment

Hey, everyone-

This is half collab topic, half announcement. I've started a project called What She Said! that is an attempt to create a master blogroll of Progressive Women Bloggers. I'm a little tired of hearing that there aren't many women blogging. Let me tell you, I can't believe how many we are!

I hope all of you will send me your links. The only criteria is that the blog must be by a woman, or if it's a group blog, one woman must be included. The blog has to deal with politics at least part-time, lean Left, and uphold general Feminist standards: pro-choice, size acceptance, pay equity, etc.

I know I don't have everyone yet, so send them in! Also, fill out the 6 profile questions so I can introduce you on the blog.

Finally - have you ever experienced discrimination in the blogosphere? When, where and what kind? Do you feel women bloggers are treated differently? Share your experiences here, and the next time some guy asks you where all the women bloggers are, tell him What She Said!

September 20, 2004
women and the election
posted by victoria : link : track it (0) : read comments (15) : post comment

Will women decide this next election? And if so, for whom will they decide? An article on NPR this morning said that Bush is winning the women's vote, in particular in the Bible thumping swing states like Ohio, where they are coming out in droves to vote for Bush because he is against gay marriage.

A USA Today poll breaks it down thusly and calls it The 'marriage gap':
BushKerryDem Advantage
Married women54%41%-13
All women45%50%+5%
Unmarried women35%60%+25
Marriage gap:+38
Source: gallup Polls from March-August 2004, including a total of 5,757 women who are registered voters,. Margin of error: +/- 2 percentage points.

This again, points to many of the swing states where there are more married than unmarried women. The questions are:

  1. Does this worry you?
  2. What, if anything can/should we do about it?
  3. If you are planning to vote for a 3rd party candidate, does this information have any impact on you at all?

September 13, 2004
Stitch & Bitch?
posted by house9 : link : track it (4) : read comments (8) : post comment

Perhaps you've heard - crafting, of all sorts, but especially things to do with yarn, aka knitting and crocheting, has made a huge comeback in the past couple of years. Young women who previously did very little in the way of "traditional female arts" have taken up needles and hooks and started creating a demand for hip, youthful designs and so-called "Stitch & Bitch" knitting circles.

It's an interesting coincidence that this spike in interest in crafting and homemade items has really happened since September 11, 2001.

What do you think of this phenomenon? Do you read it as a positive trend, in the tradition of feminist groups that began as a result of women coming together for a socially accepted purpose, communal handwork, and as a result of connecting with one another, learning that they faced common barriers and could help empower one another? Or do you see it as problematic, in that in the face of a cultural climate in which strongly "traditional" (that is to say, conservative) values have taken over, women have reverted to the kinds of work deemed appropriate for them in earlier, more overtly patriarchal days? I'll never find the article again, but I did read one columnist's take on the knitting comeback that reflected that position - she said that taking up knitting now was an unhealthy coping mechanism that indirectly condoned the war, in a "keeping the home fires burning" kind of way, and she'd have none of it.

Update 9/14/04: Aha! I found the article after all! Only between yesterday and today, the Charlotte Observer decided to institute a fee for retrieving archived articles. Bah! Anyway, if you're interested, it's called "Nesting Urge Won't Remove Cause of Fears," by Tonya Jameson, and it originally appeared on March 23, 2003.

So, what's your take?

September 01, 2004
Women and Wheels
posted by kerri : link : track it (1) : read comments (13) : post comment

How come Helen Keller couldn't drive?
Because she was female.

That was a "joke" that a 16-year old male told me a few days ago. He thought it was hilarious. He does not even have his license yet.

Males have higher insurance rates than females. They get into more fatal accidents. But, the stereotype of women as bad drivers persists. This "joke" (offensive on several levels) is evidence of that.

A teenager told the "joke," but I have heard MANY men comment about female drivers.

What is up with this garbage?

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