Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Artistic Rape?

What is art and who decides what is defined as art? YesButNoButYes, a blog that identifies itself as “the greatest pop culture blog on the planet,” describes a developing piece by Ohio artist Richard Whitehouse entitled “The Rape Tunnel.” He is constructing an interactive tunnel art piece that ends with the viewer getting raped by Whitehouse himself. This piece is apparently a follow up to his instillation entitled “The Punch-You-in-the-Face Tunnel.”

My initial thought was: “Is this a joke? This can’t be real. Would any art museum even accept this?” While YesButNoButYEs did mention that Whitehouse is still in litigation for his last exhibit, I can’t help but wonder the implications of such a concept (hoax or not). What are the motivations for this piece? Is this art…or an attempt to perpetuate violence?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is there such thing as "ethical" outing?

I found this article on Alternet about Mike Rogers, a reporter who is outing gay-republicans that push for anti-gay legislation. At first I was irritated, because I felt that outing these politicians was intrusive. Yet, as I read on and considered his rationale behind outing the politicians, I honestly gained a little appreciation for his mission. I do not condone what he is doing, but my disapproval does not revolve around the specific information he reveals about these politicians, but rather about personal information, in general, being brought to the public's attention. In response to a question probing the ethics of outing politicians, Rogers responded:

"First of all: Regardless of what they would like, politicians don’t get to decide what stories about their lives will be reported on. That’s not how it works. Whether it’s taking money from the treasury, bribing people, whatever it is - the guy in office doesn’t get to say, ‘Don’t write a story about this, but write a story about that.’"

I see some validity in what he is saying. After all, reporters write about nearly everything a politician does. Why not sexuality? Yet, I feel that it is fairly unethical to write on anyone’s personal life. Additionally, there are repercussions for being gay, and it can be very politically damaging sometimes, more so than reporting on an affair or someone’s drug use. By outing someone you are subjecting them to discrimination and the possibility of losing their job.

Many states in the U.S. still have no legal occupational protection against being discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. Therefore, people can be fired on the basis of being gay, and it is completely legal. If someone were to out an employee at some store in Texas and they got fired for it, many would be enraged with the person who did the outing, so why is it acceptable for Rogers to do the same thing on a national scale? I am still a little torn on how I feel about what Rogers is doing. In the end, I would rather less information be shared. However, if reporters are going to reveal personal information about politicians, the same standards should be applied to all. With this in mind, I am interested in other views on this article and subject.

Friday, September 25, 2009


A new movie Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire promises to shock and inspire. The Movie Insider wrote the following synopsis: “Precious Jones (Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe) is a high-school girl with nothing working in her favor. She is pregnant with her father's child - for the second time. She can't read or write, and her schoolmates tease her for being fat. Her home life is a horror, ruled by a mother (Mo'Nique) who keeps her imprisoned both emotionally and physically. Precious's instincts tell her one thing: if she's ever going to break from the chains of ignorance, she will have to dig deeply into her own resources. Don't be misled - "Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire" is not a film wallowing in the stillness of depression; instead, it vibrates with the kind of energy derived only from anger and hope. The entire cast are amazing; they carry out a firestorm of raw emotion. Daniels has drawn from them inimitable performances that will rivet you to your seat and leave you too shocked to breathe. If you passed Precious on the street, you probably wouldn't notice her. But when her story is revealed, as Daniels does in this courageous film, you are left with an indelible image of a young woman who - with creativity, humor, and ferocity - finds the strength to turn her life around.”
While I have not seen the film, it strikes me as being as one of those rare films whose goal is to tell a story about the real problems that poor, urban, women face. Despite a cast of big stars like Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz this movie does not appear to have a Hollywood spin placed on it allowing the emphasis to remain on the main character’s struggle to make the best of her situation, even when the cards are stacked against her.

The movie is set to be released on November 13, 2009. After the film’s success at the Sundance Film Festival, the Oscar rumors have already begun….

"Get Felt Up and Prevent Breast Cancer"....??

Over 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Roughly one in eight women either has, or will develop, breast cancer at some point in her life. Each year over 40,000 women die from breast cancer. About 1,700 men will be diagnosed and 450 will die each year from breast cancer.

These are sobering statistics. Breast cancer is a serious problem that needs some serious attention. Unfortunately, it’s getting the wrong kind.

This a Canadian PSA made by an organization called ReThink Breast Cancer. The intention is to get men interested in breast cancer awareness and fundraising efforts. They’re not the only ones. The following are just some of the t-shirts you’re likely to see people wearing.

Not to mention the slogans like "Save a Life, Grope your Wife" and "My Boobs are Killer." There are others. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard them.

So what is the problem with all of these? Once again, women are being sexually objectified. The adds are concentrating more on the loss of boobs for the sake of men’s amusement than the loss of countless women’s lives. Is that really the message we want to be sending as a society? It's as if we're saying: "Well, we don’t really care about all these women dying, but the loss of all those boobs...oh, no!" It’s assigning women a value based on their sexual worth, and that is not ok.
What about the women who survive breast cancer because of a mastectomy or double mastectomy? Are we saying that their lives are worth less? And, although women are much more likely to have breast cancer and die from it, what about the men who have breast cancer, do they not count at all?
I am a huge supporter of funding cancer support and research, but this is not the kind of attention that we want. There are a number of really awesome organizations that fight against breast cancer in a way that is empowering to women (and men) who have breast cancer. Let’s throw our support behind those!
For alternative ways to support breast cancer patients and survivors please visit

Thursday, September 24, 2009

University Official says Attractive Female Students are "Perk of the Job"

Dr. Terence Kealy, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham in Buckingham, England has been quoted in an article of Times Higher Education Magazine on the seven deadly sins of academia saying that professors are aware of female students who “flaunted their curves.”

He says, “ most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and asks for advice on her essays. What to do? Enjoy her, she’s a perk.”

He continued by referencing literature characters to compare to the students. “She doesn’t yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily, to spice up sex, nightly, with the wife.”

These comments have created quite an uproar. Kealy later made a statement saying “It says that sex between middle-aged academics and young undergraduates is wrong. It also says that academics should enjoy the company of their students. That too is unexceptionable.”

He called the article a “moral piece” saying he was using humor to promote self restraint.

This is super offensive and adds a whole new side to sexual harassment at the university level. How did he even get a job at a university? And furthermore, why in the world would he think that every single (attractive) female student that asks for help or advice is only doing so because she is sexually interested in her professor and is “flaunting” herself. Is it so unfathomable that a female who is attractive could also be smart and interested in the class and/or concerned about her grade? Although I suppose in his mind only the “unattractive” female students are serious students.

What do you think? Is this offensive or just harmless humor?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Makin' Penises Look Pretty?

While reading a few articles on, I stumbled upon this article on circumcision. The idea of me writing on the matter of circumcision seems like the tag line of some joke; nevertheless, the article intrigued me, and I felt that I should share it.

The article’s juxtaposition of the commonalties between circumcision and female genital mutilation is intriguing. If you happened to read my post on FGM a few months back, I compared vaginal rejuvenation with FGM. Circumcision introduces a whole new aspect to the argument, particularly when considering the religious connections for both FGM and circumcision, the lack of individual consent for these procedures, and societal repercussions that stem from having or not having one of these procedures.

I hope that this post will fuel an interesting debate over whether or not circumcision can be related to FGM

Friday, September 18, 2009

I doubt this is about mice….

The tragic story of Annie Le has gripped the country not only because of its’ location at an Ivy League school and proximity to her wedding day, but also because of the lack of explanation for the attack. So far investigators have offered little information about what motivated Raymond Clark to strangle Annie Le at the Yale lab where they both worked and hide her body in a utility crawl space. School Officials and the New Haven Police have stated that this was workplace violence issue, but slowly information is coming forward that suggests Clark may have had control issues, especially when it came to women.

For instance it has been reported that Clark forced sex on his high school girlfriend in 2003 and when she tried to break it off it became necessary to call the police who later advised Clark not have any further contact with her. His current relationship does not seem much better with neighbors commenting that "[h]e would never let her talk to anyone. I would hear a lot of yelling upstairs." This behavior sounds like it carried over into the lab where Clark’s co-workers noted that Clark was very strict with the mice cages he was responsible for. All of these circumstances suggest to me that Clark feels the need to control those around him, particularly women.
It would not surprise me if the motive for this attack turns out to be related to this loss of control. Some news reports have mentioned emails from Clark to Le regarding the cleanliness of her mice cages and requesting her to meet with him. I think it is very possible Le may have been defiant about her cages or perhaps spurned his advances causing Clark to feel such a loss of control over Le that he attacked her in an attempt to regain it.

I hope investigators will not stop searching for the motive behind Le’s murder because if this case is labeled solely a workplace violence issue, it will de-emphasize the problem of violence against women which I believe underlies the reason for this attack.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spousal Abuse is Pre-Existing Condition in Some States

Ok, so I know that healthcare and insurance is a huge topic right now. Private insurance companies are being criticized for some of their practices; one of these is singling out people with pre-existing conditions. The other day, one of my professors posted a link to an article titled "When Getting Beaten By your Husband is a Pre-Existing Condition."

It turns out that in seven states (Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming-see the update near the bottom of the page) and the District of Colombia having an abusive spouse is a pre-existing condition. After reading this, I was completely shocked; I had never heard of this before. The article goes on to say,
"Under the cold logic of the insurance industry, it makes perfect sense: If you are in a marriage with someone who has beaten you in the past, you're more likely to get beaten again than the average person and are therefore more expensive to insure. In human terms, it's a second punishment for a victim of domestic violence."

In 2006, Representative Patty Murray (D-Washington) introduced an amendment to stop this practice; however, it never made it past the committee stage.
I am saddened that this practice is still legal; it seems like another way to once again blame the victim. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Femiphobia in the World around Us

In The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity, author Steven Ducat introduces the term femiphobia, defined as the fear of being feminine. Femiphobia is exhibited through a variety of means. For example, forcing prisoners to wear pink uniforms as well as the following commercials:

What do these advertising campaigns indicate about gender norms? In what ways do such commercials position masculinity above femininity? How are they each being valued, if at all?

Femiphobia, a term unfamiliar to many, remains an issue that is ignored, all while femininity becomes the brunt of jokes. If a man chooses to experiment with femininity, it is often viewed as a comedic parody or a threat to masculinity in general. Think drag queens or the more recent SNL sketch of Justin Timberlake duplicating Beyonce’s Single Ladies.

Jessica Valenti states in The Purity Myth that “femiphobia is at the heart of enabling social sexism like the sexual double standard, political sexism that relies on paternalism in policy, and even violence against women.” Acknowledging femiphobia’s existence and its associated damage is the first step; the next step? In Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Julia Serano suggests that men aid in debunking femiphobia by revaluing “girl stuff.” “If you want your boyfriend to treat you with respect, then tell him that you won’t sleep with him until he starts putting barrettes in his hair,” she writes. The need to combat femiphobia is clear. The only problem now is deciding the color of your barrette.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It Ain’t “Nuthin’ But a Gene Thang”: The Complexities of Sex and Gender and the Caster Semenya Case

After hearing about the case of the South African track star Caster Semenya, I quickly decided it was a topic worth exploring for this blog. Unfortunately, my co-worker thought the same thing. But there are aspects of this case that warranted discussion which Lettie did not touch upon in her post.

My colleague mentioned that various media outlets have reported that Semenya is a hermaphrodite, which is false. Further research reveals that there are at least 45 other variations of intersex conditions besides hermaphodism. And according to this, some experts estimate that 1/1500 infants are born with an intersex condition.

As a student working towards a major in child development and a minor in psychology, my coursework has taught me that a person’s sex is biological, and the concept of gender is learned. Semenya’s family maintains that she is female, and that she was raised as such. And Semenya herself identifies as a woman. The concept of a person’s gender is an extremely complex one, and it is difficult examine through our society’s stereotype-fogged glasses.

Many intersex conditions are not diagnosed at birth; they might not be noticed until later in life, if signs of puberty are delayed or not present. It has been revealed that Semenya does not have any ovaries or uterus, which means she would not have a menstrual cycle. Before this knowledge had been acquired, her amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual period) could have been attributed to the Female Athlete Triad. The Female Athlete Triad is a cluster of symptoms (amenorrhea, disordered eating, and osteoporosis) that, as the name suggests, is prevalent among female athletes and runners are particularly susceptible.

On a positive note, Semenya is a hometown hero; her community is very supportive, and celebrates her victories. After the blatant violation of Semenya’s privacy and human rights, it is at least a comfort to see her accomplishments respected and appreciated.


Challenging the Binary

Recently, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Caster Semenya, a South African world champion runner. There was debate over her biological sex after some rival athletes made accusations that Semenya was a transgendered woman. This prompted a “battery of gender tests” by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which recently reported that Semenya is actually intersexed.

Now, there are a myriad of things wrong with this whole situation. I have concerns with: the way that the IAAF handled the case, along with the clear ethical questions surrounding Semenya’s rights, and the lack of political correctness by some “progressive” sources, particularly where the term “hermaphrodite” is used profusely and incorrectly.
The term hermaphrodite refers to an organism that has both male and female reproductive organs and has the ability to reproduce - there are no cases of a human being a hermaphrodite. Intersex on the other hand is a condition where chromosomes are atypical and create different degrees of biological maleness and femaleness. Thus, a person who is intersex may have an ambiguous biological sex, but is not a hermaphrodite because of the lack of reproductive ability. Often, the term hermaphrodite is used in a derogatory/incorrect manner.

With all of the innacurracies and injustices surrounding this case, one can only hope that this will challenge people’s views of binary restrictions on sex and gender. Furthermore, if any good can be taken from this injustice, let it be increased awareness and hopefully progress towards eradicating discrimination; we should not allow this woman to have to endure this experience in vain.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ohio Supreme Court Ruling Supports Workplace Discrimination Against Women

When LaNisa Allen was fired from her job at Totes/Isotoner inWest Chester, Ohio for taking a break to pump breastmilk she sued for discrimination citing Ohio laws preventing sex and pregnancy discrimination. However, her employer stated that her firing was not related to taking breaks to pump breast milk, but for failure to follow directions and taking an unauthorized break.

A trial court sided with Totes/Istoner stating;
“Allen gave birth over five months prior to her termination from [Isotoner]. Pregnant [women] who give birth and chose not to breastfeed or pump their breasts do not continue to lactate for five months. Thus, Allen’s condition of lactating was not a condition relating to pregnancy but rather a condition related to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding discrimination does not constitute gender discrimination.”

The Ohio Supreme Court stated that Allen’s lawyers did not provide enough evidence that Allen was treated differently than other employees who took restroom breaks for reasons other than pumping. So the Supreme Court failed to address the question of whether or not lactation discrimination is in fact pregnancy and/or sex discrimination.

Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and two concurring justices wrote;
“This court does not reach the issue of whether alleged discrimination due to lactation is included within the scope of Ohio’s employment-discrimination statute.”

Other Justices agreed with the ruling, however thought that the lactation discrimination issue should have been looked at. Justice Maureen O’Conner wrote the opinion for those justices.
“The lead opinion’s failure to address the legal framework in which this case arises is disappointing… the question of whether Ohio law recognizes discrimination claims based on lactation is of great general interest.”

Justice Paul Pfeifer wrote the dissenting opinion saying;
“Ohio’s working mothers who endure the uncomfortable sacrifice of privacy that almost necessarily accompanies their attempt to remain on the job and nourish their children deserve to know whether Ohio’s pregnancy-discrimination laws protect them. I would hold in this case that employment discrimination due to lactation is unlawful pursuant to R.C. 4112.01(B), that clear public policy justifies an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine for women fired for reasons relating to lactation.”

I don’t know you about you, but this case just makes me mad. First of all, it is quite interesting that Justice Pfeifer was the person to write the dissenting opinion supporting Allen and not one of the three women justices on the court. Also, although the court did not specifically address the issue of lactation discrimination, there is now a precedent in Ohio that firing women for issues relating to breastfeeding is not discrimination. How disturbing is that?

To me it is clear that issues concerning lactation are related to pregnancy and therefore should be included in pregnancy and sex discrimination. When is the last time you saw a man breastfeeding?

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Curiouser and curiouser . . .

So I was at the grocery store yesterday and ran into some very interesting items. Food products geared at men and women. Now, I've known about yogurt for "women" and vitamins that are more geared toward men or women, but I think I can draw the line at bread and quiche. I mean, really? Quiche for men? Is there really some untapped market out there for men who aren't yet eating quiche, but that the quiche-makers of the world believe are just waiting on the sidelines for a manly egg dish so they can start buying and eating quiche in bulk?

I'm simply confounded by this. Is there multi-grain bread that makes your hair prettier or perhaps the slices in the Men's Bread are cut thicker? Can you imagine a guy walking into the kitchen and upon seeing his girlfriend opening up the freezer saying, "WAIT! WAIT! Don't eat that - it's MAN QUICHE."
I'm open to ideas about WHY these items would need to be marketed to one gender or the other. Really - I am. So let me know what you think. Until then, I'm going to buy my bread - and my quiche - gender-neutral.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Women's Resource Center Turns Thirty!

Preparations are underway as we get ready for the festivities that tomorrow brings. We are celebrating our 30th anniversary with an open house from 3 to 6 P.M. Stop by for some yummy desserts and help us celebrate our 30th birthday!