Thursday, August 31, 2006

More Good News

Found this on Yahoo news today and I'm going to post the whole thing for those who haven't heard. I'm going to go ahead and say this is probably a great, great thing even though I know very little about the state of sexual politics in Britain and how this law is actually going to function. It would be interesting to know more about how they are defining "extreme sexual violence." If anyone has more information about this law and the feminist response to it that's happening now I'd be interested to hear about it. For the most part though, it sounds like our British sisters are way ahead of us.

"LONDON (AFP) - Watching and possessing images of rape and sexual torture is to be made a criminal offence, punishable with a jail term of up to three years.

The plan follows a campaign by two MPs and the mother of a schoolteacher who was killed in 2003.

Violent Internet pornography was implicated in the trial of the man convicted of her murder.

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said there was an urgent need to tackle the problem because such images were becoming more easily available on the Internet and control of their distribution more difficult.

The new laws -- which will cover pornography online and offline -- will ban possession of images depicting "scenes of extreme sexual violence", plus other obscene material like bestiality or necrophilia.

For example, it would cover violence that is, or appears to be, life-threatening or is likely to result in "serious and disabling injury".

Britain's Obscene Publications Act 1959 currently bans the publication and distribution of such material, but not its possession.

Under the proposals, the maximum penalty for publication, distribution and possession for gain of obscene pornography would also be increased from three to five years' imprisonment.

The Home Office said they did not intend to target people who accidentally access obscene pornography nor those working within the mainstream adult entertainment industry, which works within existing obscenity laws.

The project is in response to a consultation launched last year and comes after a 50,000-signature petition against extreme Internet sites promoting violence against women for sexual gratification was presented to parliament."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Grunts and Postures

So, since I have nothing to do at work right now until school gets back in session, I've spent most of today reading some of the archives of Holla Back NYC and mulling over the whole issue of street harassment. Like every other woman on the planet, I've experienced my fair share of it. Guys whistling and shouting something that sounded sort of like "banana taco head" out of their car windows, the scary homeless guy who follows you around muttering obscenities, the 40 year old shopkeeper who kept asking how old you are (15) and if you'd like to go clubbing with him (fuck no), the bad feelings you get in your stomach when you get "that look" on the bus or just around certain guys anywhere. Over time I've learned to give the finger and a witty remark with the best of them which does make me feel better, but I still end up chewing on a nice, gristly chunk of anger and fear with a garnish of shame. Yum yum.

One of the things that a couple of the women mention in the blog is that when you're harassed on the street it's hard to tell if a guy is dangerous or just dangerously clueless. Some men think this attention is flattering and it can be easy to feel like you should be flattered. I mean, someone in possession of a cock has actually noticed you! Hark! He hath deigned to proposition thee! I forget which bad ass feminist said this particular quote, but it's stuck with me for a while: Women fear being physically attacked by men and men fear being laughed at. Street harassment is a perfect snapshot of how those fears play out. The moment a man catcalls me I feel that fear of being assaulted bristle to the front of my brain, but handily enough, it seems like the best defense IS often to laugh at them or make fun of them, which the girls at Holla do such a good job at. But it remains an annoying juxtaposition; to think that while I'm left to worry about my basic physical safety, there's a lot of men more concerned about their egos getting bruised.

Getting back to the dangerously clueless end of the street harasser spectrum of awful though, it brings to mind a particular problem I've come across often in my travels. I have a lot of geek pride (Re: comic book entry of a few weeks ago), so I happen to be friends with a lot of geeky boys that can be real sexists simply because they don't actually KNOW any women besides their mom or their sister. One of these geeky boys once mentioned to me that when a major American science foundation was first getting started, they talked about whether or not they should let women in and they decided not to. They came to this decision not because they didn't think women were fit to join, but because they were afraid of them. They were literally just afraid to interact with women. Whether this story is true or not, it serves as a good example of what I see going on with some street harassment. While most of the guys out there who do it seem like the drunken frat boy type, at least some of these guys just can't actually communicate with women and to make up for that they heckle. 'Cause, you know, yelling an obscenity at someone is JUST LIKE talking to them. And if the woman feels intimidated all the better because they certainly feel intimidated by women ALL THE TIME. This is the type who, when you actually turn around and confront them, will get this look of sheer terror on their face that screams, "Oh my God she's talking to me! Eeeeeeeeeee!"

The thing that really makes me sad about geeky boys is that often the whole reason they are so insecure, is that they aren't the paragons of masculinity patriarchy tells them they're supposed to be and that a lot of women expect them to be. Which isn't to say their behavior is justified or excusable, but I see where it comes from and it's too damn bad that we live in a culture where I see smart men doing such stupid stupid things.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Token Pride

First of all I want to say, I am so insanely happy about emergency contraception FINALLY being approved without a prescription although, obviously the whole age requirement for it is a bunch of silly nonsense. This is the biggest victory we've had for reproductive rights for a long ass time! Especially considering it wasn't the sort of victory that happens when we prevent chauvinist bastards from taking back rights we already fucking won, which isn't so much a victory as a relief. Now women whose insurance won't cover the doctor's appointment to get a prescription can walk right into a pharmacy and buy it. Now if you're raped you can get it easily without having to wait as long as there's a 24 hour pharmacy near you, who carries it, and your state doesn't allow bullshit conscience clauses. Now tons of women will be able to buy it in advance so they'll have it on hand just in case. This is big news people! Cheers to everyone who has fought for this to come through. I'm so proud of us.

Getting down to business, I am back from Hawaii and I sure am tan, but I'm always "tan" I guess considering that I am "of color." For those of you who don't know, I'm a mixed race person with a blonde, blue-eyed, WASPy as all get out mother and a Japanese American father. To further explain, I am a fourth generation American, meaning that my grandparents were born in America and did not speak Japanese. They did end up in internment camps during World War II when they were supposedly a gigantic threat to national security, what with being 9 years old and all though. Admittedly, children may be the single most frightening thing to me on the entire planet, but I think that might be more of a personal problem.

Anyway, as a result of being mixed and being fourth generation (a.k.a. further removed from my ancestral roots than most kids I know of European descent), and being Asian American (we're such a problem minority, aren't we?), my racial identity is what you might call complicated. Further complicating things, I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah for the most part, which according to Wikipedia is 80% white, and went to school in Iowa, estimated at a whopping 95% white! That's not just white, it's practically fucking see-through people! Token anyone?

Over the years I've become, not comfortable, but extremely used to being the only person of color in the room, in a class, in a club, in a 50 mile radius. It's a difficult position to be in considering I don't feel a very strong connection to my Japanese cultural background and I have had plenty of conversations with white anime nerds (and at least skin color wise, who's whiter than an anime nerd?) which plainly revealed that they knew an assload more about it than I do. For a long time I felt guilty about this lack of knowledge, frantically taking Japanese classes, watching Kurosawa movies, buying everything ever made by Sanrio, but you know what? Do most white people that you know have complete, comprehensive knowledge of "ye olde country'? Eh? And whether or not I know very much about being Japanese (since I'm, you know, AMERICAN) I know what it's like to live here and experience racism. That's enough to be an important part of my identity, enough to give me a different perspective on things, enough to inspire me to go on long ranting diatribes all the fucking time. Woooo.

Being in Hawaii was the first time in my entire life when I actually felt like I BLENDED IN. Like, REALLY blended in. People kept assuming that I was from Hawaii and shit. At one point while we were eating at a big restaurant my mom realized she was the only white person in the entire room, which was quite the role reversal. I found myself day dreaming a little bit about moving there and how my life might change. It is fucking HAWAII after all. I pictured myself with a huge group of multi-ethnic friends who I could bitch with about our crazy schizoid identities. I imagined dating another hapa (slang for half Japanese) like I always fantasized about when I was a little kid. I imagined never again having to give my perspective as a "woman of color" since apparently I am the only one on the planet. Never again would I be referred to as "the Asian" girl. And maybe, just maybe, no one would ever ask me the dreaded question, the bane of mixed race people, "Where are you from?" Oh yeah, and I could always buy my alcohol poured into a coconut shell with a teeny tiny pretty umbrella and go to the beach all day. That is an essential component of my happy fun racism free dream land.

But on the other hand, when I think about those times when I was the only one speaking out to a room full of white people, I'm glad I was there. For all the bitterness and frustration that has come out of being vocal in such a homogeneous environment, I would like to believe that I made some people think about their white privilege in a way they didn't before. I like to think maybe it will be a little easier for the next person who comes along with token stamped on their forehead. And the TRUTH is, being a mean feminist, I'm never the kind who avoids a good long ranting brawl. I like provoking people, I like challenging their beliefs and their ignorance, and I just so happen to be pretty damn good at it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

mean feminism is for EVERYBODY!

I have been busily preparing for my move to San Francisco from the great, fantastic, nothing-bad-could-be-said-about-it-ever Los Angeles. I leave tomorrow. Vicky has spent the past thousand years in Hawaii, where she went to without even telling me personally and allowing me to freak all out on her about my move. Obviously, she is in the superior place, so I forgive her ... sort of. Anyway, this should explain the lack of meanity on this site. But worry not! I am anticipating the new rants that I will be inspired to post due to my change in locale. Or, if that doesn't work, I got the new Bitch, and maybe I could just make fun of that.

Or maybe Vicky will tell us all about like, how TAN she is, and how AWESOME the beach is and stuff. And we won't mock her, will we? Because that would be just wrong. Because we would only be mocking her because we're jealous, and there is no place for jealousy here. Just ------- here. Heh heh heh.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Book Survey

Ms. V has done tagged us to fill out the book survey that's been going around. So lo! Here it is.

1. One book that changed your life?
Edith sez: Sexual Politics by Kate Millett.
Vicky sez: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

2. One book you have read more than once?
Edith sez: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.
Vicky sez: Otherwise by Jane Kenyon

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
Edith sez: My old sea scout manual, since it would keep me alive. Look at me, being all practical.
Vicky sez: A Massive Ridiculous Norton Anthology that would take me a thousand hours to read

4. One book that made you laugh?
Edith sez: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. And yes, in a good way.
Vicky sez: The Portable Dorothy Parker

5. One book that made you cry?
Edith sez: Sita by Kate Millett. It inspired self-pity.
Vicky sez: Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg.

6. One book you wish had been written?
Edith sez: A feminist anthology without a single mention of being straight, pretty, sexy, nice, or guilty. I dare to dream.
Vicky sez: Oh man, there are sooooo many it's ridiculous. How about this: How to Organize a Proactive, Successful Feminist Revolution on a Massive Scale Right Now

7. One book you wish had never been written?
Edith sez: The Bible. Or The Iliad. One or the other.
Vicky sez: Everything Freud writes about women.

8. One book you are currently reading?
Edith sez: A collection of short stories by women writers called This Is Not Chick Lit, which is really great, despite it's totally mean title and random "Chick lit sux!" quote from Gloria Steinem on the back. I loved the Curtis Sittenfeld story about a volunteer for a children's program at a domestic violence shelter, probably for obvious reasons. Now I am rethinking my aversion to reading her novel Prep that everyone has praised so damn much. What say y'all?
Vicky sez: Carnivore Diet by Julia Slavin, Sexual Politics by Kate Millett, Love Poems by Anne Sexton, and a graphic novel adaptation of H.G. Wells. Oh my God I am a nerd.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Edith sez: Mountains Beyond Mountains, which is overdue, and about Dr. Paul Farmer.
Vicky sez: From Housewife to Heretic, on loan from a friend. Also, The Waves by Virginia Woolf.

10. Now tag five people.
Well, okay!
The Happy Feminist,
Ms. Jared,
Yawning Lion,

Why I'm Anti-Porn, Briefly

I posted this on some forum somewhere, and I've been told that I should share it with a few more people. So here it is, my anti-porn rationalization, albeit in a very loose sketch.

Also, yes, I realize that some of you are under the impression that that bitch Ms. Stereotypical hasn't gotten her due. Oh, but she will! Mark my words! With a big orange highlighter! Hopefully, she will be a running theme in this blog. Now, on with the show.

There are many different reasons for being anti-porn. Some of them, in my view, are valid and good. Some of them are questionable. And SOME of them are downright scary and misogynist. In my anti-porn opinion, here are some of the best reasons for being anti-porn:

Because most women in porn would prefer to leave porn if they could.
Because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to tell if the women in porn are acting under coercion or being raped on camera.
Because porn desensitizes our culture to violence against women.
Because supporting the small percentage of women who CHOOSE and are VERY HAPPY about being in porn OVER the much larger percentage of women who are treated like human condoms is very sheltered and bourgeois and privileged and, frankly, naive.

Now HERE are some of the merely "okay" reasons, "second tier" if you will, for being anti-porn:

Because porn helps create and enforce a limiting sexual script that people engaging in sexual activity try to emulate -- in other words, the false sexuality of pornography becomes the kind of sexuality that people having "real" sex idealize.
Because people, particularly women in porn, orgasm easily and are always pleased with whatever goes down, which can lead to people not having a damn clue about how real sex works or functions as well as getting frustrated or angry if real sex doesn't work exactly like porn sex.
Because people can get addicted to pornography and voyeurism in general, making "real sex" with another person less to not at all desirable.
Because women in porn come readily available in different sizes and hair colors and so forth, so a person can easily find the woman of his desire right then and there -- in other words, women are a commodity, and finding the perfect woman through porn is easy, leaving real life women with the impossible task of trying to measure up.

Now here are the SHIT reasons, reasons I WOULD NEVER USE, and if someone is anti-porn because of these reasons, I don't give a damn if they do agree with me about the "ends," the "means" so aren't justifiable:

Because sex is holy and should be between only two people.
Because women should be protected and not leered at.
Because sex should be for baby-making only.
Because porn makes a man lose his "energy" through spilled semen which makes him less of a man and less likely to take on the world with manly strength.
Because women in porn are stupid fucking whores, and whores are bad.
Because if you start masturbating to porn all the time, then you won't want to have sex with your wife and will look for someone else. (Note: this is different from the more general "reasons" listed above, namely, the using porn INSTEAD of sleeping with your partner, not using porn as some kind of catalyst to finding ANOTHER real life woman to screw. Unfortunately, a lot of spurned partners are anti-porn for this more specific reason, because they blame porn for their husband's infidelity. However, I would say that 98% of the time, the porn just made a bad situation worse.)

I think "second tier" stuff is a lot easier to attack than the "first tier" anti-porn reasoning because first tier focuses more on women as a community and the second tier stuff is more specifically personal. My focus on anti-porn ideology came largely through my working with the domestic violence and sexual violence community. Therefore, I happen to think that the violence against women angle is the strongest. I don't think it's possible to get rid of the violence against women perpetuated WITHIN porn and encouraged OUTSIDE of porn, therefore, I am anti-porn.

And yes, I think it's pretty important for us to be clear WHY we are anti-pornography. It isn't just the Christian fundamentals who get lumped in with us, it's a whole mess of other people who dislike porn for reasons that are a lot harder to take seriously. I would like to see the anti-porn community down-playing second tier reasoning for first tier.