Monday, April 27, 2009

Iceland Retains First Woman, Gay Prime Minister


Iceland formally elected Johanna Sigurdardottir, who is both the first woman and openly gay Prime Minister in the nation’s history in general elections Saturday. She is currently the only openly gay national leader in the world.

Sigurdardottir became interim prime minister when Former Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned in January as a result of Iceland's economic collapse. She was appointed by Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and had previously served as the welfare minister under Haarde.

According to The Advocate, Sigurdardottir led a left-wing coalition to their first majority in parliament, where Social Democrats and Left Greens were projected to win 35 of 63 seats. The loss of power by the conservative Independent Party is directly tied to the global economic collapse, according to the New York Times.

Quintessential Supermodel Tyra Banks Takes on Race

I admit it freely, I am all too guilty of being a Top Model fan. Beyond that, I'm all too guilty of being a Tyra Banks lover. And beyond that, I'm ALL too guilty of spending weekday mornings (when I can) watching the Tyra Show.

The Tyra Show Pictures, Images and Photos

Many remember Tyra's personal act of beauty analysis a few years ago, when she spent a day walking around in a fat suit and prosthetics, experiencing first-hand the oppression of large women. After this endeavor, Tyra was criticized greatly. I compare these criticisms to those I've heard from skeptics of my college's Homelessness Awareness Week. Throughout this week, students sleep in cardboard boxes outside of the campus' chapel. They cannot shower unless a shower is offered to them, they cannot eat unless food is given to them, and they may not ask for anything from anyone. But at the end of this week, the students shower, eat big plates of food, and sleep in their heated dorms. They cannot fully experience this oppression or truly understand it when they know they will go back to their privilege when it's all over. Critics believe this to also be true of Tyra's experience. But can we not give credit where credit is due? These students, and in that situation Tyra, have their hearts open to attempt to understand. They crave a spiritual communion with their oppressed brothers and sisters and others, and want to experience what they do, if not only for a short period of time.

(While that was a bit of a tangent, I promise it comes back to the title.)

What's great about Tyra is that she's not just action, but with some theory behind it. She uses the Tyra Show for things like talking to Miley Cyrus about the new Hannah Montana movie, and bring super stud Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame, but also uses it to address certain issues in the fight for justice. In the instance of this post, it is the issue of finding identity and abandoning prejudices when living as mixed race.

We are first introduced to a woman named Jenna. Jenna has a Black mother, and a White father. She is quite apparently dark-skinned, and would be recognized as Black to any outside observer. However, Jenna identifies as White, and hates her Black side. She carries around a Confederate rebel flag, and did a photo shoot with friends where they dressed up like members of the KKK.

We then meet Tabitha. Tabitha is Latina and White, but identifies strictly as Latina. She feels that White people are close-minded and judgmental (a bit hypocritical, I feel). Tabitha grew up in a small, White-only town, and remembers being the only Brown girl in her high school.

We move on to Giselle. Giselle is Puerto Rican and Black, but identifies only as Black. She was raised by her Black mother, and never knew her Puerto Rican father, his culture, or his side of the family. Puerto Rican women in her predominantly Puerto Rican community tell Giselle that she doesn't know Spanish, so she can't be really Puerto Rican.

Continuing on, Tyra introduces 3 women of greatly varying skin tones, all of whom are 100% African-American. The 3 women, as well as an African-American woman in the audience, continue on to talk about who is oppressed more, dark-skinned African-American women, or light-skinned.

After this Tyra brings out the issue of confusing nationality rather than race. Through these confusions, the women develop prejudices towards the nationalities they are confused for.

In the end, Tyra made a point of stating that these women have more in common than they thing. While they are arguing over who is more oppressed or who receives more flack for their skin tone, their nationality, their race, they ignoring the fact that they should be standing together in solidarity.

For example, I have several transgendered friends. It is quite possible that they fall victim to oppression more often than myself, identifying as a queer woman. But it's not a topic of conversation. We share a connection because we share the solidarity.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

17-Year-Olds Get Plan B!

Throughout our recently escaped Bush Administration, it seemed as though issues revolving around women's health were not based on science, but on morality. It was throughout this administration that we found ourselves working our asses off for emergency contraception to be an over-the-counter drug, with no prescription necessary.

And then we got it, and it was good. But what about the teenagers? After Plan B (the morning-after pill, emergency contraception, call it what you will) became over-the-counter, teenagers became the exception and still required prescription and parental consent before being administered the drug.

As of yesterday, this has changed. 17-year-olds are now able to get emergency contraception without parental consent.

Here's my issue, essentially: What a weird age. When studies are showing that emergency contraception is safe for women of all ages, why are we continuing to limit women? It feels a little bit HRC and ENDA for me. If we are working to get it passed and available for all women, then shouldn't it be for ALL women, not just those limited few? Why 17? If we are talking about legalities, 17 isn't 18, so a 17-year-old woman is still a minor. And, in most states in the U.S., the age of parental consent for sexual activity is 16. So... I don't get it.

If an infant can go to the grocery store and purchase a box of condoms, why not Plan B?

But, mad props for the fight this far. It'll do a lot of good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I love a good comeback...

Here's another one.

Hate Was Here

An act of hate occurred today on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. A campus ministry organization called Proclaim invited a group to the campus via a church in the local city of Mankato called the New Creation Church. Throughout the day, the group blasted preaching messages loud enough to hear across the campus. It was by about 1:00pm that the group took their message to another level.

The group's leader told his listeners to purge the homosexual scourge of the Gustavus campus (a campus with a strong queer support system and an active and vocal campus Queers and Allies organization, as well as a mostly supportive administration), and brought up a man to testify about being an ex-gay, and that others can become ex-gay too.

Thankfully, as Fred Phelps and his "God Hates Fags" crew have taught us, these organizations usually fight against their purpose with their very presence. With their actions, comes an equal and opposite reaction. Queers and Allies is on the case.

I am a student at Gustavus Adolphus College. I was not aware when I woke up this morning that I would be hands-on combating mass-scale homophobia by the end of the day. We at Queers and Allies will be working on plans for further action.

More to come.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Gaythering Storm

Remember the video that all of those comedians got together and made after Prop 8 passed? If you don't... here's a reminder.

Well, our trusty comedians are at it again. This time, going at that really confusing National Organization for Marriage ad that's been circulating. Gotta love it. Check it out.

Amazonian Ants Reproduce Without Males

A group of Amazonian ants have evolved an extremely unusual social system: They are all female and reproduce via cloning. Though their sexual organs have virtually disappeared, they have also gained some extraordinary abilities.

University of Arizona biologist Anna Himler orginally began studying the ants, called Mycocepurus smithii, because they had incredible success as farmers. Many breeds of ant keep domesticated "farms" where they breed various kinds of fungus for nourishment. But Mycocepurus smithii was able to breed fungus far more successfully, and in greater varieties, than other ants Himler had encountered.

As she and her team studied the insects, they realized there were no male ants anywhere to be found. Himler told the BBC that it's possible the ants evolved so as "not to operate under the usual constraints of sexual reproduction."

(via Feministing)


Monday, April 20, 2009

Party Down Does Porno


For those of you unfamiliar with this new original series on Starz, Party Down is the story of 6 former actors and aspiring actors, using a catering organization called Party Down to get by. Starring such cuntastic women as Lizzy Caplain (Mean Girls, True Blood) and Jane Lynch (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, 40 Year Old Virgin), as well as a plethora of duuuudes, I've found this is one of few programs I get super excited to watch each week.

Beyond just being hilarious, Party Down has done a great job of negatively displayed a misogynistic husband, making the heterosexual characters into vocal queer allies, and keeping the gender roles to a bare minimum.

And then we've got the newest episode, "Sin Say Shun Awards After Party". Sin Shay Shun is a (fictional) pornography production company, and Party Down is catering their annual award after party.

Immediately, I am analyzing.

1. Right off the bat, we are faced with a conversation between one woman who was awarded "Best Blowjob of the Year", and another woman claiming her blowjob to be much better.
2. We see only female porn stars and only male producers, assistants, investors, all with adorned with female arm candy, profiled.
3. All conversation is revolving around heterosexual porn.
4. Roman, a wannabe sci-fi writer and straight-up nerd (played by Martin Starr) makes a blatant advance toward one of the women, and when denied refers to them as "stuck-up bitches" and says (paraphrased) "You'd think they'd be up for sex, they're porn stars!"

Many of these are left unresolved, which remains bothersome to me. Perhaps it serves to show that the mainstream pornography industry is so circulated that it's all that's noticed, with an uneven balance between men and women. We're gonna go with that one.

I am pro-pornography. I feel that anti-pornography comes dangerously close to anti-sex, and even anti-woman. Criminalizing pornography would severely limit the sexuality of women. I think this is a really good example of why pornography should not be criminalized, but rather strengthened and expanded to be more fully inclusive and egalitarian.

And the votes are in...

A recent poll of New York voters declared the majority are in favor of the recently introduced same-sex marriage bill. In the words of my very best friend, "If I thought marriage was a good idea, that would be awesome."

Yes, you guessed it, I am one of those radical feminists who hates marriage. For 2 reasons:

1. It is an inherently patriarchal institution, built around the philosophy of men owning women.

2. Even with same-sex couples, it suggests ownership over the lives and sexuality other human in the relationship. No bueno.
(2a.) To be honest, I'm not in favor of monogamy either. I strongly believe monogamy stints the sexual experiential growth of the individuals at hand. I'm all for swingin', a'cuz swingin' is liberatin'. But, that's what's good for me.

However, I'm also a big believer in the reverse patriarchy theory. Controlling others towards liberation is an oxymoron. Telling our brothers and sisters and others they can't get married, for whatever reason, is control. Abolishing marriage prevents a whole mess of people from developing and being in charge of their own destiny.

So, in solidarity with my queer sisters and brothers and others, I say hoorah! to potential rights.

gay marriage Pictures, Images and Photos

(Side note: The study, conducted by the Siena College Research Institute, states that voters are in favor 53 to 39, advocates being predominantly Democrats, Independents, women, and young voters, and opponents being predominantly Republicans, men, African Americans, Protestants, and older voters. But, for real... 53 to 39? Why did it take so long if the support is this large? Uhmm... Holler?)

Trailblazing Feminist Elizabeth Chittick Dies

(cross-posted from Feminist Weekly News at


Elizabeth Chittick, the former president of the National Woman's Party, passed away last week at 100 years old. In addition to her leadership of the National Woman's Party, Chittick also worked extensively on the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment.

She led the efforts to save the Sewall-Belmont House, which was headquarters of the National Woman's Party and is located next to the Senate Hart Office Building, from being destroyed and instead being preserved and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the home is used as an educational facility for women’s suffrage and the struggle for equality as well as a gathering place for numerous events. "Elizabeth Chittick's determination almost single-handedly saved this historic landmark for women's equality," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

According to the Sewell-Belmont House, Chittick was "the first woman civilian administrator of the U.S. Naval Air Station in Seattle, Washington and in Banana River, Florida; the first woman registered representative of the New York Stock Exchange; and the first woman revenue collections officer with the Internal Revenue Service."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Cougar: What the Hell is This Shit?

In the words of Bust Magazine... "They really made this."


For those of you who are not familiar with this show, TV Land is hopping the Fucking Stupid Reality Show bandwagon and creating their own lil' dating game. Or, rather, ol' dating game. Vivica A. Fox hosts this average dating show, with the additional SURPRISE element of a plethora of young men, pining for the MILF action of the Cougar.

With the ridiculous amount of problems in this scenario, we'd best get cracking.

1. The most blatantly obvious...
What's with the completely unadulterated AGEISM here?? Creating this show specifically revolving around an older woman (by which I mean not in her 20's and fresh out of her 30's at the ripe age of 40), it assumes that this is an activity that is worthy of noting, which assumes that it is out of the ordinary.

2. The double standard...
As also pointed out by Bust, our TV Guides are adorned with a crazy number of reality dating shows featuring in a similar age range, if not older, than the "Cougar" (who will from here on out be paid enough respect to be called by her name, Stacey.) We've got Flava Flav in Flavor of Love (all 300 seasons, not to mention his show Strange Love, documenting his romantic stint with actor Brigitte Nielsen), Bret Michaels in Rock of Love, Hugh Hefner in The Girls Next Door, and more. So if these shows air with no mention in title OR in content of the age of the male subjects, why now?

3. Vivica...
WHY, Vivica? I thought we had something.

4. Another one bites the dust...
How long can a TV network stay pure in its intentions before sponsors take over and drain it of its substance? There was MTV, originally created to bring attention to up and coming artists, with a strong focus on indie musicians. Now, loaded with middriffs and noobs, MTV does a beautiful job of defining femininity and masculinity for all of us on the absolute most shallow and humiliating of levels. There was Nickelodeon, which was excellent until about 2 weeks ago when they started voluntarily airing Burger King's SpongeBob SquareButts 99 cent kid's meal commercial ( ). And then TV LAND! I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, I switched on TV Land to watch late night episodes of Sanford and Son and watch cast reunions of Happy Days, not watch drooling hornballs crawl after a woman.

So, what the hell is this shit?

Alix Never Lets Me Down

Alix Olson Pictures, Images and Photos

As I'm listening to the spits and flows of my beloved Alix Olson this evening, I was listening to the piece "Daughter". In this piece, Alix tells her listeners all about how liberated her hypothetical daughter would be, and how she would be a stereotypical feminist mother's greatest dream.

As I am currently (re)reading "Manifesta" by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards (a must-read feminist Bible), I am discovering a (re)new(ed) sense of enlightenment regarding the relationship between mother and daughter. Naturally, it is important for a woman to provide an example to her daughter of how to live as a liberated woman, and show her all of the important elements therein. But when does it go too far? When can pushing liberation become counter-productive?

A wonderful example that Baumgardner and Richards give us is Barbie. Highly considered one of the most controversial toys on the market, it doesn't prevent young girls (and boys, and others) from absolutely loving the hunk of plastic. In this regard, what do we do? Sway our daughters away from Barbie in an attempt to keep their self-esteem intact (when, in fact, the majority of women who report having played with Barbie as a child will say that her figure had no influence on their self-esteem, but rather they used her to manifest their inward desires... c'mon, you KNOW you made your Barbie doll have awkwardly-positioned sex with your brother's GI Joe), or do we allow our children to follow their desires without outside hindrance (when they are going to experience so much once achieving adulthood as it is)?

But, of course, Alix never lets me down.

She continues:

...She’ll do all of this.
and She’ll do none of this.

and it’s funny how we hide behind these Daughters,
hide ahead of our own Herstories
scared of ourselves
scared of the world
scared of Someone
who made us
one way
or another.

Well, this time around,
i’ll be bound to my own mind womb
in my own birthing room,
i’ll squeeze out, squeeze out
each crimson thick belief
then eat each pungent, sweet placenta
and relieved,

i will tear up this country’s
"Welcome to the World" certificate,
tear off my father’s father’s father’s father’s name,
i’ll legitimate my own entrance into a
Thinking Existence
i will birth myself towards

But no frantic tick-tock of this Biological Clock.
On my own time, Foremothers at my sides,
Sisters as midwives,
i’ll cut my cord, head for that War
i will mother myself into my own grown Daughter
and I will call myself a
Home-Grown Woman.

What's important to remember is that Alix isn't only speaking to those crazy pageant moms who spray and paint their daughters to get that crown and fulfill the childhood they never had. Alix is talking to ALL mothers, and (if I may speak for Alix) is telling them to remember that each woman is in charge of her own destiny. Focus on your life, and your dreams, and your future... and allow your daughter to be TRULY liberated and do the same.

Leaders in Sierra Leone Sign Female Genital Mutilation Agreement

(cross-posted from's Feminist Weekly News)

An agreement stating that girls under 18 will not undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sierra Leone was recently signed by village chiefs and other community leaders, including women who perform FGM. The agreement affects the Kambia district, which is in the northernwestern part of the country.

At puberty, the majority of girls in Sierra Leone are initiated into the Bondo Society, a secret society of women that uses circumcision to initiate new members abducted the women. Gloria Bella, of Sierra Leone's Human Rights Commission, told IRIN, "community leaders feel that [initiation] is their culture, they feel offended by lobbyists, and don’t listen…We need to listen to their fears and try to allay them, and make sure they know we are not coming in to challenge traditional authority." John Marah, who works against FGM in Sierra Leone through local NGOs, also told IRIN "We are against just the cutting, not the training. You can still have a rite of passage. It's just a change of mentality.

"FGM is a volatile issue in Sierra Leone. In February, four female journalists were brutally attacked by the Bondo Society in Kenema, one of Sierra Leone’s largest cities. The journalists were abducted, stripped, and marched through the city after being accused of reporting on an anti-FGM campaign. Police and human rights organizations intervened to free the women.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), partial or total removal of external genitalia, continues to be practiced illegally throughout Africa. FGM is practiced as a rite of passage in 28 African countries. Approximately 3 million young women annually are forced to undergo FGM as an initiation into womanhood.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Where Does the Good Go?

After nearly five years of being out as a queer woman, I've found that it is a rare instance that I get one of those knowing glares from someone trying to figure out my sexuality based on the way I dress, or the way I carry myself. Based on the information I've gathered from other people who spend time with me in public, it happens far more often than I'm aware of. Truly, I find I only notice it when I'm in a large group of queer women in an area that is not particularly queer in its nature. For example, I was once in a Chipotle with 4 of my queer girlfriends (in the platonic fashion), and the stares we were getting were clearly obvious. Beyond this, I am not generally one to complain about unwanted attention in public.

These days, I am serving the role of girlfriend to a FTM transman, and I'm finding I'm getting, and NOTICING, these glares more than ever. Just this evening we took a venture to the local grocery store to pick up some Ibuprofen, and received up-and-down glances from at least 5 different people (predominantly white, presumably heterosexual men).

It is quite shocking to me the nerve people have to be so obvious, first of all. But I understand why, and as uncomfortable as it is for the "spectacle", it is, unfortunately, completely human and natural.

Naturally, when we see another human being walking amongst us, our eyes are trained to attempt to figure them out, making us able to communicate with them and get a basic understanding of their background. In this, the very first thing we attempt to analyze is our counterpart's gender. My significant other is male-presenting and binds his chest, but as he is pre-surgery and pre-testosterone, he still maintains a very feminine face and certain other feminine features. While they are busy trying to figure him out, they then take a gander at me, this evening adorned in baggy sweatpants, a baggy tee-shirt, and a picnic scarf, with my very shaggy very queer hairstyle (let's play into some stereotypes, shall we?) As it appears as though I am a queer woman (and, by heterosexist standards, that means strictly women-born-women on women-born-women action!), they use their glares in an attempt to analyze our relationship.

As much as I would like to say that it's none of their business and they should just keep their eyes on their own groceries, I can't. Mostly, because I'm sure I am unwittingly guilty of it as well.
After all, it's just human nature.

But it's in these glares that I become increasingly aware of transphobia, as well as homophobia, and increasingly aware OF my awareness that it still exists, and I still live in fear of it.

So I attempt to consider this a gift, as it reminds me (and all others who have similar experiences) of exactly why we do the work that we do. We increase awareness in others, so perhaps one day we will be able to be stared at, and stare right back, and we can all try to figure each other out without fear of the outcome once we are.

Community Reservations on Day of Silence

Upon reading Feministing today (a blog revolving around women's issues) I encountered the short blurb about this year's Day of Silence. I checked the comments out of curiousity, hoping to see what other some experiences revolving around this day were being had by other people across the country and the world. Unfortunately, I came across many skeptics. Many people expressed their discomfort with Day of Silence. They commented on the idea that if you are able to organize this many people towards a movement, you should be telling them to speak up, rather than further silencing them. Many of the people who participate in Day of Silence are people who are experiencing the exact same silence that they are then representing. The skeptics believe that this is doing no good.

These ideas about DoS are ones I've frequently heard, and felt. As an organizer with GLSEN, the organization that sponsors and promotes Day of Silence, I am curious to know about ideas that others have about improving it.Personally, my reconciliation with Day of Silence is this:
Day of Silence is not as much about the awareness of the outside community as it is about the person who sits in silence. As a person who is incredibly vocal about my opinions and beliefs, Day of Silence is a very difficult task for me. But as we sit in our silent solidarity, WE are able to realize how this reflects those who sit in this silence every day. The other 364 days of the year, we are able to use our voices to end that silence. This is not a day of action, but a day of personal awareness and INSPIRATION for further action.