Archive for July, 2006

My very most favourite band of all time is coming to play a big bad outdoor concert in my city! I’m so very exicted! I just ordered my ticket online, I’m set to go! It’s scheduled for the end of September, and I CAN’T WAIT! I went to see them last year, and they were so fantastic. I figure, if they come your way, you gotta see them, because you never know when Keith is going to fall out of his last coconut tree. 😀 Yippee! It’ll be me, Mick, and 59,999 other people! WOO HOO!

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back to our regularly scheduled program…

This week I’m responding to L>T‘s request for a post about women and vices – particularly sexual vices. She says, “I wonder how much you think present society sees certain vices/sins, which are considered moral weaknesses, as the fault of women. I am thinking of sex vices/sins, mostly. Do you think women are unfairly targeted as temptresses?”

Why yes, L>T, I do. (incidentally, this post focuses mostly on heterosexual sexual relations, since heterosexism is central to patriarchy; however, it is important to consider the effects on lesbian sex as well, which I do at the end of this post.)
Women hold an interesting place socially in terms of sex. Women’s sexuality is not defined by women – it is defined by and in relation to men. Women are the keepers, if you will, of male sexual pleasure. We are supposed to know how to please a man (right from the start, we are supposed to understand the mysterious male reproductive organs). We are supposed to know how to turn a man on (and it’s our fault when we do, even without intent). We are supposed to be sexual only in relation to a man (lesbianism is frowned upon by patriarchy). We are supposed to stop being sexual when we become mothers, or even wives (I’ve heard of men using prostitutes for “kinky” sex because they can’t “do that” with their wives – and actually think that this is respectful of their wives!), yet we are supposed to always be ready for sex whenever men are (even when there is no reciprocation of pleasure, as often there isn’t). And through all this, we are expected to be passive about sex and sexual pleasure, not have too many sexual partners, not get pregnant unless the man wants us to, and generally not be sluts. inhabiting the space between slut and virgin isn’t easy.

To answer L>T’s question, the idea that women are temptresses is an old one, and just as old is the idea that men are not responsible for their sexual impulses. This is still alive and kicking today – honour killings in the Middle East put all the blame for rape on the woman for tempting the rapist, even when the rapist is legally held responsible – the family sees a non-virginal daughter as bringing shame on the whole family, which of course really only refers to the men. The Middle East is also home to the Burka, a heavy black floor-length hooded cloak with only a small mesh opening so the woman can see. The mere sight of an ankle or a wrist is enough reason to initiate public stonings in some communities. Less extreme versions of veiling take place world-wide, and may include only a head scarf and long sleeves, but the sentiment is the same: women are the property of particular men (fathers or husbands) and if another man should see any part of the woman she is no longer pure – and she is responsible, for it is her responsibility to be properly veiled. ** This is a feminist reading of veiling. There are other reasons for veiling, some of which are political, but the original purpose of veiling is to control women’s sexuality according to the mandates of religion, and is not limited to Islam and the Middle East.**

Making women responsible for male pleasure places women in a dangerous position. First, it prevents women from taking responsibility for their own sexual pleasure. Sex is still defined by penile penetration. I overheard recently a couple of young girls – juniour high school aged, so early teens – in front of me at the supermarket. They were buying the latest copy of Cosmopolitan, and giggling about the references to male sexual pleasure smattered all over the cover without a single mention of female sexual pleasure. They talked about how they were still virgins, because they did “everything but” with their boyfriends, including giving them blow jobs and hand jobs. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess their boyfriends don’t know the first thing about bringing them to orgasm.The focus is on penises and ejaculation. Many women don’t have orgasms until they are in their 20s – some never do. Understand that all women CAN have orgasms (even some women who have undergone female genital cutting can still have orgasms, depending on how much of the clitoris has been removed – but the clitoral complex extends far deeper into the body than most people think). The women who do not have orgasms either psychologically will not allow it (perhaps for reasons of deep emotional trauma, or perhaps because of societal influences that place all the importance on male orgasm), have a medical condition that prevents sexual pleasure (this is important, although it is thought to be rare), or they never learned. Notice that men are not the keepers of female sexuality. Sex is focused on the penis – no penis, no sex (hence the historical poo-poo-ing of lesbian sex – “what on earth would two women do together?”). What about, “no female orgasm, no sex”?

What is also very important is the flip-side of placing all of the responsibility for male sexual pleasure on women: lack of male responsibility for male sexual pleasure. As I briefly mentioned above, when women are responsible for male sexual pleasure, men can abdicate responsibility for their sexual actions. It paints men as having these wild animals in their pants that they cannot contro, and that they are not responsible for what they do in a state of sexual arousal. This is damaging for women, obviously, because it places the blame for sex crimes on the victims. But it is also damaging for men. Not all men are sexual predators, and they don’t deserve to be painted with that same brush. Some men are very sensitive and careful and respectful when it comes to sex. Thank god.

My last point is about lesbianism. Lesbianism is being subverted for male sexual pleasure. In mainstream pornography (made for men and purchased by men, not lesbian erotica), lesbian sex is not called lesbian sex, it’s called “girl-on-girl action.” It has nothing to do with lesbian sex or female sexual pleasure, and has everything to do with male sexual arousal and pleasure. Even female sexuality that has nothing to do with men is still used by men for male pleasure. Girl-on-girl action can be seen all overmainstream media – it’s on our TVs in the form of beer commercials and Axe body spray commercials every day. Some of my younger friends and classmates tell me about the pressure they get from guys to make out with other girls so they can watch, or dance with other girls provocatively at bars to arouse guys, even if there is no pressure for a threesome – all for the benefit of the male gaze.
Female sexuality is for men under patriarchy. Female sexuality is to be bought and traded, a commodity, and it is fetishized by our society. Women are taught to focus on male sexual pleasure, and as a result, we don’t have the right to our own sexual pleasure, since nobody really gives a shit about it: men focus on their own sexual pleasure, and women focus on men’s sexual pleasure, and so nobody is left to focus on women’s sexual pleasure, save for lesbians, who are subverted for male sexual pleasure anyway.

Like I’ve said before, women’s sexual freedom is very much central to gender equality. How do we as women get more sexual freedom? I say, start by demanding orgasms! And I mean demanding – as in, no reciprocation unless you’ve had one! (only to be attempted in physically safe relationships – I don’t want to see an increase of rape as a result of this idea, that is so not the point.) And for god’s sake, STOP FAKING! Faking orgasms only perpetuates the idea that sexual pleasure is only important for men. Teach your male sexual partners what to do to help you orgasm – don’t be shy! Perhaps this is a movement to be made in every heterosexual bedroom across the world… no female orgasm, no male orgasm!

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Marc Andre passed along this article today, about a male lawyer in New Zealand who showed up to court today dressed in women’s clothing as a means of protest against the male-dominated judiciary. The lawyer, Rob Moodie, says:

“I will now, as a lawyer, be wearing women’s clothing… The deeper the cover-up, the prettier the frocks.”

I love these sorts of stunts! I applaud Mr. Moodie for his blatant message of anti-discrimination against women in the legal system. Mind you, his appearance in court was fighting a contempt charge brought against himself by a judge, so he’s not exactly fighting a feminist cause. But, this story came at a time as I was contemplating male feminists, or male pro-feminists. Can a man be a feminist?

In short, yes. Of course men can be feminists. All sorts of men support equality for women, and are active in promoting feminist causes, such as domestic violence, rape, media exploitation of women through pornography, equal pay, sexual harrassment, safe sex-trade, and reproductive freedom. Geo, another regular commentor here, was involved in a breakthrough men’s anti-rape group for many years, and he has been kind enough to share with me some great information on the subject.

Some feminists are exclusivist about their feminism, saying that men can never understand fully the problems and experiences particular to living inside a female body, and so cannot ever really be feminists. Others say that since men benefit from the patriarchy society is built upon, they can never be sincere and genuine in supporting change to the system. I disagree; this is to me a ridiculous argument. It is like saying that white people cannot really truly support racial equality or straight people cannot really support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual rights. Just because a person is embodied in a particular way doesn’t mean they can’t recognize injustice and work to end that injustice.

However, there is something important in what these feminists say. Men will never know what it is like to be a woman. Even if they dress up like a woman for the day, or for a week, or for a month, or for a year. It can be a life-altering and frame-breaking experience to do so, but underneath it all, there is always the knowledge that “I can whip it out at any time and prove that I’m a man.” (to be crass about it.) But seriously, there is always in the back of the mind of someone who is outwardly displaying oneself as something other than they are that the charade can be ended, and the power can shift back into place.  Now, I’m not talking about transsexual or transgendered people, for whom such an admission would be dangerous, and I’m not saying that people would easily understand why a man would want to dress up as a woman just for the experience. But, if a man doing so wanted to, it would be quite easy to regain his power – just go home and change, wash off the makeup, let the leg hair grow again, etc. Women don’t have that luxury. Power isn’t in what you wear. It’s in what’s between your legs – combined, of course, with skin colour, sexuality, economic status, level of ability, religious affiliation, etc.

Another problem for those wanting to support a movement to which they cannot hold personal lived experience, especially if they are members of the oppressing class, is that oppression is built into our social structures, and as such, it affects not just the oppressed, but also the oppressors. One of the best frame-breaking experiences I had about this was reading the essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh. It showed clearly to my eyes evidence that I had been taught to ignore my privilege, and that by ignoring it, I was perpetuating the oppression of others. It’s a very powerful essay – if you have time, read it through.

This is why I fully support efforts to establish and maintain solidarity among oppressed groups. Solidarity movements usually involve the exclusion of people not belonging to the group. For feminists, it means excluding men. For black people, it means excluding white people, Asian people, Indian people, Latin people, etc. For homosexuals, it means excluding heterosexuals, and sometimes bisexuals. ETC. You get the idea. Many people it seems don’t understand the idea of solidarity efforts. They see “women’s only space” and they think that it is sexist because it’s excluding men, or they see Afro-centric schools and youth centres and say it’s racist for excluding whites… and worse, they see these efforts at solidarity as being “a step backwards” from equality.

Well, I disagree 100%. First of all, equality doesn’t exist. There is nothing to step back from. And if assimmilation hasn’t worked up until now, perhaps it’s time to abandon it. In my mind, equality doesn’t mean that all people are treated the same. The same as what, exactly? The same as white people, as men, as the oppressors? Doesn’t that mean there should be someone else under them to oppress? who will that be? Equality to me means celebrating what is unique and special about each person and respecting the differences that make each person so, no matter their social category. It means adopting an approach toward equality that doesn’t strip people of their identities. An assimilationist view of equality is a bit too much like Big Brother to me. And, how else can those identities be strengthened but through solidarity – building group strength and celebrating group culture without interference from dominating groups, whose privilege is often unconscious, but is still harmful? It’s wonderful to allow interested parties from other groups to learn and support from any camp is absolutely beneficial in the fight for an equality that celebrates diversity. But I think it very important to have spaces where people of a shared group can get together and talk, dance, laugh, learn, grow, and struggle – free from the invasive, curious eyes of those who belong to the oppressing class.

So, yes, men can be feminists. But they should be feminists who are always willing to defer to women in matters of lived experience. I also think that women should be actively seeking support from men for feminism and feminist causes. Since men are the ones in control of society on the whole, society can never change without the help of men. Now that I’ve said all of this, I’d love to know your thoughts, but I also want to ask a question: how can feminists best solicit men to join together with us?

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well, I thought I had all the rants out of my system, and then on my drive home I was visually assaulted with huge posters of aborted fetuses lined along Robie Street. I was so enraged! There is an anti-abortion group visiting and protesting in Halifax right now. I don’t know their name, but they use graphic posters of photographs of aborted fetuses to spread their message, and they stand along the side of the road where you can’t avoid them when you drive by.

This type of moral bullying just doesn’t do anything for me. If I wanted to know what aborted fetuses looked like, I would go online and search out photos. I don’t want to know. Unfortunately for me, now I do. I had no choice in the matter, because these assholes wanted to exercise their right to freedom of expression. There was no warning so I could find an alternative route. Just here you go, look at these aborted fetuses. I was so angry I sped by as quickly as I could while giving them all the finger and yelling at them to go fuck themselves. Even the children – yeah, the children.

I resent the implications anti-abortion groups make about women who undergo abortion – that they are women who are immoral, sexually promiscuous, stupid for not knowing how to use birth control properly, selfish, cruel, irresponsible, immature, lazy, taking the easy way out. There is no acknowledgement that having an abortion is a difficult decision to make, that it is very emotional, and that some women are never able to forgive themselves for their decision, even if they feel it is the best one they can make under the circumstances. Women who undergo abortions choose them because in the context of their lives, having a baby is not an option, and it takes heartfelt consideration and careful reflection. Sometimes, having a child is a selfish act, and not having one is the best decision for everyone. It takes two to conceive a child, yet all the responsibility and moral condemnation is placed on the woman, although in many cases the man is also a participant in the decision. Having an abortion can be a traumatic experience that leaves deep emotional scars.

Which is why I was so angry at this demonstration. I feel horrible for the women passing by that protest who have had abortions.  After making a difficult decision to abort a fetus, having that thrown back in their faces by self-righteous anti-abortion activists without the opportunity to avoid those graphic photos must be difficult for some women. Freedom of expression is one thing. Moral bullying that can’t be avoided is another.

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I happen to love the show Inside the Actor’s Studio. At the end of every episode, host James Lipton asks these 10 questions, the Bernard Pivot questionnaire. I have alwyas found the actors’ answers fascinating. I thought I’d take a turn at it.

  1. What is your favorite word? Passion.
  2. What is your least favorite word? Can’t. I hate to hear that one.
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Zest for life.
  4. What turns you off? Arrogance. I know, it’s a fine line.
  5. What is your favorite curse word? Fuck.
  6. What sound or noise do you love? Laughter, the kind where you can hardly breathe. And rain. The sound of waves crashing.
  7. What sound or noise do you hate? Lawnmowers on Saturday morning. And bagpipes! God I hate bagpipes!
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Interior Decorator. Writer. Musician.
  9. What profession would you not like to do? Anything math related. My brain doesn’t work that way. And under no circumstance would I want to be an undertaker.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? I understand.

what are your answers?

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  • Bush, in his infinite wisdom, has vetoed the stem cell bill. I think this was a really stupid move. Stem cells have incredible potential to cure disease, and limiting research capabilities into this potential will, I think, ultimately limit the potential itself. I’m all for stem cells.
  • Bush has also made a big fat gaffe by groping Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. I mean, come on. He snuck up behind her and started massaging her shoulders. How on earth did he think this was in any way appropriate? Really, go check out the pictures.
  • There is nothing good on TV. I miss Grey’s Anatomy. I miss Alias. I am thinking about Lost all the time. All these reality TV shows are making me thirsty. Very thirsty.
  • I am loving being vegetarian. I feel great, and I love cooking, so I’m enjoying making new recipes. I’ll post a couple of my favourite recipes soon.
  • Why isn’t anyone doing anything about the Middle East? Israel’s invasion of Lebanon is just really saddening me. How long is Israel going to get away with shit because of the Holocaust? christian guilt is pretty strong, I guess.
  • Sunday shopping is back on the agenda here in Nova Scotia. In case some of you aren’t aware – as most people who live outside this province aren’t – large stores are not permitted to be open on Sunday here. Yes, really. Mind you, stores that sell books, tourist crap, and maple syrup are allowed to be open, along with gas stations, casinos, restaurants and bars, strip clubs, movie theatres, and stores under a certain square footage. Two grocery chains are challenging the laws by opening up on Sundays and rearranging their businesses so that the store is divided into smaller sections that are registered as separate businesses – something one clever independent grocer has been doing for several years now. The province decided this was not okay, and enacted new legislation preventing them from doing this. So, they are suing the province. Now people are all talking about employees having the “right” to refuse to work on Sunday! And the debate has been going on for YEARS – people in the city generally want convenience, and people outside the city and the conservative religious right want to prevent Sunday shopping. There was even a plebiscite held on it a couple years back, and the con side won. What the hell is going on with that? Insanity!
  • I miss my friend who just went back to Australia. I wish we lived closer to one another.
  • French is going alright. So far, so good. I’m remembering verb conjugations and weird vocabulary, and I can construct a relatively good 8-10 sentence composition. It’s funny, when I was in  French before, I didn’t really understand why things were the way they were, but now I’m starting to understand things a bit more clearly. I think I’ll try and learn a bit of Spanish next. Then Italian! Who knows, maybe I’ll become some sort of language suvante.
  • I might start knitting again. I used to really love it, it was a great way to pass the time and feel productive. I could use a new throw in some ultra-soft yarn.
  • Can’t find a bike I like on sale. I’ll have to wait till fall when they all go on sale. I might join the gym instead. I miss the weight machines.
  • I have a week off from work this week. Forced vacation. But, now I’m kind of glad, because I could use a bit of a break.
  • I miss reading academic stuff. French is using a different part of my brain, but I am kind of itching to get back to other stuff. Maybe I should just do a master’s degree and then a PhD and keep on the academic life. Hmm.

well, that’s about it I guess! Time to study for my French quiz tomorrow. Bon soir, a demain!

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well, folks, I’m taking the day off from FF, because it’s time to celebrate me. It’s my 30th birthday today.

Everyone keeps telling me how I’m going to love my 30s. I think it’s all what you make it. My 20s were about learning that, learning what was important to me and learning to take responsibility for my life – my mistakes and my accomplishments, yes, but mostly my FUTURE. There are a lot of forces at work in the world and society around me that I have no power over, but there is one force in the world that I DO have power over – myself. I have learned that nobody else is going to direct my future and my life for me, and why would I want them to?

I have learned that it’s never too late to start over. Sucking it up and going back to school has been such a humbling experience. It has taught my a lot of humility. What did I know? What do I know now? Very little, in the grand scheme of things. I have changed and grown so much over the past 2 years since I have returned to academic life, and my ideas and consciousness is evolving all the time. I am looking forward to deepening my connection with myself more and more.

I have taken time away from other people this year. This year has been mostly about going solo, keeping my nose to the grindstone, working hard. This has been such a change for me, because my friends have always been so important to me. But I have learned this way that the best relationship I can have is with myself. I have been watering my own garden this year, and  as a result my blooms are brighter than ever.

Despite the changing and growing, I have always a still small centre that is the essence of me, and that essence never changes. It’s good to know I can rely on that centre to drive me.

So here’s to my topsy-turvy 20s: you kicked me in the ass, and I kicked back. I fell in wild, passionate love, and back out again. I made great friends, and even kept some. I had some wonderful experiences professionally, and abandoned a successful career to pursue my heart’s path. I learned how to say “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” I lost a few times, but I gained myself.

So far, 30 is looking pretty good.

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Have you heard? Oprah and Gayle are not gay. Really. They swear. In the latest issue of “O” magazine, no less. It’s all over the net and TV. Oprah’s not a lesbian. Just so we’re clear.
Why is it that the questioning of one’s sexuality is such a touchy topic? It goes to the heart of gender roles, that’s for sure. It’s a personal matter, also true. And being anything other than heterosexual in this society means having less power. Not good.

My anonymous emailer recently suggested that I might be a lesbian, simply because I’m a feminist. This pissed me off. It actually didn’t piss me off because he was questioning my sexuality, but because he was linking being a feminist to being a lesbian, and that being both (or either) was a negative thing. I don’t really care if people are uncertain about my sexuality. I’m not, and that’s what matters. If someone thinks I’m a lesbian, it doesn’t mean I’m never going to have sex again. It really doesn’t matter at all.

What I find offensive is not the presumption about a person’s sexuality. It’s the underlying attitudes toward homosexuality/bisexuality/transsexuality that are problematic and offensive. Which is why I am disappointed that Oprah finds it necessary to defend her heterosexuality. It seems like the only group that it’s still politically correct to be prejudiced against is gay people. And “accusing” someone of being gay (hate that term, “Accusing,” like gay people are guilty of a crime of some sort – although in many places they are due to outdated laws) is a sure way to undermine their personal identity and social status.

Sexuality is really tied to personal identity, isn’t it? I wonder why whom we have sex with has become so intricately tied to who we are as people. Why should this be so? Why should it matter? It’s a topic I find very interesting. What do you guys think?

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Veg PastaI have finally made the decision to become vegetarian. I have been flirting around with the idea for several years, since my teens, but I have always thought that becoming vegetarian would be something that would make my life more difficult, that it would be complicated. I have gone through phases of not eating certain things, red meat being a major one, but I have always ended up back in the realm of the carnivore. (more…)

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Hi all,

After a recent discussion, it came to my attention that some of you, my readers, and others visiting this blog in general, would find a feminist primer helpful and/or interesting. So, I wrote one. (WordPress has these nifty things called Pages,  and you can write whatever you like and they will be organized in a permanent link on your homepage.) The link to the feminist primer is located at the top of the home page and is labelled “Feminism.” Go take a peek and let me know what you think. Hopefully it is helpful!

I also decided that since I am a feminist philosopher, I should also write a bit about what philosophy means to me. So, I did that too. The link to the philosophy primer is just beside the Feminist primer at the top of this page and is labelled “Philosophy.”

Ask, and ye shall receive! (sometimes more than you bargained for!)

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