Tag Archives: Feminism

Why I nearly hate Boden

Okay, I said it. That catalogue full of playful, colorful clothing for women? I am almost at the point of hating it. Not because I don’t like the clothes – no, they’re lovely pieces. What I don’t like is how they came about, and the guiding philosophy of its founder, Johnnie Boden.

Johnnie wants us mommies (or mums) to know he really cares about us, and our bodily insecurities . He wants us to feel pretty, to feel like we’re not “mutton dressed as lamb.” So he makes delightful, not-too-threatening clothing in terms of silhouette, palette, and implied intelligence, with the idea of making happy, pretty wives, happy to stay at home with children, or if we deign to work and deprive our children of the healthiest possible family structure, to communicate a sense that we’re really not all that important. We’re decorative, and we’re happy to be that way.

His career in helping slummy mummies began when Wall Street kicked his sorry arse back to the UK. And yet, he remains enamored of American capitalism. Evidently, a welfare state is to blame for people not picking up after their canine pets tend to their business streetside. What I wouldn’t give to see the trigger of his ire to be pure Tory.

Yes, I have flab, Johnnie, and yes, I don’t feel good about it.

But I feel a hell of a lot worse about being dismissed because of my gender; that there is nothing more threatening in our english-speaking culture than a woman who knows she is intelligent and isn’t so interested in hiding it, particularly if it might hurt some man’s feelings. I feel much worse about living in a neighborhood where placing priority on feeding your mind, particularly if your mind is awash in estrogen, might be about as evil as starving a baby. I feel much worse that your business is based on the premise that a pretty empire-waist frock will make me forget the things that genuinely vex and trouble me most.

In the end, I don’t hate clothing, and the catalogue itself has become better since they dropped the child-playmate q & a descriptors for each model in each layout. But I hate that it’s offered with a pat on the head and a “there, there” from someone I could easily think under the table.

p.s. this essay owes a great deal to Blue Milk’s dead-on Yummy Mummy post; here’s hoping to approach its thoughtfulness and writing.



Filed under Uncategorized

It won’t be your idea of change, but you should still vote for it.

Here’s another one that’s been stewing around for months. I hope it was worth the wait, though it may still be the equivalent of bathtub wine in terms of sophistication of thinking.

While I will be voting for Obama in the upcoming election, I’m not in the league of his acolytes. I’m choosing him because I think he is smarter – on the whole and politically – and that he will make better decisions, better appointments and better policies than any of his opponents, an admittedly low bar. In truth, I think he’s more likely to make good judgments and take actions that are constructive on their own merits. And because as a scholar of the good-old-boy school of politics, he’ll get things through without having to change DC, the very last task he’d take on once in office.

What? Isn’t Obama all about change? Isn’t that the mantra of millions of hopeful voters? Well, mantra, tagline, slogan, servicemark, it’s marketing. A close read of his rewarding, well-written books not only brings the reader through the narrative the senator has chosen to create, it also reveals more about his traditional positioning and why no one should be surprised that politically, there’ll be no new blisters on his hands, given his adeptness at hardball.

The conversation I’ve had with his supporters who feel that personal connection, that sense of promise for overwhelming change, has minor deflationary impact, but resonates with most of the feminists I know. It goes something like this:

“Y’know, I hear all about this change thing, but I have to say, after reading his memoirs and interviews – the majority of which lament the somewhat sainted father who left behind 4 women’s children and barely made time or resources for him and his mother, and noting the deliberate choices he has made in his own life – I think he longs for a traditional patriarchical model – of women in perpetual service. One where man exists to serve god, or country, or at the very least his own personal ambitions, justified in whatever way he chooses. And that woman exists to serve man. Is that change? To me, not so much.”

The feminist women who may be voting for him but who aren’t suffering from tinges of fanaticism – or sadly, the ones who still haven’t let go of the mundane misogyny of the primary race and thus claim to be staying home – nod knowingly.

(I didn’t have to support Hillary to know there was something truly ridiculous afoot with coverage. All I needed were eyes and ears. I think it’s interesting that Obama never said a peep about it – in fact, kept staffers on who made some of the most ridiculously sexist and personal accusations, while letting go of people who said unfortunate but not sexist things and yet who could contribute real leadership and intelligence to his campaign. Oh, until he reported that his grandmother told him she thought the coverage and treatment of HRC was unfair and obviously sexist, and that her remarks made him think there may have been something to it. Was it light dawning on marblehead? Nah. Hardball. Why waste cycles condemning the first and last acceptable public discrimination?)

The dudes are speechless, then try to tell me I must be secretly awed by his oratory.

“Oh, no, no secret that I admire him and his gift with language – especially in contrast to the last four years of unintentional Orwellian malapropism. But I’m 41, and I’ve heard enough smooth talking in my life to appreciate and enjoy it for what it is.” They’re left stuttering. I assure them I know how to vote, but I’m well aware of what I’m getting, and it isn’t change, unless you compare it to the criminal operations of the last 7.5 years. Which is welcome.

Why is it that Dems have to fall in love – blinders and all? Is it any better than the blinders one must live with as a Republican in order to fall in line? One doesn’t have to fall in love to make the best choice for office. Just make an informed choice. And given the freakish behaviour and position of Grampa this week in light of the Russian invasion of Georgia, you have all the information you need. Having an administration that is not warhappy and doesn’t break the law is the next necessary stage for our citizens and for those of the world. Vote with your brain, not your brain in love. Vote Obama.

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Filed under 2008 elections, accountability, ambition, Feminism, feminist, Politics

missing midwifery

When I found out I was expecting this time, I thought I’d probably have to go to a traditional obstetrics practice; my first birth was premature, and was likely caused by my bicornuate uterus. I figured it would be ok if I chose a women-run practice, that the gaps between it and midwifery care would not be so great. I was wrong.

The loaded language of the modern medical pregnancy is enough to make a woman believe that she is incapable of figuring out how to birth a baby. Except that the body is designed to do just that, before there were ultrasound machines, or quad screens, or obstetrics.

I have felt like mentioning – ok, screaming – this as of late. Instead of being asked to consider different treatments, instead of conversations where the assumption is that the mother knows and is capable of knowing about her body and the process of pregnancy and childbirth, the mother is told what to do. It’s not sitting well.

My nurse knows nothing about vegetarian diets, and actually asked me if I’m getting enough protein. Sigh. I never had these issues with the midwifery practice – they understood that a veggie diet is not a risk for healthy fetal development, and gave me props for my hematocrit levels at the start and the 28 week point.

The other part has been more than a little annoying. From the perspective of the practitioner, I have a name: high risk. I get this name based on nothing in my chart, other than my birthdate. I’m wondering how many women go through this without knowing that they own  the birth. They know what to do, they can trust their instincts, but they would do well with some knowledgeable support. What if more women knew about their bodies, the glorious power of them, their ebb and flow? What if this self-knowledge were as common as knowing one’s shoe size? Midwifes understand the power this knowledge gives; obstetric practices would do well to take heed.


Filed under first trimester, Motherhood, mothering, pregnancy, pregnant after 40, prenatal care, women, women's health

Feministe: Why Calling Out Misogyny Matters

Writing what has been gnawing at me for months, Feministe blogger zuzu  expresses it perfectly.  Please read “Why calling out misogyny matters“.

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Filed under backlash, constructive critique, Feminism, institutional misogyny, misogyny, Politics

when the “b” word is as unacceptable in public discourse as a substitute for “woman” as the “n” word

The WA state caucuses left me a bit drained – a mix of happy and dissatisfied faces with how I handled chairing our precinct, the unease I felt at seeing such hatred for Hillary, and so little knowledge of Obama. I was challenging Hillary haters to give positive, fact-based rationale for Obama, even trying to feed them some of the answers, and was sad to see the commitment so melded in race, religion and gender.

So, after reading Frank Rich’s pillory of Hillary, I felt compelled to respond. I was honored to find my comment tagged as an NYT editors’ selection, errors and all. Maybe someone at Obama’s campaign will have a look and make some real change happen.

And just in case the permalink isn’t really permanent, a cleaned up version here:

Everyone is fighting nastily here. It can be a tough choice for an informed voter whose candidate left the stage. I left the WA caucuses today having chaired my precinct to a Obama landslide, but keeping my own vote profoundly uncommitted. A landslide, I’d point out, distinguished in no small part by a remarkable amount of male spokespeople who could barely conceal their contempt of Hillary for reasons they couldn’t quite express, even when pressed.

While on the topic of nasty tactics, I’d like to ask where is the outrage over the consistently sexist treatment of Mrs. Clinton by the media at large and Obama proponents in particular. I’m thinking about the remarks by Jesse Jackson Jr, falsely accusing her of crying over her appearance instead of over Katrina victims. Is he looking for freelance work? Hardly. His position as a spokesperson for the Obama campaign is safe and sound, while remaining as dry eyed on camera over Katrina victims as any other pol, including his boss.

Apparently, sexist behaviour is just part and parcel of American political life, to be questioned only if the women derided aren’t white. (Just look at Imus and Rutgers, and what got him canned, as opposed to what the players found primarily offensive. I wrote about it myself in an ironic copy of Carville, as, “it’s the misogyny, stupid.”)

Massachusetts Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral summarizes it best: “What would never be said about race is the sport of kings when it comes to gender.”

What a world it will be when the “b” word is considered as unacceptable to refer to women, regardless of race, as the N word is today. And how I wish John Edwards stayed in the race.

— janet, outside of Seattle


Filed under 2008 elections, Feminism, John Edwards, misogyny, Politics, scared men, sexism, Voting, WA, WA Caucuses, WA-08, WA-48, women

tear analysis, and the sorry state of gender in today’s media

Let’s get something straight, vis-a-vis the media overanalysis of Hillary’s verklempt moment. Women, anecdotally, are more likely to cry in FRUSTRATION than men. Anyone who doesn’t know that should offer to put a webcam on my office wastebasket for a year, and count the tissues. It doesn’t mean all of us cry, much less cry frequently, but it happens. And when it does, it’s mostly out of frustration.

We still get the job done, we still finish the project, we still clean up nicely. It’s worth noting that the moment, if it happens, is usually private – at home, or in the ladies room, or perhaps in the car. Every once in a while, you’ll get to see it. Unguarded, the tears come… and then they go. It’s just that most of us don’t do it on camera.

So, why might Hillary be frustrated? Because she watched a lead disappear? The money disappear? Any hope of a non-partisan, mature press corps disappear? (In the interest of full disclosure, I am for Edwards and Obama, in that order.) That she had worked hard, followed the script and it still wasn’t working? I could see having a teary moment, and then rearming. Could it have been planned? Maybe, but the truth of the tears of frustration is undeniable.

Which brings me to the media discomfort and attempts to find a new reason to bash Hillary in the face of the moment, and her victory – albeit relatively small in such a volatile race.

I don’t believe for a minute that race is the penultimate divide in our culture. It has been, is, and god willing for my child’s future will not be gender.  Don’t believe me? Check out any socio-economic grouping a demographer can offer, and see if men and women are granted the same status, rights, roles, expectations, wages… the gender line is drawn right down the middle. I don’t know how it works for queer-identified people, but my own anecdotal and admittedly limited experience is that gay men, particularly white gay men, seem to fare best of the bunch.

Race is not an additive – it’s a major multiplier, but let’s be honest. It all comes down to the boys v. the girls, and those who play in the broadband media space, regardless of the equipment they came with, tend to favor one team over the other. And before you get all “it’s about the money” on me, keep in mind that misogyny appears to pay its spokespeople very very well.

And yes, Chris Matthews is a raging misogynist (thanks, Rachel, for putting it out there) but he’s only one of many who continue to work unedited and unabated. His history of remarks on Hillary and her husband could fill a very spiteful, hateful book and sequel. But don’t expect him to lose his job over being called out.


Filed under bias, clintonophobes, Feminism, gender bias, media, media bias, misogyny, Politics, women

when pr ladies go off-message and tell the truth

… or, Can it be feminist to call an immature female reporter a girl?

A few weeks ago, I had to deal with a young, inexperienced “editor” for a commercial publication that happens to be a Web site with a primarily blog format. She had sent in a form letter to solicit participation in their site, and immediately posted an extended whine that, at points, rose to the level of snark. Mostly, it was an immature screed about auto-responders and the requirements one needed to follow to get email requests through. It’s the commercialization of the worst the blogosphere has to offer – where snotty, poorly informed opinion doubles for content. (I won’t post the link, as I’d rather see their traffic stay in the low double digits, but I’ll send you the links if you want to see them.)

The post also revealed her lack of professional reporting experience – she hadn’t done research to determine whether my client even had a blog, and didn’t check the Web site for press contacts, a basic thing for a reporter to do. And as the blogosphere is a place where most of us like to put on our best face or funniest mask, she apparently chose her Facebook profile photo for her headshot. I wondered what was wrong with her editor.

Our staff read her post, and didn’t think too highly of either the writing quality or the tone. And as for the photo, well, it looked like she had just come out of the pool in her nicest strapless swimsuit, and was trying to get the water out of her ear. (Never mind what was behind the ears- clearly that was wet.) The internal snark reached a wit level that would have blown this pub out of the water, but I told people to hold back, mostly because I saw myself in the writer – young, smartass, clueless. Fully acknowledging that part of smart ass is, infact, smart. More than anything, she reminded me of myself as a 15 yo writer/editor for my high school newspaper – utterly convinced of my wit and genius, and only needing to prove to others that I was, in fact, pretty.

So I did something I have never done professionally, inspired by that worst of all motives, the self-convinced, self-identification-based “good” intention. When I called her to tell her we had reviewed her interview request, I gave her advice with her rejection, as if I knew who she was – namely a young me. Advice on writing. On self-presentation and why her chosen photo undermined her seriousness.

And, in a particularly brutal move, when she said, “I wasn’t trying to be some kind of bitch, you know,” I responded directly:

“No, no, no one called you that here. I would not call you that. Bitch, no. But if I may be frank, petulant 15 year old girl? Yes.”

I heard her groan, as if I had punched her in the stomach. It was not a good feeling for either of us, although I had hoped she understood what I was saying…. in the way I had wished someone had given me that advice early on.

I encouraged her to write directly to the person she insulted, to apologize for the way her post landed, and to make an effort to erase any bad feelings. Ben was on day 5 at home with croup, and I was headed to an emergency MD appointment to see if he would have to go to the hospital, and so I had to cut the call short, but I offered my email, my phone number, my successor’s number, and told her she could contact me anytime.

What happened next? She ran to her editor. Big man writes a screed, selectively choosing quotes from our conversation. Kind of like a petulant big brother who’d like to settle the score with the mean old lady who picked on his sweet little sister. Suffice to say, I’d love to get royalties for all the free content I gave them. And of course, I apologized publicly for the way I spoke to the young editor. It wasn’t fair or smart to offer something unsolicited, much less assume what she could handle. Particularly if it is a pr lady who tells the unvarnished truth to no clearly scoped professional end.

I think the weirdest part of the whole interchange, though, was how the big boy editor referred to me as sexist. I doubt he would have written a piece like that if the junior writer was an immature young man and I called him a kid. Or if his picture was at a kegger with his cleanest baseball hat, and I told him it didn’t help his credibility.

Don’t get me wrong, I made three basic mistakes – remember that everything is on the record, stay on message, and pay attention to cultural mores. The comments and posts were a dead giveaway for what was considered fair game. On the human side, I think my mistake was just as basic. Had I asked the writer what she had hoped to achieve with her post, the conversation might have gone differently. Might have.

Upon reading the posts, a friend said, “Ooh! Looks like you stepped on his little girl.” For her sake, I hope her editor stops being her big brother and starts being a mentor instead. And for mine, I’ll keep my advice to myself, and consider taking it now and then.

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Filed under criticism, everything is on the record, Feminism, pr, when pr ladies tell the truth