Friday, November 21, 2008

Enforced Birth Control

I was having a conversation with a group of female friends the other day. They were each bemoaning the effects of birth control on their bodies, which always seem to wreak havoc by altering a woman's hormones and changing the way her body works.

Me: I never understood why birth control is always about finding ways to enable vaginal intercourse. There are so many other ways to have sex, so why can't we just do those?
Friend: For the same reason that you wouldn't neuter your dog.
Me: *blank stare*

During the course of this conversation, I apparently forgot that, in our society, male penetration of the female genitalia is deemed an irrevocable, inalienable right (even if the woman doesn't want to). Obviously, random dudes need to have continual access to our bodies in order for society to go on.

Isn't it interesting that the only way we approach the topic of birth control conceptually is to enable the act of penetration without fertilization? There are so many sexual acts that can be performed that don't result in pregnancy, including oral sex, manual stimulation, anal intercourse, and so on. The majority of women (70%) don't orgasm from vaginal penetration alone anyway, so what's the big deal?

Hormonal birth control methods such as pills, shots, and IUDs are not exactly unhealthy, but the following side effects are considered "common" for women undergoing them:
  • Nausea and vomiting (particularly for the first few cycles)
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Vaginal infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of libido
Wow. So anyways, I don't believe that there is anything wrong with hormonal birth control, but I think it's important to examine why we consider it to be the obvious solution to a problem with so many other side effect-free options.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


After a very intense couple of weeks, I just wanted to share this lovey picture with you all. It is a picture of Martin mid-jump trying to catch some bubbles. And I, of course, am in my pajamas. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

This Just In: Racism Solved Overnight!

As you may have heard, America elected its first African-American president to office this week. When the results were announced, I was shocked and incredulous, stunned into a manic silence. Could it be true? Did it really happen?

After the awesome news sank in, I settled back into the daily grind and tipped my ear toward any cultural reaction I could find. And, as usual, the media has decided to grossly oversimplify the profound meaning of this event and break it down into terms that are easier to digest for the American people.

As the news of Obama's victory spread through the crowds on election night, the cameras quickly located the African-American individuals and focused on their jubliance. Through the lenses of the newscasting crews, it was clear that we were supposed to think that Obama's election to office was merely "a black thing." Apparently, black people voted for Obama because he is black and because they want to rule the world.

Obviously, for any candidate to win a national election, both black and white people have to show up and vote for him or her. Both white and black people wanted Obama to win because he was the best person for the job. By attributing Obama's victory to large voter turnout in the black community, his intelligence and capabilities were completely undermined.

It's also a fallacy to spread the notion that only black people stand to benefit from the end of racism. By depicting a crowd of African-Americans celebrating, it implicitly sends the message that Caucasians are not celebrating, and are therefore disenfranchised by the event. This is a common theme of any anti-movement, whether it be rhetoric against the end of racism, misogyny, or classism. Let's all try to remember that equality means a better world for everyone.

Consider this conversation broadcast on CNN right before the news of Obama's victory broke:

Anderson Cooper: I mean, if he [Obama] does become president, and it still is an if, does anyone know what this means in terms of change of race relations in the United States, or perception of?

Bennett: Well, I'll tell you one thing it means, as a former Secretary of Education: You don't take any excuses anymore from anybody who says, 'The deck is stacked, I can't do anything, there's so much in-built this and that.' There are always problems in a big society.

That's right, folks! No more using that silly "racist oppression" excuse. Now that we've elected a black president, our country is officially NOT racist in ANY way, so get over it already!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Fallacy of Democracy

In honor of election day, I present to you this post that I originally wrote for Dismantle Civilization:

The Fallacy of Democracy

In America, there’s a lot of hoopla going on right now about the upcoming election. American citizens are given several choices for a presidential leader, and must choose the one that they feel represents them the most. Then a new dude gets elected and we’re all happy and get on with the next four years of our lives.


Democracy is one of the biggest delusions we have been taught to believe. You want to know why? First of all, the elections are controlled by the people already in power. The people who have the most access to campaign resources (and the most money to buy them) will obviously have the most successful campaign. Second, we are given two choices for a leader. Two. Yes, I know there are a whole list of independent candidates on each ballot, but election propaganda sets up political freedom as an either/or choice; You pick this guy because you hate that guy. And since the majority of Americans vote for one of the two main candidates, even if you do support a minority party, your vote pretty much doesn’t count and usually ends up working against you in the end.

And the more subtle fallacy at work? A president is not elected based on popular vote. It’s electoral votes that count. So it’s easy for the people in power to do their research and figure out how they can manipulate the votes in certain areas and get a chosen candidate elected. And if that doesn’t work, then they can just “lose” or “misplace” a few thousand votes and call it good.

Of course, there is still a bunch of red tape rigamaroll invented to trick people into thinking their votes are very important. Voters must be registered. All votes are anonymous. Voters must go to the proper precinct to vote. All of this crap, and the president isn’t even chosen by us! Not to mention that the current voting process makes it impossible for low-income individuals to vote. How do they know where to get their registration forms if they don’t have a phone or internet access? How do they pick one up if they don’t have a car? How do they vote if they have to work a 10-hour shift that day, and don’t have the postage to send in an absentee ballot?

But I digress. I’ll lay my cards on the table and admit that I’m planning on voting on November 4th, and I’m really excited about the idea of having Barack Obama as a leader. But on the other hand, I know that nothing I think or say or do matters when the same old boys club is going to be reigning in the White House until the end of time. And I wish everyone else could see that too. Some do, but they still allow elections to divide them and break them down. Can’t we start believing in something other than the republic? How about ourselves? Or our communities? Or anything else that hasn’t already become corrupted by out-of-control, unbridled power?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dismantling Civilization

Check out this post I wrote for the awesome radicalist blog Dismantle Civilization. It discusses what I thought of an MSNBC documentary I saw tonight called Sex Slaves in America. I'll give you a hint: like most American media productions, it did nothing to address the real underlying issues surrounding prostitution and sex slavery. Yippee!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dead Black Bear Wrapped In Obama Signs

A news story was released today that reported that a black bear cub had been found in the middle of a college campus. It was shot and wrapped in Obama signs.

When I first read the news, a chill ran down my spine. How can such blatant and violent forms of racism still be prevalent in today's society? Of course, the above news clip features a whole slew of bystanders that speculate that they "think" the statement "might" be racist, rather than political. Wow - ya think?

My second thought after hearing of the story was the sympathy I felt toward Obama. My fiance (a fellow Obama supporter) told me today that many people predict that Obama will be assassinated if he is indeed elected to office. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to absorb the constant harassment and disrespect he receives simply on account of his race, and how much courage he must have to be able to deflect it all.

But then, I realized that Obama is a strong, insightful, intelligent man. And it's kind of like being a feminist - you already know that everyone is going to hate you for taking a stand, but it's your responsibility and privilege to do so. Consider this lyric from Ani DiFranco's great song Crime for Crime:

"They make it even easier
by seeing me as a symbol, and not a human being
that way they can kill me
and say 'it's not murder, it's a metaphor
we are killing off our own failure
and starting clean'"

When you stand up for what you believe in, you have unknowingly made yourself into a symbol. You sacrifice your ego and identity for your cause. Therefore, when people personally attack you, they're really having an emotional response to the issue at hand, not you as a person. Being a symbol takes strength, and I believe that Obama has what it takes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Breast Cancer Awareness Crap

This post is my official celebration of the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Finally, an end to all of the pointless, distracting, and misleading campaigns that claim to provide an end to breast cancer.

First, let's consider this thought from breast cancer survivor and feminist blogger Twisty Faster:

"My fucking problem is the popular belief that the greater the obsequiousness with which the breast cancerettes comply with the infantilizing femininity mandate, the prettier they’ll feel, and the less likely they’ll be to drop dead at any moment...You wanna cut a breast cancer patient a break? Let her know that the pink self-esteem injunction is a crock of shit, and that attempts to solicit approval from patriarchal authority won’t smite a single cancer cell." - Breast Cancer Awareness Month Finally Over: Retailers Descend Into Funk

Not only do breast cancer awareness campaigns contribute to the myth that devoting yourself to femininity will cure you of your diseases, they're also downright wasteful. The pollution that they cause actually makes women more likely to develop breast cancer than they would if they didn't buy a bunch of plastic crap. In the words of eco blogger The Worsted Witch:

"'There are some products that have a pink ribbon on them, but might actually be contributing to the disease by producing toxins that have been linked to breast cancer,' Katrina Kahl, a communications associate at the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action, tells TreeHugger. She points out auto companies that encourage people to test drive their latest hot rods by doling cash to a breast-cancer group for every mile driven. 'At the same time, car exhaust actually contains chemicals that are linked to the disease,' she says. 'So it's a little ironic to encourage people to test drive a car for breast cancer, knowing that what's coming at the other end of the tailpipe is actually contributing to people getting the disease.'" - Think Before Your Fall For Cause-Related Marketing

So let's all take a nice deep breath and focus on the real way to solve breast cancer - prevention - rather than ponying up a bunch of dough for "cures" that are self-defeating in the end. Goodbye October!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Klean Kanteens

I used to be pretty ambivalent about the green movement, until I started working for so many different eco companies. In no time at all, I was forced to learn the cold hard truth about what we are doing to the planet because of our waste and pollution, and the effects were much more extreme than I realized. Among other things, I learned that only 23% of the plastic water bottles used in America are recycled each year, which means that 38 billion end up in landfills. I also learned that plastic bottles leak toxic chemicals like BPA into our drinking water, which can cause cancer and infertility.

Before I learned about these issues, I thought I was being eco-friendly by reusing the same plastic water bottles over and over. Then I realized that I've probably been taking in a bunch of nasty chemicals, as well as a bunch of mold and who knows what else. So! In my new quest to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle, I've decided to invest in a Klean Kanteen. These reusable bottles are made of 100% stainless steel, contain no BPA, and are dishwasher friendly. I considered going with Sigg, another popular brand, but preferred the delightful minimalism of the Klean Kanteen bottles.

A 27 oz. Klean Kanteen bottle is $19.95, and shipping is $11.00, making my total around $31. I initially balked at the price, but then realized that it's definitely preferable to continuing to buy bottled water the rest of my life, or reusing old bottles and getting cancer. I'll post an update when my bottle arrives to let you know whether it meets expectations.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Man and Wife

By now, we're all quite familiar with MTV's desperate attempts to fill late-night time slots with "educational" adult-themed programming. In the past, this has meant enduring the onslaught of productions such as Undressed, Loveline, and other short-lived entities. The newest show of this nature is titled Man and Wife, and features the advice of real-life married couple Scoop and Shanda. The show was spawned from the immensely popular internet podcast streamed from

I accidentally ended up watching the first episode of this new show a couple nights ago. I expected to find the usual pseudo-advice spewed from MTV underlings; lick this, touch that, buy her flowers, and so on. I was shocked to find that the show was actually refreshingly original and entertaining. Highlights included a caller whose husband was in the army and had been deployed for a few months. She was interested in purchasing a larger "device" in order to meet her masturbatory needs, but was wondering whether a large device would change the size of her vagina, and thus make her husband think she had been cheating on him.

Scoop's response? "Ask him to get a mold of his penis so that you can get a device made in his size. That's what I do for Shanda when I'm gone."

Shanda's response? "Just get a bigger one. I do it all the time and Scoop doesn't even know the difference."

Ha! It's hard to believe that the response to that question was even funnier than the original inquiry. The great thing about the show is that Shanda and Scoop have wonderful relationship dynamics, and Shanda consistently espouses feminist-friendly advice to both male and female callers. Case in point: A man in the audience asks how he can get his girlfriend to do a threesome with him.

Shanda's response? "Ugh, we get this question all the time! If you want to have a threesome with you and two women, you have to reciprocate by having one with you and another man. If you don't want to do that, then just forget it."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

White Privilege and the Election

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
by Tim Wise, anti-racism writer and activist

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.
  • White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
  • White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
  • White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
  • White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

  • White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

  • White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

  • White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

  • White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

  • White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

  • White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

  • White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

  • White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

  • White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

  • And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…

  • White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Iron Jawed Angels

Here's an interesting forward I received from my mother today on the topic of women's suffrage. Even I didn't know that most of these events occurred.

This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-Grandmothers.
They lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above
her head, and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed, and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.

Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the
'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917. This is when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there, because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because -why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new
movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history,
social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane, so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: "Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."

We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so
hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote.

History is being made.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Racist Election Commercial of the Day

Check out this new "product" released at the Family Research Council's Value Voters Summit in Washington D.C.:

The box features some of the most blatantly racist comments I have seen in a long time. The likeness to Aunt Jemima, rap lyrics, sombrero, Muslim turban...its like an entire hate-filled emblem. Not to mention that the "makers" of the "product" are absolutely clueless as to why it is offensive.

In response to a question about the box being racist:

"The accusations of racism being an issue - think about Newman's Own or Emeril's food line. Is that racist because he's an Italian, or cause he's a white guy?"

Oh dear God.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sarah Palin: The Debate Continues

Okay, fine. I've avoided the issue long enough. Alaskan governor Sarah Palin was recently chosen as the Republican party's vice presidential candidate. Is this an important feminist achievement, or every liberal's worst nightmare?

The folks over at I Blame the Patriarchy are busy debating the issue, and I think reader Virago's comment says it all:

"Sarah Palin isn’t going to do anything for feminism. She’s way too pro-life. She opposes policies that will help working women and their children. Yet, she was privileged enough to have a job where it was made easier for her to combine work and family. She cut funding for pregnant teenagers while her own pregnant teenage daughter has access to resources poor teens don’t have. She’s for abstinence-only education, which certainly didn’t work very well for her own family. When she was mayor of an Alaskan town, rape victims had to pay for their own rape test kits in the emergency room. Ordinarily, I would like to see a woman V.P., but not if she’s going to pander to the patriarchy. She’s a woman who has enjoyed the fruits of the feminist movement, but she wants to put policies in place that will only destroy the progress that feminism has made for women."

Well said. As a seasoned feminist, it's difficult to see that ANY action being done by a woman ANYWHERE is instantly labeled as "feminist." It's a testament to the fact that our country still thinks that feminism is about "grrl power" and ousting men, rather than dealing with very real injustices that women experience on a daily basis.

Who needs healthcare, anyway?

Since I just graduated from the University of Iowa in May, I'm currently on the alumni insurance plan. This plan is $90 a month, and actually gives me better coverage than my old plan, which I had through my parents.

This week, I opened my insurance bill to discover the shocking total of $113, which is due this month. I promptly called the University, and was informed that all health care plans have undergone rate increases. I inquired as to why I was not informed of this change, and was told that there was no formal announcement, and that University employees have found out through word of mouth.

As I hung up the phone and took my dog on his afternoon walk, I started thinking about health care. I mean, seriously? $113? I tried adding up all of my monthly healthcare expenses related to medication (birth control, etc.), and decided that I'm better off with the insurance. But still, when did our country get like this? I know this has been an issue for quite a while now, so this isn't a revolutionary question or anything, but I still have a right to ask it. How the heck are we supposed to be a happy, healthy country when only the rich people can afford to be well?

My research into the economy (mostly done because of my blogging job at shows that American companies are losing money across the board - and I mean a LOT of money. General Motors lost a total of $38.73 billion last year. So everyone is taking a hit, and that means higher bills for us all. I know that I've been feeling particularly squeezed this month as a result of wedding planning. Engagement party invitations: $125. Engagement picture prints: $400. Wedding dress: $1200. Dear God, where does it end?!

But I digress. My point is that I know the economy is in a slump right now, but it seems that healthcare should still be a top priority for our country, regardless of how the stock market is doing. I still don't understand why we have to spend billions of dollars on guns and none on cough medicine. It seems a bit backwards to me. Oh yeah! It's because all of the members of Congress get their health care for free, and that's why they don't really care about the rest of us. Glad we cleared that one up.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Campaigning Reaches A New Low

Wow. Even I'm shocked by the egregiousness of the following campaign ad. I knew things were going to get ugly, but in this bold and falsified commercial, McCain alleges that Obama voted in favor of sex education for kindergartners.

In the words of my friend MaryAnn Martin, "Obama's bill in the state legislature would have, besides giving parents the ability to opt-out, TAUGHT KIDS TO RECOGNIZE INAPPROPRIATE TOUCHING BY STRANGERS. In other words, the bill that McCain claims (and remember, he "approves of this message") would teach little kids about sex would actually help prevent child molestation."

Good God. Is it freakin' November yet?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Feminist Writer Posts Humorous Pictures; Goes to Bed

Okay, these are too funny not to share with you all. And yes, this is what I do late at night, when I'm done with my work for the day and my fiance has already gone to bed.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Japan Love Hotels: We're Not in Kansas Anymore

I've always found it interesting to compare the sexual customs of cultures around the globe, and Japan love hotels are definitely a great example of this. Love hotels in Japan are literally rent-a-room facilities in which couples can go away together to have sex in private. Rooms are typically rented by the hour, and you can't schedule an overnight stay until after 10:00 PM (ha!). Daytime visits usually receive discounted rates, and discretion is top priority for hotel staff. In fact, the lobby has shielded vestibules that occupants can wait in until their "date" arrives, and simply exiting the hotel is accepted as a usual method of check-out.

Traditionally, love hotels have been frowned upon by the Japanese public, and their services have been forced into creepy UFO-type buildings with gray walls and no windows. However, within the past couple of years, several architectural projects have been designed to improve the comfort, aesthetic, and "sexiness" of love hotels. Take, for instance, this project, which was a book published in 2006 containing photos of some of the most creative new love hotel rooms being built in Japan today. I especially enjoyed the Cosmic Galaxy Room (the "rocket" similes are endless):

As well as the Ice Cube Room:

On the other hand, some of the rooms are extremely creepy, such as the "Kiddie" Room (shudder):

And the "Subway" Room ("Step right up and grope a stranger today!"):

Note the comments left from visitors who are quite disturbed by the hotel room pictures. However, poster ceejay makes an interesting point, which may serve to show that being freaked out by another culture is usually the same thing as not understanding it.

"An important point about love hotels is that they are not just for illicit affairs. Traditionally and still in rural areas, the whole extended family lived together. So husband, wife, grandmother, grandfather, children... all under one roof. The only way married couples can get some privacy and nookie would be to check into one of these love hotels."

So, Japanese love hotels: creepy or functional? You be the judge.

How much is that doggy in the window?

So, my fiance and I got a dog a couple of weeks ago. His name is Martin, and he's a 3-month-old miniature dachshund. He's pretty much the best dog ever. And yes, he's wearing a t-shirt in the picture, because he gets cold and shivers when the AC is on.

I have wanted a dog for as long as I can remember, but I guess I didn't think it would be so life-changing to have a puppy. I want to be careful about comparing dogs to kids, because I fully realize that they're TOTALLY not the same, but this is the first time that I've actually been responsible for another life aside from my own, and it's kind of a big deal. I mean, you're not only forming a friendship with them, but also taking care of all of their needs as well as guiding, teaching, and disciplining them. I guess you're sort of raising them, in a way. And frankly, you care so much about the darn thing that you can't give him any less than your best when taking care of him.

It's been an interesting change for my fiance and I to shift the focus of our relationship from each other to the dog. I mean, a lot of that is temporary of course, since he's still a puppy right now and needs so much time and attention, but it gives us a slight inkling as to what raising children might be like. We've had to be a lot more intentional about making time for ourselves and our romantic relationship since we got Martin.

And the funny thing is that having Martin has made me completely uninterested in ever having children, whereas it's made my fiance more excited about the idea. I'm not sure how that works, but it probably has something to do with some complicated gender role issue that I'm too tired to think about right now. Toodles.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Hills: Season 4

I'm a devoted Hills fan, I won't deny it. I've been watching it since the very beginning, mostly because I can relate to it so much - moving to a new city, figuring out who your friends are, dating, getting your career started. The Hills is obviously annoying because it's set in the world's most enraging city (L.A.), but at least we can laugh at the stupid people along the way.

So I finally got the chance to see the season 4 premiere today, because on Monday I was out of town buying a puppy. Here are my thoughts:

Lauren - It's good that she's dating the new Doug guy so that Brody will be out of the picture. But he's obviously totally boring and shallow, just like her.

Lo - What an annoying, immature baby. She needs to stop being so mean to Audrina, and stop being so possessive of Lauren. It's so weird how she can't do anything without her precious L.C. by her side - you'd like it would get boring being the second banana. And what is her job, anyway? Is she going to school or something? It's like she never even does anything.

Audrina - I definitely like her, because she's just blowing Lo and Lauren off and not caring about staying in their stupid circle anymore. Just PLEASE stay away from Justin Bobby this season!

Whitney - Boring as usual. But kind of nice I guess.

Heidi and Spencer - Oh God. Why does she even put up with Spencer's antics? I don't understand why he would be so mad at her for letting her sister stay with them. Supposedly it's all just a scripted act for the cameras though.

Stephanie - Why does Lauren care so much about being her friend? She's obviously just a bitchy drama queen. I can't wait to see her stab Lauren in the back so that she'll stop getting airtime on the show.

I'll let you know my thoughts after tomorrow's new episode.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Feeding Your F--ing Family

In lieu of my last post, there couldn't be a better time to present to you this hilarious video segment by Sarah Haskins.

Target Women: Feeding Your F--ing Family

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Housework and the Dreaded E-mail Forward

Last week, my mom sent me another one of her "hilarious" e-mail forwards, which she receives daily in mass quantities from her elderly, assumedly bored relatives. I would let you read the "joke" in its entirety if I still had the e-mail in my inbox, but in replace of the actual document, my stilted summary will have to suffice.

The e-mail contained the story of a man who thinks that his wife, who is a stay-at-home mom, "has it easy," and asks God to allow them to switch bodies for a day. God does so, and the man experiences a long day of demeaning household chores and back-breaking labor, which are meticulously listed item by item as they occur throughout the day. The final "job" on his list of chores is having sex, which he consents to, even though he is quite tired and would really rather skip it.

The next morning, the man wakes up and begs God for forgiveness, admitting that his wife does, indeed, work quite hard. When he asks God to switch them back, God responds with the knee-slapping quip "That's great, but you'll have to wait 9 months. You got pregnant last night."

That's supposed to be the punch line.

At the end of the e-mail, I was completely confused. Which part is the joke? That the man "learns his lesson" by realizing how much his wife does around the house? That he ends up getting pregnant at the end? Or that men's worst nightmare is to endure what women experience on an everyday basis?

To me, this "joke" is so very, extremely sad. Of course women have horrible lives. Of course society wants us to be domestic servants and sex slaves and baby makers. But you know it's getting bad when women's lives literally start to become an actual punch line. "At least you're not a woman! Then things would be really bad!" "Think you had a bad day at work today? Just be lucky you still have a penis, or your life would be as horrible as a woman's!"

Anywho, aside from the rage it incites, this "joke" does bring up an interesting feminist issue, which is that of household duties. Here's what I don't get - why does every single commercial selling some type of household cleaning product have to feature a woman? Why do cleaning commercials always joke about women having to clean up after their husbands, who are consistently depicted as witless clods? Yes, it's yet another insidious lie perpetrated by American patriarchal capitalism: Women clean because they're smarter than men! That's right ladies, even though your husband is a grown man with a college degree, he just can't seem to figure out how to wipe off a counter! That's why you need to do it, you clever, savvy woman you! Now get to that kitchen and maybe your husband will give you a cookie when you're done!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sex and the City and the Feminist

I have to admit, I was pretty excited when Sex and the City first premiered on TBS. It was smart, funny, engaging, honest, and finally voiced women's sexual and dating concerns in a realistic way. At the time I was also a budding feminist, and felt that somehow, there was something about the show that made life a little bit better for women.

After I grew up and got My Women's Studies Degree, I realized that Sex and the City isn't exactly a beacon of hope for the feminist movement. It plays upon viewers' lingering racism and consumerism, and definitely isn't very radical or anything. However, I'm not one to complain about something just because it hasn't yet achieved perfection, and in general, I think that Sex and the City is really great for women.

One thing that always got me about Sex and the City was the surprising vehemence with which my male friends always proclaimed its inviability. Not only do men not like the show, they "hate" it. They think it's "stupid, "meaningless," worthy of a condescending chuckle and an eye roll. This reaction became even more pronounced when the Sex and the City movie approached its May 2008 release date. I was surprised to find most of the reviews downplaying its significance, and casting it aside as a piece of theatrical filth.

After reading the early reviews of the movie, I entered the movie theater with trepidation on opening night, expecting to see the hollow shell of the show I once loved. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the movie was actually pretty good. It was just as relevant, engaging, and hilarious as the television show - even more so, in my opinion.

Which brings me to my point. I usually hate most movies, especially ones targeted at women, because they are so infantile and insulting. The Sex and the City movie is no great work, but it isn't just a shallow, vapid concoction either. In my opinion, society's rejection of Sex and the City is a rejection of womanhood itself. When I'm arguing with someone about whether the show is good or not, I'm not really talking about the show, and neither are they. I'm talking about women's right to gather with their friends, respond emotionally to breakups, articulate their thoughts by writing, and have those things depicted on a television show without it being brushed aside as petty and meaningless.

Sure, Sex and the City can be annoying and counter-productive, but so can most male-gendered programs. No one complains about blatant consumerism when it's celebrated in the latest Bond film, but Heaven forbid that the Sex and the City feature one scene where Carrie discusses buying shoes. You don't have to like Sex and the City, but why would you hate it? Hating something insinuates that you not only dislike something, but that you also feel strongly enough about it to officially take a public stand against it. Why do people always seem to hate Sex and the City, but just dislike anything gendered male?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dawn Breaks Like a Bull Through the Hall

I just returned from a trip to Green Bay to see my grandparents. It was supposed to be a vacation, but that didn't really happen. What happened is that we arrived to find my 84-year-old grandfather struggling for his life. It all started a year ago when he got pneumonia. The infection never really left, and he's had a number of problems since then, including a collapsed lung and kidney infection.

Usually, our annual trips to Grandma's house are filled with barbeques, golfing trips, movies, and shopping. This year, we all stood by as Grandma attempted to convince Grandpa to eat just one cookie. Drink just one cup of coffee. Get out of bed for an hour. Brush his hair. He couldn't hear much of anything, and had pretty much lost his memory.

I watched as Grandma brushed his hair for him so that he could be in a picture with us. I felt the way that she loved him through 60 years of children and dinner and vacations together. I turned my head to let my tears fall privately, so as not to upset anyone. Our family continued to perform the usual behaviors, watching TV and chatting about the weather, while constantly trying to bear the weight of Grandpa's lingering illness.

In private, I could not stop sobbing. My 14-year-old brother hugged me and said that it would be alright. My mom came into the room and asked my brother if he wanted to talk about anything. Little did she know that I, the older, more mature sibling, was the one in distress, struggling to make sense of it all.

The worst thing about the trip is that I couldn't understand why. Why does Grandpa have to go through this? After 84 years of life, he is reduced to laying in bed and struggling to breathe. Eventually, I realized that no matter how much I mourn the situation, it won't help his condition. We all want to take his pain away, and take his death on ourselves. But that's just not possible. Everyone is responsible for dealing with their own death in their own way, and making sense of the life they lived. Grandpa doesn't want us to feel sorry for him, because he doesn't feel sorry for himself. He isn't scared or sad or depressed. He just wants to get on with things and make it to Heaven. And I have to let him.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thunderstorm Running

Last night, I had my first experience with running during a thunderstorm. I had only been out for a few minutes when I heard the familiar crack of thunder come from above, after which I looked up to see the gritty clouds begin to part ceremoniously. As sheets of rain began to fall on my tightly pony-tailed head, at first I felt a bit annoyed, but I quickly found it to be incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating. It was like back in elementary school, when I would go outside during a thunderstorm to play in the rain. After a few minutes of running, my shoes were soaked enough to allow me to stomp through gigantic puddles with no noticeable difference in wetness, so I greedily took advantage this freedom by jumping in any nearby mudhole I could find.

Maybe I can attribute my newfound sense of adventure to a writing gig I secured with the trail race database Backcountry Runner, or maybe it's because I've been slowly consuming all of my fiance's back issues of Outside magazine in the past few days. I've also been spending my evenings planning our mountain-adventure honeymoon to Ouray, Colorado. Or, maybe it's just been so friggin hot around here lately that a crisp summer rainstorm comes as a welcome break to my sweaty, greasy skin cells. Yeah, that's probably it.

At the end of the run, I returned home to my fiance, who was busy working away at the computer. He turned to me and said, "When it started raining, I hopped in the car to come find you, but you looked pretty happy jogging out on that old maintenance road. So I just turned around and came home."

Ah, the joys of being a runner.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Feminist Bride

I got engaged last month to The Man of My Dreams, and have since been working on planning a June 2009 wedding. However, I never expected the large volume of traditional dudely dominance issues that I would encounter along the way. No matter how hard I try, the ceremony always seems to be reduced to some kind of enraging woman-ownership festival designed to celebrate my willing entrance into a life of servitude and imprisonment. What's a feminist writer to do? Here are some of the situations I've encountered thus far.

1) Creepy patriarchal ministers. I'm Taoist and my fiance is Catholic, so we're going to have a nondenominational Christian ceremony. The only thing I'm worried about is being married by one of those eerie old-school reverends that turns your ceremony into an opportunity to advertise for the inherent submissiveness of wives. No thanks, bucko! I've circumvented this issue by securing a female minister to marry us, and I'm planning on discussing my beliefs with her before the ceremony to ensure there are no sneaky allusions to female slavery included in the service.

2) Snippets from women-hating literature. Wedding ceremonies always seem to include readings from the paramount canon of misogynist literature, the Bible. My fiance wanted to have some Bible verses featured in the ceremony readings, and he assured me that they wouldn't have anything to do with how much women suck. I felt a little bad about it, but I had to veto the idea on principle. It would be like a Christian allowing readings from The Satanic Verses in their wedding. Luckily, the fiance seems to understand and is fine with including women-friendly readings from The Prophet instead.

3) The concept of "giving me away." My father, the family patriarch who apparently currently owns me, is supposed to "give" me to my husband, who will subsequently become my new owner. WTF? I'm not sure what I can do about this one, though. It seems like it's important to my dad.

4) People telling me how to plan my wedding. Okay, I know that everyone gives you their 2 cents about your wedding whether you're a man or a woman, but as an independent and headstrong feminist, I take special offense to it. People, and especially family members, seem to get so caught up in all the material aspects of the wedding ("What?! You have to have centerpieces!!"), when I'm trying my hardest to make it about celebrating love and happiness. The world will NOT come to an end if we don't serve a three-course dinner, so get over it everyone.

5) Bridal garb. According to tradition, I'm supposed to wear a veil over my face, and a 20-pound white contraption that isn't in the least bit comfortable, in order to symbolize my virginity and purity. The jig is up people, I'm crazy about sex and have absolutely no interest in hiding that fact. Now get that crap away from me!

As you can see, I'm doing my best to keep the evil forces of oppression at bay. I think our wedding should be a reflection of the true nature of our relationship, which is completely equal and free of dominance, instead of adhering to annoying women-hating traditions. Websites like Offbeat Bride have been a great help, as have the support of my various married female friends who have endured all this crap already. Now keep your bias off my gender, society!

Monday, July 7, 2008


I happened to stumble across an interesting site the other day called Idiocentrism. What is idiocentrism, you ask? It is a

version of generalism. Because no one can know everything, generalist knowledge is inevitably partial, contextual, particularist, perspectivist, and idiocentric. ("What is Idiocentrism?")

Basically, it is one guy's version of academic methodology, created from the idea that modern academic studies have become flawed in their attempts at specialization. University fields are focused on exclusion and fragmentation, while generalism is focused on integrating a diverse knowledge base into a series of theories and hypotheses.

During my time at the University, I always despised how every paper I wrote was supposed to be about One Thing. Academic papers, as they currently stand, are structured by stating one main introductory hypothesis, and then supporting that idea with a series of proofs. However, my papers never followed this structure, because they were drawn from so many different sources. This always served to confuse my professors. Examples of my subject matter:

  • Vegetarianism as Love
  • Running as a Form of Zen Buddhist Meditation
  • Feminism Within the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism
  • Bisexuality in America: The Search for Identification

I always thought that I was just really bad at organizing my thoughts. But the real problem was that I saw everything as interrelated, and so I couldn't reduce my topics down to one main line of reasoning. This is similar to Alan Watts' theory of polarization, in which he suggests that "opposites" are not truly opposite, they are just different poles of the same thing. For example, "good" and "bad" are not entities of their own, they are simply points along a continuation of "goodness." Therefore, "good" is just "gooder" than "bad," and vice versa.

Another problem I encountered as a result of my generalist philosophy was having my papers universally misunderstood. For example, I was working on a double major in Women's Studies and Religious Studies, and assumptions that were taken for granted in the Women's Studies field were considered false in the Religious Studies department. Therefore, a paper such as "Feminism Within the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism" would be praised as traditional methodology by my Women's Studies professors, and criticized as radical idealism by my Religious Studies professors.

How can there be different truths within what is supposed to be one overarching truth? How can something be Wrong in one academic course and Right in another? This is the problem with University specialization. I think we need to go back to more generalist philosophy and be more accepting of scholars that refuse to limit themselves to irrelevant categories.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Stuff White People Do

A huge portion of my Women's Studies degree consisted of examining racial issues, and I thank God that it was. I'd like to make some sort of statement connecting my lack of racial knowledge to my time spent growing up in a small town in Iowa, but that would imply that if I lived in a larger city, I would have been educated about such matters. Obviously, racism in all its various forms is an American (and global) issue that blinds everyone equally due to its pervasiveness, and that's why it's still such a problem.

Learning about race and sociology at the University completely changed how I view the world. Obviously, I still participate in the benefits of white privilege, because all white people get those whether they want them or not (which, by the way, is an important thing for all whites to recognize, lest we run around with the attitude of "I'm not racist, so therefore solving racism is about changing those other racist people"). But the thing that really gets under my skin is when people assume that racism is a dormant problem that is either already solved, or an issue that we can't do anything to change. The blog Stuff White People Do looks at the effects of white privilege from the point of view of a white dude named Macon D, in order to help people understand the ways in which they're participating in the continuation of racism.

Examples of stuff white people do:

I also found it interesting that Macon D states that his goal in producing the blog is to write explicitly about whiteness. He says that

I’ve noticed, for instance, that when I ask white individuals to talk about whiteness, about what their being white means for them, they usually have very little to say, and they eventually end up talking about non-white people instead. White Americans are usually unaccustomed to talking directly about their own whiteness, and when asked to do so, they often shift to discussing it in relation to other races, and then end up talking almost exclusively about those other people instead. ("sit quietly in movie theaters - part two")

Personally, I think the reason that the reason white scholars try to stay away from examinations of whiteness is because they don't want to appear to be reducing the discussion to a white viewpoint. As in, "even though minorities have endured centuries of enslavement and abuse, racism is really all about white people in the end." But if white people are racist, and especially if they are unknowingly so, doesn't the solution to the problem lie in getting them to recognize their behavior as racist, and then encouraging them to change it? It seems to me that instead of white people "learning" to "accept" minorities, racism should be dealt with by demonstrating to whites that they are the ones that are flawed, because they buy into the idea that minorities are "different" in the first place.

Blogs such as Stuff White People Do are so instrumental in drawing attention to the blatant privilege present in our society today. It's good to see that readers are getting all riled up in the Comments section of the posts, because it gives me hope that perhaps there are still some individuals out there who are engaged in an ongoing discussion about racism and classism, and are committed to making a change.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Hi everyone! I'm a recent graduate of the University of Iowa and am pursuing a career in freelance writing. I do have a website,, but that mostly functions as a professional site and doesn't give me the opportunity to write about my personal life and daily goings-on. That will be the purpose of this blog.