Convert or perish: On Germaine Greer

This post is a collaboration with the brilliant Hypotaxis.

Regular readers of our blogs don’t need an introduction to the canonical liberation feminist work of Germaine Greer, nor do they need a recap of what’s happening to her in the news this week. But, to sum up: Greer is under fire for hurting Bruce Jenner’s feels – and by extension, the feels of other men who say they are women – for maintaining that they are not, in fact, women, and that misogyny is the basis of Glamour magazine’s decision to consider Bruce Jenner for its Woman of the Year award, i.e., Jenner’s pretty hair, makeup, nails and fashion make him a better woman than someone who was simply born a woman.

Because of this, Cardiff University – Greer’s own academic institution – will not offer her an honorary degree; nor will it allow her a platform to speak. A petition with nearly 2,000 signatures accuses Greer of  “demonstrating misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.”

These are lies.

In this six-minute interview clip, Greer makes it very clear she believes male-to-female transsexuals should “carry on,” should do what they need to do to feel comfortable; and that she’s happy to use “female speech forms as a courtesy.”:

However, here’s where she doesn’t bend: Male-to-female transsexuals are men, and Bruce Jenner is angling for the kind of attention lavished on the Kardashian women.

“I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through the procedure,” Greer says. “What I’m saying is it doesn’t make them a woman. It happens to be an opinion; it’s not a prohibition.”

The interviewer persists in dragging the discussion into various side alleys – What about intersex, huh? What about someone who has a uterus and testes, huh? Aren’t you being insulting? Some people think this kind of speech incites violence.

Greer, patiently, re-iterates that intersex conditions and transsexuality are two different things; reminds the interviewer that trans has never been her issue (because, guess what, her issue is WOMEN); and then cracks herself up laughing at the recollection of the many times she herself has been insulted.

“Try being an old woman!” she says, and we know what she means: An old woman is invisible; is offensive by continuing to exist long after her beauty and fertility and usefulness to men are gone.

In fact, hey – look at the first comments posted here underneath the interview:


No one is accusing these commenters – especially the second – of violent, hateful, dehumanizing speech, as they would if the comment were directed toward, say, Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner: that’s because Greer is female; is elderly; is firm in her unpopular, non-male-centered opinion. So it doesn’t matter what people say about her. She no longer counts.

While older men are celebrated for their wisdom and important insight (think, for example, an entire Oscar-winning documentary, The Fog of War, centered on the musings of an eighty-something McNamara), society does not regard older women in the same way. We do not afford older women the opportunity to be heard – unless they are willing, as say, Betty White, to perform for our amusement.

The liberal feminist movement itself is consumed in a deep, profound hatred of older women who are feminists. “Second Wave” has become a pejorative, principally because what the Second Wave represented was women’s refusal to cater to the needs and demands of men; to emancipate themselves from patriarchy.

Liberal feminists work tirelessly to distance themselves from the women who came before – be they Second Wave or suffragette. Liberal feminists have been conditioned to cut themselves off from their predecessors because their predecessors did not prioritize the way men might feel if women earned the right to vote, take birth control, start a group, publish a book, found a magazine, apply for credit, or get a job.

Second Wave feminists, in particular, were not afraid to say men and men’s needs were the primary cause of women’s suffering – even Betty Friedan, founder of NOW, got freaked out and attempted to distance herself as feminists of the 60s and 70s started to openly, unabashedly name the problem. And though we can’t speak for Friedan, we would hazard that she knew men were the problem, but distanced herself from the claim in order that she not end up, at the tail end of her career and life, villainized the way Greer is being villainized now. (And yes, we are also aware Friedan was afraid of being labeled a lesbian, and saw lesbians as a detriment to the movement.)

Even Gloria Steinem came out in support of the idea of ladybrain – and we don’t think she believes it any more than Greer does. But because the current liberal feminist mandate is that female is a feeling in a man’s head, Greer and Steinem have both been faced with a difficult choice: Say you’ve converted to Genderism (even if you haven’t) or be prepared to have your entire life’s work eclipsed by our culture’s staid belief that hurting a man’s feelings amounts to blasphemy.  

Convert or perish.

Young liberal feminist women have been given terms like “queer” and “cis” to confuse them into believing that their suffering is not real or, if it is real, it does not result from being born female.

When older sisters, like Greer, speak, when they say, “Listen! Women and girls have real, actual problems that have nothing to do with a man’s ability to craft the visage of ‘woman’” we, as a society, are quick to censure them, to call them “mad,” to infer they are insane with old age.

This is a trope, a motif. We see this in countless so-called “classic” and “beloved” tales: Great Expectations, Sunset Boulevard, Snow White, Macbeth, to name a very small few. We see this pattern, too, in our pop culture, in our politics: an aging woman is an angry woman, is jealous, is insane, is a being (not quite human, not quite woman) bent on evil.

The only “good woman” over fifty is one who is silent, deferential, nurturing, OR willing to make a fucking fool of herself.

But if one was to actually listen to a single word Greer has said on the topic, one would hear that hers are not the belligerent ravings of a madwoman, but rational, intelligent responses to a lunatic conversation she has been relentlessly dragged into despite the fact, as she has repeatedly stated, that she has zero interest whatsoever in discussing the matter, or thinking about the matter.

Here’s the bizarre reality: this interviewer is seated across from Germaine Greer – brilliant scholar, feminist icon, a woman who has nearly eighty years of experience and insight – and the best she can do is ask her about Bruce fucking Jenner?

But we, I suppose, are in the minority in that we value older women; we have friendships with women who are twenty, thirty, forty years our senior; we look to our elder sisters for advice, and are eager to hear their perspectives. We do not see women like Greer as freakish “others.”

Cardiff will not give Greer her earned and deserved honorary degree because she, unlike Steinem, refuses to espouse a belief in ladybrain. Greer will not betray a lifetime of scholarship and activism, she will not disappear her convictions, in order to cradle the fragile male ego, in order to pander to bullshit liberal feminism, and to perpetuate what we all know is a gigantic fucking lie.

But you know who wasn’t denied an honorary degree? Mike Tyson, a man who raped and beat women. Mike Tyson, who BIT ANOTHER MAN’S EAR OFF ON LIVE TELEVISION.

Who else; who else. Oh, yeah: Kanye West, author of immortal rap lyrics including  ”We got this bitch shaking like Parkinson’s,” “Black dick all in your spouse again,” and “I keep it 300, like the Romans/300 bitches, where’s the Trojans?” has an honorary doctorate.

So does Kermit the Frog. No shit. From Southampton College.

Roman Polanski anally-raped a female child. He gets LOTS of awards and makes LOTS of speeches.  

Hurt feelings — hell, hurt bodies —  in no way jeopardize a man’s public career. Very few men are maligned for talking shit about women, and absolutely no man is shamed for speaking, as Greer has, in simple, verifiable facts.

Go back a second, though, to Kanye’s Trojans, because this whole Greer thing forcibly reminds us of the ancient Greek myth of Apollo and Cassandra.

Despite his good looks, Apollo didn’t have such a great reputation with the ladies. He had a history of attempted rape (which, in ancient mythology, is not regarded as too great a transgression), and of bribing women for sex.  For Apollo, a figure who is supposed to represent the “perfect man” in form and intellect, all women could be bought, and when they could not be bought, they could be forced, and if they could not be bought or forced, they would be cursed.

When he offered Cassandra, a Trojan woman, the power of prophecy in exchange for sex, she gave it some thought but ultimately rejected him. Apollo, in turn, cursed her: she would have prophetic gifts, but never be believed.

In fact, she would be thought a liar and a madwoman.

And so, when Cassandra foresaw the Trojan War, no one listened.

When she insisted, “The Trojan Horse is full of men hiding!” people laughed at and insulted her.

Finally, she grabbed an axe and a burning torch and ran toward the horse, in an effort to destroy it before it destroyed Troy – but the Trojans stopped her, therefore ensuring their own destruction.

The men hiding in the horse were tremendously relieved.

relay races and affirmations

We had a tween girls’ group running around yesterday at my gym. It’s great to see a dozen multiracial 8-11 year old girls enjoying female-only activities; especially when the goal is to build confidence through physical accomplishment, but from what I saw I think they may be caught in the same dusty trap.

The first part of their activity was sitting in a circle with their coach, doing a short lesson on eating disorders.

“Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that makes people lose more weight than is considered healthy for their age and height,” one little moppet read aloud from the handout. “People with anorexia may have an intense fear of weight gain, even when they are underweight. They may diet or exercise too much or use other ways to lose weight.”

Cool, fine. It’s not like I expected them to get into patriarchal beauty standards as a method of male power, control and distraction (not that they’re too young; I’m just not expecting it) and at least they were getting a few facts before middle school starts eating their brains, but then they went out on the gym floor and started a relay race game. This involved starting at one end of the gym and running hell-bent-for-leather to the other, gasping and laughing and catching their breath before they yelled out an affirmation:


Hmm. OK. This was not de rigeur when I was a kid, when the ego-stroking of oneself was known as “bragging,” and also we knew not everyone was smart, but then again we didn’t have 24-hour entertainment/celebrity channels or criminally-actionable cyberbullying. So maybe kids today need to really bust it out in order to offset all that.


Shit. Really? No adult with this program thought that one out?


Aw, no. This is not a good affirmation! This is not a good goal! If everybody likes you, either you’re a co-dependent shape-shifter, false  to yourself in order to please others, or you have no discernible personality at all, in which case someone’s bound to dislike you because you don’t have a mind of your own.

Plus: I happen to know that one indispensable ingredient to a full-fledged, weapons-grade eating disorder is wanting everyone to like you. Add that to believing “pretty’ = “desirable character trait that buoys self-esteem,” mix in some toxic misogyny such as these girls are steeped in every minute, and you’ve just undone your worthy goal of inoculating them against self-destructive dieting and exercise behavior.

Maybe I could volunteer with this program. My  affirmations will be:





Today, on the tippy-top of Bullshit Mountain, you will find Jillian Michaels’ Facebook post

Ready to climb Bullshit Mountain with me? Let’s go!

headless fatty on a bike


So. Fitness-celeb Jillian Michaels assumes that women of size feel shame when working out at the gym, in public, amongst the Thins. I call that condescending presumption dressed up to look like encouragement, inspiration, and tough-love truth. It’s a fitness neg, like when some rando approaches you at a party and says, “You’re really pretty…have you ever thought of growing your hair out?”

SCAM! Don’t fuck that guy, and don’t internalize this headless-fatty meme either. See how the woman in the photo is cut off at the neck? She’s being depersonalized because her body is somehow so shameful they had to omit her face, yet told not to be ashamed for trying. Like, don’t be ashamed to go to the gym, Fatty McFatterson, even though your body is so objectionable we mercifully protected your identity!

Super neg! The triple twisting Yurchenko vault of emotional/marketing manipulation!

I don’t hate Jillian Michaels. I have all the damn DVD’s, and one or two are engaging enough (if you fast-forward past all the “Be your best you! Everybody else is taken!” pep talk at the end).

It’s hard to be your best you when someone “cheers you on” by judging your start as a weak one before you’re hardly on the goddamn bike, or trail, or weight rack – because you don’t look like they think you’re supposed to.

It hurts when someone posts an image online to inspire you…to NOT look like the woman in the image; the woman you actually do look like today, at this very moment, except that you have a face.

It sucks to feel good about yourself for a while, then feel bad again when someone reminds you how very deficient and lacking you are.

This is the mental soundtrack for the binge, the purge, the cravings, the vomiting, the laxatives, the endless hours on some Sisyphus machine, “paying” for the binge you had when you felt like shit about yourself, or the meal you enjoyed when you felt good. The fitspo industry party line officially disowns all of the above, of course, but let me direct you to that cute little sign in every head shop: For tobacco products only.

I like your boxing workout, Jillian. But I thought your post was super-ugly. Ugly on the inside. Right where it counts.



here’s how it ends

In a hospital cafeteria last week, an old man stood ahead of me in line for oatmeal. He reminded me of my dad, except he couldn’t use his hands very well. Oatmeal was getting everywhere and he looked embarrassed yet friendly, so I asked if he was at the hospital for physical therapy.

He said no. His daughter had died upstairs that morning of anorexia.

He was alone and so was I, so we ate together. Straightening his sugar packets in a careful pile, he told me about his daughter, who’d been my age – such a happy baby; such a bright girl – but when she was 15 she got funny about food and exercise; her weight; they spent a small fortune on rehab and counselors and some days she seemed better but other days worse.

Days became years. She wore people out.  He finally let her go, to do what she was going to do. He was sad but not surprised. He needed to go back to her apartment and go through her things for Goodwill.

“When she died,” he said, “it was like watching a fish drown in air.”

This is why I use my small sphere to fight what I fight: Because it really could have gone either way for me. You think thigh gap is some new thing the Internet invented? Thigh gap is ancient; thigh gap and bikini bridges and drink this chalky shit instead of food and here is what a woman must do to please The Great Eye are eternal because woman-hating is eternal. Thigh gap is a spot of necrotizing fasciitis in my psychic tissue where the blood supply got cut off in 1987 like it did for this old man’s daughter and the only difference is mine happens to be contained.

I want us to be clear on what the current culture does to women – even if we don’t read the magazines or watch the shows or visit the sites. It’s like secondhand smoke. It clings.

It’s why I don’t play the game, but I watch it every day. It’s a lucrative game for a lot of people, and it comes to us in friendly guises like “health” and “fitspiration” to encourage us to play; to mentally buy in. The game can be hot and compelling – can feel like you’re winning, even – but here’s how it ends: A sad old man eats a bowl of oatmeal in a hospital cafeteria and tells a stranger how he used to carry you on his shoulders in the swimming pool; how you used to laugh so easy.

Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Retreat: I thought it was a joke from The Onion

I never thought of a plantation as a place to party, not even when I lived in South Carolina. Never took a plantation tour or attended a plantation wedding (people really do this!) because it just seemed weird. I had to drive past the Confederate flag twice a day on the way to work and back as it waved merrily above the State House in Columbia, and that freaked me out enough. I’m, like, from Arizona. I didn’t understand a lot of things out there, like cheese grits or wearing pantyhose to work or “Sugar Pig” as a term of endearment.

I was just there for a job. And, no matter how long you live in the South, if you weren’t born there? You’re a visitor.

Southerners avoid discussing the region’s racial history with outsiders, but I did manage to meet a few pro-Confederate Flaggers who had a one-sided romance with “history” and “tradition.” Their position was, the flag didn’t necessarily support the institution of slavery but merely recalled a gracious bygone era and states’ rights. (My position was, this position was disingenuous).

And I met liberal Southerners of all races who thought nothing of attending events held at plantations (they’re listed in historic registers all over the South, where the word “plantation” isn’t loaded in the same way as everywhere else) but who HATED the flag.

Sometimes there’d be protests outside the State House, and at one of them I saw a Black woman holding a sign that said, “Your Heritage Is My Slavery.” This, I thought, was sufficient reason to take the flag down. Common sense! As George Costanza said, We’re living in a society here. We’re trying to rub along together in 21st century America with all its attendant unrest and trouble; why give unnecessary insult? Why be weird? That flag is weird! Plantations are weird! I still think this.

So. I’m not the Ani fan I was 10 or 15 years ago – her last few albums were music to wear hemp sweaters to – but I connected with her work so deeply, and for so long, that the Nottoway Plantation retreat shitstorm is a big sad ugh. I recall with unalloyed pleasure my first girl-kisses with Up Up Up Up Up Up on repeat during a foggy September night; the scent of patchouli lingering on my mouth-friend (a girl who’d marked Ani’s 30th birthday on her wall calendar) and I still play “Living in Clip” real loud when I clean the house, but the magic is mostly memory for me.

If you knew that magic, you remember: Ani was singing about you, for you. She was plucking out, with duct-taped press-on nails, the rhythms of your life. You knew the B-sides; you hung the posters; you cried on your ex-girlfriend during “Both Hands” (yeah, ex-gf came to the show with you) and took fuzzy photographs from the second row. You wished you were her guitar-changer.

We didn’t have an Internet to tell us we weren’t alone.

But I’m not 23 anymore, and Ani is worth 10 million dollars. She’s an empire who no longer personally watches over every aspect of her business; otherwise RBR wouldn’t have participated in an event at a place that whitewashes slavery (an institution known for sexual violence against women; something history books gloss over) and funnels money to right-wingers. Her fan base is liberal  and progressive; sensitive to hypocrisy of any kind, and they’re quoting her own lyrics back at her (They were digging a foundation in Manhattan/and they found a slave cemetery there…)

Her no-caps response to the escalating pile-on – much of it misogynistic, abusive and demonizing in ways unique to anonymous social media – reads badly. Whether her PR people were simply unprepared for this kind of disaster and gave her bad advice, or if they gave her good advice (apologize quickly, clearly, unequivocally, and briefly) to many it reads like an oblivious elitist didn’t hear a word they said – and for them, that negates 25 years of activism.

I don’t know if it’s my place to say they’re wrong, or to opine how a plantation site should be “reclaimed,” because I’m not Black. (It was former inmates who decided Auschwitz should be a made into a museum, you know?)

Reading non-Black opinions re: Nottoway plantation (excepting Tim Wise’s piece) reminds me of my feelings when non-teachers share vehement opinions re: education politics and classroom management strategies, or when my great-uncle says, dismissively,”No one really discriminates against the gays anymore.”

I hate that. So presumptuous! I think: This is not your pain, your struggle,  your history or your reality, so you wouldn’t know. You can’t. I’m not mad at you for not knowing, just for not listening, so hush for a minute – 30 seconds, even! – and listen. Then you can ask questions.

Nobody ever went wrong that way.

On E. coli, the grassy knoll, and the second wave

I got food poisoning Friday night via some artisanal microgreens I paid too much for and was reluctant to trash. They smelled suspect but the date was OK, so I thought, “maybe it’s just one bad leaf,” and put vinegar and oil on them. Six hours later I exploded. Awful things happened to me; things I can never un-see, so I am evangelistic tonight; the Chuck Colson of food safety: If in doubt, throw it out. Fuck a triple-washed basil/fenugreek mélange if it doesn’t smell perfectly fresh, because know what’s pricier? A cart full of bland foods and E. coli-killing cleaning agents:


It was the kind of sick where your entire body gets involved in a full-court, military defense against death by bacteria; a cycle of PUKE —> 30 minutes relief —> 20 minutes moaning nausea —>PUKE —> try not to poop on your feet —> repeat for eight hours. So I couldn’t sleep, and the only thing on TV besides infomercials (Don’t Let Your Neck Reveal Your Age!) was a Kennedy assassination documentary. It’s a big anniversary. Fifty years.

I rode with the show and another like it throughout the night, trying to distract myself. During each 30-minute nausea-relief period, I’d get interested, like, Wow, Oswald had 11 seconds to fire three shots, not six seconds, which makes a huge difference, especially if one of the bullets deflected off the traffic light — and then the nausea would build oh god oh god as Jack and Jackie landed in Love Field, and then they’d turn left on Elm Street oh noooo and then Kennedy would be shot just as I puked into a mixing bowl.

The Zapruder film looked worse on my bigscreen than it did in 11th-grade history. Another thing that looked worse: Every journalist, every doctor, every government official (except Judge Sarah Hughes who swore in Lyndon Johnson; she’s the exception who proves the rule) is male. Fifty years ago, that wasn’t jarring; most people didn’t think twice about it, and they wouldn’t until about 1967. Until the second wave.

Which is why I get scared and angry when women shrug the second wave off like it’s irrelevant to their lives. Like their safe, legal birth control; sports scholarships; and law degrees just sort of…happened! A gift from an enlightened Universe! Too many women think that fifty years ago, every single one of them would have been Sarah Hughes. It’s a weird kind of exceptionalism.

The truth: No matter how special or smart you are, on Nov. 22, 1963 you’d be in the background shot, sweetheart. Most likely you’d be home crying in front of the TV, but if you “had to work,” you’d be teaching sixth grade or pounding out your nursing shift or transcribing on Dictaphone things men said. You wouldn’t get anywhere near the Warren Commission or Air Force One, or even the city desk of the Dallas Morning News. And if you did, you’d pay dearly in terms of your personal life. Men didn’t want to marry career girls; just ask Life magazine and the Ladies’ Home Journal.  And career girls who loved other career girls? Yeah, have fun. Pregnant and didn’t want to be? Raped and trying to report it to the police? Good luck with all that.

This is in the past, like nausea that’s hard to remember after it’s over. But we must remember, because lots of people would be delighted to return to that past; or can’t be arsed to imagine how it felt to actually live in that past.

If we’re smart, we’re afraid of a recurrence. We snap our heads up fast upon smelling the slightest waft of patriarchal funk. We don’t say “it’ll be fine,” and ignore tiny signs of rot in our healthy, verdant lives. Because, by the time we smell it, the rot’s gone pretty deep; and once we start to feel sick? We’re in for an ordeal.

I feel dumber for having read this piece on Salon

…about “Matilda the Musical”:

“With a spoonful of sugar comes a transphobic message about the dangers of straying from traditional gender roles, a conservative parable about the “right” and the “wrong” kinds of women.”

:raises hand:

Couldn’t it just as easily be “an anti-woman or anti-feminist message about the dangers of straying from traditional gender roles, a conservative parable about the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ kinds of women?”

Or could Dahl, a non-traditional sort himself, have been using satire to encourage children to think more deeply about  what it means to be a girl or a boy? About adult villainy and hypocrisy? About how we ought to treat each other?

Or — and by far the most likely — could Dahl have simply written a children’s book, to appeal to children (who, after all, have a cruder sense of humor than adults? Sort of a starter set of humor, yes? Who’s got kids?)

“Dahl paints Miss Trunchbull as male inside and out. Her physique is ‘gigantic’ and ‘formidable,’ with ‘big shoulders,’ ‘thick arms’ and ‘powerful legs.’ She has a ‘deep and dangerous voice.’ Avoiding feminine dress, she wears breeches rather than a skirt, flats rather than heels, and in Warchus’ play, a coach’s whistle around her neck.”

OK, but does Miss Trunchbull have to be trans? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Miss Trunchbull, you do you!) but…might she just be a butch, or simply a woman who doesn’t fit the traditional trappings of femininity? My middle-school swim coach comes to mind here, but she never transitioned. We’re Facebook friends now and she seems quite happy being female.

“When they stray too far from the feminine path, they need to be put in their place.”

Hoo, that sounds familiar! Just ask my girlfriend, who is not actually even that butch! She’s more “butch-adjacent,” but she sure understands how this one goes! (Also, she is a Theatre Person and hates that Miss Trunchbull is played by a man in this production. She says it’s similar to casting a white actor in a specifically black role).

“One group of people will not miss Dahl’s underlying message, however. Little girls who love sports and not dresses, who are tall or muscular, who are boyish or even perhaps identify as boys, who long someday to possess authority. All of these children will see themselves in the Trunchbull, and they will watch closely as these aspects with which they identify are shamed.”

I guess that makes sense, but let’s be clear: Not all little girls who love sports and not dresses (or who love both!); who are tall or muscular, or who long someday to possess authority, “identify as boys.”

Also, I hate the word “boyish” to describe a little girl or her interests/behavior. Boys don’t own climbing trees or riding bikes or science/tech or being the boss someday. If a girl does these things, or grows up to do them, they’re girl/woman things.

You know?

From Feels to English, parts 1 and 2

I shouldn’t have gone to the bar. My Friday nights are about a nice pot of oolong and a little Jane Austen, not drinking with 24-year-old work friends. But they can be a real kick in the pants, as my mother would say. So I went.

All of them were late except for Zach, who’s always early because he likes to get a jump on the drinking. Zach gets the highest evals whenever the Dept. of Ed comes to count our beans, and word is it’s because of that young dood flirtiness that lady bean-counters go nuts for. Why can’t the DOE hire more dykes?

As Zach and I sat with our drinks (club soda for me because alcohol allergy) , our friend Sharee called me to say she’d had to park a mile away.

“Be careful,” I said. “Because I bet you’re walking in four-inch heels.”

“I’m all good!” she chirped. “I have a gun!”

We hung up. “She wasn’t kidding,” Zach said. “You know she’s a serious Republican, right?”

I knew. On paper, Sharee and I should despise each other — she’s hyper-armed, hyper-femme with rich parents and a Mitt Romney sticker on her car — but we enjoy hanging out as long as we don’t discuss anything substantive.  She may not like the idea of gay marriage, but she’s always excited to look at wedding gowns online with me.

“She’s young,” I reminded Zach.

“She’s 24!” he said. “And you know I’m an anarcho-Communist.”

“The age of reason is 26,” I replied, because it’s true.

Sharee’s problem is that she has no problems. She’s never been turned away from a doctor’s office because she didn’t have insurance; never taken an ice-cold shower because the heat got cut off; never had to choose between food and medicine; never waited in line at the Social Security Office; never suffered any of the million stinging privations and humiliations of living a real adult life without parents to fall back on. She’s earned almost nothing for herself, yet opposes any sort of social contract because somehow she knows; she just knows, she’s never going to be weak enough to need it. She doesn’t feel vulnerable, even though she’s  a young woman (of color!) who makes less than $35,000 a year as a public employee. She’s smart, she’s educated. And yet.

I’ve read Right-Wing Women. I get it. But some days, it’s all I can do not to say, “Romney sticker, huh? Hey, Sharee…do you have a pussy? Go ahead and check! I’ll wait.”

I said as much to Zach, who got irritated.

“The mistake people make,” he mansplained, “and I’m not saying you’re the only one — but the mistake some people make is, they think women only care about birth control and abortion. Women are full human beings, right? They care about EVERYTHING! Taxes, the economy, education, what-HAVE-you.”

Then Sharee showed up, all smiles and concealed weaponry, so we let it drop. I’m left with a gristly question: Am I wrong to think contraception and abortion laws SHOULD be vitally important to all women? Does this belief serve to narrow/marginalize women’s status, or is it true that without reproductive freedom, everything else is moot because a woman who can’t control the means of her own reproduction is not free? 

I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Maybe I shouldn’t care. I’m never going to need the Pill again. I don’t see young straight women fighting for my right to marry. But Friday night, I felt sad and old. Because it just felt like we’ve lost.

*I’m aware that this post is more of a beginning instead of my usual narrative arc. It feels like I left something on the stove. Please hold for Part 2.

OK, here it is:

Part 1 of this post left me feeling cold and void and dumb as a box of rocks. It didn’t say what I wanted to say because I couldn’t translate what I wanted to say from Feels to Standard Modern English.  So I asked my lovely online friend Moira if I we could spin and spiral together in Q-and-A format. Moira is an exited erstwhile member of transcult/sex-poz-landia who blogs at Here’s a partial transcript of our IM:

P: Frustrated by post. WTF am I trying to even saaaaaaaay.

M: It was a beginning…I thought the most developed part was the bit about how your friend doesn’t see herself as ever needing a social safety net. The implications of that are huge. More to explore there.

P: OK! What else what else.

M: The other place I’d expand is responding to Zach’s reversal.  Love that he’s an anarcho-commie, btw. That is perfect and hilarious.

P: YOU CAN’T BE ANARCHO-COMMIE IT MAKES NO SENSE. It’s probably some lefty-dood thing where he gets to have sex with ALL the laydeez. And OMG he totally reversed me. Vulcan mind trick. How he do that?!

M: He implied that your argument diminished the humanity of women and reduces us to our reproductive capability. In fact. the only thing that *does* that is the social control over reproduction. Which you’re arguing AGAINST!

P: I feel so dumb.

M: No, that’s part of it! You’re not dumb. It’s designed to make you flub and stutter. It’s a mindfuck.

P: I did stutter! I never stutter! Like, all of a sudden, I was on the defensive.

M: Yup. It’s like judo. Uses your own strength against you.

P: And yet I was the only non-drunk person at the table.

(Redacted: Here is where we talked about drinking a little).

P: What’s your take on young conservative women?

M: Preliminarily: It’s in some ways a mirror image of 3rd wavers. Very I-ndividual solutions. Your friend carries a gun so she’s “all good.” It’s a fallacy.

P: SHE is all good. Not WE.

M: Exactly. And it isn’t even true for her, as a supposed island. She’s (a) more likely to be assaulted by someone she trusts, and (b) can be overpowered and have her weapon used against her, just to name 2 things. That model is, “He’ll have to go find someone else to rape, instead of me.” And that’s when it works how it’s supposed to!

P: This is so what was in my feels. WHY COULDN’T I PUT THIS IN WURDS.

M: None of us are islands. It’s not a weakness, I grew up going to (redacted place of worship) every week — singing the same prayers, Alone, I don’t know the words. In a group, I know them all.

I’m so glad to know Moira. Go check her out!



You might not want to hear about my labia.

You might not want to hear about my labia. My iPhone definitely doesn’t want to hear about it (them?); keeps autocorrecting “labia” to “Kanis,” which as we all know is a picturesque town in the Dutch province of Utrecht:


…but that’s not what I’m going to tell you about right now. I’m going to tell you about my labia, if you’re up for that, which of course maybe you’re not. While I received a lovely compliment on it (them?) just the other night, some people, historically, haven’t been up for hearing about my labia and you might be one of them. I don’t know. I can’t make that decision for you.

Anyway! I never really thought much about my labia until earlier this year, when it dawned on me that it’s the sort of labia doctors want to fix; to streamline; to endow with a “comfortable, athletic, petite look.” No matter how much weight I lift or how fast I run, my labia can never be sporty without violent surgical intervention. In order to keep her from being picked last for every team, I could choose to get a “Barbie,” a “clamshell,” a “wedge” or a “hybrid.” (That last one has a “petite hint of a rim around the vaginal opening.” Like a Prius!)

My labia is what I would call “visually striking,” even from noncommittal locker-room distance. It looks capable of independent flight. Come a little closer and it looks like a rakish little face blowing a petulant raspberry, but I didn’t know it was such an outlier until I encountered labiaplasty in the mainstream media. The conversation there is about choice: If a lady chooses to have her ladywings restructured/rejuvenated/beautified/amputated, it’s her choice and we must respect it as we would any other choice, just like the choice to go to graduate school or start an artisanal cupcake business! 

I guess there are more important things to care about besides women with burnable disposable income using it for labia-mutilating purposes. It’s not FGM; it’s not holding a little girl down and excising her clitoris with a shard of broken glass, but the underlying motivations snuggle up pretty closely, yes? Both FGM and labiaplasty:

  • Are performed to conform a woman’s genitals to a specific cultural definition of acceptability.  In Burkina Faso, female genitals in their natural state make a woman sexually insatiable (offensive!) in Los Angeles they make her sexually undesirable (offensive!)
  • Result in an infantilized labia because many men find that appealing (please see also “Brazilian wax”).
  • Are supposed to make a woman look, smell, feel, and be “tidy” or “clean” — in fact, some popular terms for mutilation are synonymous with purification (“tahara” in Egypt and “tahur” in Sudan).
  • Damage the healthy nerve endings of a healthy sexual organ.
  • Are usually elected by women themselves — or mothers and grandmothers in the case of FGM — in response to sociocultural pressure. In the developing world, that has to do with purity and marriageability; for us, it has to do with p0rn. (Simplistic but accurate).

At core, FGM and labiaplasty are are about the proper sexual use of women. Use, not even behavior. Both are a surgical intervention to make women more…well, more of what we’re supposed to be for.

Which is all terribly depressing, so tonight I’m searching the Internet for small pockets of labia pride like the Large Labia Project on tumblr. Naked labia on the internet is problematic — and y’all know how much internet feminists love that word; we need a drinking game for it — but this site could be very enlightening to women whose only exposure to female genitalia has been via p0rn (please, God, may labiaplasty doctors never get one lesbian dollar). I kind of want to start a movement called Leave Your Pussy Alone! (LYPA!)

But I’m torn vis a vis the whole Labia Pride thing because, let’s face it, anything we have to imbue with Pride comes with a not-insignificant amount of Shame; there’s no Pinky Toe Pride although a subset of women are having theirs amputated in order to fit into high-heel stilettos.  They call that “cosmetic surgery,” too. Because it sounds so much better than “mutilation.”

Reblogged from feministcurrent: “The Steubenville rape case: This is masculinity”

Find it here.

“I don’t pity these boys. For once, men are being held accountable for their behaviour. It’s abnormal, for sure. No wonder people are shocked. After all, we’re used to dicks reigning with impunity. We’re used to hearing stories, whether in the media or in our own lives, about rapes going unpunished. What’s shocking is not that this happened in the first place, but that these young men were found delinquent (the juvenile court equivalent of being found guilty).

But I’m also not interested in vilifying these individuals. What I think we need to understand is that, yes, this behaviour was absolutely disgusting and horrific and that absolutely this must be treated as a crime, these young men are not monsters. They are just regular guys. Regular guys who play football, go to high school, and go to parties with their friends and who have learned, growing up male in a rape and porn culture, that women aren’t real, full, human beings. They’ve learned, as many boys and men learn, that women exist for the entertainment of men; whether on stage at a strip club, on screen in porn, or blackout drunk at a party.

…These boys aren’t monsters. These are men I’ve known. Men I went to high school with. Men I went to parties with. Men who raped my friends. These young men are no anomaly. This is masculinity. This is male culture. Regular, “normal,” every day male culture.

By no means do I intend to say that all individual men and boys behave in this way. They don’t. All men are not rapists. All individual men don’t literally see and treat women as fuck-toys. I know many men, in my life, who I love deeply and who are men who treat women like human beings. But these young men from Steubenville are also not abnormal men. There’s nothing “wrong” with them. They aren’t mentally ill. This is the culture we live in. Where life is a porn movie. Where rape is punishment for getting too drunk. Where sex acts are filmed and posted online so the world can see what women are really for. So women can be mocked and blamed and assaulted simply for existing in a rape culture.”