In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

I Was a Teenage Prostitute


Though I’m happy, sadness is in the air. All the girls but me are on drugs. While I occasionally indulge in my time off, I don’t want my vision clouded while on the job. I am curious about the people who would come to a prostitute, or be a boyfriend to a prostitute and pick her up at the end of her shift and take her home. I soberly watch everything and everyone, including myself. All the girls but me have been here a long time. I can see that it gets hard after a while — or at least very weird — to live inside other people’s dreams. In Candy’s case, she literally lives, and drives, off of other people’s use of her beauty. Her sporty little car and her spacious, bright apartment are both paid for with one-hour sessions each month, to the car dealer and the landlord. The drugs are always gifts, or trades, as well. Along with hundred-dollar restaurant meals and concert tickets. Prostitution isolates you, with all its little ways that people not in it don’t understand, much in the way some religions do, or drug addictions. It’s hard to explain certain things, and after a while it’s easier to not talk to anyone outside much at all. I thought that as a prostitute, I would no longer be inside a dream; I’d be flung, newly sharp and capable, into life. Actually, I discover, the opposite is true. Prostitution is a complex, shared dream where everyone agrees to not wake up, for just a little longer.


Since this semester started, with my less-than-usual financial aid and rising cost of living, I have been constantly worrying over money. Today I finally pulled off a way to make extra cash.

Today was a big game day. Purdue played Notre Dame about five blocks away from my house. I invited Anne and her dog over for the afternoon, drew up some signs on cardboard, and propped them up in the street. Knowing the church down the way was charging $8 a pop, and other houses nearby were charging $10-25 for parking, I let people park in my yard for five dollars apiece. Within an hour I had made $50.

I could have made far more money, but whatever. You can bet your ass I’ll be out there next game day.

Purging the Poor

Naomi Klein is a must-read this week, as she rakes through the racial and socioeconomic politics of the new New Orleans.

Wearing a donated pink T-shirt with an age-inappropriate slogan (“It’s the hidden little Tiki spot where the island boys are hot, hot, hot”), Nyler tells me what she is nervous about. “I think New Orleans might not ever get fixed back.” “Why not?” I ask, a little surprised to be discussing reconstruction politics with a preteen in pigtails. “Because the people who know how to fix broken houses are all gone.”

I don’t have the heart to tell Nyler that I suspect she is on to something; that many of the African-American workers from her neighborhood may never be welcomed back to rebuild their city.

Why? Because Washington is offering huge incentives — tax breaks, subsidies and relaxed regulations — to big firms for their help rebuilding the city, which will be designed by people Klein calls the “white elite.” (And considering that whites make up only 27% of people in New Orleans, she’d be correct).

So what could they do? Well, integrate neighborhoods, for one:

As for the hundreds of thousands of residents whose low-lying homes and housing projects were destroyed by the flood, [New Orleans’ top corporate lobbyist, Mark] Drennen points out that many of those neighborhoods were dysfunctional to begin with. He says the city now has an opportunity for “twenty-first-century thinking”: Rather than rebuild ghettos, New Orleans should be resettled with “mixed income” housing, with rich and poor, black and white living side by side.

What Drennen doesn’t say is that this kind of urban integration could happen tomorrow, on a massive scale. Roughly 70,000 of New Orleans’ poorest homeless evacuees could move back to the city alongside returning white homeowners, without a single new structure being built. Take the Lower Garden District, where Drennen himself lives. It has a surprisingly high vacancy rate–17.4 percent, according to the 2000 Census. At that time 702 housing units stood vacant, and since the market hasn’t improved and the district was barely flooded, they are presumably still there and still vacant. It’s much the same in the other dry areas: With landlords preferring to board up apartments rather than lower rents, the French Quarter has been half-empty for years, with a vacancy rate of 37 percent.

The citywide numbers are staggering: In the areas that sustained only minor damage and are on the mayor’s repopulation list, there are at least 11,600 empty apartments and houses. If Jefferson Parish is included, that number soars to 23,270. With three people in each unit, that means homes could be found for roughly 70,000 evacuees. With the number of permanently homeless city residents estimated at 200,000, that’s a significant dent in the housing crisis. And it’s doable.

But why do I get the feeling that it won’t be done?

Hijab Barbie

Well, not Barbie exactly — Fulla, and she’s a best-seller in the Mideast. She has the same, uh, “dimensions” as Barbie, but darker hair and features. She comes complete with a hijab, a prayer rug, and solid traditional values.

Fulla is another one of those things that I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, it’s great that girls are playing with a doll that resembles them (at least facially), and that doesn’t present whiteness, blonde hair and blue eyes as a beauty standard in a part of the world where that’s not exactly the norm. It’s good that innovative people in other countries have taken what has largely been a Western-created phenomenon and reshaped it to fit their culture instead of just swallowing it as-is. And Fulla can be a good role model in some aspects:

Though Fulla will never have a boyfriend doll like Barbie’s Ken, Mr. Abidin said, a Doctor Fulla and a Teacher Fulla will be introduced soon. “These are two respected careers for women that we would like to encourage small girls to follow,” he said.

Can’t argue with that (although I wonder what careers aren’t “respected”?)

But not everything about Fulla is so fantastic.

Maan Abdul Salam, a Syrian women’s rights advocate, said Fulla was emblematic of a trend toward Islamic conservatism sweeping the Middle East. Though statistics are hard to come by, he said, the percentage of young Arab women who wear the hijab is far higher now than it was a decade ago, and though many girls are wearing it by choice, others are being pressured to do so.

I think we can all agree that that’s bad — not wearing the hijab in itself, but lacking choice in the matter.

Fatima Ghayeh, who at 15 is a few years past playing with dolls herself, said she felt “sad that no one plays with Barbie anymore.” But, pressed for further explanation, Ms. Ghayeh, dressed in a white hijab and ankle-length khaki coat, appeared to change her mind.

“My friends and I loved Barbie more than anything,” she said. “But maybe it’s good that girls have Fulla now. If the girls put scarves on their dolls when they’re young, it might make it easier when their time comes. Sometimes it is difficult for girls to put on the hijab. They feel it is the end of childhood.” “Fulla shows girls that the hijab is a normal part of a woman’s life.”

There’s something incredibly painful about that quote, isn’t there? When a doll serves to ease you out of a life of relative freedom and into one where it seems that at least some young women feel very contrained, and where they recognize that something has been lost?

So I’m still torn on this one. But my instinct tells me that anything which purports to promote “traditional values” probably isn’t great for women’s rights — considering that “traditional values” is typically code for selective, oppressive values under the guise of “God said so” and “In the good old days…”

Presidential Protection

China will be selling “Clinton” and “Lewinsky” brand condoms — his go for $3.70, hers for $2.25 (ouch).

We chose the name because we think Clinton is a symbol of success and a man of responsibility. And Lewinsky is a woman who dares to love and dares to hate,” said Liu Wenhua, the company’s general manager.

“We haven’t told Clinton about this yet, but maybe you could help us find him,” Liu added. “We’d like to tell him how respected he is in China, so we can boost his confidence and help his career.”

Liu said he settled on the Clinton name after a year of research sparked by the news that the former president had been named to head an international initiative to combat HIV and AIDS. Some of the other names he considered and rejected included “First Night,” “18 Years Old” and “I Miss You.” They didn’t have the same aura of respectability, he said.

Why do I feel like Bill might be strangely flattered by this?

Blogging and Advertising Results

James Torio, a grad student now graduated, finished his thesis on blogging and advertising and has made the results public for our perusal:

In the paper, I looked at how Blogs hyper-accelerate the spread of information, how blogs are effecting business and how some blogs are making money.

I was one of the bloggers who responded. Congrats on your graduation, James, and glad I could help.