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

Apres le deluge, le handwringing

Much hullabaloo recently over Chick-Fil-A and its owner’s bigoted statements about same-sex marriage and gay folk. I’m sure you’ve gotten the memo! I’m sure you have your opinion about Jesus Chicken and the boycotts and whatnot.

So I’m going to talk about the handwringing. Oh, noes! Boston Mayor Thomas Menino discouraged Chick-Fil-A from opening a franchise near the Freedom Trail! Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney told Jesus Chicken Boss Dan Cathy to take a hike and take his intolerance with him! New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn asked the president of NYU to boot its campus Jesus Chicken franchise!

Businessy people are troubled, because FREEDOM:

As a gay man, I’m disheartened by statements like Mr. Cathy’s, with their limited conception of what it means to be a family. “Family” is a treasured — I’ll say it, sacred — word in the gay community. Through decades of modern-day oppression, gay men and lesbians have created families against all odds. Love, loyalty, commitment, mutual support: these things are family. They are scarce virtues that our society should do everything in its power to foster.

But that’s my opinion. And a society that truly believes in individual freedom will respect Mr. Cathy’s right to his views. Those who disagree with him are free to boycott Chick-fil-A in protest. But if our elected officials run Chick-fil-A out of town, they are effectively voting for all of us, regardless of our respective beliefs, and eliminating our individual freedoms.

And freedom, after all, is at the heart of the controversy over same-sex marriage. True individual freedom includes allowing consenting adults to marry the partners they choose, regardless of gender. To those for whom same-sex marriage is personally objectionable, their free choice is simple: Don’t enter into one. But don’t impede the freedom of others to do so. As long as Chick-fil-A operates within the boundaries of the law, municipalities and institutions should leave the decision about whether to eat at Chick-fil-A to individual consumers.

Leaving aside the rather ignorant surprise that elected officials in a representative democracy are voting on behalf of the population at large (were you asleep that day in Social Studies? Were you not allowed to watch Schoolhouse Rock?), this is all handwringing by a business guy.

No one’s taking actual official action to block Chick-Fil-A from opening anywhere as long as they’re in compliance with the law. Wal-Mart’s been blocked from opening in NYC before because of noncompliance with local labor laws, but not because of the Walton family being composed of jackasses. Whole Foods is helmed by a jackass, too, but they’re allowed to operate.

No, what these elected officials are doing is posturing. Politicking. Blustering. Showing their gay and gay-friendly constituents that they don’t approve of Cathy’s comments. Each of them admits that there’s not much they can do to prevent the company from opening or operating a store in their cities, but all of them are entitled to express an opinion. Just like the public figures who’ve supported Cathy are entitled to their opinions.

And each of the letters to Cathy have been pretty careful not to threaten official action against the company, beyond a condemnation of the views of the owner as against the values of the city.

Now, if any of them did take action against Chick-Fil-A, then, yes, I’d have a big problem with them. But none of them are.

So unclench. Your freedom to choose to eat crappy chicken is safe. But you can’t get it on Sundays.

Never let it be said that the Kardashians don’t recognize an opportunity

I have been fortunate enough not to have actually seen an episode of one of the many Kardashian-related reality TV shows in existence. Yet I am unfortunate enough to still know who these people are.

That said, I have to commend (kommend?) the Kardashian sisters for recognizing that plus-size women need clothes and will spend real actual money to purchase them.

But, we’ll admit: the launch of their plus-size denim line, Kardashian Kurves, actually seems pretty kool. Sorry, cool.

The line will be sold in Sears, and in an effort to drum up some extra excitement there is an official contest, where one winner will pose with the Kardashian sisters on an official ad campaign. To enter on Facebook, submit a full-length photo of yourself “along with what being ‘kurvy’ and ‘konfident’ means to you.”

Do I hate that the name of the line is Kardashian Kurves? Yes. Does it irritate me that they are asking for models to show them how “konfident” they are with their “kurves”? You betcha. But I am going to give the sisters props for seeking out a market that so many other retailers are embarrassed to admit exists, even when they can (and often do, on the sly) make a lot of money selling to that market.

I give them credit for not being afraid to associate themselves with a plus-size line, for taking the measure (so to speak) of the clothing market and realizing that there’s a lot less competition for eyeballs and dollars in the plus department than there is in the junior department. I also give them credit for launching the line at Sears, which is accessible to a lot of the people who really could stand more choices in clothing.

Can’t say I’d wear it myself, but you never know.

New York State Senator Teaches Women “Feminine Presence” for Professional Development

Yes it is still 2012, but NY State Senator Marty Golden thinks that was professional women need most is a class on “Posture, Deportment and the Feminine Presence.” The pay gap still exists, working women face often insurmountable challenges in making sure that their work is done and their kids are cared for, childcare costs are astronomical, the U.S. is one of the only industrialized countries in the world without paid parental leave, and low-income women with children (even very young children) face losing necessary (and meager) benefits unless they work large numbers of hours in an economy with few open jobs.

And Senator Golden thinks the problem is that women don’t know how to offer a properly feminine handshake.

How Parents and Children Can Move Out of the CrossHairs of the Weight Cycling Industry

I always ask “who benefits” from any given “social problem.”

The $60 billion diet industry or, as Dr. Deb Burgard has called it, “The Weight Cycling Industry” is in the business of cashing in on a problem of its own creation. Any truly efficient method of changing body size would put them out of business, but since none exists, they can keep making money as long as they can keep the hysteria flowing.

Business at Sofitel

Feministe friend Josh Glasstetter sends along this image from the Sofitel homepage — it’s the first thing that comes up when you visit their site. Sofitel, it’s worth mentioning, is the place where DSK was renting out a $3,000-a-night suite when he allegedly sexually assaulted a hotel employee. The image advertises “Business@Sofitel,” and features two white men and three white women. The two white men are in suits, and are standing up, and both appear to be talking to the women and moving around. The three women are sitting down, looking up at the men. The women are not wearing suits. Two of the women appear to be taking notes on whatever it is that the men are saying; the third is just gazing up at the talking, suit-wearing man.

Business@Sofitel: Men TALKING! And GESTURING! And LEADING! And women… sitting and listening! And writing down the important things that the talking, gesturing men say! And making the “I am so interested in all of the interesting things you are saying because you are just so interesting” face! And looking really pretty while they do it!

Sounds just lovely. Do pretty women who gaze adoringly at you come standard, or is there an extra cost for that? Is there a discount for uglier ones? Because I’ll totally take uglier ones as long as they can do the “interested” face.

Larger version of the image below the fold.

Read More…Read More…

Occupy Wall Street protestors face police violence

Occupy Wall St protestor being dragged away by four NYPD officers

The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on in lower Manhattan, with activists camping out and marching around the financial district. They self-describe as:

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.

Media coverage has been mixed. First, the protests were ignored. Then they were criticized. They’re increasingly being lauded. I have mixed feelings, personally, about some of the tactics and the lack of coherent goals and the protestors comparing themselves to the Arab Spring activists, even while I support the protests and I’m on board with their general grievances pertaining to the prioritization of corporations over people and a government that allows corporate greed to go unchecked while millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet. Like Samhita says over at Feministing, “You can say what you will about protests that are not strategic or focused and those are legitimate critiques – but the fundamental power of protesting when all other avenues have failed us is important to any semblance of democracy we might have, whether it be a strategic single issue protest or a faceless unanimous mass uprising. If protesters aren’t listened to, represented or covered, we have all but lost our voice.”

Regardless of how I feel about the relative merits of some aspects of Occupy Wall St. — and regardless of whether you think the protestors are reclaiming the future or are a bunch of hippie socialists — we should all be concerned with how the NYPD is handling the situation. The protests have been, by almost all accounts, peaceful, even if the protestors didn’t have a permit. The NYPD is nonetheless making mass arrests, using mace, and manhandling protestors. That kind of disproportionate response should scare all of us — especially when much of the media coverage has amounted to, “Well the protestors are a bunch of spoiled children anyway.”

Look at the pictures and tell me that seems right. Try to envision Tea Party activists or even abortion clinic protestors — two groups that routinely protest without permits, and with varying degrees of peacefulness — being maced, arrested en masse, violently thrown to the ground, or roughly dragged down the street.

It doesn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen. And it shouldn’t happen to left-wing protestors in lower Manhattan, either.

A terrifying number of important rights and liberties have been curtailed in the United States over the past ten years, often under the guise of keeping us safe or fighting evil. For the most part, Americans have looked the other way. But when peaceful protests are met with violence, and when force is used to silence political grievances, we all lose. Protests and public assemblies are such fundamental parts of the American story that they’re protected in the Constitution. For centuries they’ve been a major avenue through which we’ve achieved social change, or at least voiced our opinions. No matter what our political positions or our feelings about any particular group of activists, it should give us pause when a peaceful protestor has to decide if speaking her mind — or just showing up — is worth getting maced, arrested and brutalized. In looking at the photos and reading the accounts of the actions taken against the Occupy Wall St protestors, even the most right-wing among us should be disturbed. We should all be angry.

Your startup is inferior to that guy with the mobile app for golfers

In case you needed a reminder that ventures traditionally associated with women are inherently inferior to things that are manly and such, tech reporter Jolie O’Dell is happy to remind you via Twitter.

Women: Stop making startups about fashion, shopping, & babies. At least for the next few years. You’re embarrassing me.

After a few of her followers call her to task, she eventually backs down to “there’s a glut of them & it bothers me” and “[a]ll the DEMO female-led companies are one of those three niches. I was disappointed, clearly.” But ultimately, she arrives at the classic girl-stuff burial ground: Girl stuff is stupid because it’s pointless, because it’s girl stuff.

Because I refuse to believe those smart, talented women are making the best use of their time & skills to change the world.

(Background: O’Dell made her comments in regard to DEMO 2011, a tech conference with some amount of focus on emerging tech and entrepreneurship–lots of pitches, presentations, and demonstrations. In her 140-word tweets, she doesn’t get around to mentioning exactly which girly startups she found so offensive, so one can only speculate.)

I get where she’s coming from, almost. A little. In the business world, where women still struggle for acceptance and recognition, it can be jarring to see women make it to the big show and start talking about shoes and diapers. It’s not an image some women want to see promoted. But O’Dell’s complaint has nothing to do with female business founders flashing cleavage or tittering through demos–they’re giving women a bad image simply by offering products of a traditionally female nature.

Read More…Read More…

Suing for Looks Discrimination

Pretty people finish first — that’s a well-documented phenomenon. Folks who fall outside of cultural beauty norms — who are fatter or not white or less white or older or whatever else — make less money over their lifetimes. Economics professor Daniel S. Hamermesh suggests that people who are discriminated against because of their looks should be able to sue if they can show that their employer demonstrated a pattern of looks-based discrimination.

Now, suing over discrimination isn’t exactly new, especially where physical appearance is involved. Women have been on the losing end of those battles for years, and courts have held that women can be fired from their jobs for not wearing enough make-up or not wearing revealing uniforms (women have also been fired for being too sexy or too fat or too-whatever-else). But Hamermesh isn’t really concerned about women — he’s worried about men, of course:

Another scintillating point argued by Hamermesh is that while women often bear the brunt of looks bias in the mating arena, men are more affected by looks discrimination in the professional world, since their gender still comprises the majority of the working population.

“Most men will work, regardless of their looks. Women still have some choice about whether to work for pay,” says Hamermesh. “If a woman is bad-looking and she knows she will be penalized in the workplace, she will be less likely to work.”

Hamermesh backs up the bold assertion with study statistics he published in the American Economic Review in 1994 with co-author Jeff Biddle, Ph.D.

In the study, women ranked as the most unattractive seventh of the female population were five percentage points less likely to work than average-looking women. Meanwhile, women who ranked in the top third of attractiveness were five percentage points more likely to work than the average.

I’m quoted in response. You can head over there to read it.