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

You know what? Go for it. Do it! Compliment women!

So last week, President Obama delivered an inappropriate compliment to California Attorney General Kamala Harris — inappropriate not because it was insulting or prurient but because, well, it concerned her appearance, and they were at a political event, and that’s not the place you talk about a woman’s appearance. He said:

She’s brilliant and she’s dedicated, she’s tough. She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general. … It’s true! C’mon.

he apologized for it.

But some people don’t like to hear important men apologize for stuff. At Jezebel, Lindy West responds to Washington Times columnist Jack Engelhard, who is pissed that Obama apologized because just for a moment, just for one shining moment, it seemed okay for Engelhard to do any damn thing he wanted without taking any time out to consider the feelings of women. Luckily, West provides for us a handy list of times when it’s appropriate to compliment a woman so you don’t have to go to jail over it.

Blacksweet: Grappling with skin color in Indonesia

Indonesians idealize whiteness. It permeates every aspect of an Indonesian woman’s life, from clothing to beauty regimens. My relationship with skin color is complicated here. Having brown skin allows me to blend in more in crowds. Most Indonesians love Indians, having been raised on a plethora of ‘90s Bollywood movies.

At the same time, I sometimes find myself wishing for a little of the unwanted attention my white Fulbright friends receive. Indonesians don’t clamor to take pictures with me or seek to practice their English – I’m hitam manis. Instead, my skin color means I have to fight for my claim to be American.

The innocuous question, “Dari mana?” (where are you from?) is one I sometimes dread in the taxi.

Fighting bad health, not obesity

In the Guardian this week I’m writing about how advocates for healthy food and journalists covering addictive junk food should focus on the bad health outcomes of that food instead of body size. I differ with much of the Feministe commentariat on a lot of food issues, especially insofar as I think the government should absolutely incentivize healthy eating and exercise, and I’m fine with limiting sizes of nutritionally useless, almost-entirely-bad-for-you processed items like soda (I’m also fine leveling taxes on products like soda, alcohol, cigarettes, etc). I prefer positive incentives — letting food stamps count double at farmers’ markets, for example — but I’m fine with doing both. That’s because at a basic level, it is the government’s job to promote the public health. How we eat is central to our health. My issue comes in with the obesity justification. Promote everyone’s health, whether we’re fat or thin or somewhere in between — because bad food is damaging to all bodies, not just fat ones. A piece of the column:

Can fashion fix fashion?

I worked briefly in fashion — briefly, for a couple of years, because in general it’s not a healthy industry to work in. But the fact is, I still enjoy it. Clothes are so pretty, y’all. And Jill is absolutely right that there is no shame in thinking that clothes are pretty, and that fashion is seen as frivolous more because it’s a “woman thing” than for any other reason. But what about all the truly problematic aspects of industry fashion?


“Racism Still Exists”: The Power of Art

I frequently hear people say that art has no political power, that it is merely aesthetics and/or money. Many countries repress the power of art by punishing the artists. Here the dominant culture disparages art’s power and commoditize it and among other things turn it into a speculative consumer product. Nevertheless, art in our country can be politically powerful and these posters tell it all.

Do whatever you want with your body, but please don’t get “the Barbie”

This two-part series on labiaplasty is all kinds of horrifying / fascinating / mostly horrifying (part 1, part 2). Usual caveat: Do I think that people should legally be able to do pretty close to whatever they want with their bodies? Yes. Do I nonetheless think that amputating part or all of your inner labia because you want a designer vagina is about 17 kinds of fucked up and says a whole lot about our culture and our views on female sexuality? Yes. The fact that there’s a labiaplasty surgery called “the Barbie,” which removes the entire inner labia, is horrific. Barbie doesn’t have genitals! Barbie is a plastic doll. The goal of looking like you don’t have a vulva — not for any medical purpose, but because normal female genitalia has somehow been deemed aesthetically displeasing — is a pretty disturbing one.

A letter to a departing companion

Fiona Apple has postponed her South America tour to be with her ailing pitbull Janet. She writes a heart-wrenching, wonderful letter which will feel familiar to anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet or even a person. If you feel like reading something sad and beautiful, is here. A taste: