Why We Blog

Blogging actually matters.  It was blogger Melissa McEwan of Shakesville who got me into blogging, got me thinking about the issues of feminsim, sizeism, fat acceptance, got me to stop using ablist language, and taught me about the concept of privilege.

Rosie says it best, though.

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Daily Activism-Products to Boycott

Our generation, our era is known for it’s internet activism or “slactivism.”  We  prefer to call it easy activism.  We sign Change.org petitions, arrange groups on Facebook, and write emails to editors and politicians.  For those of you who are interested, I have Change.org petitions linked at the bottom of my Make a Change page.

One popular way to show a complaint with a company is boycotting their products.  Hit the companies in their profits, not the blogosphere.  It’s easy for us to write, but companies respond more to sales than to reviews.  Remember the fiasco with Bic For Her pens?   Despite the creative reviews by anonymous bloggers and Ellen Degeneris, Bic actually turned a profit, and they didn’t change their marketing strategy.

It wasn’t enough for us to write sarcastic reviews about how this plastic ink thing didn’t work as a tampon.  We need not to buy the products in the first place.  So here are other products to avoid.

Anything else to avoid?  Let us know in the comments!

How to Handle a Rape Joke

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve been aware that there has been controversy over rape jokes.  Which ones are funny, which ones aren’t.  The question of what makes a good rape joke has been debated ad naseum this summer, in light of the Daniel Tosh routine.  The feminist conclusion seems to be that jokes that use rape as a punchline aren’t funny, while jokes that make fun of rapists or rape culture are.

Unfortunately, given the number of staunch defenders of rape jokes, we can still expect to hear jokes that use rape as a punchline.  So here is some advice from Divorce Divorce on handling rape jokes.  I was especially surprised to hear that Divorce Divorce’s author is a 33 year old man.  He is Daniel Tosh’s target demographic, but he is writing with advice on how to handle a rape joke.  Allies come in all shapes and forms.

I think the best response to a rape joke is this:

I don’t get it.

Persist until they explain, explanations always being the death of any joke, funny or otherwise. Persist until they reach the point where they have to say “she got/gets raped”.

And nod, slowly, looking a little confused.

This method works for all methods of offensive jokes.  Avoiding confrontation may change minds in a way that direct activism might not.

Any other advice on how to handle offensive jokes?  Leave suggestions in the comments.

Motivational Mondays-Reverse Psychology

I’m amazed by this.  As someone who loves libraries and public literacy, this project is awesome.

Words to Ignore

Have I mentioned how much I love Rosie of Make Me a Sammich?  Last week, I reblogged one of Rosie’s posts about   how to change behavior in a social setting.

This post is also fabulous; it reminds you that you can be an ally, an activist.  These words are silencing mechanisms, not actual criticisms of what you’re saying.  This post was intended for women and feminists especially, but there are many other brands of activism that are silenced by shaming words.

Words that other readers suggested include

  • Sexist
  • Intolerant
  • Misandrist
  • You’re taking this too personally!
  • Slut/Whore
  • Whiny
  • Any diminutive word for women, (Princess, pet, love)
  • Typical
  • White Knighting

Non-gendered silencing words include

  • Bleeding heart liberal
  • White guilt
  • Stereotypical
  • Reverse Racism
  • Virgin
  • Neckbeard
  • Naiive
  • Loser
  • Do-gooder

Are there any other words that are used as silencing mechanisms rather than attempts to discuss problems?

List the ones you’ve heard in the comments.

Awful Assumptions-Feminists have it Too Good to Complain?

Muslim Women

Muslim Women (Photo credit: Jarek Jarosz)

Don’t assume that abuse to women only happens in “less enlightened” countries.

First of all, that’s really offensive, and second of all, it’s not true.

Sara writes about her experiences with abuse in the United States.  It’s just as real as female genial mutilation, and no less wrong.  Feminists are excellent multi-taskers who work on ending abuse everywhere.  Saying that because others have it worse, we shouldn’t be working on issues that affect us close to home is a derailing technique.

Motivational Monday-Kids off the Block

This woman is amazing….

She provides kids in Chicago with a place to stay, an adult to talk to, and someone who trusts them.  She is a lifeline for kids who don’t have one.

She has done nothing more than open her home to kids who need a place to go.  She hasn’t asked for cookies, rewards, or praise.  She just helps people out by simply treating them like human beings.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, take a page out of her book, and treat everyone like a full human being worthy of dignity and respect.  Don’t assume anything about them, and ask them about their stories, hopes and dreams.  

That’s your challenge for the week.  If you learn something new or hear a cool story, email me at cafeaulait0913@gmail.com and I’ll publish it.

Readers, are there any other everyday heroes you would like to acknowledge?  Honor them in the comments.

Activists and Allies-a Call to Arms

For those  of you who don’t know, I’m a huge fan of Rosie’s blog, Make Me a Sammich.  She is hilarious, and always has new insights on popular culture.  For those of you who don’t read it, you should.

Recently, I read Rosie’s amazing piece , on the impact and responsibility of men to help fight sexism.  She gave great suggestions, with concrete steps to take.  I’ve shortened them to adapt them to fit the format of this blog, but they’re worth reading in their own right.  The original suggestions are for video games and internet forums, but they are adaptable to the real world.

  1. Mockery. Use public shame to police the idiots who can’t behave. They’re social inadequates, immature losers. Let’s tell them so, loud and clear, in front of their friends.
  2. Shut them up. The right to speak in a public forum should be limited to those who don’t abuse it.  Anyone who persistently abuses others gets automatically muted. New users don’t even get the right to talk. They have to earn it, and they keep it only so long as they behave themselves.
  3. Take away their means. Make it abundantly clear that it is unacceptable, then deny him or her the opportunity to do it further.
  4. Anonymity is a privilege, not a right. Anonymity is a double-edged sword.  The default setting in all online forums that are not intended for people at risk should require real names.  A limited number of people need it in certain circumstances: children, crime victims, whistleblowers, people discussing their medical conditions, political dissidents in repressive regimes. But those people normally don’t misuse their anonymity to abuse others; they’re protecting themselves from abuse.
  5. Impose punishments that are genuinely painful.  This isn’t all that unusual; if you smoke in a non-smoking hotel room, you are typically subject to a whopping extra charge for being a jerk.

Any other suggestions to get people to be more polite and more inclusive?  Share your ideas in the comments!

Awful Assumptions about Teenage Girls

UPDATE: If you want to contact Seventeen, email editor Bernadette Anat at mail@seventeen.com.

Seventeen

Confession time: I love magazine quizzes.  So when I found a Seventeen quiz that  which TV character I am, I took it.

The very first question asks me what my favorite class is.  My options are lunch, English, Film Production, Art or Drama.  Science, Math, Shop, or anything that doesn’t involve creativity or emotions is not an option.

The next question asks me about my dream date. Do I envision it at a coffee shop, a gallery opening, a comedy show, a concert, or a candlelit dinner?  Assuming that I actually think about this, none of these options are realistic for the pimply-faced sixteen year old boys that the readers are pursuing.  Seventeen, setting young women up for perpetual disappointment.

The next question asks me which yearbook superlative I’m most likely to earn.  My options include most likely to appear on idol, best dressed, most artistic, biggest flirt, or most likely to succeed.  I get excited to see that we’ve finally acknowledged academics.

Still thrilled to have possibility of a career, I click on the next question.  Do my friends depend on me for relationship advice, gossip, “fun, spontaneous plans,” jokes, or listening skills?  I’m mildly annoyed that this is the second question about what other people think of me rather than my own perceptions of myself.

The quiz continues: What is my favorite website?  Is it Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube, Perez Hilton’s blog, or Pandora?  I’m surprised that Facebook or Twitter aren’t options and extremely annoyed that there is no option for a news site.

Seventeen’s final question inquires after my other magazine subscriptions.  Do I read Vogue, Glamour, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone or Marie Claire?
At sixteen, I read Time and Newsweek, and I currently subscribe to Ms.  Sensing that none of the above contain quite the same content, I settle for Rolling Stone, the magazine with the highest words to picture content.

While asking which TV character I was most like, the quiz assumed that I was into emotions, fashion, music, and dating boys, traditionally girly interests.  It didn’t ask me about my dreams, career aspirations, and values.  Either way, the quiz would have been wrong; I’m sure that even if Seventeen had asked about careers, Feminist blogger would not be a career option.

I end up as Mercedes Jones, the sassy, black soul singer on Glee.  (Because that’s not stereotypical at all.)  Mercedes, although a problematic character, captured my emotions best in her self-written number, “Hell to the No.”

This quiz makes it sound like teenage girls are all about their friends, their relationships and fashion.  It reduces the wonderful, complex young women they are into melodramatic, entitled mall rats with daddy’s credit card.  No, Seventeen, your readers are more than this.  They read smart magazines, have goals, dreams and want more than the latest printed reincarnation of skinny jeans.  They like all subjects, not just the creative ones.  They want to travel, to dance, to start their own businesses, to change the world.  Believe it or not, they care about more than their crush on the cutie in English lit (stop being so heteronormative while you’re at it.  Your readers aren’t all attracted to boys).

Seventeen is one of a few magazines that caters to teenage girls, and they have a unique opportunity to address the issues that teenage girls face, not to just write a one page insert about them and then show new shoes.  It’s a shame that their quizzes and content perpetuate stereotypes about girls instead of helping them.  But that doesn’t bring in ad revenue, does it?