Thursday Round-Up

It’s another round-up! Today: gender & bullying, gender & socialization, little girl rant, penis mom, tropes, and did I mention a new favorite blog? If you don’t think this one is crazy brilliant, you can get your money back.

Queer Politics

Psychiatry in Israel 2011: Homosexuality is a disease that can be cured

Some forty years after the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders, and 20 years after its removal from the WHO IC-10 list, an Israeli psychiatry reference book (university textbook) describes homosexuality as a disease treatable by conversion therapy.

Gender & Bullying

Here is one amazing teacher’s approach to preventing gender bullying.

And together with that – because boys are still more important: Anti-bullying campaigns and the erasure of sexism.

And an interesting note: When I was putting this post together I went to Google to look for images. I started with “gender bullying”. I got images of girls bullying boys, and some of girls bullying girls. Some of the boys looked genderqueer to me, and I thought that might be a good angle – so I went looking for genderqueer images. But losing focus on the erasure of sexism bothered me. So this time, I looked up “boy bullying girl”. Again, I got lots of images of girls bullying boys, and a few of girls bullying girls.

In the end, I could not find one single image that was real, or even real-looking, of a boy (or boys) bullying a girl. Not one.
(Just some cutesy braid-pulling stock images).

Truly, it seems that boys never harass girls. Must’ve been a figment of my imagination. And that girls are the only bullies out there [puke icon].

Gender & Socialization

Socialization of little girls: 

One little girl’s rant about girl stuff and boy stuff:
(Riley for prez…!)

And women’s socialization: 

Culture & Media

The weekly Trope:

This week, three “queer” tropes that particularly annoy me.

Sweeps Week Girl on Girl Kiss

This one is actually losing steam these days, but remember what happened when Roseanne kissed Sharon?

Sorry, I’m Gay

Though meant to be gender neutral, it’s usually a guy trying to get away from a girl. When two women are together, somehow that doesn’t deter men – they just ask for a threesome.

I saw just this scenario on Rizzoli & Isles (please don’t ask why I was watching that…). Three notes: Indeed, used by a woman. But — they were extremely uncomfortable about it, squirmy, and inexplicit. So they “hugged”. Meh. Then — predictably — the guy (soul mate?) asked for a threesome.

Token Lesbian

The token lesbian in a cast of gay men

Blog Pick of the Week

Best for last? Check out this blog. You will not regret it!

Hyperbole and a half

Some of my favorite posts:

God of Cake

Party

This Is Why I’ll Never Be An Adult

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Tahrir and Beyond

By now, the image of the Egyptian “woman in the blue bra”, being stripped, dragged, and kicked by soldiers is probably seared onto your retinas. It is on mine. Few images of women protesting for their rights have ever sparked that degree of coverage. I’m not exactly sure if the prurient aspect of her bra being revealed is the reason, or her presumed humiliation for being undressed that way… After all, women are often humiliated, with no international consequences.

I also wonder why three weeks of protests against the military government, and then escalation to violence where many women and men were beaten, shocked, and humiliated, and at least 10 people were killed (10 at that point; the number is now at least 17) – didn’t evoke a particular response.

Either way, what was astounding and wonderful in my eyes, beyond the recognition of the brutality and the reason for it – this brave woman standing up for her freedom – is the tremendous wave of protests by women in Egypt in response. For almost a week now, thousands and thousands of women are taking to the streets, saying – we are drawing a red line, and you may no longer cross it! (View video)

           “It is your eyes that are cheap”

And in the spirit of the Tahrir, here are some other women’s protests from around the world this past week:

Late edit: I am happy to report that women were everywhere this week, so this is far from comprehensive. Let’s call it a very significant sample.

Belarus          December 19

The Ukrainian feminist group Femen organized a protest in Minsk against Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko. In addition to commemorating the brutal shut-down of the protest of his fraudulent re-election last year, Femen protests sex trafficking carried out via Belarus. Protesters were teargassed, beaten, and many were arrested. Three of the protesters have reported that they were taken by the KGB, blindfolded, stripped, doused with gasoline and threatened with immolation. The KGB agents then beat them, cut their hair, took their money, clothes, and passports, and left them in the woods, 120 miles from Minsk. In addition, at least a dozen reporters were detained, including Australian reporter Kitty Green, and several Belarusian reporters. Though no charges were filed, the reporters were fingerprinted and interrogated, and the photos on their cameras were erased. In that spirit — view a photo album of the protest.

Yemen             December 20

A women’s march in Yemen on Tuesday

Bahrain             December 15-17

Bahraini women occupy a roundabout on December 15 — simply sitting there, asserting their right to be. Nevertheless, authorities violently removed the women, and beat and arrested activists Zainab AlKhawaja (shown above) and Fathiya Abduali. On December 17, the third day of anti-government protests, protesters react to tear gas fired by riot police.

India          December 14

A sit-in demanding fair compensation for farmland seized by the government for private development.

Season’s Greetings

Have a very femme-y Christmas….

And a Happy Queer Year!!

~*~

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

~*~

Happy Festivus, Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, or whatever your heart desires to celebrate!

My gift to you — my latest discovery:

Queer Fat Femme’s Guide to the Net

Thursday Round-Up


There is far too much going on in the world, and much too little time to write about it…

But I have some good ones this week!

Culture & Media

The Worst Toys for Girls List

This Huffington Post list shows how toy manufacturers and retailers want your girl to aspire to: She can be a maid, or even a Hooter’s girl!

Pro-Virginity, Anti-Feminist Folks Make The Purity Myth Trailer Terrifying

Jezebel reviews the documentary The Purity Myth – based on feminist writer and Feministing founder Jessica  Valenti’s book of the same name.

“The film visits the places the book visited, but since the antics of pro-virginity culture were captured on camera this time around, it’s now infinitely more gif-able. From the creepy father-daughter “purity balls” where young women promise their dads that they won’t let anyone’s penis inside of them until God says it’s okay to the fearmongering but charismatic pro-virginity speakers who claim a link between female sexual activity and sterility, parts of the film (like parts of the book) would be hilarious if they weren’t so scary.”

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From the Queer Blogosphere:

A friend posted this on Facebook. Not sure where it originated. But it’s sooo true!

Is this what BDSM is to you?

Weekly Trope:

This week’s trope: In TV and movies, when a bit of salacious BDSM is desired, there is only one scenario… All Women Are Doms, All Men Are Subs

Why we should just leave Kim Kardashian alone:

My new favorite blogger, Rachael, from the Social Justice League, writes about what’s wrong with the backlash of hatred against Kardashian and Co. — namely, that it’s sexist.

Shakesville concurs — here’s their post on the Kardashians.

Women's Activism

Not news, but recently came across several really amazing photo albums from International Women’s Day back in March. Nice to see! (click pics to see albums)

Women raise their hands as they shout slogans during a protest on International Women’s Day in Ahmedabad

Lebanese women working at an advertising company in Beirut dress like men and pose for pictures to make a statement about gender inequalities

In Israel

Refusing to go to the back of the bus

Tanya Rosenblit is being hailed by some as the Israeli Rosa Parks. Last week, she got on a bus from the town of Ashdod to Jerusalem. An Ultra-Orthodox man insisted she move to the back of the bus. She refused. The bus was stopped, police were called… Read all about it here.

And here’s another way kowtowing to the Ultra-Orthodox misogyny endangers women’s lives:

(Or: How can you educate women about breast cancer if you can’t use the word “breast”?)

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Thursday Round-Up

Personal and work pressures make it difficult to be as focused as I’d like on my pet topics. But these great blogs and articles keep coming my way, so I thought I’d share some. If it works out I’ll do it regularly.

Gender Violence

Dear Abby, Thank You for Saving My Life

December 6 was Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, held each year on the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, where 14 young women were killed for being women.

In this moving post, Marvelist shares her own story and her thoughts on Canada’s decreasing support for gender equality.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an annual international campaign that runs from November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day. Over 2000 organizations in 154 countries have participated in the campaign.

I wanted to post this before the 16 days were over… Oh well. It’s worth noting anyway.

  • Nobel Women’s Round-UpIf you click on nothing else, DO check out the Nobel Women’s Initiative 16 Days of Activism blog: Each day features another amazing woman activist from a different part of the world: Palestine and Israel and the Congo and Iran and South America… Well, there are a lot of amazing women out there!!

  • And here is a great initiative that runs during the 16 days, aimed at encouraging girls and women to take control of technology and end violence.
    Take Back The Tech
From The Queer Activist Blogosphere

The Social Justice League’s blog post Fauxgress Watch: “Born This Way” examines why it is actually detrimental to queer folk to use the argument “we were born this way” or “being queer is not a choice!” as a justification for seeking rights/equality.

Nobel Peace Prize Winners

Of course, I had several tearful moments watching three women accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Women from areas fraught with violence, who were brave enough to find their personal power, raise their voices, become leaders, and make a change.

Heifer International – an organization committed to ending hunger and poverty – opine that these three women can start a movement.

Culture & Media

Deconstructing the Bechdel test

Ana Mardoll discusses what the Bechdel test is actually for.

Rethinking the Strong Female Character

Feminist literary blog Canonball’s thought-provoking post on why we might want to rethink what Hollywood considers to be strong female characters.

The weekly Trope

I will love and/or curse my lovely friend L. forever for getting me hooked on TV Tropes. Today’s trope: Abuse Is Okay When It Is Female On Male

And of course, the “shocking” discovery that rapists and men’s magazines sound suspiciously alike

An investment manager’s email asking for a second date 

This email had me laughing out loud in my office. There are a LOT of responses, but so many of them are just so hysterical it’s worth scrolling around a while.

In Israel

Israeli former president, Moshe Katsav, finally begins his prison sentence for rape!

This New Yorker blog post gives a quick history of the case.

How our fearless leaders REALLY see women (without their uniforms!!)

But sexism is still rife at the top of Israel’s government and military, as evidenced by the “joke” – caught on tape – in which Defense Minister Ehud Barak and army Chief of Staff Benny Ganz objectify female soldiers and one of the minister’s own media team. These two senior men then threaten the press if they release the tape.

Murder of Mustafa Tamimi

I began this as an item in my roundup, and it grew, and grew… So this horrible episode got its own post.

The Murder of Mustafa Tamimi

This is not the type of thing I normally write about. Not because it isn’t important, but because some issues are too big, complex, emotional, incendiary, and controversial for me to get a handle on. But this week I was swept up in this tragedy, so I want to include it here.

This was originally part of the round-up post I’ll be publishing shortly. But it got so big, and it is important enough to merit it’s own post. So in some ways it covers all the links to the event, reactions, lack of reaction, photos, video… And in other ways I still don’t feel it’s a complete post. I would normally give some background on the conflict, on Nabi Saleh, on the laws governing protests in the West Bank (or in other words — why Palestinians don’t get even the basic right to assemble)… I might share my own feelings about this, bring other examples of similar incidents, some statistics… But this is what I can do right now (and this is why I generally don’t do this kind of post!)

The short version: Mustafa Tamimi was a Palestinian who on December 9, 2011, participated in a protest (which takes place every week) in Nabi Saleh, a village near Ramallah (read more about the struggle in Nabi Saleh here). He was shot by an Israeli soldier, in the face, at close range, by a tear gas grenade (crowd control weapon designed for launching into the air; all prescriptive uses of this grenade launcher call for this use only, including the IDF’s own regulations). He died from his wounds.

Articles telling the story:

Here is a news article covering the story: Nabi Saleh Palestinian Shot In Head With Tear Gas Canister (warning: includes graphic photos)

Here is a chilling first person account of the event by Palestinian activist Linah Alsaafin.

And another by Ibrahim Bornat.

Videos:

Here is a video of the protest:

Here is a video that includes a photo sequence of the shooting

(warning: graphic photos)

Photo Album

Here is a Facebook photo album of the entire Nabi Saleh protest, including photos of Mustafa Tamimi being shot (warning: graphic photos)

.Here is the Israeli government’s response

Palestinian Protester Death an Exceptional Incident, Say IDF Officials

Here is a video proving it is NOT an exceptional incident, but rather a policy, “informal” as it may be:

.

And to add insult and injury on top of injury and insult, the Israeli military attacks mourners at Tamimi’s funeral

Human Rights for Palestinians?

The irony of Tamimi’s killing occurring on Human Right’s Day is not lost upon many of us.

Memorial For Palestinian Human Rights

Equal Rights for Renting Women’s Bodies?

Another hot topic causing me distress these days: The fight for equality for gay men under Israel’s surrogacy laws. Grrrrr, talk about a can of worms. I’ve already butted heads with people I usually like and agree with on this. Here’s why.

Most people I know – of liberal leanings – have this kneejerk reaction: Yes! Equality for gays! Enhanced rights and opportunity for parenthood for gay couples! Yay!

Have you figured out what’s missing in this scenario? Yes, indeed – the same person who is being stashed out of site on an increasingly frequent basis: The woman.

Who is providing these surrogacy services? Who is looking out for her interests? Is there even any discussion about it? Any medical, legal, ethical, financial, or psychological standards being adhered to? Or being crafted, if there aren’t any in place?

Surrogate Mothers, India

How many people know what is involved from a health perspective (physical and mental) for the woman providing her body as a service? Versus how many people are jumping in with both feet with accusations of “Homophobia!!” at even the hint that such a discussion should take place?

(And let’s be very clear: no one in the discussion I’m referring to is advocating that heterosexuals should be allowed to this, while homosexuals should not.)

Why is it so easy to ignore the woman?

Here’s some background:

Israel was the first country in the world to legalize surrogacy, in 1996. While some (liberal?) feminists celebrated this as a victory for a woman’s legal freedoms (for example, to enter contracts, and autonomy to determine what to do with her body), other (radical?) feminists immediately classified the practice in the context of a patriarchal society’s attempt to use women’s bodies to further patriarchal ends.

But maybe some more background about Israel and the issue of procreation is needed here.

Israel is unique in its pro-natal attitudes, especially compared to other Western countries, in the sense that having children (Jewish children) is considered an imperative. Not only a cultural imperative, not simply a religious imperative, it is also a political imperative. This is for several reasons:

In the aftermath of the holocaust, many believed that Jews must reproduce to replace the 6 million lost. Others, including the political leadership of the time, viewed child-bearing as a military imperative – women must produce soldiers for the army (first Israeli prime minister Ben-Gurion famously wrote that “Any Jewish woman who, as far as it depends on her, does not bring into the world at least four healthy children is shirking her duty to the nation, like a soldier who evades military service.”). Part of it is traditional – Judaism is family-centric. Part is purely religious – the ultra-orthodox in Israel have a birth rate that is twice that of Muslims, and four times that of secular Jews.

Over the past few decades, one of the most common themes has been the “demographic threat” – if Israel wants to maintain both its identity as a Jewish state and remain a democracy, it simply must maintain a Jewish majority in relation to the Arab population. (Or, for more right-wing sectors, simply “winning out” vs. the Palestinians is the point, without regard to the democratic nature of the country.)

Whatever the reasons, the imperative is deeply ingrained in the culture, which places pressure and socializes people to place child-bearing at the top of their life priorities. It also created a legal and medical system in which parenthood is encouraged and state-supported through:

  • Reproductive technologies. Israel is the leading country in the world in in-vitro fertilization, leads in development of reproductive technologies, and also provides financial support for the procedures.
    (I can (and maybe will) write entirely separate posts about the negative effects this has on women, and how many of the procedures are untested, how low a concern safety is, on the cultural impact on women of being state-sponsored wombs… But alas this post is on another topic which I shall promptly get back to.)
  • Support of single-parenthood, through various methods including sperm banks (artificial insemination, IVF), adoption (international) and of course –
  • Surrogacy.

Okay. So now you might be getting an inkling of what parenthood means to Israelis.

And of course, the fight for equality and recognition of LGBT people’s rights to become parents, and creating legal and societal mechanisms for parenthood to be a realistic possibility, is an important one.

So, what’s actually going on?

As I said, Israel legalized surrogacy in 1996, and was the first country to do so. There have been various judicial decisions along the way determining who can do it, where, how… The bottom line is that under the current rules, only heterosexual couples can hire a surrogate to carry a child for them. This can occur either in Israel or abroad. Homosexual couples or single people cannot (as far as I understand it) contract a surrogate in Israel.

Gay couples can hire a surrogate in the US or India, but a court decision last year regarding DNA tests for both fathers has created some hindrance even to this practice.

So recently, a campaign began to change the law – though a Facebook page (in Hebrew) and an Internet petition. This has brought the discussion back to the forefront in both LGBT and feminist circles, as well as to the broader media and legal communities.

Another Facebook page – Gays Against Surrogacy (in Hebrew) – soon followed. As I mentioned before, claims of homophobia quickly surfaced.

And hence my personal frustration:

First of all, the LGBT association – or Aguda – Israel’s main LGBT advocacy group, is strongly supporting this initiative, to the extent of overshadowing just about any other issue. So once again, the interests of a minority of men, who are primarily white, homonormative, and from a socioeconomically advantaged background are taking precedence over, say – teen prostitution in the LGBT community (which is on the rise), teen suicide, transgender rights, AIDS awareness, or a myriad of other LGBT issues. I’m pretty sick of this lack of wider representation. If it’s the white gay men’s association, they should just say so.

And once again, women are being submitted – physically, mentally, financially, and legally – to the needs of men (or at least to the patriarchal priorities of this society).

I want to support parenthood rights for gays. I *do* support all brands of equality. I cannot, by any stretch, get behind yet another initiative that subordinates women to anyone else’s agenda.

~*~

Here are some resources on the topic for anyone who wants to read more:

From Isha L’Isha Feminist Center:


Old Patterns, New Ideas 
By Hedva Eyal
Council for Responsible Genetics

“There is plenty of scientific knowledge and understanding of health risks as a result of hormone treatments associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF). This raises questions about the widespread use of this procedure, especially when women are exposed to these health risks not for themselves but to conform to other people’s desires. Establishing surrogacy as a prevalent, accepted way of bringing children into the world entails significant risks to the surrogate mother herself, to the child, and to society”

Google Baby – a documentary on surrogate mothers in India:
Focused on a clinic in rural Anand where peasant women give birth to babies ordered over the Internet through an Israeli “pregnancy producer.” Western hetero and gay prospective parents click on the sperm and eggs of their choice, enter credit card details, and later travel to Anand to receive the newborn they couldn’t or wouldn’t conceive themselves.

Fertility policy in Israel: the politics of religion, gender, and nation, by Jacqueline Portugese

Surrogate Motherhood and the Politics of Reproduction, by Susan Markens

Explores how discourses about gender, family, race, genetics, rights, and choice have shaped US policies aimed at this issue.

Article: Homosexual Couples Fight for Right to Surrogate Pregnancy
(Note the complete lack of any reference to the legitimacy or risks of the practice)

Will Israeli Court Decision on Surrogacy Bring Changes for Gay Couples? Blog post, The Sisterhood
“In principle, I agree completely with the Court’s decision in favor of the petitioner who wants a fourth child. But there is also the reality of scarce resources to consider. I would have no issue with the Court’s decision if surrogacy were not a highly limited and regulated commodity in Israel.”
A commodity, indeed.

Israeli Feminists Slate Surrogacy, BioEdge, bioethics news

University of Technology, Sydney Law Review: Surrogacy in Israel: A Model of Comprehensive Regulation of New Technologies – [2005]