What Are Women Earning? (And How Are Men Shrinking?)

If you’re following my Dare To Be A Feminist topic at Scoop.It (or have just been paying attention to the news), you probably noticed all the discussion about the Pew Research Report that states that women are earning more than their husbands in 40% of American families with children:

A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11% in 1960.

These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two very different groups: 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers.1

The income gap between the two groups is quite large. The median total family income of married mothers who earn more than their husbands was nearly $80,000 in 2011, well above the national median of $57,100 for all families with children, and nearly four times the $23,000 median for families led by a single mother.2

If you, like many other people, just skimmed that headline, here’s what you need to really know about this discovery:

Compared with all mothers with children under age 18, married mothers who out-earn their husbands are slightly older, disproportionally white and college educated. Single mothers, by contrast, are younger, more likely to be black or Hispanic, and less likely to have a college degree.

The growth of both groups of mothers is tied to women’s increasing presence in the workplace. Women make up almost of half (47%) of the U.S. labor force today, and the employment rate of married mothers with children has increased from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011.3

(There’s also discussion of the dreaded single mothers; so I urge you to read the entire Pew findings.)

One should also note that this is not simply a matter of “feminism having won, so just let it all go away.” For the findings also reveal that “total family income is higher when the mother, not the father, is the primary breadwinner.” Thanks, pink collar ghetto, unequal pay, and continuing notions of gender inequality in the workplace. Not to mention all the BS traditional notions of motherhood.

Never mind the facts, however; let’s just get to the million dollar subtext question Liza Donnelly put forth regarding the 37% — the married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands: Can Husbands Handle Being Outearned By Their Wives?

The answer is, quite clearly, “No.”

Exhibit A: Lou Dobbs and his all-male panel of guests. Here, the comments range from Doug Schoen’s “a catastrophic issue” that “could undermine our social order” to Erick Erickson’s statement that this is the real “war on women.”

Yea-gads.

If you want to dismiss all this as the ramblings of irrelevant talking asshats on Fox (for which I will gently remind you that their rhetoric is often too dangerous to be dismissed), you’ll need to also know about this other study, called In Sickness and In Wealth, from Washington University in St Louis’ Olin Business School.

This research found that “men are more likely to experience problems with erectile dysfunction and other forms of mental and physical anguish as a result of his female counterpart being the primary breadwinner”.

Olin Business School professor Lamar Pierce and Michael S. Dahl of Aalborg University in Denmark write: ‘Male sexual desire and behavior is tied to cultural and social factors such as patriarchy and money, potentially causing men to suffer reduced sexual desire or dysfunction when perceiving their traditional role of provider to be usurped.

‘In fact, the medical literature has shown that anger and frustration can lead to serious sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction (ED), a problem also linked to unemployment and decreasing household income.’

Additionally, Pierce told NBC News: ‘There is a powerful social norm for many men that it’s important to make more than their wives and, essentially, when that social norm is violated, what this does is make them feel emasculated.’

And men do not usually suffer alone, as research found that the female breadwinner also has problems with insomnia and anxiety.

Men in such a relationship have also been found to be more likely to cheat in an effort to regain their bedroom mojo.

Seriously?!

Seriously.

It seems we have not come a long way, baby, in terms of marital duties, especially not in terms of how men think. Shudder. Bigger shudder. Because this all sounds like a lot more permission slips are about to be handed out.

Of course, not all men are this primitive. But for some reason, primitive still prevails in the politics (and libidos) of our lives.

guys love it

The Perfect Essay To Go With That Little Black Dress (Or Whatever Else You Want To Wear)

From Greta Christina‘s Fashion is a Feminist Issue:

Fashion is one of the very few forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men.

And I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s typically seen as shallow, trivial, and vain.

It is the height of irony that women are valued for our looks, encouraged to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so. And it’s a subtle but definite form of sexism to take one of the few forms of expression where women have more freedom, and treat it as a form of expression that’s inherently superficial and trivial. Like it or not, fashion and style are primarily a women’s art form. And I think it gets treated as trivial because women get treated as trivial.

What’s more, there’s an interestingly sexist assumption that often gets made about female fashion — namely, that it’s primarily intended to get male attention and male approval.

In my experience, this is very much not the case. Female fashion is often as much about women’s communication with one another as it is about our communication with men. More so, in many ways. When women who clearly care about fashion and style pass each other on the street, there’s often a sort of silent conversation: a moment of acknowledgement, a nod of recognition. (And the conversation isn’t always silent — I’ve been known to go up to totally strange women in bars or on the street and compliment them on their outfits. As other women have with me.) At parties, at conventions, at social and professional gatherings of all sorts, if there’s a decent number of women, there are almost certainly women checking out each other’s styles: appreciatively, competitively, enviously, companionably, subtly jockeying for status, in a spirit of co-operation and camaraderie, and in just about every other angle on human connection you can imagine. And it has little or nothing to do with men.

Now, granted: I’m a dyke, a lesbian-identified bisexual, and as such I have a different angle on this issue than many. I do have some interest in whether men find me attractive, but for the most part it’s only a passing interest, and my sexual self-esteem is only tangentially related to men’s opinions of me. (And my attention to other women is often driven by, shall we say, something other than our silent conversations about style.) But I’ve talked with other non-dyke women who are interested in fashion and style, and they say much the same thing: They dress for other women as much as they dress for men — and in many ways, more so. In particular, they dress for other stylish women. And this assumption that women’s fashion is aimed solely or primarily at men… well, there’s more than a little sexism behind it.

vintage fashion ad

No Subsidy For Cupid, Stupid (Lessons In Pay Equity & The Value Of Teachers, From 1948)

I found this article, Subsidy For Cupid: Request for Salary Differential for Married Teachers Is Unsound, in the December 10, 1948, edition of The Wisconsin State Journal.

The first line reads, “The board of education has been asked to establish a permanent salary differential of $600 annually for instructors who are married.” This had me thinking that the proposed salary adjustment would remove $600 a year for married teachers; you know, because married women are therefore little women who do not really need a salary anyway. But then we get to the second line. “The request comes from the recently-organized Madison Schoolmasters club, whose members are married teachers in the city’s school system.” Surely this club would not be suggesting they cut their own salaries?!

Read on:

This type of a salary differential is based upon a poorly-thought-out idea, upon a misconception of the purposes of a salary structure, and is suggested without foresight.

Teachers’ salaries, like all others, should be based upon value received. All teachers should be paid decently, and The State Journal has pushed hard for a minimum teachers salary law that will attract qualified men and women to the profession.

[Hear that, Scott Walker, et al.?]

But in any good system, workers’ salaries are set with an eye on the value of the individual worker. The scales are based on training and background, efficiency, ability to cooperate, and perhaps seniority.

Unmarried teachers should not be penalized because they happen to prefer to remain unmarried.

[The picture becomes a bit clearer now…]

Taxpayers should not be asked to grant special subsidies to teachers who prefer to get married, any more than they should be asked to subsidize teachers who choose to buy automobiles or houses or trips to Europe.

[I am astounded at the suggestion that at any time in our history a teacher could afford a trip to Europe on their own salary!]

By all means, school salaries should be substantial enough to allow a teacher to get married if he wishes.

A-ha! So here it is! We are primarily speaking of male teachers! You know men, they have to take care of the little woman, the kids, the bills, the dog… No woman has to do that.]

But he shouldn’t get a bonus for walking to the altar, or for accumulating other personal obligations. Those matters are up to the individual.

***

There is good reason for teachers — particularly those who are married — to oppose the plan.

During a depression, boards of education must cut expenses, If that married-teacher salary differential were on the books, the inclination of money-conscious school board members would be to hire instructors whose personal status didn’t require payment of that extra $600. That would man less job-security for the very people who would need it most.

While the ending line nearly eradicates my hopes of some sort of gender equality, the lines before it certainly are felt in the pink ghetto and by women at every level during the rough economic times. When talking heads speak of how women are faring better, their 77 cents to a man’s dollar means a twisted sort of job-security.

Infuriated & Embarrassed To Be From This State (Abortion Laws In North Dakota)

After calling Gov. Dalrymple, I called my state legislators too. And then I sent this letter via email to all as well in response to all the insanity occurring in North Dakota right now:

Stop these anti-abortion bills. Stop them now.

To wit:

HR 1456, HB 1305, SB 2303, SB 2305, SB 2368

And stop this sort of illegal anti-constitutional actions going forward.

Women’s rights to abortions services, clinics, birth control, and other health services are constitutional rights. If you were a woman and didn’t personally want any of these services, you just wouldn’t partake of them. It’s the same way with religion; walk right past the clinics as you would any church, synagogue, mosque, etc. If you worry about the unborn, trust your faith and leave that to God. You are not to judge. And legally you do not have the right to infringe upon the rights of others.

We women see through your blatant desire to not only remove choice but control women’s bodies and lives. You were not put into office to do this. You have better things to do, better ways to spend your time — our time and money — than on fundamentalist objectives which punish women and their families and indeed takes lives. Lives of actual people here, living, and voting as your constituents. Do your jobs and leave women’s bodies to women.

For more information, see here and here. You can track anti-constitutional anti-choice legislation in North Dakota here; and start here to track in your own state.

Watch The Objectification

I’ve often viewed sexual objectification as a passive-aggressive thing. As in the human being objectified (most often a woman) is passive to the aggressive actions (usually from men). What clinches the deal and makes it textbook passive-aggressive behavior is how the perpetrators are so insistent in their disavowal and sullen in their complaints of being misunderstood. These vintage watches (from martonmere at Etsy) are the perfect illustration of such sexual objectification of women. Note how the male penis is the automaton, moving up and down as the watch ticks, while the females remain unmovable, unfazed, objects to receive. (Not to mention, the watches need winding, and this whole subject winds me up!) More on these sort of watches here.

Breast Obsessed

John Timmer brings new attention to breasts, from a scientific point of view. According to a new article in Archives of Sexual Behavior, a study indicates Men’s Oppressive Beliefs Predict Their Breast Size Preferences in Women:

Further analyses showed that men’s preferences for larger female breasts were significantly associated with a greater tendency to be benevolently sexist, to objectify women, and to be hostile towards women.

Having spent most of my adult life in the “large to very large” categories of breasts, I can attest to some of this in a personal sense. The very fact that I know the category of my breast size is due more to male attention than bra shopping. Really.

Food for thought in terms of beauty standards — and I wonder how this fits in with masochistic “women’s magazines” which push not only the standards but beauty products as well.

In related news, Sociological Images there’s nipple talk. The comments are worth checking out as well.

Image: Cherri Knight

Sexism In Collecting Vintage Valentines

Today we celebrate Valentine’s Day. I wrote about why many collect old Valentines at CQ; but wanted to share this one from my own collection.

As a feminist, I obviously take issue with a woman professing “I’d like to be your little homebody.” And there she sits, knitting socks, with the ever-present female-as-feline domesticated cat.

Since these little vintage Valentine’s Day cards were, then as now, passed out in schools all over the USA, it’s only natural that you’ll find some cards not only signed by boys but presented to boys. Still, the fact that Edgar signed this gender stereotype card to Ralph makes me take pause…

This literally is how gender stereotypes have been passed along — and it’s just another example of the rote mechanical nature of boys getting the task of forced Valentines sending over with.

More of my vintage Valentines here and here.

The Early History of Women & Film

Every so often, we women complain about women in the media. When it comes to movies, we complain about the diminished roles for maturing women; we complain about the way women are portrayed in films; we complain about the history of films, most notably The Hollywood Code which seemed to destroy & limit our potential as women in film — on both sides of the camera. But long before all that, in the very beginning, it was even worse.

In Movie-Struck Girls: Women & Motion Picture Culture After the Nickelodeon, by Shelley Stamp, we learn more than just the roles of women in films or behind the camera — we learn about women’s role as patrons of cinema.

The book is an eye-opening look at a long ignored part of American film history — and an astonishing look at the history of women as media consumers.

Stamp spent over ten years researching for this book. She studied trade journals, fan magazines, ephemera, and many official documents and records at the National Board of Censorship Archives in New York City, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library in Los Angeles, & the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Many of the films she reviewed are no longer readily available, let alone circulating, but can be found at the Library of Congress & the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

It sounds like a huge undertaking, & I thank her for it. ‘Movie-Struck Girls’ presents a wealth of information that I had never known before.

Movies began with the nickelodeon, and as such, movies were not places for proper or even improper ladies to be. In the early 1900s, when films were being moved from temporary places with projection onto sheets & walls, and cinemas were being built, many in the business of film, began to reconsider women. This was a purely economic move. For if these new developments, these more expensive buildings, were going to pay for themselves & gain profits to pad pockets, the new movies must include women as patrons & gain their approval.

Why? In ‘Movie-Struck Girls’ the author reminds us of an America where women were seen as the keeper of the family morals. Neither little Johnny Jr. nor Johnny Sr. would be allowed to go to such places if Mother didn’t approve. In order for women to view movies as more than sordid places where her family wouldn’t be caught dead, these new cinemas would need to gain the respect of women. The best way to do that, would be to show women, fine respectable women, how respectable & fine the theaters were. It was thought that if women would give the theaters a try, and continue to come, their physical presence would elevate the standing of film viewing.

So, movie theater owners began to court women as patrons.

They did so via premiums & tie-ins & in addressing the decor of the cinemas themselves. As a marketing person, I enjoyed the conceptions about women, and how they would lure them into the movie-going fold — with many of the tricks still employed in the movie trade today. As a woman, I felt more than a bit bitter to see what they thought…

As Stamp illustrates, cinemas were designed with appeal to women in mind. They were located near shopping and offered services such as package holding with hopes of luring women into the buildings. The buildings themselves were decorated to attract the feminine. It was suggested in industry publications that cinemas ought to have lobbies, with plenty of mirrors, to encourage female patrons — by appealing to their vanity. They thought ‘what woman doesn’t want to see herself & parade for others?’

But then, they complained that women didn’t know how to behave properly: they talked, they interrupted the absorption of the movies themselves. The very women they encourage to be vain, to come to the theater to be seen, these women didn’t want to sit quietly in a dark room full of others who were not paying attention to them. These women who were, by societal standing, to ‘dress’ for these public events, they wore hats that blocked views. And so even while courted by the film industry as valuable assets to ensure the viability of films as safe, moral entertainment for families, the industry mocked them in articles & cartoons. The debate within the industry as to the need for women, how to both cater to while educating them to achieve their purpose, was entering full swing.

But this was only the industry side of the debate; Next, Stamp shows us society’s debates.

In the early 1900’s, the most popular films were vice films, & in the teens, a major societal concern was The White Slave Trade. Sensational white slave films were made during this time, to warn folks of the dangers to their women. Conflicting with the as-billed-educational-films messages, cinemas brought women-folk out into public where they could easily fall prey to such ills as the white slave trade. Debate centered around the irony. Other debate focused on the films themselves, and censorship issues were raised. And to make matters worse, women seemed to enjoy such films! Oh, how could such tender beings watch & enjoy such lewd filth such as scenes from brothels?!

Obviously, women enjoyed the films from the same points of fascination as men, but as the author clearly reminds us, there is more. Adding to the fascination, was the fact that women themselves has seen little of ‘the world’ — even if that ‘world’ was part of their very own city. Through movies, women vicariously saw their nation. This alone would make these films riveting for women.

Again, as movie houses were public gathering places, classes mingled. Not only were there the fine upscale families as so recruited by theater managers, but along with them, the working class — including single women. Single women moved about the theater as patrons, both in danger & dangerous themselves. A woman alone could end up in the slave trade, or she might mingle with gentlemen of good standing… In fact, theaters often hired pretty, single young girls to be ticket sellers, ushers, cigarette girls etc. This was seemingly at odds with the motives of ‘women adding respectability’ and elevating the idea of theater, but it was a lure that worked. But the independent woman, even if only a work-class-girl, is dangerous. Much debate centered around the appropriateness of such places for women & families.

Since the elevation of cinema depended upon the stamp of approval from women, including materials & promotions designed to engage them, the talks about women’s roles in film viewing were discussed by women. Given the general fear of ‘those darn suffragettes,’ encouraging women to debate the social & safety issues of women viewing film — in the context of women viewing educational films about civil matters — seemed a dangerous thing indeed.

The film industry needed to ‘clean up’ the entertainment, so they began to focus on films aimed at women, with stories & formats they knew — Enter the serial film.

The industry coordinated film with print versions of stories in newspaper & print publications. Again, these were often aimed at women, but then came the ‘oh no!’ cry, as women did in fact enjoy the adventure stories. It is at this time that film gave rise to the very popular female star. She was now revered for both her on-screen & off-screen antics. So much so, that young women everywhere started dreaming of being a movie star themselves!

To counter act the scary notion of independent women, adventure serials, & vice films it became routine to mock independent women, with notions of becoming a movie star, or worse, civic ideas. The author clearly shows examples, such as a 1916, The Motion Picture Classic cartoon with the following poem to illustrate this concern:

“When our dear grandmas were girls,
They’d smile and smooth their pretty curls.
Look in the mirror then & say
“Oh, will he think me fair today?”

Today the girlies everywhere,
In the mirror gravely stare;
“Am I fair enough,” they day,
“To be a movie star some day?”

But poetry would not be deemed enough. There would also be many films to lampoon the suffragette.

Mainly these films attempted to show how crazy things would be if women could vote. Movies depicting women taking over government & leaving men’s needs behind darkly illustrating the dangers present to men were made, but more often, comedy was used. Cross-dressing men & women exchanged roles, with only love ‘saving’ the women from their folly. Ironically, it seems to the reader that perhaps these movies did more favor to the opposition than to their own cause.

The suffragist movement noted the power of cinema. If educational films were popular, and women not only allowed but encouraged to attend, why not make propaganda films of their own? Both the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) & the Women’s Political Union (WPU) made films to both rally women to the cause & to educate resistant men & women. Sadly, many of their films seemed to falter at romantic notions. In order to make the female stars appealing, less threatening, most often the female lead would succumb to love & home, happy with her vote, but definitely not claiming civic responsibilities.

In ‘Movie-Struck Girls’ you learn all about these long-hidden details of American film history & it’s collision with turn of the century American values — including titles, studios, stars, organizations, & political figures. For a person who adore film & is a passionate feminist, this is a great read. Why it’s as thrilling as those old adventure serial films!

Stamp does a great job of presenting this long ignored part of film — and women’s — history. It’s definitely an academic read, which means it is meaty enough for those who want to further search for clues, artifacts & films themselves. It may not read like a novel, but it’s so fascinating & full of details, it won’t disappoint. Fans of film, especially silent films, cannot call themselves educated in the subject unless they know this history. And women, well, we start to see a much larger image emerge — our complaints regarding women in the media have much deeper roots than we previously knew.

A Reminder About Our Rights: We May Have Won, But…

While we sane folks may be celebrating the re-election of President Obama and the slew of other positive election results, we can’t forget that the battle continues. These insane control-freaks still exist, many still have power. And many nutballs weren’t up for election and remain in office. This is especially true of what Rachel Maddow correctly calls the “creepy rape and abortion caucus”. They, and their misogynist myth-information still exists. We must continue to fight to keep our rights — and in many cases, where rights and access was stripped from us, to get them back.

Image via Nerve.

Strong Enough To Submit To A Man

Daniel writes in with a comment regarding the 50 Shades of American Women magazine and the whole 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon:

I’ll confess that as a feminist, I’ve had a rough time accepting my submissive streak. I purchased that magazine — but speaking loudly about “what a joke it must be” to friends, rather than letting on how the idea turns me on. I may have accepted this side of my sexual personality, but that doesn’t mean I have to share it with anyone other than my lover!

The magazine wasn’t very good, but thanks to articles like yours I’m feeling ready to go from erotic fantasy in my mind to sexual adventure in the bedroom. I’ve laid the ground-work with my man, talking about it, and I’m pretty sure we’re both willing… Looking forward to it, even. So the question is, how do we go from talking the talk to walking the walk? And I’ve been reading that some men find it to be a fantasy killer for the submissive woman to take the lead on — they find it to be too much pressure to perform. So where do I begin?

Congrats, Daniel, on accepting who you are and for not letting the political negatively impact your personal life. Liberty and equality pertain to the bedroom as well as the boardroom or any other sphere the world thinks we should limit women’s rights to.

While this isn’t my area of expertease *wink* here’s what I say about trying anything new in general: Keep an open mind — and a sense of humor. That means, if you feel the need to nervously giggle, let the laughter out. Both of you. It won’t ruin the mood in the long run. In fact, laughter helps alleviate the tension so you can move past it and on to other things.

Practically speaking, the first step is to any sexual role play is to get a prop, toy, or costume piece. It will help to set the tone, give you something to work with, even when you have a giggle fit.

When it comes to bondage gear, go for something simple that isn’t too intimidating for you or your partner. You can always add things as you and your role play progresses.

And don’t forget the lube. Anxiety and even a bit of fear can literally provide physical resistance, and lube will help you slide into things just fine.

 

Binders Keepers

Morning Joe is a show that continues to frustrate me. A recent example, Joe Scarborough’s comments on Romney’s rudeness to moderator Candy Crowley during the second presidential debate:

One, you don’t run over a female moderator. You just don’t. Stylistically you don’t. It’s very dangerous. Jim Lehrer, fine. You can get out a knife and, you know, have a knife fight with Jim Lehrer, fine. But you don’t do that with a female moderator. It’s problematic.

This from a man who continually interrupts and talks over his co-host, Mika Brzezinski. In fact, the nearly-incomprehensible-he’s-so-hypocritical Scarborough tromps over Brzezinski so often that I’ve theorized Brzezinski’s contract limits the number of syllables she may utter, making Scarborough’s rudeness of interjecting “I, I, I” a mere dotting of the fiscal “i”s to limit her speech. But it’s the poor theory of a woman amazed as she watches such perpetual rudeness. You keep it classy, Scarborough.

Scarborough also mocks “Binder-Gate”, completely missing the point of the reaction to Mitt Romney’s “Binders full of women” statement. Which is exactly what the tap-dancing Romney was trying to do. Romney want’s to hide his record, his stance, his very negative attitude towards women. It’s not the ill-phrased statement made by the perpetually awkward Romney, but the very negative scenario he was attempting to illustrate as a positive.

Let me spell it out for you: We don’t want to hear about binders full of resumes from qualified female candidates — which were given to you, not sought by you, Romney. We want to live in a world where hiring women, at equal pay, is common practice.

Binders Keepers, Binders Full Of Women

Mitt’s binder comment exposes the gender gap in terms of employment, wages, and benefits. Here, the binders represent keepers, exposing the sexist values of binding and keeping women in their place, which is, of course, beneath men. Holding women back, holding women down, limits and hurts families and our nation as a whole. And we know it.

Romney, Scarborough, et al., they seem to be mistaking fact for fiction, mistaking the female fantasies of sexual submission a la Fifty Shades for real world desires to be held down economically. While these guys substitute fiction for fact, we are not confused. We see them for what they are: Liars and anti-feminist.

To commemorate 2012, how about this Western-print binder featuring rope, customized with the words “Binders Keepers”. You can fill it with all the news stories this year.

50 Shades Of Humiliating

Fifty Shades Magazine

When I spotted the cover of the Fifty Shades magazine leering at me from it’s in-your-face product positioning in the check-out lane at a local grocery store, I immediately broke out into a grin of disbelief. Here? In Fargo, North Dakota?! How utterly fabulous!

In a world where human sexuality is taboo — and women’s rights to have it is steadily shrinking, I was so giddy with the mere idea of the magazine sitting on display so blatantly, so defiantly, that I pounced on a copy. And unable to contain myself, I dared to speak aloud.

“I bet you’ve seen a lot of these leaving — and with old ladies like me,” I said to both the male cashier and the bag boy precisely at the moment the cashier was scanning the publication.

The cashier managed to avoid eye contact and comment via hyper-focus on his check-out duties. The bag boy, caught off guard, looked to see what I was speaking about as it was handed to him and he awkwardly, loudly, replied, “Umm, we must have just got these in; I haven’t seen them before now.” Followed by profuse blushing as his brain caught up with what his eyes were reading.

It was rather anticlimactic.

Even though I’m not sure what I was expecting or hoping for.

But if buying this magazine was anticlimactic, it was a major disappointment to read it.

Filled with pages of uncredited “articles” which were so bland it would make the much disliked and even hated Cosmo seem intelligent, Fifty Shades just left me feeling sad, yet again, about the sad state of magazines for women.

In Underwary, feminist platitudes serve to bolster mocking men — while focusing primarily on male pleasure: “It’s your body,” “Men don’t understand lingerie,” “He will blow it,” “Instead of letting him navigate the world of satin and lace all alone, surprise him and say you’re going shopping together. He’ll think you look great, you’ll feel great, and everyone will benefit. (But mostly him.)”

Oh, and don’t forget to exercise and diet too.

Because it’s important for women to focus on their appearance even during fantasies.

*heavy sigh*

Now, I’ve never ready any of the 50 Shades books, so as an ethical reviewer I can’t say anything about how “true” the magazine is to the “steamy series”. But that won’t stop me from having an opinion — an educated opinion — regarding the reaction to the books.

As a woman, I’ve not only taken a rather long road to my own personal sexual discoveries and satisfaction, but along the way I’ve uncovered and pondered our historical and cultural cues regarding sexuality — these being, largely, the reasons it was such a long road. And as a collector, I’ve been documenting this as a part of women’s history as well. The short story is that this whole Fifty Shades thing is not new. Not in terms of books; not in terms of shock and backlash either. We have a lot of dumb rules and taboos about gender and sex (NWS).

For those reasons, this Fifty Shades magazine will not be tossed out but rather saved as part of my collection. As will my scarlet letter “A”. (I got mine! Did you get yours?) The difference, obviously, is which one I believe in, like, admire…

The biggest question then is, do I leave some sort of notes about that so that my kids or future people know why I saved these things, what kind of person I was?

Vintage Political Trick Or Treat

The Mondale-Ferraro campaign used the Halloween “Trick Or Treat” theme to get some votes in the bag:

Trick:

For those with under
$10,000 a year,
23 Billion LESS!

or

Treat:

For those with over
$80,000 a year,
35 Billion MORE!

(These are the Congressional
Budget Office projections
for the years ’83, ’84, ’85)

If these figures SPOOK you

Vote Mondale-Ferraro for America

Scarlet Letters (Part Two)

This commercial always makes me laugh; but given the issues for women this year (see Scarlet Letters Part One), I have to wonder how it plays & pays for Miracle Whip. Do they know how loaded it is, the taste Miracle Whip may now leave in mouths? While you’re getting out the vote, being adamant and so on, go buy a few jars and send the message that, like Miracle Whip, women are “not odd.”

And don’t forget your own scarlet letter!

Scarlet Letters

A Woman Living Here Has Registered to Vote

The scarlet letters of this authentic suffrage poster read, “A Woman Living Here Has Registered to Vote Thereby Assuming Responsibility Of Citizenship.” Because that’s what voting is, a responsibility of citizenship.

Whether or not the makers of this poster (which also appeared with blue lettering) intended to draw references to Hawthorne’s work or simply skimped on one-color ink printing, there’s resonating poetry here. Even Especially today.

We women and men who understand the realities of the issues need to exercise our responsibility to vote and help others access their right to vote. And we need to know the facts, share the facts.

Fact: Being a woman is not a pre-existing condition and ought not carry financial penalties for individuals and entire families.

Fact: This current attack on women is real, and, like those before, it’s about control — economic control which is fear-based and reactionary backlash.

Fact: Access to health care and, yes, even abortions, are constitutional rights — access to a clinic should be as easy as access to a church or other religious institution, not thwarted by acts of tolerated domestic terrorism.

Martha Plimpton explains the arithmetic — which is as good here at it is for jobs the economy:

Only twelve percent (12%) of US counties have an abortion provider. You read that right. (When I tell another woman who considers herself informed that very figure, it invariably leaves her agape and amazed. See, we aren’t paying attention, sad to say.) But 1 in 3 women will have an abortion at some point in her life. Think about that. Then do the math. This isn’t about luxury. This isn’t about some rare procedure that a woman can get if she really puts her mind to it or has the money. This is something 1 in 3 women feel they must do, and will do, at any cost. So, rich women will travel. Poor women will die.

Talk about literally killing the middle class.

We cannot be meek; “the meek don’t make it.”

A Is For

We need to be loud.

We need to be angry.

“Angry,” that’s just another thing “A” is for, like autonomy, allegiance — and action.

That scarlet letter “A” — or red ribbon “A” is the symbol of A Is For, an organization started by Lizz Winstead, Martha Plimpton, and others.

I just donated and can’t wait to wear this scarlet letter proudly.

A Pen Is

Resisting all jokes and puns about what a pen is, euphemisms for swords, and even the pragmatic discussion of women’s rights to wield the power of writing implements, I bring you the folly of the BIC For Her Amber Medium Ballpoint Pen. There’s little I can say, really… This pen, “A gel pen essentially for women!” is only sold in Europe and the fine folks there have responded accordingly, filing the following reviews (and more) in retaliation for a poorly thought of product designed “for women.” Enjoy. And take heart that there are sane people.

I never knew I needed this so much, 16 Aug 2012
By Butch McCassidy

Oh. My. God. I’ve been doing it all wrong. There was me thinking I didn’t need to worry about whether my writing implement sufficiently reflected my gender. Thank you so much Bic for showing me the error of my ways. Perhaps Bic will also bring out a new range of pink (or purple) feminine spanners, screwdrivers, electric drills and angle grinders so that I can carry out my job as a bicycle mechanic without further embarrassing myself? Luckily my male colleagues have managed to keep their disapproval of my use of their masculine tools to themselves. I’m so ashamed. And re-educated as to my place in society. Thanks again Bic!

At Amazon, the above review, “The most helpful favourable review,” is pitted against this next one, “The most helpful critical review.”

No good for man hands
I bought this pen (in error, evidently) to write my reports of each day’s tree felling activities in my job as a lumberjack. It is no good. It slips from between my calloused, gnarly fingers like a gossamer thread gently descending to earth between two giant redwood trunks.
Published 6 days ago by daveyclayton

But there plenty more; this one may be my favorite, simply for the title:

Such a useful little tool (and that’s not just a description of the man in charge of the marketing campaign), 21 Aug 2012
By zak jane keir “decadent media” (UK)

How could I have missed my own deep inner need for such a product? It’s just perfect for ramming straight up the hogs’ eye of any sexist man I happen to be oppressed by – no more tabasco-dipped nasty old medical catheters for the misogynists in my life!

But perhaps this one is most sarcastic:

Send from Heaven by the Angels, 20 Aug 2012
By Siobhán

I could never write until now because I’m such a thick little Princess that I refused to. I just drew pictures of my pink little bike, with the lilac streamers. I thought I’d just grow up and let a big manly man come and marry/save me.
Now I’ve found this pen, I’ve learned to write. It’s so pretty, with it’s comfortable grip, not like the razor like surface on ordinary mens pens. It will help me list all my household chores and record my calorie consumption in my diary. Who knows? Maybe it will give me the confidence to take the stabilisers off my bike.

Or maybe it’s this one…

This product cured my girly dyslexia., 21 Aug 2012
By I am a private person, not a real name!

Before I bought this product I couldn’t write but now I’m an engineer. Mind you, I only design pink, flowery bridges, motorways and sewers. Blue ones would be wrong wouldn’t they.

Busty Girls Held Hostage By Retailers & Economy

I don’t want to keep picking on Lane Bryant, but a few things need to be said.

Where I live, Lane Bryant is the only store which carries bras over the size of DD cups. Supersillious of the majority of stores to stop at the very size of the average American woman; surely there are great numbers over that size. You can’t open a browser window to a health site or news page, turn on TV or radio, or leave the house and not know how big we American’s are; myself included. It’s not just the USA, and weight isn’t the only reason for the overly-developed bosoms in developed nations either. If I were a CEO of an apparel manufacturer or chain, I’d find limiting bra sizes to exclude such a huge part of the market not only worthy of eyeball rolls, but I’d roll some heads too. It’s unacceptable. But the fact is, there is only one store in the whole metropolitan area which sells bras larger than double-d cups; and that store is Lane Bryant.

So I’m shopping for bras at Lane Bryant, which means finding one that fits. I can’t just use the size that’s on my current Lane Bryant bra, because it no longer properly fits — in fact, none of my Lane Bryant bras seem to fit after say a dozen washings. The center piece pulls away, no longer sits flush against my breastbone. I know from Ali Cudby, and the aches and pains in my own body, as well as how my form looks, that this is no good.

Maybe this is all just a result of the cheapening of clothing, thanks to WalMart. But I hope not.

There are two sales associates at my disposal, one presumably training the other in this nearly-empty store. I try to ask them for some suggestions. I know from decades of previous retail work, that they aren’t really trained for much past working the register and meeting sales quotas, but I figure they know from their own figures and customer comments or complaints which bras are least likely to have the problem.

I describe my problem and the clerk-in-training eagerly replies that her bras all do the same. Rather shocked, I begin to explain that that is not how a bra is supposed to fit — that’s when the more experienced clerk interrupts me.

“When you’re talking about an E cup or larger, that’s an awful lot to ask of a bra,” she says.

Now I’m even more shocked.

“Yes…” I begin, “But the bras aren’t just supposed to ‘be larger’ but actually fit. When bras don’t fit right, there are aches and pains… Plus the rest of your clothes look sloppy.”

“Yes,” she replied, with a tense smile, “But at that size…”

“Well, if you wear a size 26 pants, they still have to fit, right?” I challenge her. “I mean the crotch is where it’s supposed to be, not at the knees. The pants are larger — but not just larger. They have to fit.

In that magical retail blend of “the customer was always right” and “if you have nothing nice to say…” she had nothing to say in reply. The other clerk kept a smile on her face, but, taking her clues from her superior, she too was silent.

Now I was more than shocked; I was disturbed and saddened. Here’s a plus-sized lady working in a shop selling plus-sized clothing, and she’s making excuses for accepting clothing that doesn’t fit.

I don’t know whether the clerk’s stance was some reflexive act in defense of the company she works for; or if it was a sad commentary on average-sized women, working in a fashion store or not, who are told they are “large,” “plus sized,” or even “fat” who feel they aren’t worthy of clothing that actually fits them.

In any case, all that was left for me to do was to try on bras until I found one that I could pronounce “fitting” and worthy of purchasing; then take it home and see if it fares any better than the others had.  (My fingers are crossed that it does; but the past few years has taught me not to hold my breath.)

There are plenty of reasons right here in this one shopping experience to explain Oprah’s claims that 85% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. (There is some confusion regarding the Oprah statistic and the much touted 80% figure which may have started with a Wacoal study in 2005. Also, here’s a medical study regarding women with thoracic spine or posterior chest wall pain which says of the 80% who wear ill-fitting bras, 70% are wearing bras that are too small, and the BBC reports that 100% of women going into a hospital clinic for breast reduction surgery were wearing improperly fitting bras. Clearly this is an issue!)

Women may educate themselves about how a bra should fit, but the real question remains: If women, especially big busted women, are limited access to a wide array of bra sizes, how can they find those that properly fit?

The reality is that ordering dozens or even a handful of bras to try on is not an option for the majority of women in this country. WalMart may have cheap bras (both in terms of quality and price), but even online, the largest size they have is a 48DDD and only in one bra. Most bras over a DD cost $30 to $45 (and, of course, much higher). Few women have hundreds of dollars to tie-up in ordering bras — even if they are returning most of them.  We are the 99%, or the 80%, if you prefer; not the 1%. So we remain held hostage by the inaccessibility.

What worse, we are women who already held hostage by our breasts. Along with our vaginas and uteri, our breasts are legislated. We dare not bare our breasts in public, not even to feed our children. Many school and employment policies have dress codes which require female employees to wear bras. (We make 77 cents for every dollar a man does, and we are required to wear garments with a heftier price-tag than men too.) Gawd forbid we show a bra strap. All because breasts not bound enough can be too sexy or whatever; especially larger breasts. As if there weren’t enough judgements from pigs, we as a society allow judgements about female breasts.We’re supposed to blame and contain breasts as opposed to make men responsible for their silliness or worse. It’s all the American versions of the burka and sharia law.

As if having larger breasts weren’t problematic enough, just finding the right bras to do all this — as well as prevent the pains that insurance typically won’t cover — is thwarted by not having access to bras in our size range.

All images via Busty Girl Comics — check out the Busty Girl Comics store too!

“The Meek Do Not Inherit The Earth – Or At Least The Part Of It Presided Over By The American Political System”

Buried inside the July 1974 issue of Psychology Today, an article which sheds some light on political movements in the United States. In Violence and Political Power: The Meek Don’t Make It (pages 35-41), William A. Gamson analyzes and discusses just what really affects changes in American politics.

Some of the article is Activism 101, but still worth mentioning.

…a challenging group must demand some change that its own membership cannot provide. A Messianic group that offered salvation to members would not qualify unless the group wanted changes in laws or social institutions as well.

I keep re-reading this article in the context of “What happened to feminism?” If you believe there’s a problem with the feminist movement, and with related issues of sexual autonomy and sexual rights, it might lie in several key places. Is it too fragmented? Unclear in it’s goals? What will history show us?

What seems unlikely, even unlikable, is the fact that violence works.

The activist groups that fought back or, in some cases, initiated violence, had a higher than average success rate; six of the eight won new advantages and five of the six were eventually accepted as well. The nonviolent recipients of attack, however, lost out completely. None of them met their goals, although one, the Dairymen’s League, was co-opted.

Violence is even more certain to reap benefits when the group’s goals are limited and when the group does not aim to displace its antagonists but rather to coexist with them. When I eliminated revolutionary groups that aimed to displace the opposition, I found that every violence-user was successful in winning new advantages and every violence-recipient was unsuccessful.

Gamson clearly states that violence is “the spice of the protest, not the meat and potatoes” but it’s amazing how effective it is. When you read that in terms of the abortion issue today, it is too clearly true. I’m not advocating bombing back; but it certainly is frightening how effective Pro-Life violence has been.

He suggests other unruly acts with which Pro-Choice groups might fight back:

Violence is not the only kind of high-pressure tactic that brings success. Ten groups used other unruly strategies on their opposition, such as strikes, boycotts, and efforts to humiliate or embarrass their antagonists.

The parting words:

Challengers who try to play by the rules that members observe among themselves should realize two things. Insiders won’t apply their rules to outsiders, and outsiders, being poor in resources, have little to offer the powerful in an alliance.

Challengers do better when they realize that they are in a political combat situation. They don’t need to look for a fight, but they had better be ready to participate in one if the occasion arises. They must therefore be organized like a combat group — with willing, committed people who know what to do, and a command structure that can keep its people out of the wrong fight at the wrong time.

But this advice really only applies to groups with limited goals. I included revolutionary groups in my sample but it should come as no surprise that none of them were successful. I can’t say what makes for success among such groups since I had no successes to compare with the failures. A more complete picture of the successful group is one that is ready and willing to fight like hell for goals that can be met without overturning the system.

Perhaps it is disconcerting to discover that the meek do not inherit the earth — or at least that part of it presided over by the American political system. But those rambunctious groups that fight their way into the political arena escape misfortune because they are prepared to withstand counterattack, and to make it costly to those who would keep them out.

Female Olympic Athletes Still Have “Beauty” To Hurdle

Today, in honor of the Olympics, in honor of the strong, skilled, and powerful US female gymnastic team, Proctor & Gamble’s official beauty Twitter account tweeted:

What’s your favorite part of the “gymnast look”? The slicked-back bun, beautiful bold lips or shimmering skin? #PGOlympics #PGBeauty

In return I tweeted:

@PGBeauty Really? Beauty looks based on female gymnasts? Are you going to do this sort of thing to male athletes?

No one responded. Not P&G; not any of my tweoples.

I guess I should just be glad I wasn’t banned from Twitter for knocking a paying advertiser. But in actuality I’m peeved that no one else seems upset by this… There were 13 retweets, 11 favs, and one comment — not mine (mine is conspicuously absent).

So000 disappointing.

In Older Athletes Earning Gold For Endurance In The Olympics, Patricia Nell Warren writes:

Fortunately for Olympic athletes, they don’t have to rely on their looks to get to the podium, or even get to the Games. However gorgeous their displayed bodies might grow because of intensive conditioning — if they are swimmers or gymnasts or runners — it’s what they can DO with those bodies that counts.

Then there are those, like the fencers and archers and equestrians, who may or may not have a pretty face or gorgeous bods, but who deliver the goods while buttoned up to the chin in traditional gear, even gloves and helmets or top hats, with only their faces visible.

While Warren’s article was about what the LGBT community might learn from events such as the Olympics, it’s clear that “we heteros” have a long way to go ourselves. Some of us are forgetting to honor and admire the dedication, skill, and prowess of our female athletes when there’s beauty standards and products to sell.

Ain’t that a kick in the groin.

The Power Of The Female Voice In Silent Film

Over at (one of his) sites, Dakota Death Trip, hubby posted this fabulous old ad. While you might think it’s an advertisement for a woman, Clara Kimball Young, it really is promoting a film, 1920’s The Forbidden Woman (not to be confused with 1948’s Forbidden Women, which allegedly stars women recruited from a Los Angeles whorehouse).

Why is Clara Kimball Young such a focal point? Because back in the day, women ruled the box office!

As I wrote in my review of Mick LaSalle’s Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood (my review is fine, but NWS ads in sidebar):

In the 20’s and early 30‘s women dominated at the box office. Women were the biggest stars, featured month after month on the covers of fan magazines (it was a rare month indeed when a male face turned up on the cover!), and society was fascinated with women in general.

If you’re curious about the historical role of women in and out of film, how they once held all the power and how it was taken from them, read LaSalle’s book.  And then read Movie-Struck Girls: Women & Motion Picture Culture After the Nickelodeon, by Shelley Stamp. (Here’s my review.)

Also related, my post on female celebrity pitch women at the turn of the (last) century: Julia Marlowe, Selling Stuff From Head To Toe.