Kitsch Slapped Link Round Up, Slappin’ It Feminist Style

Katharine, Marion and Peg Hepburn, August 1939

Let’s walk — and read — shoulder to shoulder, my sisters…

The first two posts that rather address a backwards feminism post at HuffPo: One at BUST and the other at A Slip Of A Girl.  Why should I add anything when they’ve both done so well?

At Silent Porn Star (yup, that means this next link is NSFW), my fellow “nutty Egyptologist” pal discusses brotherly and sisterly love — in terms of etymology, fictive kinship, marriage of kin, and DNA evidence — in ancient Egypt. Interesting food for thought for this armchair anthropologist.

In No Sex, Please, We’re Literary!, author Karen Essex discusses the double-standard which goes past the roles and experiences of the characters, to the limitations of the authors. Here’s a quick snippet; but please go read the rest.

The point of my books is to give voice to otherwise voiceless females from history and myth; to unlock what has been secreted away in women’s hearts and minds for thousands of years; to express what has been unutterable. Historically, women have either been reduced to nothing but their sexuality, or stripped of it entirely; the Madonna or the whore. Are those two options not more degrading to a female character than allowing her the full range of human experience?

Karen Essex has also just earned a permanent link on the blogroll for that post; but she’s an achiever. You should also read Women: Is it our own fault? — which is in response to her earlier post, Take Back The Tit, which also rather addresses the icky HuffPo post too. See? Now we’ve come full circle!

Image credits: Katharine, Marion and Peg Hepburn photo taken by Martin Munkacsi, August 1939, via.

Resist, And You Are Called Confrontational. Or Mentally Ill.

Remember the Nirvana song Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle?

Here’s Kurt Cobain’s response to, “So why was Frances Farmer such an inspiration?” (Melody Maker, August 28th, 1993)

“Well, you know, I’d read some books about her and I found her story interesting. She was a very confrontational person.”

Extremely confrontational.

Selfish, maybe. “That’s not what I got from the books I read. Actually, I did from two of the biographies I read about her, but there was one, ‘Shadowland’, the best one, written by this PI from Seattle who researched it for years, and I didn’t get that impression from that one. She was obviously a difficult person, and got more and more difficult as the years went on, as people started to fuck with her more and more.

“I mean, she was institutionalised numerous times and, in the place in Washington where she ended up, the custodians had people lining up all the way through the halls, waiting to rape her. She’d been beaten up and brutally raped for years, every day. She didn’t even have clothes most of the time.

“Courtney especially could relate to Frances Farmer. I made the comparison between the two. When I was reading the book, I realised that this could very well happen to Courtney if things kept going on. There’s only so much a person can take, you know?

“I’ve been told by doctors and psychiatrists that public humiliation is one of the most extreme and hardest things to heal yourself from. It’s as bad as being brutally raped, or witnessing one of your parents murdered in front of your eyes or something like that. It just goes on and on, it grinds into you and it’s so personal.

“And the Frances Farmer thing was a massive conspiracy involving the bourgeois and powerful people in Seattle, especially this one judge who still lives in Seattle to this day. He led this crusade to so humiliate her that she would go insane. In the beginning, she was hospitalised – totally against her will – and she wasn’t even crazy. She got picked up on a drunk driving charge and got committed you know. It was a very scary time to be confrontational.”

Though nothing could excuse what was done to her, even the most reverent accounts of Farmer’s life don’t attempt to deny that she was on extremely difficult person, that her much-vaunted independence often amounted to a ruthless self-interest that left her indifferent to the suffering she caused. So she was no martyr.

But Farmer – beautiful, arrogant, creative, destructive and destroyed –does appear impossibly glamorous, especially from the safe distance of a few decades.

Is that what drew you to her?

“No. No, not at all”

The song, especially if Geffen have the good sense to release it as a single, may succeed in glamorising her.

How would you feel about that?

“I’d feel bad about that. I just simply wanted to remind people of tragedies like that. It’s very real and it can happen. People can be driven insane, they can be given lobotomies and be committed and be put in jails for no reason. I mean, from being this glamorous, talented, well-respected movie star, she ended up being given a lobotomy and working in a Four Seasons restaurant.

“And she hated the Hollywood scene, too, and was very vocal about it, so those people were involved in the conspiracy, too. I just wanted to remind people that it happened and it has happened forever.”

Most of your songs are, in one way or another, about suffering. A popular liberal notion is that suffering ennobles. Do you think there’s any truth to that?

“It can, it can. I think a small amount of suffering is healthy. It makes your character stronger.”

Do you think you’ve suffered on a large or small scale?

“What do you think I think?”

Don’t know.

“I’ve suffered on a large scale but most of the attacks haven’t been on me, they’ve been on someone I’m totally in love with, my best fucking friend is being completely fucking crucified every two months, if not more. I read a negative article about her every two months.”

Why read it? Why torture yourself?

“A lot of the time I can’t escape it because Courtney gets faxes of articles from the publicist all the time. But also it’s a form of protection. It enables you to remember … and to make sure you never deal with those people again. And another reason we like to read it is that we can learn from the criticism, too. If I never read any of the interviews I did, I’d never be able to say ‘Jeez, that was a pretty stupid thing to say. I’d better try to clear that up.’”

I was first introduced to Frances Farmer — and subsequently fell in love with both her and Jessica Lange — in Frances (1982).

The book Cobain “recommends,” Shadowland, by William Arnold, and the ensuing (no pun intended as Arnold sued regarding the film) Lange movie may not be reliable, according to journalist and researcher Jeffrey Kauffman who has spent decades unraveling the Frances Farmer story. However, this doesn’t change much for me.

It’s not that I refuse to accept fact or Kauffman’s research; quite the contrary.  I find all the representations and misrepresentations as detrimental to Farmer as the life she did lead. Mental health, especially then, was not kind, no matter what the ignorant intention. The media has only become worse. Her life as a creative, passionate woman was painful, co-opted.

MTV Cared About Your Breasts

Over a decade before Rethink Breast Cancer & MTV News Canada launched (to public outcry; video), and the Women Rock! Girls & Guitars breast cancer benefit too, MTV had the High Priority campaign against breast cancer.  (You can be cynical, and view MTV’s interest as self-interest — be it sexist preservation of the sweater-puppets which jiggled in videos, or a way to combat judgement that rock videos and music television would be the end of civilization, but whatever MTV’s motives, they’re active in PSAs.) The campaign began in 1984, but my thrift store find is the 1987 High Priority album.

(I say “find” because up until spotting for $1 at a thrift shop I was ignorant of this MTV effort. In my defense, we didn’t have cable; our family only managed to get a color TV in the late 70s or early 80s — but we were the first to have a microwave oven. My parents only got a video player after I moved out; and they just got cable two or three years ago. So that tells you something about our family values. And why, even if we had cable, I would have likely opted to read anyway instead.)

The profits from this album went to the AMC Cancer Research Center. The album cover featured unfinished, yet signed, art by Andy Warhol on the front; monthly self breast exam info and other cancer prevention tips on the back; and ten songs from leading female performing artists of the time:

Side One

Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves; Aretha Franklin with The Eurythmics
Manic Monday; Bangles
I Can’t Wait; Stevie Nicks
You Give Good Love; Whitney Houston
Time After Time; Cyndi Lauper

Side Two

Oh People; Patti Labelle
Le Bel Age; Pat Benatar
Nothing At All; Heart
I Feel The Magic; Belinda Carlisle
Slave To The Rhythm; Grace Jones
More Than Physical; Bananarama

While the High Priority Campaign holds no “remember when” significance, the songs and artists do.  So I’m lovin’ listening to it. Grrl power!!

Want it? Infrequently posted on eBay; less expensive at Amazon.

Happily Ever After?

In Wedded Blisters, Neely wonders if marriage is something she even wants to enter into. With the media, as she writes, “depicting marriage as this energy-sapping, miserable way of life, where husbands have to practically beg their wives for sex and wives feel like they’re not being validated enough by their husbands” she’s not enthusiastic:

But what about this daily bombardment of television shows and movies, depicting marriage as the root of all evil? The truth is that these comedies and films play off of real life, and we know this to be the case because we laugh at their humor. We laugh because we recognize truth. People love shows like Everybody Loves Raymond because a depiction of an average guy dealing with the daily struggles of marriage is true to the way it is outside of that rectangular, silver screen. Unmarried couples may not entirely relate to the humor but they understand that this is what they’ll eventually encounter once they walk down the aisle. Are we destined for the same path as Ed and Peggy Bundy, we wonder.

So we turn off our televisions, looking elsewhere for signs of encouragement, only to be bombarded by another reality check on the state of marriage today: the nation’s divorce rate, which towers over us at all times, giving us very good reason to doubt that we will escape the odds.

The media’s reflection of our marital problems may be exaggerated ~ but as Neely points out, it’s funny because it’s true. Marriage is a tricky thing, and certainly our libidos aren’t magically put in sync just because we live together. But if I were to look at our media for answers regarding how we’ve got to this place where Ed and Peggy Bundy are more typical than representative of our greatest fears, I’d say the problem lies with the fantasy of marriage.

From early on we are fed fantasies wherein once love is found they ride off into the sunset. If the story is supposed to be saying “and they lived happily ever after,” they never show it. In film, finding one’s mate is the end of the story when in truth it should be just the beginning.

While we often are entertained by (and feed-off of) the drama of ‘the chase’ and the obstacles faced in the pursuit, we forget that ‘ever after’ is a story complete with dramas of its own. There are obstacles, chases and pursuits to be found in every marriage and I think we should thank our lucky stars for that ~ for each one is a chance to reaffirm our love and dedication.

In the romantic movies, our heroes and heroines do not crumple at the first (or even the 10th) problem presented ~ instead they keep their eye on the prize and fight for the chance at true love. Shouldn’t we view and pursue our marriages with the same ardor, passion and dedication?

Work, bills, children, household chores ~ surely none of these is as difficult as the matter of finding, competing for, and securing your mate. (And in truth, now that we are a couple we can attack these problems together; it’s you and me against the world, kid.)

He’s a morning person while she’s most definitely not, he’s stressed out at the job, she’s afraid she’s not as lovely as she once was ~ surely these will yield to the holding of hands, a quiet shared look in a crowded room, a secret slap on the bottom…

We are presented with a myriad of opportunities to sweep our partners off their feet, seduce and charm our ways into their beds, and show that obstacles mean nothing in light of our love.

We need not be complete drama lovers and go overboard creating chaos or imagining things ready to tear the marriage apart, but we can view the problems, difficulties and obstacles with more passion. We can treat each obstacle as the romantic lead does: as a chance to prove our love and win our mate.

And of course, at the end of the day we should be as eager to fall into bed.

Image via.

How To Dress For Success: Suffragette Edition

In The Washington Post, November 1, 1909, an unidentified “London fashion designer” gets bitchy and judgmental about how suffragettes dress. Yes, even though I don’t know if this possibly fictitious designer is male or female, I say “bitchy.”  For even should ye olde fashion designer be both real and male (gay stereotypes aside), the fact that this item appeared at all in the Society pages, is proof of the bitch factor.

But perhaps most importantly are the number of appearances of myths, stereotypes, and general mean spiritedness which are preyed and played upon today:

The worst blow the cause of equal suffrage has received is the charge that its champions are careless in dress. Women who are not neat in attire and care nothing for personal adornment cannot hope to attract or influence men, and the future is gloomy for the British suffragettes at least. A London fashion designer has divided the suffragettes into four classes, each one marked by distinctiveness in dress.

“In the first is the woman of independent means,” says this fashion critic, “who can can and following her habit does dress well, and also the woman of limited income with an instinct for clothes Secondly, there is the working suffragette, who, as a rule, is a typewriter, and goes to the office in neat shirt waist and skirt She does not differ in any way from the woman clerk in any ordinary office, or the school teacher and secretary Thirdly we arrive at the thin, corsetless esthetic type, the modern development of the love-sick maiden who adorned Bunthorne These ‘willowy’ suffragettes adopt the empire and pinafore gown, with strange embroideries and sometimes strange results Last of all comes the suffragette who looks as though she had just returned from the wars and was still in fighting kit She generally wears a green costume of skimp design and rough material, a purple scarf, an impossible complexion, ‘something’ on her head and ‘something’ on her feet Few suffragettes have the faintest idea how to dress their hair Either they have not the time to spare from work for the great cause to give their hair ordinary care or attention, or else the languid drooping style and the straying wisps of hair are meant to illustrate the down-trodden station of women”

All of which should make the most ardent suffragette pause!

We All End Up Paying For It, Celebrities Or Not

Gawd I love Roseanne. There are about one million reasons to; here’s one more.

A very special quote from a very special article, And I Should Know, Barr had published at NYMag:

Based on Two and a Half Men’s success, it seems viewers now prefer their comedy dumb and sexist. Charlie Sheen was the world’s most famous john, and a sitcom was written around him. That just says it all. Doing tons of drugs, smacking prostitutes around, holding a knife up to the head of your wife—sure, that sounds like a dream come true for so many guys out there, but that doesn’t make it right! People do what they can get away with (or figure they can), and Sheen is, in fact, a product of what we call politely the “culture.”

After seeing one episode of Two and a Half Men, I (no prude, mind you) was aghast that this subject matter was on during the first hour of prime-time, a slot usually reserved for family programming.  Even if I didn’t have children, or it aired later at night, I wouldn’t have watched it because I don’t enjoy misogynistic television.

I also eschewed the show because I dislike Sheen. I knew the allegations about Sheen and his abusive behavior were true. Even before I experienced domestic violence in my first marriage.  And I have no problems not backing an abuser, no problem refusing to add my consumer clout to a celebrity brand — especially when they refuse to get help, continually mock their victims, and act entitled to their “right” to control and harm others.

And I don’t understand why more people don’t do this, don’t refuse to line the pockets of violent losers who hurt people.

I don’t know what Sheen’s entire problem is; and I really don’t care because he has a wealth of resources and people to support him in his hour lifetime of need. But even if it’s only due in part to the “culture” Roseanne refers to, we all end up paying for it; so why perpetuate it?

Women’s Pages, Then & Now

Jessie Lynne Kerr

You know, by now, that I collect horde vintage magazines, publications, newspapers, and other ephemera. (If not, please send me your recipe for Denial Sauce; the anti-women politics of the time are hard on me.) So I’m completely smitten with Women’s Page History: “A blog devoted to women’s page editors beginning during World War II (when many women were hired by the newsrooms until the war ended) through the early 1970s when the women’s pages were transformed into lifestyle sections.”

Yummy!

The blog is run by Dr. Kimberly Voss, of whom I am more than a bit jealous… I long for some sort of credentials to make my piles of old paper legit. *sigh*

I know, I know; she has a piece of paper, I have a piece of paper. (As in degrees.) And I know that some would argue that (stupid) adage, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Let me say again how stupid that adage is — very.

But the word “professor” before your name has more than a cache — it has the clout that opens doors. As in getting your phone calls routed properly, messages and emails returned, etc. Of that, I am envious.

Of course, my biggest problem is not specializing — not narrowing my focus. (Watch comments at this post for a link from my other blog, Inherited Values, on that.)

Ooooh, what’s that glossy magazine cover there!

…Where was I?

On a related — to me, anyway — note, check out Jen But Never Jenn (who I met through a mutual fascination of vintage living).  She made her sister and her future brother-in-law a magazine timeline as a “sense of what it was like NOW vs. THEN.”   Amusing, yes. But also an awesome way to put your collection to good use.

Learning From The Washability Expert

Inside the pages of Modern Woman Magazine, A Magazine Published By The Ice Industry, (Volume 17, Number 1, 1948), an article on how to wash problem fabrics by Mrs. Jean Robinson, “Washability Expert, White King Soap Co.” This particular Mrs. Jean Robinson is somewhat lost to history, but I was reminded of a few things…

As a collector of vintage magazines, I am continually reminded that not much has changed in publishing over the years — and that most of this should be applied to publishing on the web, including blogging. Today’s example, the “washability expert” and her article.

While a title like Washability Expert seems as made-up as any user ID, it can only be assumed that Mrs. Robinson was employed by the soap company much the way many baking product companies had baking experts — experts who created more than just recipes or kitchen tips, but marketing material.

Every (good) recipe or tip produced was put to use cementing relationships with current consumers or cooking up relationships with new customers. Recipes and tips might be collected for publication in cookbooks and brochures, or they might be offered as informational articles to be published in newspapers and magazines — even, as with Mrs. Robinson’s, in corporate publications performing their own marketing efforts. And each was generally an opportunity for a press release too.

The questions were the same as now:

Are there enough recipes/tips for a publication? If so, is it good enough to sell? Or would it be of better use to offer it to customers for free? In either case, should offers be made via a special purchase, direct mail, etc., and is your offer worthy of a press release?

Would it be best to slowly compile and distribute the tips/recipes over time in your own publication, be the sole source for your knowledge? Or should you reach out to other publications, let them publish your wisdom and increase awareness about your products and services?

If and when you do want to share your knowledge(i.e. a guest blog post) to promote your company/site, how do you get them interested in doing so?

The one advantage larger companies had over today’s self-publishing is that Mrs. Jean Robinson and her ilk only had the responsibility of creating the tip, recipe, or article; someone else decided how to make the best use of it.

That’s probably the most markedly different thing about the low-barrier world of the Internet — it’s no longer good enough to just to be an expert, you have to know a lot about marketing too.

(Insert plug for my marketing and blog tour services here.)

BBC Resumed Clowning Around

We Americans (at least those who watched NBC) had Marjorie Hellen, color TV “identification girl”; across the pond, BBC watchers had “Carole and the clown” test pattern.

The test pattern, featuring eight-year-old Carole Hersee, was broadcast between 1967 and 1998, amounting to 70,000 hours of screen time — and in January of 2009 that test pattern returned. The BBC has rescanned the original transparency in high definition to help consumers set up the latest TV sets.

Below is a photo of Carole Hersee in 2009, when she was 49.

Marjorie Hellen: “Identification Girl” The Ultimate Objectification Or Not?

Featured on the cover of People Today, September 22, 1954, was “Marjorie Hellen… TV’s Golden Girl.”

Her story begins on page 55, filed under “People In TV,” Hellen’s story is titled She’s ‘Compatible’ Marjorie Hellen Is Strawberry Blond Trade-Mark on Color TV.

If that’s not intriguing enough, check out the caption under the photo: “Marjorie And Her Rival Black-And-White Test Pattern (rear)”.

From the article:

Millions of NBC-TV viewers are getting slightly frustrated whenever the smiling image of lovely Marjorie Hellen flashes on their black-and-white screens with her quiet announcement: “The following program…will be broadcast in color …” The reason: Around 10,000 TV sets in the U.S., costing between $495 and $1,100, are showing the same girl as she appears on PEOPLE TODAY’S cover–gray-eyed, strawberry blond.

Marjorie, who doubles as a live test pattern for sensitive color cameras, is the “identification girl” for NBC Color TV, which has scheduled 39 90-minute “spectaculars” for its compatible system (the shows can also be received in black-and-white) during 1954-1955.

The article credits “an attack of anemia” for Hellen getting the gig — not specifically for her coloring (though only her doctor knows for sure), but for her availability:

It kept her from going to school, made her available when Claude Traverse, manager of NBC’s color unit, selected her from photos as having the “ideal flesh tone” for lining up color cameras.

Hellen may be more familiar to you as Leslie Parrish; she changed her name in 1959.

The View From Here, Part II

So, like Stacy (who gave birth during The View), I’ve spent the last few weeks as a Brand Ambassador for The View and thought I should share some of my thoughts on the experience. I’ve blogged about a few of the shows, but I think the most interesting conversations were those I had with friends and family.

Most of my closest friends are internet friendships — not only because my life as a freelance writer keeps me glued to my monitor, but because these friendships have been formed on mutual interests and issues. As a result, we all seem to have the same likes and dislikes about The View — most especially our feelings regarding the ladies of The View. For example, we love and trust Whoopi, Joy, and Barbara as steadfastly as we pity and mistrust Elisabeth and Sherri. However, I have several family members who feel exactly the opposite.

Perhaps most interesting is that after all these years of watching, after all the Hot Topics discussion, we each continue to remain rather married to these feelings, beliefs and attitudes despite our firm belief that it’s through this discussion, both the ladies on the show and our less public personal conversations, that we not only can but will learn, grow and change.

Yet, I remain as heatedly fixed on Hasselbeck’s righteous fear-based stupidity (yes, “stupidity,” because she cannot claim ignorance) applied as fear mongering to limit and control others as I’ve always been.

Heck, I still get hot about Hasselbeck‘s confusion between love and sex, her insistence that fairy tales are sex education, and her preaching that the only way we can be saved from the realities of the world we all live in is to stick our heads in the sand — including forcing everyone to join her under said sand and limiting the rights of others even further; she discriminates and insists we all do it with her! That was years ago and my ire won’t die. Not until such stupidity is gone and done.

But neither does the support of Hasselbeck’s position.

So does The View really do what we all believe it will?

Perhaps not — if the only way one measures the importance of such talks is a change in position. But if you consider the benefit of talking in other ways…

Most of the time we take the high road and agree to disagree, taking it to the extreme of avoiding such conversations out of respect. But the cost of doing so is that we avoid the issues.

With The View, we have a frame for the conversation, a table to sit at, and, perhaps best of all, a time frame for discussion. If we listen and talk with each other and then move along to the next thing — be it an issue we agree on, a celebrity interview, or some shopping thing — we have set limits and prove that we can discuss, agree to disagree, and still connect on other issues. Our conversations can be challenging but our relationships need not be challenged.

This, however, is thwarted by The View‘s time slot.

Too many people work days when The View airs. Watching “together” even though miles apart isn’t the only problem; TiVo space and hours in the day not being infinite, intentions of watching later may pave the road to hell. Even watching episodes online is problematic… Even if these family members of mine use the internet (and many of them don’t use it beyond email & photo sharing), it’s just not the same viewing experience.

Maybe ABC should consider giving The View an additional evening showing.  Who wouldn’t rather watch it than another same-old Jay Leno dealio?

*****

As a Brand Ambassador for The View, I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime and will receive a tote bag or other The View branded items to facilitate my review; as you can tell from my long-winded posts about The View, the tote or whatever I may get is not my priority, but I mention it to be ethical.

Too Many Babies, Not Enough Babies, WTF

The ladies of The View were not immune to the irony of having a show about infertility one day after the show with Nadya Suleman aka the Octomom. In their Hot Topics discussion (always my favorite part of the show), Whoopi noted it and there was brief discussion on why Suleman arouses so much heated debate.

At first I was surprised when Hasselbeck defended Suleman — I expected her to be a hard-line republican on the welfare business at the expense of fetal life, even though that fetal life was a medical “opt in” not a manual one — and by a single mother yet. And I was more than a bit surprised by Whoopi as well. I wasn’t surprised at her talk of responsibility in having so many kid so much as what was missing from the conversation.

See, what bothers me the most about all the Octomom haters is the lack of compassion and tolerance. Not just for the buckets of crazy that motivate having so many children, but for outrage expressed at her while folks like the Duggars (of 101 Christian Pups & Counting) continue to skate — even past Jon & Kate Plus 8 before the marital drama. I vented about all this before, but here it is again:

Before watching the Dateline interview of Nadya Suleman, my only interest in this story was the passing thought of, “Will this family replace Jon & Kate Plus 8??” I honestly had no idea of the squawking & hostility towards this mother of six who just gave birth to octuplets. In fact, I was surprised to hear of it — and that’s what drew me towards the show.

(Personally, I’d like to lay a large part of this concerned indignation from our nation on the bitterly infertile; but even the fertile seem to be pissed off. So it’s larger than that… Hit a larger American nerve.)

What I saw was an articulate young woman who managed to keep her own anger at bay, who seemed understanding and forgiving of people who do not accept her decision, and was composed yet passionate as she tactfully mentioned her beliefs about the sanctity of life. But it was her earliest statements, regarding other large families, which seemed to lie at the root of all of the hullabaloo.

When two parent families give birth to &/or adopt other children, people seem to respect them. We’re fascinated, yes; we’ve got television shows, both series and ‘specials’, dedicated to such large & extraordinary families. But we treat them with respect in those shows.

However, few seem to respect this woman. As they said on Chelsea Lately, single, unemployed moms who aren’t entrenched in their community church aren’t cute. Funny? Sure. But too true; and that’s what’s not funny. As were the comments Chelsea Handler made tonight (Tuesday, February 10th) about a new mom having a French tip manicure — seeing those nails near such paper-fragile premature baby skin made me whine and wince. And yes, there are some questions about where the money for manicures and whatever is going on with mom’s new lips… But would these statements be made with such heat about other new moms?

Would we trust the judgment of children? When her older children are questioned on Dateline, they mention ‘squishy’ (aka crowded living space) and crying babies. Those may be true things, and even un-coached or non-parroted statements they heard from adults; but are children known for their unselfishness? Not all children welcome additional siblings period. Does that mean parents or persons considering becoming parents take the advice or sentiments of their children to heart and not increase their family’s size because their children complained?

I’m no pro-lifer, but as the mother of special needs children are the plethora of haters (& Dateline) actually saying that it is irresponsible for a family to increase in size because they have special needs children? And sure, special needs kids come with extra bills — but I don’t see anyone worried about me and my family struggling to care for my special needs kids… Where’s the concern for us?

I’m not saying I think Ms. Suleman has all answers or answers that I’d like to hear when it comes to caring for her children; but then, see, that’s the point: This is not my family, these are not my questions to answer, I am not the judge. I’m not a Christian, but I think that’s supposed to be the Christian way; to leave the judging to God.

This is not to say that I, or anyone, shouldn’t care about the welfare of this family, these 14 children — but then most of the people worried are freaking out about the word ‘welfare’ so maybe I shouldn’t use that word…

We currently have no test or licensing practices for parenthood; even adoption has few rules if one has enough money. And don’t let money fool you either; money doesn’t free any family from neglect and abuse — which is what most everyone is talking about in defense of their questioning this woman’s right to a large family.

But it seems to me, too much emphasis is this woman’s single status. It seems to be the bottom line of all the upset reminding me of the old fuss about Murhpy Brown having a baby; a big moral debate about choosing to be a single mom.

Have a two-parent family who keeps popping out children because they don’t believe in birth control, and few take them to task for their lack of common sense, even when they live on the government dole, or in a house that is ‘squishy’. Extra points if they evoke God a lot. And when they have specific religious or church affiliations, no one dares to really berate them because they have religious protections & a coven of church brothers and sisters.

You want examples? Fine. Those annoying Duggars (of 17 and Counting) take their kids to a “wild life refuge” and allow/encourage their kids to feed animals pasty white bread from their mouths, run & chase animals despite the “do not chase the animals” signs — and when asked, bozo dad Duggar says he wasn’t worried about his kids. Apparently God will protect his kids from his own stupidity. Plus they do all sorts of impractical and stunting things to their kids in the name of religion — so we aren’t supposed to judge. Even my beloved Kate of Jon & Kate Plus 8 totes & promotes her faith.

Most egregiously of all, the Murphy family, headed by John and Jeanette Murphy, who, already the parents of four, opened up their home — aka privately adopted — 23 children with Down Syndrome and were the subject of Our 27 Kids. If you want to talk about what’s fair to the children you already have, where’s the outrage that they placed upon their young biological children (two who existed before they began adopting, and two born after) the burdens of special needs siblings? It’s not just the daily grind either — it’s for the lifetime of those children they’ve adopted. As a mom who has had to deal with the safety of one child’s future — aka legal guardianship — in light of other children’s needs, I can’t imagine saddling children with 23 such responsibilities.

But we don’t talk about these issues. Or their economic dole. The Murphy’s admit they too take food stamps, like Ms. Suleman; Jon & Kate likely don’t need them due to their TV deal, their church, etc.; and I bet the Duggars took food stamps & more — at least before the TV deal — and their children, ill-prepared for the real world, are destined to return to such public assistance in the future. But we don’t talk about them because these are two parent families who evoke the name of God & their idea of His vision of morality when speaking of their large families. In the case of the Gosselins & the Murphys, their marital status is a tacit approval of God for most of the gossip-mongering public so ready to judge Suleman.

I guess Suleman should get all kooky with an old time religion and marry a man; preferably the man who biologically fathered her kids — the man her mother claims offered to married her. Then would everyone just shut up about her — or at least just talk about the blessings and realities of raising so many tiny babies? Judging isn’t going to diaper and feed those eight babies. Or her six other children. Nor is is going to help a new mom with her stress. It’s just empty finger pointing.

Well, it’s not completely empty finger pointing… Every finger pointed at Suleman has three more fingers pointed back the the finger pointer. And maybe those people should start there, looking at what makes them so judgmental.

Whew. I’m glad to have that all off my chest. Again.

But back to The View.

(Not that this whole discussion wasn’t about The View; it was. Like I said, Hot Topics is my favorite part of the show, primarily because it’s just like how women talk. But it’s time to leave the Octomom alone and move along.)

Yesterday’s episode was a “special episode” about infertility. While I am not without my sympathies for this issue (something my sister and most of her friends have had to deal with), I am waiting for today– Friday’s — Hot Topic fallout regarding the segment with Bill and Giuliana Rancic. (I know it will be there — especially as Joy mentioned it on her HLN show this evening.)

The short version, for those too lazy to click the above link and watch, it that Giuliana stated that her doctor advised her to gain 5 to 10 pounds to assist conception — and Giuliana resisted.

Now I get that her career is to be a thin woman-child waif on the red carpet etc., and that such a gig requires her to be thin, plus lose an extra 10 for the camera. But her reluctance seemed to have exposed a resentment that she should have to do such a thing in order to have a baby — as opposed to the more sane response that her career ideal weight would be so low that it would interfere with her basic biology.

Giuliana and Bill are both to be admired for sharing their intimate problems for, as they state, the ability to remove the taboo from fertility issues. So I don’t want to sound too harsh or kick folks when they are already down. But…

Giuliana’s statements regarding her earlier career-formed impressions that as a 20-something watching 40-somethings having babies had led her astray, given her the wrong impression about how much time she and her biological clock really had. So perhaps it’s time for Giuliana to see that she too is sending unfortunate messages to women.

By resisting those baby-needed 10 pounds, by emotionally fearing the horrid industry standard of “fat” rather than be horrified by just what those standards do to her and other women who aim to be so slim, she is not only receiving the wrong message, but sending it too.

She would do herself and those who view and idolize her better by accepting the literal baby fat and making a stink about the fictitious and unhealthy standards.

*****

As a Brand Ambassador for The View, I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime and will receive a tote bag or other The View branded items to facilitate my review; as you can tell from my long-winded posts about The View, the tote or whatever I may get is not my priority, but I mention it to be ethical.

The View From Here

Last week I became an official View Brand Ambassador, part of the Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime. This means you’ll be hearing more from me on The View and while I will receive a tote bag or other The View branded items for &/or to facilitate my commentary &/or reviews, I’m really excited to have the opportunity to participate in the discussion about and promotion of one of my favorite shows — yup, one of my favorite shoes, not just a daytime favorite.  It doesn’t hurt that we’re supposed to get some face or ear time with show producers either.

In short, being an ambassador for the show means I now have a legitimate reason to watch shows uninterrupted and a larger motivation to talk about them too.

So consider this post a disclaimer — and warning of things to come, both here and at my other blog, Motherhood Metamorphosis. (Heck, it might even show up at other places, depending upon the topic!)

If you’re a fan of The View, right now Mom Central has an exciting contest: The View Sweepstakes. The prize for one lucky winner? A trip to New York City to watch a taping of The View! The sweepstakes is open until February 28th and I encourage you to enter — but I hope I win!

PS If you join Mom Central, befriend me here!

English Droll Doesn’t Play Well In Print, Or Peoria

In the January 2010 issue of Elle magazine, in the Elle Man interview series, Hugh Grant is interviewed by Holly Millea. In it, among other things (like his art collection) he dishes on his female costars:

Elle: Let’s run through some of your costars. Three adjectives, please. Andie?

HG: Southern belle. Charming. Gorgeous. Emma Thompson: Clever, funny, mad as a chair. Renee Zellweger: Delightful. Also far from sane. Very good kisser. Sandra Bullock: A genius. A German. Too many dogs. Julianna Moore: Brilliant actress. Loathes me. Rachel Weisz: Clever. Beautiful. Despises me. Drew Barrymore: Made her cry. Stunning film-star face. Hates me.

Some places have already blogged and reported on this celebrity dish, but I think they miss the humor. True ‘English droll’ doesn’t play well in print, or Peoria, but do people really think Hugh Grant would backhandedly snark on costars that way?

(Click scans to read.)

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Of Monday Movie Memes & Media Use

This week’s Monday Movie Meme is Deep Impact: Movies That Have Changed Your Life:

Our blogging buddy Cardiogirl wanted to know if we had ever covered movies that changed our lives or our world view.

Fundamentally, I don’t believe movies — or any media, for that matter — makes people do anything. I don’t think films have changed my life. Or yours. Enhanced your life, sure; if you’re lucky (and smart), movies have provoked thought; but primarily, because people mostly choose what they watch and therefore their selections are based on notions previously held, films confirm what you & I already know or believe.

Seeing that in pixel-ized print makes me rethink why I bother writing then… Rather depressing. So I take another look at the challenge. “What movies had such an impact that they caused a change in our behavior, beliefs, or exposed us to a new passion?”

Ah, that last one — that’s the ticket! Movies and media can expose us to new passions. They can, if we are open to learning, educate us and inspire us to find out more about something we were ignorant of before — and that may include facts or plights presented in such a way that they open our eyes to a new position or point of view.

deadly-deception-videoIn that sense, Debra Chasnoff‘s documentary, Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment, opened my eyes and I changed my behaviors; to this day, I won’t buy anything made by GE. Not even a light bulb.

And if I’m forced to buy a GE product because it’s the only option on the shelf, I rant about babies born without skulls.

And then there was Mississippi Burning. That film had a profound impact on me spiritually. (Please note that this is not a review of the film, nor a commentary on it’s historical accuracy or depictions of reality; just about my personal epiphany.)

Prior to renting the film (shortly after it’s home video release) I had known of the events it was based on, namely the real-life murders of three civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney; as I said, we are drawn mainly to those things we know &/or already believe in, so I was drawn to a film about civil rights, equality, and humanity (and its converse). But after inserting the tape, once seeing the date on the screen, “June 21, 1964,” in white letters on a black screen, I was shocked. That date was news to me.

I know I didn’t know that exact date because I would have remembered it; it’s my birthday.

mississippi-burning-dvdThe fact that I was being born while those men were murdered shocked me; the next few minutes of the movie blurred (don’t worry, I rewound it and starting the film over) as I checked in with my spirit, my soul… And then, in a moment of crystal clarity, I knew.

I knew that my profound pain and connection with civil rights issues wasn’t just because I was a nice person or something. It was more than that.. Deeper. It was due to the fact that I could not join my house of flesh on this plane while those souls suffered their way out of it and not be touched by it.

You can call me crazy for such thinking; many do. And you’d be correct to hold me accountable for such thoughts, not those who made the film. Because I still argue that these films didn’t change me; I changed me.

Yes, the facts opened my eyes — because my mind was open to being informed — and I took action (or belief) because my values (and sensitivities) dictate I must. And so I have to take as much — or more — responsibility for my actions than I’m willing to give to media creators for their efforts.

If all of this seems contradictory, or like I’m splitting hairs, it’s because I think we need to draw these lines for ourselves.

I am thankful my college professor showed us Deadly Deception; and I feel blessed to have learned a fact that somehow clarifies spiritual holdings in Mississippi Burning. I admire all involved in those projects greatly (and those sentiments are equal to the feelings of mourning sickness both projects inspire). But if I hand over the responsibility for my actions to anyone, I run big risks. So do you.

We run the risk of expecting people to plop things in front of us, rather than owning our responsibility to be seekers.

We run the risk of relaxing our personal accountability for our own actions, placing blame & credit alike on others for what we ourselves do or fail to do.

So splitting these hairs isn’t cosmetic or even a matter of semantics; it’s about ownership of our actions, beliefs, and passions. This distinction between ‘media which moves us’ and the actions we opt to make is incredibly important.

‘They’ can bombard & pressure us all they’d like, to buy shoes, kill people, vote for candidate A, believe the religious rhetoric of god B, drink beer, mutilate ourselves in efforts to be ‘beautiful’; but we make the choices. We must accept our personal accountability for those choices.

We consume media, and we are what we eat; but in this case, we need to know that we digest in order to properly digest it. And to digest it, we must be diligent in our seeking and consumption of media; as equally open to ideas and points of view that counter our own as we are critically thinking about what we see/hear/read.

Great films, or crappy ones, great books or crappy video games, do not make us do things. We do.

Defending Kate Gosselin

I’ve been trying to ignore every impulse I’ve had to blog about the Gosselins. Sure, I’ve spat at the TV and grumbled at my pc (just ask hubby for confirmation), but I’ve put off writing about them — until Catherinette, that is.

When she tweeted her dislike of Kate, I just couldn’t refuse the bait. Witnessing how so many are oblivious to the facts here drives me crazy. Crazy enough to challenge Catherinette to a duel for Kate Gosselin’s honor. (Or, baring her “honor,” at least for some understanding.) Even though I know Catherinette’s post is likely to be far more clever to read, I challenged her. (And even the entertainment value is part of the problem; it’s much easier to impart the snark than it is to look at the real issues here. Especially if those issues have something to do with you, your behaviors, your value-laden actions.) So I probably won’t “win” this duel; not only is what I have to say far less entertaining, but Catherinette has far more vocal readers than I. But like many who have doth declared a duel, I must do it in spite of winning and simply for the principal of the thing.

First of all, we, the collective “we” of society, are partly responsible for the Gosselins being on TV in the first place. Read through any publication from the past, and you’ll see that we humans have a long history of loving to vicariously follow the lives of people we don’t know. Before film, before more timely mass communication gave us the ability to herald public figures on the national or international scene, we read the local society pages & made local celebrities out of those people in our local bergs — especially those who could travel to the big cities and see the opera or buy Paris fashions.

Unusual human drama was the stuff we entertained ourselves with during our hum-drum days and nights. We consoled ourselves as “at least not having those problems,” and puffed our chests with “proof” that the rich had more dollars than sense.

quintuplets-clipping-smallThrow children into the mix — especially an unusual number of babies — and whoa, Nellie, we’re smitten. Why else do I continue to find so much evidence of the Dionne Quints?

The Dionne Quintuplets who, by the way, grew up under the intense media spotlight yet turned out normal — and by “normal,” I mean they have as adults complained about their not normal childhoods. Children everywhere complain about their parents, the lots they are born into, even without such public interest & scrutiny.

Think I’m being cold & crass? Before their complaints, we didn’t feel responsible for literally buying their story; since their complaints, we continue to buy the lives of others.

While I’ll leave it to others to debate the “who had it worse, the Dionne Quints or Jon & Kate’s + 8?” and/or the “do the plus eight have it any worse than any child actor?” I will say that most folks justify their watching and purchasing with a “Had they not our dollars, where would they be? Had they not been born a litter of five or eight, who can say where they would have ended up…”

OK, so even if you don’t agree with the choices Jon and Kate made (and I did turn down Wife Swap), to make some money off the general public interest in their über sized family of tiny tots, you must at least see how tempting such monetary gains would be when faced with the costs and work of raising such a large family. And the decision was theirs to make.

If you don’t get it, I don’t see any way to convince you. So I’ll move along.

My next point is that Jon’s a jerk.

more-husbands-self-starters-wife-would-not-have-to-be-a-crankEven without the publicity, Jon’s a poster-boy for male jerks everywhere who eschew family responsibilities. From the beginning of the show, Jon has sat back and done very little with his kids. Even less for his wife. When people say, “Kate’s a bitch,” I say, “Of course she looks like one. What woman can shoulder what she does and not look like she’s bossy?” And I don’t just mean the number of kids.

Worse than simply lazy, Jon’s a nightmare.

Jon’s passive-aggressive behavior reads off the television screen like a text book case for psych students. He doesn’t lift a finger unless he’s told to, does a half-assed job of it (if he actually does anything) — and then he stares into the camera and plays victim to millions — millions who then view Kate, the responsible party trying to get her husband to participate in his life, as mean.

It’s crazy-making and abusive. Enough to dislike him for on its own.

But then he cheats.

Looking for escape from a reality he created, he continues to paint himself the victim while he partys-on, dude.

And then he tries to leak a story about Kate’s cheating, just to make himself look, hell, I don’t know, “better” as the victim again. *sigh*

Jon says he’s not, despite his plethora of boys toys (of the mechanic, electronic, and human female varieties) and mode of recapturing-my-youth rocker garb, having a midlife crisis. Maybe he’s not. Like drugs, a midlife crisis is not required to be an asshole; but such things help.

Meanwhile, Kate, who likely has been worried about this whole thing for years now (even if not consciously), continues to try to get what she can for her kids. Jon complains about her book tours — and some of the public bitches in agreement. But really, would you have any respect for a woman who didn’t do anything to support her kids? Why is Kate blamed for wanting to use what popularity she has & leverage it into something more? I don’t have eight children, but I continually worry about feeding & providing for the kids I do have.

And when talking heads & comedians mock the Gosselins for being out & about, not home with their kids, there are distinctions to be made: Momma’s working, daddy’s an asshat.

But even if both parents are out of the home working, leaving the kids with other childcare providers, so what? Millions of us do it every single day. So these parents have a much longer commute, traveling to the far more fashionable production coasts; the same talking heads on TV do it all the time. Does anyone wonder just who is watching Stephen Colbert’s kids? Or Nicole Kidman’s?

I’m soooooo tired of people bitching about Kate when she’s been victimized and abused here.

No, she hasn’t handled everything with as much aplomb as you’d like to imagine you would. Being the sane responsible one who looks like the problem drives you crazy — and sometimes you act like it. And divorces bring out the worst in people. Even when you are trying so hard to do the right thing.

It sucks that this drama is playing out in public, especially for the kids. But dude, let’s keep some perspective here. As a kid, you’re worried about what your friends will say or think… Your friends and the kids at school, the kids in the neighborhood, at day care, your cousins, maybe. And even without such a media frenzy, all those kids would already know that your dad’s a jerk because they will have met him — or heard from some other kid who has. Seeing Daddy Dearest on TV, boozing it up with other babes only confirms what they already know. And it helps explain why your mom is tight-lipped, teary-eyed, and sometimes failing while trying to hard to hold it together.

Give her a break.

And start with a hard look at yourself. What is it that Kate brings up in your own life, about your actions/beliefs/behaviors, which you are trying so hard not to see or be responsible for?

PS In case Catherinette should mention Kate’s hair cut…

My middle child went out and got Kate’s haircut a few months ago. Did she intend to get Kate’s haircut? I can’t say; Destiny was with her biological mom that day. But the 80’s are back, baby, and asymmetrical haircuts along with it.

Besides, if Kate’s hair is anything like Destiny’s, that haircut is completely wash-and-go. Who couldn’t use that much style with eight kids, a lazy husband, a busy traveling work life, and continual media attention?

Pepsi Perpetuates Predatory Males

Pepsi’s latest foray into social media with an iPhone app for its AMP energy drink is more than trending on Twitter — it’s downright pissing women (and men who give a damn) off.

The “fun” application is called “before you score” — and yes, with “score” means what you think it does: getting laid. As in men who “bag” chicks.

For all the gory details, check out Mashable’s post, “Alienate Your Female Customers? Pepsi Has An App For That” (the title of which is where the trending “alienate your female” topic comes from). But maybe all you need to know is the simple premise of the app, as stated by Mashable’s Adam Ostrow: “AMP has actually built features into its application that make it seem one can systematically “score” by exploiting women’s naivety. Beyond that, they actively encourage users to promote such conquests through social media.”

Whether or not the app can really assist in the exploitation of any woman is neither here nor there. And if Pepsi tries to defend itself with a “the app is just entertainment” it’s no excuse. The pure perpetuation of predatory male stereotypes and encouragement of such actions is horrible.

I would rant on & on about this, but there’s plenty of smart comments to read at Mashable (and at Jezebel too). But that won’t stop me from asking a question…

What’s next, Pepsi, a cave man app where you can slip a Mickey into a woman’s drink and drag her off by the hair? Oh yeah, and brag about it too.

Reporting On The Mayan Predicted Demise Of Our Planet

Early in 2010, Greta Sandler smelled the green, envisioning great commercial success in the “green” environmental movement. She cut and pasted digitally merged Shamanistic traditions and historical beauty tips, “recycling” non-attributed native sayings and public domain beauty advice into an ebook, Creating Inner Peace & Outer Beauty While Saving The Earth, published in April of that year.

One of Sandler’s most promoted save the earth beauty rituals was “100 Strokes For Healthy Hair & Animal Habitats.”

Before bed, give your hair 100 brush strokes while chanting: “Honor the sacred. Honor the Earth, our Mother. Honor the Elders. Honor all with whom we share the Earth: Four-leggeds, two-leggeds, winged ones, swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people. Walk in balance and beauty.”

After completing the 100 strokes, remove the loose hairs from the bristles of your hairbrush and set them free outside as a gift to the earth and her creatures. As you give your offering, whisper your thanks and well-wishes for the creatures who may use your gifted hair to create homes and beds for themselves.

However, Sandler underestimated the viral nature of her YouTube video depicting the hair ritual. The video’s success led to Oprah Winfrey giving away Sandler’s ebook on her ridiculously popular “Oprah’s Favorite Things” holiday episode, which generated even more video sharing and adoption of the book’s philosophies. The cumulative effect was millions of vain and ‘proud to be green’ posers stroking their hair the requisite 100 times and setting the hairs free outdoors.

Such massive amounts of worldwide gifted hair would have disastrous consequences.

Giant hair storms appeared in America. The Bleach-Blonde Tumbleweeds of Los Angels, steady fodder for late night talk show jokes and Fark postings, quickly proved more than comical nuisances as they both fed and spread the flames of the September forest fires. The Grey Geezer Aqua-Nets killed thousands of dolphins and other marine life off the coasts of Florida and Mexico, leaving rotting corpses infecting waterways and spreading disease.

Sandler, now inspiring and empowering stay at home moms to sell her ebooks and line of green beauty products, such as wooden hairbrushes made by ‘indigenous peoples’, went on the media circuit, stating the free market had decided that neither she nor her movement were responsible for a few freak accidents.

Hipster environmentalist groups responded with t-shirts, bumperstickers, canvas tones and other activist merchandise with slogans like “Earth: Hair today; gone tomorrow. ” Their devotion to the cause consisted of public awareness campaigns — pithy practiced sound bites raging at the machine, designed to expose the public to their own swag more than expose the issue; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing except for sales. Sales of their t-shirts and totes — and more of Sandler’s books and philosophies.

Sandler’s business grew; Creating Inner Peace & Outer Beauty While Saving The Earth achieved international success.

In India, Sandler’s book was met with controversy. The progressive youth latched onto the work, twisting the casting out of ‘body waste’ hair into the process of ridding the country of the caste system. The movement was so successful, it resulted in the Black Blizzards of India, which looked much like their namesakes — the American dust storms of the 1930s.

By this time, ecosystems and weather conditions worldwide were affected; yet the Chinese, unable to view Snopes for The Truth of the results of those following Sandler’s philosophies, were eager to adopt this Western fad in the name of their Chinese Nationalist Shamanism Revival — which also served the government’s quest to present to the rest of the world the appropriate enthusiastic environmental consciousness. En masse the Chinese sent their hair offerings, blessing the world with additional clouds of hair the cumulative affect of which blocked out the sun.

Such agricultural damage left no natural anchors to keep the soil in place; combined with weather conditions and other ecological damage, the earth was rapidly becoming one giant Dust Bowl.

By 2012 the world suffocated in hair and dust.

The cockroaches happily survived on the plentiful amounts of hair, biodegradable cotton tees and totes etc., and corpses for water.

Women Who Want Sex Are Still Novelties

We women who admit we want sex must still be novelties if a national television show is putting out a casting call for us:

Women, what are the reasons that you have sex? Do you do it because it’s fun? Do you do it because you are truly in love with someone? Do you just do it just to make someone else happy or jealous? Will you have sex with someone you might not necessarily be attracted to just because you can? Do your spouses and partners understand why you want to have sex? Do you wish they could understand your needs better? We are looking for women to talk about why they want to have sex. Write in and tell us about it.

Aside from the sexploitation angle, why would this be done? You don’t see a need for TV to “document” men who want sex — that’s a given, right? But women who want sex, well, that’s downright odd. Heck, please tell us, odd woman, why do you want sex? We promise to marvel at your uniqueness! *snort*

Continuing The Domestic Violence Conversation

At Newsweek, Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert discuss domestic violence:

Domestic violence used to be the problem no one talked about. But in the past few years, the issue has clearly emerged from the shadows. This summer the Obama administration appointed longtime advocate Lynn Rosenthal to the newly created post of White House adviser on violence against women. Around the same time, singer Chris Brown pleaded guilty to a felony after being charged with assaulting his then-girlfriend, Rihanna; the case drew so much negative publicity for Brown that he had to embark on an intensive campaign to revive his image and his career. In an appearance earlier this month on Larry King Live, Brown even added victim to his résumé when he discussed growing up in a violent household himself.

All this attention creates a unique opportunity to find new ways to help the 1.5 million women who are raped or assaulted annually by a spouse or intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But what’s the next step?

While the article doesn’t even pretend to have the answers, it is (another) step in dialog on a serious topic. However, when you read the comments you’ll find disturbing proof of how intent people are to down-play the realities of domestic violence in this country.

For every

Society was making progress in stopping domestic violence. Women were better able to access shelter, orders of protection, criminal prosecution of their abusers, divorce, support and the help of the community. As a result the rate of domestic violence homicide went down. This progress has been stopped or at least slowed by a particularly cruel tactic developed by male supremacists who encourage abusive fathers to go after custody even when they had little involvement with the children before the separation. The courts have been slow to recognize and respond to this tactic. Up-to-date research has now established beyond question that the broken custody court system has resulted in thousands of children being sent to live with abusers. Newsweek was one of the few members of the national media to expose this scandal in an excellent article by Sarah Childress. I hope you will follow-up on this subject by looking at the latest research. (Antisexistdad @ 09/17/2009 12:43:16 AM)

there’s a

There are more women in ER for bee stings than domestic violence of any kind let alone ‘blookdy pulp’. This article was for the sexist hysteria crowd. The author is no different than the birthers.” (eplurbis @ 09/19/2009 6:31:22 PM).

Read, cry, vomit, then discuss. Because if we stop at crying, or try to avoid vomiting by avoiding the subject, then we stop the conversation and let the problem continue.

Best Magazine Covers Of The Year

Over at Pink Populace Paparazzi Parade Exposé, Alessia (of Relationship Underarm Stick) posted a challenge for all of us to participate in & discuss Amazon’s Best Magazine Covers Contest; these are some of my votes & thoughts.

I might be a lesbian, or at least bi, because I bypassed the obvious beefcake of Matthew Mitcham & Rafael Nadal and voted Angelina’s Vanity Fair Cover as The Sexist Cover.

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Too bad I also couldn’t vote it Most Delicious Cover too.

But that honor had to go to Bon Appetit (August 2008) — mainly because something had to get the bad taste out of my mouth from the October 2008 cover of The New York Times Upfront featuring some kid biting into a (live?) raw fish head; and I can choke down ice cream in most any circumstances.

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Speaking of stuffing your pie-hole…

The Advocate‘s May 2009 issue illustrating the Porn Panic feature is awesome. I want that as a poster. So it got my vote for Best in News & Business.

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For Best in Fashion & Beauty, I simply couldn’t — wouldn’t — vote for the February 23, 2009 issue of New York. While I’d love to support a cover featuring a completely un-retouched photo of a model, I simply will not support Kate Moss. Won’t my future payments for her methadone treatments be enough?

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So it was the May 2009 Elle with the submerged Barrymore which got my vote for Best in Fashion & Beauty; because fashion & beauty are both about unrealistic fantasies, and I’m fine with that. (I am not fine, however, with people who contort, mutilate and harm themselves in pursuit of such fantasy — nor with those who wish to impose fantasy as a reality.)

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However, I must state that the Elle cover beat the October 2008 cover of W, featuring a delicious Anne Hathaway, by a (long-held) breath.

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Another close category was Best in Science, Technology & Nature. I was torn between the beauty of Andrew Zuckerman’s portrait of a blue-and-yellow macaw on the cover of the August 2008 issue of Audubon and the effective use of typography on the May 25, 2009 issue of New York.

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In the end I voted for the macaw; but I now feel bad, like I gave New York “the bird.” But then, once I saw the Audubon cover, I started thinking about Fred, the blue & gold I almost bought years ago, and was distracted… Which is contrary to the “why distraction may actually be good for you” story New York was illustrating, so things may have ended as they ought to have… But my distraction was not good for you, New York.

While I enjoyed Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart’s Entertainment Weekly cover, when it comes to Best Obama Cover, the clear choice — the only choice — is the May 3, 2009 cover of The New York Times Magazine. This incredible portrait of an intelligent, concerned & pensive man was neither posed nor done in a studio.

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It’s a good thing for Angie & Vanity Fair that this cover wasn’t an option for Sexist cover; bad thing for me though — this photo of Obama makes me hot.

The Colbert & Stewart cover got my vote for Best in Entertainment & Celebrity, though. (And with Colbert’s Nation behind him, there’s no doubt it will win at least one of the categories; let’s hope it’s this one, not Best Obama cover.)

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Real Simple (June 2008) got my vote for Best in House & Home.

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That, my friends, is the dream of all dreams. Forget your fancy artistic homes that you know are no more livable than the fashion fantasy cover of Drew Barrymore underwater, organization like that is something far more compelling… It’s functional beauty. I hope. It’s a nirvana I’ve long imagined… Especially when searching for that mauve pencil — one that’s not too pink, not to lavender, but mauve.

Andy Anderson’s photo is so incredible, that I quickly voted for it as Best in Lifestyle — it wasn’t until I was here, blogging, that I realized I voted for Garden & Gun (December 2008/January 2009). Garden & Gun?! That’s a magazine?! It sounds more like some word association game held by college dorm dwellers passing a joint… But, uh, OK. And pass the Cheetos, please.

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The last category was Best in Sports & Fitness. As a sedentary blogger, the most exercise I get is walking to the mailbox & carrying my magazines back to the house, so what do I know?

In the end, I voted for the Sports Illustrated cover, bypassing more beefcake — Justin Timberlake on the cover of Golf. I could argue that golfers get about as much exercise as I do, or that I the SI cover had two nearly-bare male bods; but honestly, I just wanted to start organizing my desk so that it would look like the cover of Real Simple.

Now it’s your turn; tell me who you voted for in Amazon’s Best Magazine Covers Contest. (Or at least just vote — you could win a $10,000 Amazon.com gift card!)

Feminism On A Friday

Some quick responses to what I’ve been reading this week…

First, The Cult of Masculinity by Jennifer Kesler, which clearly articulates thoughts in my own head & heart; specifically the following:

I must caution casual readers: this article is not a “Men’s Rights Activist” platform. The form of feminism I grew up taking seriously was the kind that believed the current patriarchal system was hurting both women and men, and wanted to replace it with something that would establish equal opportunity and equal responsibility for all adults (and legal protection for children and for adults unable to care for themselves). Men’s Rights Activism has a fatal flaw of interpreting natural consequences for male behavior – so long suppressed and suffered by innocents instead – as infringements of their rights, and this makes most MRA arguments illogical to the point of hilarity, if they weren’t so frightening in their blindness.

Kudos to Kesler.

If only this true equality existed — then I might not have to show you this recent post at Feministing about the cute nicknames given to men who assault women:

At Georgetown University yesterday morning, an unknown man revived a year-long series of assaults between GWU, Georgetown, and American University in which he breaks into women’s apartments near campus, lies down next to or on top of them while they sleep, attempts to enter them with his hand, then runs away when they scream. This earned him the nickname “The Georgetown Cuddler.”

“The Cuddler?!” Cuddling is a sign of affection, which implies caring for the other person, respecting at least the fact that they are separate from you & so, as autonomous beings, have their own bodies & feelings — and rights to same. Penetrating a non-consenting person, however, is as cuddly & affectionate as how I would respond to it — by striking his penis with my knee.

My reaction would be just another natural consequence the MRA folk would scream is unfair to men. *sigh*

The Facts About Children, Sex, Predators & The Internet

Last year the Internet Safety Technical Task Force released the Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies, the Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States, but I wouldn’t have heard of it if it weren’t for the recent article by Michael Castleman at Psychology Today:

Last year, the attorneys general of 49 states created the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to investigate sexual solicitation of children by molesters who troll for targets using sites popular with kids, among them, MySpace and Facebook. The 278-page report concluded that there’s no real problem.

The task force, led by Harvard researchers, looked at reams of scientific data dealing with online sexual predation and found that children and teens were rarely propositioned for sex by adults who made contact via the Internet. In the handful of cases that have been documented-and highly publicized-the researchers found that the victims, almost always older teenagers, were usually willing participants already at risk for exploitation because of family problems, substance abuse, or mental health issues.

The report concluded that MySpace and Facebook “do not appear to have increased minors’ overall risk of sexual solicitation.” The report said the biggest risk to kids using social networks was bullying by other kids.

“This study shows that online social networks are not bad neighborhoods on the Internet,” said John Cardillo, whose company tracks sex offenders. “Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are inhabited mostly by good people who are there for the right reasons.”

The bottom line is, the actual threat to children from sexual predators online is negligible.

So I’m guessing the reason I hadn’t heard of this before was that the findings, though incredibly clear, aren’t willing to be heard & accepted by the population at large. Instead of shouting from the rooftops that the internet is as safe a place as any for children, or even breathing a sign of relief, people would prefer far more salacious, fear-mongering headlines.

In truth, the actual Internet Safety Technical Task Force report says that, “Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors face, both online and offline.” Which means parents should be paying a lot more attention to what their children are experiences (and dispensing) at school, with their friends, etc., than they should be about the invisible “they” known as internet boogie men.

From the report:

Much of the research based on law-enforcement cases involving Internet-related child exploitation predated the rise of social networks. This research found that cases typically involved post-pubescent youth who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.

And if you think that’s only gotten worse because kids today are bombarded by internet porn, well, that’s just plain wrong too; from the report:

The Internet increases the availability of harmful, problematic and illegal content, but does not always increase minors’ exposure. Unwanted exposure to pornography does occur online, but those most likely to be exposed are those seeking it out, such as older male minors.

In other words, most kids ignore it, but those (mostly male) youths who want it go for it — just like those meeting with adults or others for sex. Because teens have sex drives, so you’d better be prepared to deal with the issue.

However, the report does not ignore the few times where child molesters have connected with youth online. It says that in the small number of cases, the internet was the first of several steps — the rest of which are no different than how “real world” hook-ups are made. So, if the sexual predator finds prey on the internet & the prey responds, the next step is telephone contact (right under their parents’ noses), followed by eventual meetings in person.

Here’s what the report suggests in terms of advice (I’ve bullet-pointed them, so they are easier to read):

Careful consideration should be given to what the data show about the actual risks to minors’ safety online and how best to address them, to constitutional rights, and to privacy and security concerns.

Parents and caregivers should:

  • educate themselves about the Internet and the ways in which their children use it, as well as about technology in general
  • explore and evaluate the effectiveness of available technological tools for their particular child and their family context, and adopt those tools as may be appropriate
  • be engaged and involved in their children’s Internet use
  • be conscious of the common risks youth face to help their children understand and navigate the technologies
  • be attentive to at-risk minors in their community and in their children’s peer group
  • and recognize when they need to seek help from others.

All of this, though, ignores the basic facts regarding child molestation: Most rapes, sexual assaults, and abuse is perpetuated by someone that the victim knows and trusts.

And I guess that’s the real reason I hadn’t heard of this report & its findings before; people still prefer to pretend they are safe at home, that the unknown danger is “other” and locked outside — or on the internet.

Direct Marketing Crank Response, 1917

An amazing entry I found in The Journal of American History, Volume XI, January-February-March, No. 1, (copyright, 1917, The National Historical Society) which speaks as much to direct marketing responses as it does to attitudes about media. The National Historical Society, seeking to increase membership and circulation of the journal, had been “prosecuting a very extensive postal card campaign.” One of the recipients of the direct marketing response cards sent in a reply:

Dear Sirs:

I respectfully decline to become a member of your society. I have absolutely no faith in American History. When the history of this great war will be written then you will have to take your information from the American newspapers, which have published more lies during the last 2 years than have been published since the beginning of the world. Yours truly,

C. SEITZ.

The journal also notes that the correspondence was sent to the New York Tribune, where a representative of the newspaper tried interview Mr. Seitz by telephone. All Mr. Seitz would say in reply was, “You are all liars. I would not speak to you.”

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Criminal Cause Celebre

I don’t write about celebrities who get busted for domestic violence, rape & assaults because I don’t want to give them any attention and, if I may say so, press coverage. But…

In my thinking that as celebrities they are their own brands and that by the “any press is good press” philosophy by mentioning them I’m helping to promote them — but in reality, by not calling them on their crap am I somehow supporting them?

Recently, when an actor on one of the many popular crime scene science shows was busted, I thought about this all… I wondered if I should be pointing it out — if not calling for a boycott of the show &/or contacting advertisers, then implying same by letting readers know about it. My original thinking was that the actor is only one ingredient of the show, and that while he may be (at least allegedly) creepy & bad, the show isn’t “him.” He isn’t the only actor or participant; nor is his life &/or philosophy what frames the content or the messages of the show.

Yet, if his name is the billable one, if he’s the investment, the property, the celebrity which draws the audiences, then do I — do we — have a responsibility to act? Do we have the right to impact negatively upon his livelihood (as well as those of the cast & crew, etc.) based on his personal life?

If this man or the male singer who hurt Rihanna were regular Joes, we would be limited in what we could do & say. To disparage him & diminish his paycheck, even after the courts have found him guilty, could result in legal problems of our own. As employees, average Joes have protections to keep their jobs. If it didn’t happen at work, it’s not the employers business; if jail time affects work, employers may have to hold jobs for them (regardless of how the employer feels about it). But when celebrities have placed themselves in the fishbowls we have different expectations & results…

We collectively place upon celebrities (albeit slim in some cases) standards of decency in exchange for their fame. Entertainment contracts have clauses for this (whether they are “used” is another issue). Celebrities are given perks in exchange for being “role models” and so they are (sometimes) taken to task for their crimes (bringing attention to societal issues); other times they are so beloved their fame blinds people with a “he couldn’t have” or minimizes the crime in general so as to keep the hero a hero (resulting in additional victim blaming & diminishing the societal concerns for issues such as rape, domestic violence and abuse).

In a society in which we are all supposed to be equal, just where do celebrities fit in? Just how much are we allowed to hold them up? And when are we supposed to tear them down?

And does talking about them by name help or hurt their brands? Help or hurt the victims? Help awareness or hurt the causes?

Please do tell.

Our Hidden Culture Is A Rape Culture

A new video called Our Hidden Culture was put out by Community TV Network (CTVN), a non-profit organization that empowers Chicago youth with training in video and multi-media production. (CTVN’s award-winning TV show, Hard Cover: Voices and Visions of Chicago’s Youth, airs every Monday at 5:30pm and Tuesday at 12:30pm on cable channel CAN TV 19 in Chicago; you can keep up with CTVN at YouTube too.)

In this recent video project, the youth researched the issue of rape & sexual violence and came up with the conclusion that harassment is the root of such evils and that we live in a rape culture.

For some of us, this isn’t so much “our hidden culture” as it is a known fact we suffer & slog through daily; but I applaud these young people for looking at the issue and seeing the problem for what it is.

Many of us readily blame the issues of sexual aggression in music, movies, and “the media in general” on younger people — it’s their dollar most companies seem to seek, and so, in this toxic relationship, these companies say they are just courting our youth with “the language,” “substance,” and “style” that speaks to them at the expense of us all. But it’s clear that our youth is aware of the problem — and that those who aren’t yet aware are fully capable of getting to the root of it all when asked to look at it.

Can complete denunciation & contempt for those individuals & companies who participate in our rape culture be sure to follow? I hope so.

So Many Books, So Little Time

so-many-books-cover“So many books, so little time,” is the common lament of book readers and compulsive book buyers like myself who snap up paperbacks like this discarded library copy for 50 cents. That saying could have been the title of Gabriel Zaid’s book — but then, Zaid’s book covers more than just book readers, so he made the recognizable allusion & added a bit more to the title.

So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid (translated by Natasha Wimmer), covers the entire family of bookish folk: readers, buyers, collectors, writers, publishers, marketers, & retailers. The distinction of each may not seem like much to you; but having tried my hat at all of the above, I, and Zaid, can tell you there are some large differences (and when the book marketer & retailers, especially, are ignorant, they are very unsuccessful).

Zaid manages to pile on an enormous amount of facts (book publishing has been enriched by the very innovations that seem to threaten it), observations (many authors don’t write for their readers, but to pad their resumes) and philosophies (book are conversations; readers participate in the conversations and, in some cases, arrange the conversations) into a slim, 144 page, book.

But what’s truly amazing is that Wimmer’s translation manages to retain (or perhaps create? I’ve no way of assessing the original Spanish) a concise elegance that is fascinating & impressive.

Especially evident (as well as powerfully provocative) in chapter six, when the author lays out, step by step, how “learning to read is the integration of units of ever-more-complex meaning.” Ab-so-feakin’-lute-ly mind blowing to consider — while you are literally doing it!

Just how my copy of this book was deemed an unnecessary conversation by a library (the Lake Agassiz Regional Library, Moorhead, MN — not my Fargo Public Library!) seems more than ironic, but sad. Because I haven’t hugged a book to my chest like this in a long long time.

A true feast for bibliophiles craving both the intellectual & the literary, I could quote nearly endlessly from So Many Books — or at least 144 mass market pages worth. *wink* But out of respect for the author & translator, I’ll limit myself. These are my favorite passages — the juiciest ones that really make me think about myself — which come from the second chapter, titled An Embarrassment of Books:

Those who aspire to the status of cultured individuals visit bookstores with trepidation, overwhelmed by the immensity of all they have not read. They buy something that they’ve been told is good, make an unsuccessful attempt to read it, and when they have accumulated half a dozen unread books, feel so bad that they are afraid to buy more.

In contrast, the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure of their desire for more.

“Every private library is a reading plan,” Spanish philosopher Jose Gaos once wrote. So accurate is this observation that in order for it also to be ironic the reader must acknowledge a kind of general unspoken assumption: a book not read is a project uncompleted. Having unread books on display is like writing checks when you have no money in the bank — a way of deceiving your guests.

If that doesn’t make you smile — or at least grudgingly nod to yourself — then you book collectors will hate this next one:

A terrible solution is to keep books until you’ve accumulated a library of thousands of volumes, all the while telling yourself that you know you don’t have the time to read them but that you’ll be able to leave them to your children. This is an excuse that grows weaker and weaker as science makes even greater strides. Almost all books are obsolete from the moment they’re written, if not before. And marketing strategies engineer the planned obsolescence even of classic authors (with new and better critical editions) to eliminate the ruinous transmission of tastes from one generation to the next, which once upon a time.

The creation of an obsolete library for one’s children may only be justified in the way that the preservation of ruins is justified: in the name of archaeology.

Perhaps it at this point (page 16) that those who checked out So Many Books angrily stopped reading, returned the book to the library, and continued Zaid’s conversation in the most unflattering of ways, bad-mouthing the book into that useless space-taking-with-no-check-outs status that forced the librarian to discard it.

But me? I saw myself in those passages — and I loved it. Sure, it’s like those extra pounds I’ve got; not so pretty too look at for some, but baby, that’s all me! Before I can decide what — if anything — I should do about it, I have to first be aware of it. So Zaid held up a mirror and now I get to think about it… Why do I do that? (I buy it cheap, so that it’s at my fingertips — and there’s that osmosis thing.) Is he right? (I most vehemently do not agree all books become obsolete — some conversations ought never die & the past should be included in those conversations.) And then I get to converse with others about it. Awesome!

In case those passages really hurt your feeling (or before you rush off and buy yourself a copy of So Many Books), I’ll leave you with the following passage from the end of chapter one, To the Unrepentant Reader, which may put you & I & Zaid & all readers each in a better light:

The uniqueness of each reader, reflected in the particular nature of his personal library (his intellectual genome), flourishes in diversity. And the conversation continues, between the excesses of graphomania and the excesses of commerce, between the sprawl of chaos and the concentration of the market.

Maybe You’re Not Juliet

When Chelsie Hightower & Mark Kanemura Dance danced to Leona Lewis’ Bleeding Love on So You Think You Can Dance (choreography by Napoleon & Tabitha D’Uma), I was mesmerized…

But the lyrics disturbed me; doubly so when the girls, my daughters, began singing it. Especially the chorus.

But I don’t care what they say
I’m in love with you
They try to pull me away
But they don’t know the truth
My heart’s crippled by the vein
That I keep on closing
You cut me open and I

Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding
I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
You cut me open

Now, technically, according to the full song lyrics, neither the cutting nor the bleeding is real; it’s metaphorical teenage poetry expressing the pain of trusting and loving after having been hurt before by others. But…

There’s also this part:

But I don’t care what they say
I’m in love with you

Whoever “they” is, be it family or friends, why don’t you trust them?

I know it’s social acceptable — required, even — for teens to rebel. (And love songs are filled with teenaged angst & longing, even if they aren’t of the pop variety — which Bleeding Love is.) Teens aren’t supposed to trust their parents. But parents are the very same people teens have to thank for keeping them alive all these years. They don’t have an ulterior motive. They want you alive, safe & happy — even if your definitions of the latter differ greatly.

And what if it’s your friends who don’t like the guy — or girl? OK, occasionally, you have a frenemy who wants the dude (or babe) for themselves… But if you aren’t wise enough to keep away from frenemies, you probably aren’t mature enough to date (or have sex) anyways.

My point is, unless what “they” say is that you shouldn’t date or be with him is because he’s too short, or her nose is too big, or some other superficial thing, shouldn’t you at least listen to their reasoning & evaluate it for yourself?

They try to pull me away
But they don’t know the truth

Oh, you might be temped in that dramatic romantic way to believe you know more than “they” do — but really, why would “they” try to pull you away unless they saw or knew something was bad or even dangerous?

Ignoring the people who’ve known you longer, if not better than anyone else; resisting the warnings of the people who’ve cared for you, invested time and money in you, because you want to be right or play Romeo & Juliet, is not maturity. (See comments about frenemies.)

It scares me when I hear songs with lyrics like these… Hear people singing along, like it’s a mantra… Romanticizing “forbidden love” to the extent that they mistake warning signs for meddling, mistake dangers for a chance to prove themselves “right” rather than being safe.

True love doesn’t hit, soul mates don’t control or hurt you, and families & friends (the “they” sung about) don’t lie about your safety — the people who love you, family members & friends, want to like & love who you love. At the very least, they don’t want to upset you — but “they” will upset you, try to pull you away from things & people who are not good for you.

Maybe you’re not Juliet.

So maybe there’s no reason to drink from the poison cup.

~~~

This post is part of the blogathon for Hope For Healing, a wonderful event raising awareness of domestic violence & funds for supporting victims.

Twolia generously sponsored me, and you can help too! Comment, link, Tweet my posts!

And use this special link to iSearch.iGive.com to perform searches; it will raise money for HopeForHealing.Org.

Something I’d Like To Share With The Class (Blog-Ola, FTC, etc.)

high-school-student-passing-note-to-classmate-sitting-behind-her-vintage Last Monday (July 27, 2009), during our road trip, I was listening to NPR’s All Things Considered, in which they covered the issue of “Mom Bloggers” and “Blog-Ola.” I’ll skip my general dislike of the term “mom bloggers” applied to any woman with children (“mom bloggers” should only be applied to moms who blog about parenting & mommy issues; it’s a rather inappropriate & dismissive term when applied to those of us discussing non-parenting issues) & get on with the real hub-bub, bub.

“Blog-ola” is payola, pure and simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re paid in cash or product.

The dealio-mc-bob isn’t really new, but apparently had the 1,500 attendees of the 5th Annual BlogHer Conference in Chicago in heated debate. Companies give stuff to bloggers with hopes that they’ll get positive press & reviews — that’s nothing new, either; it’s the basic principal behind review product, review copies, etc. And there’s nothing inherently bad about that either. But apparently the internet is rife with the following unethical folks:

* Those bloggers & reviewers who feel either obligated or so free-stuff-happy that they are writing positive reviews &/or giving gobs of press attention to products &/or companies, regardless of the quality of the stuff they receive. If you don’t believe me, check out the show’s transcript.

and

* Those companies & persons (publicists, PR folks, etc.) who feel that bloggers & reviewers work for them when they send them “free” review items. Don’t believe me?

Here’s the most recent & most flagrant offense.

Recently, when I gave a just-deserved negative book review (for a book that calls those with Autism “cursed!”), I sent the link to the publicist/promoter (along with my synopsis, as appropriate) & was sent the following in reply:

I haven’t read your review yet, however, honestly I wish you wouldn’t post a negative review about this or any other author.

To which I replied:

I can understand your disappointment, but I won’t remove or change the review.

I clearly stated from the onset that I was skeptical of cures and while you & the author may feel her story is not intended to be read as a guarantee for others, I can accept that. However, I find the references to autism as “deathly ill,” demonically possessed” and “cursed” more than inaccurate or mere opinion, but unacceptable. I’m aghast that anyone would write such a thing. What’s more that you would, especially after my email about being skeptical, insist upon only favorable reviews; that’s unethical.

I have a responsibility to honestly review books/products, and that is what I have done.

If you’d prefer not to send me any more emails/invitations etc. because you dislike my honest opinions/reviews, that is your decision.

To which she replied:

The purpose of a blog tour is to promote the book and encourage people to buy it.

I fundamentally disagree with blog hosts posting a negative review. I would never ask a blog host to post something they don’t agree with on their blog. If you don’t anything constructive to say…stay silent.

My post was constructive; it warned my readers of the dangers of such a horrible book.

Her email continued:

I know too many authors who also review books professionally. Their stance is to not post bad reviews. It will come back around. It’s kind of an unwritten rule of the industry to not slam a fellow author. Guess blog hosts don’t live by that rule.

So…for this blog tour book…we’ll agree to disagree. It happens.

I would love for you to be a part of future tours…under the condition that you post the interview, and if you can’t that you let me know and post nothing. Deal?

No, Karen, we most decidedly do not have a deal. (And, yes, Karen, I do have the right to publish our email exchange; you courted me as a member of the press and so I have the right to quote you until/unless you state things are off the record.)

First, I did not “slam an author” — I corrected her inaccuracies (found on page 72), her inappropriate implied “cure” (page 110), and her labeling those with Autism as “cursed” (page 111). In fact, I was so incensed by what the author wrote, I could have been far more scathing in my review; but I remained as fair as I could.

Secondly, where you get all all mixed up, Karen, is your confusion over our relationship. It maybe her purpose to promote & encourage people to buy the book; but it’s not mine. Mine is to honestly review the book sent — a book that, in this case, I specifically discussed my reservations about prior to agreeing to receive the book. It doesn’t matter where the book (or product) came from, those rules don’t change.

And that’s what the FTC is concerned about, the ethics of all this.

Oh, and one more thing… Sometimes companies think they can get your free publicity with just the promise of product. If I read one more call for bloggers to post a review and then the first few (or those with the most comments or whatever) will “win” a review copy or review product, I swear, I will scream.  Loudly. You cannot, should not, review something you’ve never used/viewed/read; if you do, you are advertising (and lying about use) and that’s where the FTC comes in. Or should come in.

Let me help you, dear blogger who wanted to be treated like a member of the press, to act like a member of the press. Do not to fall prey to Blog-Ola or payola and/or the bullying of persons & companies who would have you do so. Here’s a simple reminder: You do not work for publishers, publicists, companies or individuals that send you review product; you write/review for your readers, and they deserve honesty.

Keep that in mind, and you’ll have nothing to fear from any FTC investigation or legislation.

Think back to those notes passed in school. You cared about what was written on them because you trusted the person who sent it to you. You would have been upset if the note was sent to you because Susie was paid, in cash or product, to do so. Even if the teacher (FTC) never found out, Susie lost a trusted friend (your blog reader). So stop participating in these forms of payola.

Image Credits: High School Student Passing Note to Classmate Sitting Behind Her via AllPosters.com.