More Than Special Editions

I shop at Target all the time.  Let’s get that out of the way.

The other day I was at Target, buying their special edition of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (ps. I found the packaging disappointingly basic), and while I was there I figured I’d check out the action figures.  A month or so ago I started building my Lady Empowerment Shrine, which is a section of my bookshelf full of feminist literature and woman action figures and Lego figures to pump me up when I’m feeling down.  So whenever I’m out and about anywhere that might have a fun addition to my shelf, I look around.  Besides, Target’s ad displayed some new Star Wars merch which included a Rey figure with her jacket on and lightsaber out.  Clearly I would love that.

Unfortunately, my Target doesn’t have it.  In fact, there are no Rey figures left AT ALL.  She’s totally sold out.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the whole point of capitalism was to make money.

 

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The “Shut Up and Take My Money” Theory of Economics, if you will.

When I say “shut up and take my money,” I do actually expect you to have something for me in exchange.  The problem isn’t necessarily just not having the toys, though, it’s something else.

It’s whether I can really justify spending the money on them.  Take the Rey action figure that I have, for instance.  She is part of some special series of action figures and was thus $19.99. Now, I am not a wealthy woman.  I cannot go spending $20 a pop on every awesome lady action figure in the store, which is what stopped my purchasing three different Marvel action figures.  There is a similarly special series of action figures among the Marvel merchandise which includes Scarlett Witch, White Tiger, and Captain Marvel.  Any of these ladies would make kick-ass additions to my shelf.  If I want to make those additions, however, I will have to spend $19.99 per lady.

It’s not that I wouldn’t love to have them.  The problem is that these are the only available options in front of me in a sea of male action figures from Marvel and Disney.  When I look around, I see multiple sizes and series of action figures of different price points as low as $4.99.  And this, of course, mitigated my excitement about this…

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I mean, awesome, right?  There’s Black Widow.  Finally.  She made it into a collection.  It’s pretty exciting.  Except let’s zoom out…

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See what I’m saying?  Did you get it? I’ll give you a second.

There is no stand-alone Black Widow figure.  And before you ask, no, that empty spot isn’t for her.  I checked.  The price tag above it says “Spiderman”.  If you want Black Widow, you’re going to have to shell out $44.99.  I mean, Black Widow is an important enough character to merit this…

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…but not like, so important that there needs to be an action figure about it apparently.

You know, a couple weeks ago I was really excited to see Wonder Woman in a character collection as well as standalone Wonder Woman figures.  I bought a cool die-cast Wonder Woman.  They’re all gone now.  Presumably sold, because a bunch of unsold Batmans and Supermans are still hanging out.  What I’m pointing out is that we will buy this merchandise.

Give us options.  Give our female characters the wide variety of merchandise that male characters get.  I promise you’ll make even more obscene amounts of money than you’re already making.

 

 

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Girl, You’ll Be A Woman…Soon

The question of whether you can call a grown woman girl and even whether it’s okay for a grown woman to refer to herself as girl, is perennial among feminists.  It’s one of many colloquial references to women that seem innocuous at first glance, but connect deeply to the way that women are viewed by ourselves and by others.

Just last summer, when I was eagerly awaiting the premier of Supergirl on CBS and one of the discussions that I had about the show, one that came up again and again, involved a scene in the trailer in which Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart) is questioned as to why she named the newly minted hero “Supergirl” rather than “Superwoman”.  In case you didn’t see it, check out the First Look trailer.  The moment happens around 3:06.

Cat Grant, as we can see, embraces the term girl.  In many ways I love embracing the positivity of being a girl.  So often being a girl is denigrated through insults like “throwing like a girl” or “running like a girl”.  So yes, embracing “girl” is fantastic.

But…  At some point a girl is an adult human woman.  At some point “girl” turns into a way to infantilize a woman.  Everyday Feminism has a pretty good list of reasons why using the word “girl” for a woman is indeed infantilizing.

And once you start listening, it’s kind of all over the place.  As I was thinking about this issue – just over a day or so – I ran across these two examples:

“This girl that I’m seeing.” s.6 ep.22 The Good Wife

“I married a Juniata girl.” A minister at a meeting that I attended.

In both instances the women in question are indeed women.  There’s no particular reason other than the convenient excuse of colloquialism for why these two women should be referred to as girls.  This is simply what we do.

So when Hillary Clinton’s campaign uses the term “girl” to describe her, I’m not shocked.  Indeed I expect the particular wording in the email is due in large part to the person who purportedly sent the email.

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Probably you’ve heard James Carville talk.  He’s from Louisiana and he’s never made any effort to drop his accent.  In fact it’s part of his whole schtick.  Likely he’s quite familiar with Hillary, given that he was a lead strategist in her husband’s presidential campaign.  Possibly he says “our girl” often and in regular conversation.  I presume this is why the staffer who actually wrote the email titled it thus.  Honestly, there is no part of this that I don’t understand.  Still…  Couldn’t it just say “Hillary needs you right now”?

She isn’t “Our girl”.  She is a woman who is a serious contender for the position of President of the United States.  She is a grown woman.   You don’t have to support her candidacy.  It would be nice, however, if we could at least address her as an adult human being.  This is not too much to ask, certainly not of her own campaign.  The email itself doesn’t hinge on the “our girl” of it all.  It’s not necessary.

You’re trying to make us feel like we’re part of the team.  I get it.  Anyone who got and didn’t immediately delete this email gets that.  Anyone that deleted would have gotten it if they read it.  The intent is abundantly clear.  All I’m saying is that there are ways to do it that don’t call a 68 year old woman “girl”.

As a Hillary supporter, I’d like to see her campaign do better than this.  One of the improvements in her campaign this time around as opposed to 2008 – for me, and many women – has been that Hillary Clinton isn’t shying away from being a woman running for President.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to hear “woman card” as long as she’s running, but I can deal with it as long as Hillary Clinton and her campaign continue to understand that – whether we like it or not (ps. We don’t) – there are differences in how Clinton is judged because of her gender.

So, given that, let’s use our words wisely and recognize that Hillary Clinton is not a girl and that’s okay.

 

 

 

Where Are the Women, Ted?

Isn’t it amazing…

Look, I have things to do, right?  I’ve got papers to write and other really important stuff I’m just saying, this is beyond me.

Ted Cruz – and any sentence that starts this way should make you roll your eyes instantly – takes issue with Hillary Clinton’s statements about the Republican position on contraception.  This is the pertinent part of what she said for our story:

“The Republicans have made it clear in recent years that they are not only opposed to abortion, which they have been for quite some time. They’re increasingly opposed to family planning and contraception. This is a direct assault on a woman’s right to choose health care.” (Washington Post)

Emphasis is mine.

This is how Ted Cruz responded to that.

“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. When I was in college we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila!” Cruz continued to some laughter. “So yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them.” (The Hill)

There’s more.  I linked the article from The Hill, check it out.

First thought?  I can’t tell you what my first thought is.  It’s inappropriate. My second thought, however is this: where are the women?  Isn’t it amazing how Republicans manage over and over again to talk about women’s health – including abortion – without ever actually mentioning women?  Again and again they do it and Ted Cruz just did it once more.

When faced with a question of whether Republicans support contraception (which is variable, to be generous), he responded by saying “condoms, you guys, they’re everywhere.”  Except, excuse me – rubbers.  I hope you can feel my eyes rolling right now, because they are.  Condoms, the sort of condoms to which Ted Cruz refers, are for men.  And yes, they are available everywhere.  You can buy condoms at your local grocery store, at Target, Walmart, pretty much any local pharmacy, not to mention most convenience stores and gas stations.  You can buy those condoms, which are made to protect against sexually transmitted diseases as well as prevent pregnancy by fitting snugly over a penis, over the counter without a prescription and without question.  What about the other kinds of contraception?

How about IUDs?  They are, if you’re unfamiliar, inserted in the uterus by a doctor to prevent implantation of a zygote thus preventing pregnancy.  Ted Cruz thinks IUDs are abortifacients, never mind that isn’t medically accurate.  He opposes abortion in all cases, even incest and rape, and he called IUDs and similar forms of birth control including Plan B abortifacients which means that he doesn’t – in actual fact – support a full range of contraceptives.  Neither do several of the Republican candidates.  Here’s a fun article that ranks the GOP candidates on women’s issues.  It’ll make you ill.  Conservatives have a pretty fun record when it comes to contraceptives.

This is all, however important it is to know, very much beside my main point which is – how do Republicans keep managing to talk about women’s health while never actually talking about women?  I don’t know, but I very much hope that whoever wins the Democratic nomination for every seat up for election in 2016 plans to push their Republican opponents on exactly that.  No more talking about abortion without talking about the women who desperately need abortion services.  No more talking about contraception without talking about the people whose economic independence depends largely on their ability to control when and if they have children.  No more pretending that the logical end to your policy positions isn’t denying women the ability to control our own bodies.

No more.

 

A Heartfelt Thank You

This week I was incredibly proud to be involved in an amazing event created and organized by the student organization of which I am currently President, Students Advocating Gender Equality (SAGE) of Penn State Altoona.  The event was called Speak Their Truth, and it was an incredible success thanks to the hard work of our membership and thanks to the students who had the courage and generosity to share their experiences with us.

Speak Their Truth is an event that came from an idea that one of our members had to share the experiences of sexual violence in our campus community, but to have those experiences read by people of a different gender than the people who experienced that trauma in order to try to break through the gendered perceptions of sexual violence.  In our anonymous submission process, we explained that mission but also allowed the people submitting experiences to specify the gender of the person reading their story.

I want to applaud the students who were brave enough to share their stories, some of whom had never shared their experiences before.  In this first year, all the experiences shared with us were from women.  I would also like to applaud our readers who, apart from me, were all young men.

In addition to sharing these lived experiences, thank you to the young men who read a series of catcalls.  Also many thanks to a student who shared a beautiful, original poem about her experience.

If I were better an sharing genuine emotion I would probably write at further length about how it feels to have experienced this as a survivor of sexual assault.  Catharsis doesn’t even begin to cover it.  I look forward to creating a plan to share the framework of this event with other campus feminist groups.

And again, thank you.  To all the people that I will not name because I will inevitably forget someone, you know who you are.  Thank you.

Two Bad Memes Doesn’t Make a Right

Sexism, racism, and classism are a tricky cocktail.  Each ism on its own is toxic, but in combination they tend towards the sort of gross Frankenstein’s monster variety of discriminatory attitude.  This trifecta of terrible allows any number of intersecting reasons to belittle women, and ,obviously with racism, women of color particularly.  Michelle Obama has been, throughout her husband’s presidency, subject to sexist/racist attacks that range from the subtle to the vomit-inducing.  If you imagine that the 2016 president race might give people reason to turn their attention to new targets then you, like me, are extraordinarily wrong.

This brings us to Michelle Obama v. Melania Trump.  It is beyond me that this is actually a thing, but since it’s a thing and because the thing is coming from both the right and the left I thought we’d address it.  Two competing memes (at least) have been floating about.  I’ll show them in the order that they appear to have been created though I came across them in reverse order:

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Let’s start with how it would be disrespectful to call any woman named Michelle, “Moohelle” (does anyone else think they meant Moochelle?), let alone the First Lady of the United States.  As a person whose name has been consistently mispronounced and misspelled from a very early age for both innocent and malicious reasons, I can attest to the fact that having someone intentionally distort your name is unpleasant.  It sticks with you.  Your name, even if your name is pretty common, is yours.  It is a part of your identity.  It is unkind to distort a person’s name or to call them by a name with which they do not identify.

Next, inasfar as I can tell, the only way that either of those two pictures relates to class is that Michelle Obama is clearly on vacation in Hawaii and Melania Trump is obviously a model.  Vacationing in Hawaii is not cheap, therefore Michelle Obama must, and in fact does, belong to a higher than average economic class.  Models of Melania Trump’s caliber make pretty large sums of money and thus she also occupies a higher than average economic class.  That’s irrelevant though because this isn’t about Michelle Obama portraying indications of a class lower than the one to which she belongs, it’s about her being black.  If Michelle Obama were white it’s hard for me to imagine this picture being an issue for anyone.  She looks, as a friend said “like a mom vacationing in Hawaii.”

For the second part of the first meme, it would appear that, to the creator of this meme if no one else, a classy woman is an empirically attractive, scantily clad (probably white) woman.  This version of a classy woman is fully comfortable using her sexuality as a commodity, something that would not be considered classy if that person were not white.  Were Melania Trump black or perhaps a Latina, her picture would be layered with other preconceptions.  What does or does not have class is more than a little subjective of course, although, in the popular culture of the modern United States, Donald Trump’s excessive use of the word “class” has rendered it almost meaningless.  Being classy is, as one blogger puts it, “rooted in social class.”  Using the word class in this way is itself classist.  It places a value on behaviors and appearances associated with higher economic or social class therefore inherently devaluing behaviors and appearances associated with lower economic or social classes.  What this portion of meme indicates is not about Melania Trump so much as the meme creator theirself (likely himself).  A classy woman here is a woman, likely white, willing to present herself for sexual objectification.  The question is, would Michelle Obama be treated to the same adulation were she to behave similarly and the answer is almost certainly no.  This is not a guess.  Remember when all hell broke loose because Michelle Obama dared show the full length of her arms in an official picture?

If we were less thoughtful people, we might be tempted to conclude that only one of these two pictures is harmful as a commentary.  We are, however, clearly very thoughtful people and so we know that the second meme, while appealing to our liberal bias, is also slut-shaming Melania Trump.  In the second meme Michelle Obama is pictured at her best in terms of attire, in a stunning gown at some sort of gala event.  Hey look, we’re still judging Michelle Obama, an Ivy League educated attorney, based on how she looks.  The second Michelle Obama picture is saying “this is what a First Lady is supposed to look like.”  Given that Melania Trump is a super-model and extremely wealthy I would guess that you could find a picture of her looking gorgeous and empirically First Lady-like in a nice dress.  Check it out…

…I put approximately 20 seconds of effort into find this picture and that includes inserting it into this post.  She’s like a latter day Jackie O, that one.  Certainly the United States has never been treated to a spouse who is also a super-model, but look at France.  Melania Trump is no less First Lady-like than former French First Lady/Singer/Songwriter/Model, Carla Bruni. But instead of focusing on the fact that literally anyone can dress in a way that appears to conform to what we feel a First Lady should look like, Melania Trump is pictured, once again, looking seductive and this time possibly nude.  The message sent here is “hey look at Melania Trump parading around without her clothes on!  What shocking behavior!  How beneath the position of First Lady!”

To be honest they could have used the same picture as the first meme to similar effect.  I would point out, however, that Melania Trump is a super-model and it is her bread and butter to look super smokin’ hot, mostly so that we will feel compelled to buy things.  That’s what super models do.  They pose in pictures and those pictures are used to sell you on a standard of how women should look and usually also on a particular product.  Melania’s body is her own and she gets to show it off or not, for money or not, as she sees fit.  Does modeling as a profession come with some pretty big issues for a person who advocates gender equality?  Yeah, you bet it does.  Nevertheless, Melania Trump gets to make her own adult decisions about what to do with her body.  The bigger point is, you do not need to slut-shame Melania Trump in order to elevate Michelle Obama.  Michelle Obama doesn’t even need you to elevate her.

Instead of elevating Michelle Obama by slut-shaming Melania Trump, maybe our liberal response could be something a little more like this…
Randos

Stop perpetuating a patriarchal standard that dictates what behavior is or isn’t appropriate based on gender/race/class/etc.  It is not okay.

Excuse Me, Waiter?

This evening my husband and I went out for tacos for Taco or Beer Challenge 2015 (#ToBC15) at a local Mexican restaurant.  We had a good time and excellent tacos.  Check us out…

Gillian Kratzer on Instagram “Eating tacos for the cause #tobc15 #reproductiverights” - Google Chrome 8212015 94319 PM.bmp

I love tacos.  There are few things that I love more than tacos, so it is a pleasure for me to eat them.  What is not a pleasure is having my dinner infected by sexism.

So this happens on the semi-regular when I go out to eat with my husband.  The waiter (or the waitress even) will put the check in front of my husband.  That’s fine, although in my head this happens…

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But for the most part I sigh lightly and slide the check over to myself.  Although my husband is the primary breadwinner in our household, I handle all our finances and so usually I pay for things.

This particular restaurant visit went a little farther than that, though.  With the exception of the time that I was ordering, the waiter never addressed me, just my husband.  The check was pretty much the icing on the cake, but here’s how it went.

Waiter: Would you like your check?

Both my husband and I: Yes.

The waiter comes back with our check and puts it in front of my husband.  Before he walks away I slide the check in front of me.  After inserting my bank card in the folder I slid the folder toward the edge of the table on my side of the table.  

My husband and I chat for a moment and the waiter takes the check away.  We wait another minute or two and he brings the check back and sits it in front of my husband again.   Breathing extra deeply, I wrote in the tip and signed the check.

Am I saying this dude is intentionally sexist and an awful person?  No.  I’m saying that it is frustrating that the prevailing assumption is that when a man and a woman are at a restaurant the man will be paying.  It was also frustrating that – aside from specifically taking my order – the waiter appeared to entirely forget that I existed.

It turns out that I enjoy continued existence even in the presence of my husband.