Burkini and the Breast: Sisters in Feminism

When I started this blog back in January, I had no idea I’d be writing so much about boobs.  In fact, believe it or not, IRL I don’t given even my own breasts that much thought unless I pop a wire or something, but here we are.  I’ve already written about imposed modesty here and why I think the Free the Nipple movement is important even if you prefer to keep your hooters covered here.  But I am not done.  Ok, today’s blog isn’t really about boobs (sorry), it’s about the Burkini.  Kudos to whomever coined my new favorite term.  The next round of coffee is on me.

If you haven’t actually seen a Burkini, here’s a picture of the beachwear for those women desiring full coverage.  Surprisingly enough they are gaining some popularity among all types of women, not just the Muslims who inspired the style.  You might want one if you are a skin cancer survivor, for example.  Also, they look really comfortable, like they might keep sand out of places you don’t want sand.

burkini

Unless you live in France.  French authorities are actually demanding that women wearing too much clothing on the beach disrobe.  Burkinis are banned.

Let’s first dispense with any pretense that this is about feminism.  Feminism is about women wearing whatever the hell they want.  So if a parade of topless women walks by demanding the right to tan their ta-tas wherever men can go topless, that is feminism.  If most women on Le Sandy Shell Beach cover body parts X, Y, and Z, but a FOREIGNER shows up covering her whole alphabet and you object, that is not feminism.  That is Islamophobia.  See the difference?

If you want to have a conversation about how women all over the world are oppressed or controlled by the societies in which they live, please be my guest.  It’s a great conversation to have, but let’s dig a little deeper than shaming women for what they choose to wear.  Let’s talk about how women in the US only make 79 cents for every dollar men make. Or about how there are so few women in American politics.  Let’s talk about that.

Modesty is not an absolute.  It’s a cultural construct.  You can say it’s about religion if you really think you can separate religion from culture in any useful way. But this means you accept a variation in religious norms. If you really believe that Christian women cover their breasts because God requires modesty, but Muslim women cover their hair only because Muslim men are sexist pigs, then just go ahead and admit to us all that you have no tolerance or understanding for other cultures or religions other than your own.  And yes, I am ashamed of you.  You should work on that.

Let’s try an empathy exercise.  You are a strong independent woman of means, and you decide to expand your horizons by traveling to the planet Stripteaze to gaze upon the rubied shores of the Double D Mountains.  Upon your arrival, you are required to remove all your clothing and walk naked through the streets in front of all the Stripteazians.  If you think this might make you uncomfortable or you wouldn’t want your mother to do it, maybe you can begin to imagine how a woman raised wearing a hijab feels when asked to uncover her head.  Naked.  That’s how she feels.  Naked and exposed.  And none of us should have to feel vulnerable about our bodies.  Whether we wear a Burkini or nothing at all.  That’s feminism.

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Get off my Podium: Sexism in the Olympics

I really hate public marriage proposals. Talk about pressure!  And what ever happened to a quiet moment between two people?  Fortunately, this has never happened to me.  I’d like to believe that I live in a world where men (and women) who do this all know their partners well enough to be sure this is something they’d enjoy, but there is enough footage of public rejection floating about on youtube to suggest otherwise. In any case, I’m going to assume that some people absolutely love proposals in front of family or friends or the entire universe.

I really hope that Chinese diver Qin Kai is one of those people because in case you missed it, her boyfriend of 6 years popped the question during her silver medal ceremony in Rio. During the ceremony! Dude!  Get. Off. My. Podium.

It is really difficult to read this as anything other than a sexist pig dick move.  But maybe I am a hopeless romantic because I’m still trying-almost as hard as the BBC which reported the proposal was “an even bigger prize than the silver medal.”   But perehaps that was a bit presumptuous. Who is to say that a moment of silver glory is or isn’t a bigger achievement than the promise of everlasting love except Qin Kai herself?  I really want to give the happy couple the benefit of the doubt.

But I can’t.  That’s the problem with sexism and really all our other isms.  It’s not about one act or one couple or one clumsily-timed marriage proposal.  It’s about a macrocosm of values to the detriment of others. It’s about a million subtle messages women receive every day about what is valuable about them.

That there is sexism in the Olympics is hardly surprising, but it’s getting a lot of press this year, and that has to be a good thing.  What does surprise me is the level of denial by a good segment of the population.  By “good,” here, I mean “male.” Feel the irony.  And Jesus.  No, I don’t mean ALL men.  Get a grip.

Take the Colorado paper announcing swimming medals.  Here they are talking about Katie Ledecky (F) and Micahel Phelps (M) and  and their accomplishments.headline

Thank you, Colorado newspaper, for the simple visual explanation of sexism.  Now I won’t have to go around explaining how women athletes are not valued like their male counterparts.

But wait! The immediate and appropriate backlash received by the Colorado paper was met with an excessively loud collective whine from fragile males who cried: This is not sexism!  There are many many other reasons for this editorial decision.  For example, Michael Phelps is really really important.

Right.  Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt because you know, Michael Phelps has greater name recognition than Katie Ledecky, and he has more medals and an 18 foot wingspan. The fact that Katie, in addition to setting a new world record, is the first woman to win Gold in the 200, the 400, and the 800 since the 60’s is naturally not as interesting.

Or-  Let’s not give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not sweep every offensive headline under the carpet.  Let’s not assume the best of intentions.  Let’s not make excuses just because oh, we men didn’t mean to hurt your little feelings.

I don’t have to prove that each and every incident I perceive as sexist is the result of a male dominated society.  I don’t need to do that because I have plenty of actual provable facts on my side.

For example, male athletes receive $179 million more in athletic scholarships than female athletes.  And despite Title IX which was supposed to end sexual discrimination in schools, universities spend only 24% of their athletic budget on women’s sports.  You still want to tell me sexism is just women being over sensitive?

No.  It is not ok that three-time Olympian and Bronze-winner Corey Codgell-Unrein was identified only as “wife of Bears lineman.”  And no, I don’t care if you live in Bears country. And no, it’ not ok that Gold medalist Katinka Hosszu’s win was immediately credited to her husband.  And no, I don’t care that he was her coach.  Yes, I do find it belittling that the women’s Judo final was called “a catfight,”and I don’t care if the commentator who said it, “didn’t mean to offend.”

So you can whine all you want about how sexism isn’t a real thing.  I’m not convinced, and I find your arguments shallow and desperate.  By “you” I mean “men who are not going to get laid anytime soon.” See how I clarified “not all men” there for you?  What I really mean is “men who are not feminists,” but that’s another blog.

If you’re on the fence about it, though, I am pretty sure that this clip From Fox’s Sports Court (because of course it is from Fox’s Sports Court) about why women should wear makeup while competing in the Olympics should throw you on your ass on the side of women are not making this shit up.  Extra points to the male commentators if they’ve ever worn mascara in a pool. Don’t miss the part about how lipstick is especially important so that men are not subjected to seeing female lip zits while watching sports.

I would like to end this piece with a picture of Katie Ledecky. Because she’s awesome. And it’s my blog.

katie

 

 

Robel the Whale, Olympian

We are all fascinated with Olympians.  What does it feel like to win a gold medal?  What amazing confluence of life trajectory events have to align for one person to be that much better than everyone else? What sacrifices?  What motivations? What combination of natural ability, supportive family, great coaching, insane training, and dumb luck does it take?

It’s not surprising that Olympians are our heroes, but they’re not exactly relatable.  Until now.  May I present Ethiopia’s Robel Kiros Habte, Rio’s slowest Olympic swimmer. So he’s a little chubby, having gained weight, he says, after a car accident.  Some people have been less than kind, and the moniker “Robel the Whale,” has been bandied about.  Really?  What is wrong with you people?  I hope he embraces it.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to swim like a whale?  If people said you ran like a whale or walked the balance beam like a whale that might be insulting, but whatever…

For the most part, the Ethiopian underdog is a crowd favorite in Rio. As well he should be. Who’s to say that coming in 59th doesn’t take more drive than coming in first?  Would Michael Phelps have quit if he couldn’t taste Olympic Gold from the time he donned his first pair of speedos? What better example of Olympic Spirit than showing up knowing that you’ll be the last to touch the wall?

Just how slow is Robel?  Well, if you have never swum competitively, and you think maybe you could beat him yourself, you can’t.  If you could swim 100 meters in less than 1:04:95 minutes, you’d know.  Which makes any extra flab that much more remarkable.  The man is far from out of shape.

Still, it’s not an Olympic time or a National time or even a State time.  The state record for High School boys in Florida, for example, is under 45 seconds.  But Robel the Rebel is not from the United States, he is from Ethiopia, the land of runners. “Everybody, every day you wake up in Ethiopia, you run, he said. “But I didn’t want to run, I wanted to be a swimmer…It didn’t matter where I finished.”

I started swimming my freshman year of high school for one reason.  My dad made me.  I was not pleased. The first two months or so I put my anger into my lap swimming.  How dare my father interfere with my right to be a couch potato?  But then it actually turned out to be kind of fun.  I loved the water, and I got in shape for the first time, and no one on the team ever made me feel like I was any less valuable than the top swimmers who’d been training since preschool.  I think this is evidence of exemplary coaching, and I found this same dedication to team building in the other coaches I swam for.  I am very grateful for it.

But I still came in last.  Every damn time. Heat after heat.  Meet after meet.  Dead last. Eventually I got better, and I moved to a new state with a much less competitive swim culture.  After that, sometimes I came in second to last. I tried hard to remember that despite being slow for a competitive swimmer, I was a much better swimmer than anyone who was not actually on the team.  The average person cannot, after all, swim a mile and a half every day after school. So it’s pretty cool if you can do this, even if your teammates have already showered and are eating sandwiches by the time you get done.

So I know what it feels like to come in last.  And you know what would be totally awesome?  Coming in last at the Olympics.  “I am so happy because it is my first competition in the Olympics,” said Robel.    He sure looks like an Olympian to me.

 

Dressing to Impress in the Absence of Feminism

One of the unfortunate truths of the universe is that we cannot wear whatever we want.  Most of us who go to school or work have restrictions on our dress.  We need not pretend dress codes are not arbitrary, but we must also acknowledge that without them, somebody would show up for work in Wonder Woman pajamas, a tank top, and flip flops.  You know who you are.

The ridiculousness  of dress codes first hit me while watching Brady Bunch reruns.  There are many fascinating things about Brady Brunch reruns.  Are there no toilets in that house?  Why is the maid the only one who gets her own room?  But most of all, how does Marcia Brady lean over to use the water fountain without showing all the boys her underwear?  How was it that my mother could wear the mini miniskirt to school and I, a generation later, had to make sure the tip of my middle finger touched fabric when I put my hands at my side?  Who made this decision and why?  I suspect there are dissertations, with variations including the evolution of Star Fleet uniforms, written on this phenomenon.  If somebody could summarize, that would be great.

I was blessed with sons whose idea of fashion is covering as much skin as possible at all times even if it is 110 degrees outside.  I suspect this has something to do with maintaining cybernetic connectivity in their skin.  I haven’t had to worry much about dress code violations. Perhaps it’s because I have not been keeping up that I was actually surprised to see that summer band uniforms for girls are a full 4 inches shorter than the boys’ uniforms.  The boys wear black shorts that come down to their knees.  The girls wear actual running shorts.  Really?  In 2016?

I’m not sure that running shorts are not appropriate attire for marching band, but if you are a girl in band, and you don’t agree, I guess you’re shit out of luck. One might argue, especially if you are a teenage girl, that knee-length shorts are a less than fashionable choice, which is bullshit.  Have you seen band uniforms?  Besides, what is fashion but a reflection of our values?  And the band gods have decided that what we value is a lot of female leg.  Which, by the way, is against dress code the rest of the school day.  Apparently displaying lots of flesh is more appropriate when you are standing up performing in front of a lot of people than when you are sitting at your desk minding your own business.

I mentioned this to my son who does consider himself a feminist (I am the best mom), and he got that really panicked look he gets every time I threaten to make a stink at the school (look, they were handing out bibles).  He likes the short shorts, he admits sheepishly.  Not because of the thigh candy, but because running shorts do not have pockets like boys’ band shorts do, and you can tell a girl likes you because she’ll ask you to hold her phone during practice.  Who am I to disrupt teenage mating rituals?

Sadly, it doesn’t get better when you’re an adult.  I am still told what to wear.  I am especially disappointed by the no open-toed shoe policy. And I resent being told sandals are somehow dangerous in my office job when there are people who wear 5 inch heels. I would also like to know the story behind “no colored shoe laces.” Who went and ruined it for everyone, and just what color were the offending laces?  Someday, I am going to find out.

Whining about company dress code is the right of office workers everywhere. It’s an institution like community coffee and stealing toilet paper.  Maybe we were whining too loudly, though, because the CFO felt the need to bring it up during our last in-service day.  She stood in front of all 300 employees in a lovely pants suit and explained in easy-to-understand words that the reason we were not to wear sleeveless tops was to avoid distracting men.  There are only 5 men in my building, and I do not know which one of them has a shoulder fetish, but I have my suspicions. I suppose I should appreciate her honesty.  She could have lied and said it was because arm flesh is not professional looking, but why sugar coat it?  Men are pigs, so women have to wear sleeves so everyone can function.

I can’t imagine why the man sitting next to me in the 5th circle of hell that is company in-service was offended by this, but he was.  Enough so that he declared quite loudly that he was fully capable of doing his job while looking at ANY human body part.  This is really good news because like many people who work here, this man is a medical doctor.

I was a bit dumb-founded, really.  Did feminism just not happen here? Perhaps she anticipated my confusion, so she followed up with a story about back when she was younger and skinnier (before she hit crone status at 37), she wore a particularly cute outfit to church.  One of the older women pulled her aside and told her she was distracting her husband so her dress was therefore inappropriate.  My CFO went onto explain how grateful she was for her elder’s advice.  Well bless her heart.

I’ve been looking for a job where I can work from home.  I know there are many advantages to this including not commuting and flexible scheduling.  But mostly it’s because I want to wear Wonder Woman pajamas, a tank top, and flip flops.

 

 

 

I Cannot Vegetarian Today; Maybe I will Vegetarian Tomorrow

Someone once accused me of being an atheist because I just wanted to sin all the time with no repercussions.  “No,” I said.  “You are confused.  That’s not why I’m not a Christian.  That’s why I’m not a vegetarian.”

In the spirit of just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something, I object to using our planet’s limited resources to feed myself through the broken, dirty disgusting industrial animals for food complex.  Like maybe if I had my own chickens, and I cut their heads off and ate them, that would be ok.  But I suddenly do not want chicken so much after all.  And also I am a big wimp, and left to my own devices in the wild without a vending machine for more than four hours, I would die.

It’s not just the ethics of eating things with faces.  It’s not enough to address the whole question of  using animals for food when we don’t have to, what conditions farm animals should be allotted if we are going to eat them, and how long we before we all die from the superbug created by feeding livestock preventative antibiotics.  We really should question where all out food comes from.  Is palm oil destroying the rain forest?  Are almonds contributing to the drought?  If I really thought about where my food comes from, the origin of the seeds, what was sprayed on it, who got paid how much to pick it and under what conditions, what economic systems were effected by what subsidies, and whose corporate headquarters’ have shitty family leave policies every time I put something in my mouth, I probably would be really skinny. I gave up Chick-Fil-A.  What do you want from me?

I have cut most meat out of my daily life with the exception of all the lovely Asian broths and sauces I keep in my cabinet. I mean shrimp paste really shouldn’t count anyway because shrimp are bugs.  And fish sauce?  Well, I think they make that from squeezing ethically sourced sardines into a jar.  I’m pretty sure that’s how they make that.

Eating out is a different story, though I tend to stick to seafood.  I can’t quite remember the last time I had a big piece of steak or fried chicken or something like that.  Yet, the strength of my convictions is weak. And the tests are many.  One might argue that adopting a fully vegetarian lifestyle eliminates having to make these ethical choices over and over again. You simply adopt new habits supported by that one lifestyle choice.  But I am only a vegetarian on a case by case basis because I just really don’t want to miss out on anything.  Like Thanksgiving.  Or tamales made by someone’s grandmother.  Or drinking beer and sucking the heads of crawfish.  You really should try that at least once.  Really.

I have recently discovered Vietnamese food (I know I’m pretty late to the party).  My local establishment is happy to make me vegetarian banh mi, and menu options include both fried egg and tofu for your sandwich. That’s great because I am also open to trying out new vegetarian options.  (I strongly advise against tofurky.)  But I tried the pork banh mi.  Because I want to know what pork bahn mi tastes like, just once.  And Pho, just once.

Ok, not just once.  I want to eat Pho broth every day all day forever and ever.  What do they put in that stuff?  Apparently, it is the very souls of various dead animals stewed together for several days and strained out so you could pretend it comes from a very flavorful carrot if you want to. I think I might just do that.  I’m tired.  I cannot save the world today.  I am only a vegetarian like 70% of the time, and I feel bad about it.  Am I a worse person for believing it is unethical to consume meat and not following through, or a better person because I eat considerably less than the 125 pounds of meat the average American consumes in a year?