Issue 35, Final Fringe

Tagged: feminism

Anti-Feminist Line of the Day


My day job requires that I fill out a lot of forms for college students, including verifications of good student status for insurance companies that have good student discount programs. I rarely read the eligibility specifics past the part that pertains to me, but it was a slow day, so I skimmed through and found this little gem:

The Good Student Discount terminates at age 25 or if female, at the time of marriage, whichever occurs first.

Um, excuse me? Do women automatically become more reckless once they get married, and should no longer get discounts? How come a male can get married and still get this discount until age 25? Can anyone help me here, because I can’t come up with one plausible reason for this rule to be in effect. This is a well known insurance carrier, and should know better. Or their lawyers should. And the form was revised 12-12-2005!

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts…

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The Girls Next Door, A Guilty Pleasure


In general, I’m not susceptible to reality TV (unless it involves cooking), but I have to admit that even though I don’t make a point of watching E!’s show The Girls Next Door, I find myself flipping to it during commercials with shocking frequency.

The show is “reality” fare that follows Hugh Heffner’s three girlfriends’ lives in the Playboy mansion. Of course the reality presented does not resemble the reality I live in, but is strangely compelling nonetheless.

So why do I, a self-proclaimed strident feminist, get sucked in?

In a certain way, the very substance-less nature of the program appeals to me — Kendra, Holly, and Bridget are doing exactly what popular culture tells our women to do:

  • Define their value in relation to men;
  • Consume, consume, consume;
  • Spend a lot of time exercising, waxing bikini lines, putting on makeup, and vamping for men.

To watch the girls on screen is to see my psyche as I might be if I bought in to the standards of beauty and consumption that our culture elevates. For this reason, the show both fascinates me and sickens me.

On the other hand, the girls have each made shrewd calculations and sacrifices to get where she they are —... more »

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Teeth, feathers, girls, boys


A good poem from Jeannine Hall Gailey on Verse Daily this morning:

The Husband Tries to Write to the Disappearing Wife.

On her blog, Jeannine says: “This is one of the few persona poems where I tried to write in a male voice, so it was a little risky for me.”

I reckon it’s good—potentially good for the poem, most def. good for the mind—to mess around with gender in this way. Seems like, now that the distinctions between genders are blurrier than ever, it should be easier for us to do. But having tried writing from the boys’ side of things, I find it still does feel risky, or at least difficult. Brava!

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See Jane Fold


Word in the fishbowl is that Jane magazine is folding. Jane was founded by Jane Pratt who also founded the defunct Sassy Magazine–a cult favorite among 80s teens. If Sassy was the edgy, sarcastic girl who developed before all the other 8th graders at the sleepover, Jane was the equally sarcastic, slightly jaded, tell-it-like-it-is best friend to the more mainstream women’s magazines out there. With Jane gone, there leaves a hole in the market, and a need for a fresh new voice from the modern American woman.

To me, this is the voice of a woman who enjoys kick boxing as much as salsa dancing, reading postmodern fiction as much as shopping for party dresses, and creating great art as much as appreciating certain pop culture guilty pleasures (SexyBack, what?) She’s the type of woman who will check her lipstick in the glass ceiling before smashing it with the stilettos she got on sale.

Who is this woman to you?

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Out of the loop? Catch up on current events


While you’ve been on vacation, here’s what you’ve missed

-J. Goodrich wrote a meaty article for The American Prospect about how the media portrays Republicans as the “Daddy Party” and Democrats as the “Mommy Party” by strategically using masculine and feminine terminology in their descriptions of candidates like Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton.

-South Dakota state rep Joel Dykstra has entered the race for the Republican nomination to the senate, according to this article in The Hill. Dykstra is known to pro-choice activists as the man who called “rape and incest” a buzzword:

“I think ‘rape and incest’ is a buzzword. It’s a bit of a throwaway line and not everybody who says that really understands what that means. How are you going to define that?” –South Dakota state Rep. Joel Dykstra (R-Lincoln County) on why the state legislature didn’t include those exceptions in its abortion ban, April 20, 2006.

-Money Magazine’s Senior Editor Marlys Harris advised women to marry into money in order to get rich.

“Work hard, take risks, maybe build your own business. That’s the traditional route to financial success. Of course, there’s another highly traditional path to acquiring wealth that isn’t talked about quite as much these days: Marry money.”

And also:

“To worm your... more »

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BlogHers Act -- Vote Now!


BlogHers Act
A few weeks ago I wrote about BlogHer’s amazing project of mobilizing their members toward political action.

They tabulated all suggestions, and have produced a poll, so vote now!

And a few more items of interest:

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ING Direct Commercial - Yay!


I saw a great ING Direct commercial the other night that encouraged women to stop spending their money on expensive purses and start putting the money into savings accounts so that it can grow (and then be used for bigger, better purchases, like, uh, a house for instance).

See the ING commercial here.

I know that ING obviously wants more customers, but this commercial raises women’s awareness about the temptation to spend hard-earned cash on non-practical items.

This culturally-encouraged pamper-spending has long been one of my biggest gripes. I get so angry at the notion that women should “treat themselves” to [fill in the blank here: lipstick, a massage, Botox treatment, Prada footwear] as a reward for hard work. If women were encouraged to save their money for big purchases, then maybe more than only 18% of home buyers in the U.S. would be single women.

Yay ING!

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Bound: A Feminist Reading?


I’m a big fan of all things noir, but even though my father lent me this movie close to three years ago, I’d put off seeing it. I can’t really say why, other than the unappealing cover photo, and the billing that it was the movie the Wachowski Brothers made before The Matrix.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the gritty noir plot of two million dollars, mobsters, wife beating, and lesbians. A surface reading of this movie might extoll the way the film twists classic noir conventions by empowering the femme fatal Violet(Jennifer Tilly) to take control of her situation and try to screw over her abusive husband. Gina Gershon plays Corky, a butch lesbian thrown into the explosive situation by chance, and in it for love and money.

A different reading might comment that the central couple (Corky and Violet), while nominally empowered and in control of their situation, simply re-hash gender dynamics the film makers seem so desperate to escape — Gershon is butch while Tilly puts the femme in femme fatale, Gershon is masculine to Tilly’s feminine. Rather than breaking binary notions of gender, the two simply take the ballgame to a different arena.

I’m no Julia Serano (reading Bitch’s... more »

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Confessions of a Girly Girl


I didn’t own a pair of jeans until fifth grade. But I had dresses aplenty. Dresses, lacy socks, even dolls with matching outfits. Maybe because when shopping with my Virginia-born grandmother, harsh denim fabric never seemed to catch her stylistic eye. That, and when placed next to my frilly wardrobe, jeans just seemed vulgar.

All of my friends wore jeans all the time. I was the only skirt-clad girl at my fifth birthday party at McDonald’s. As if sliding down the staticky plastic slide into a pile of sun-baked mulch weren’t tragic enough.

I would complain to my mom that I wanted to dress like the other girls—wear t-shirts, jeans, socks without lace, shoes without bows-on-the-toes. I hated being the only girl at a slumber party in a frilly nightgown while everyone else was in t-shirts and boxers.

But when I got my wish in those hellish teenage years, and pulled on the brand-regulated pair of stonewashed jeans, it was like a part of me was hiding. I finally looked like everyone else, but I still felt estranged.

This was the dawning of my love affair with fashion. Instead of copying what my friends wore, I decided to wear what I liked and thought... more »

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My First Review Copy


About six weeks ago I returned home from a long day of thesis work to find Stacey Richter’s Twin Study in my mailbox. It was my very first review copy, and its receipt made me feel like I am a real publisher, a feeling I don’t have often due to the surreality of printing work on the web. You can look for a review of Twin Study in a future issue of Fringe.

I am only four stories into the collection, and savoring every quirky phrase. But one phrase gave me pause, and it wasn’t Richter’s. Time’s blurb on the back reads:

“Richter brings a wacky imagination to the gender wars…one of the more outlandishly imaginative minds in contemporary fiction.”

Gender wars? It seems to me that Richter is capturing a certain reality of the world women live in, and I think that “gender wars” belittles her theme. It reminds me of one of the Guerilla Girls’ action posters, Advantages of Being a Woman Artist, “Being reassured that whatever art you make it will be labeled feminine.” But perhaps I’m being unfair. I’m sure Time has commended Cormac McCarthy and John Updike for contributing to the gender wars as well.

So far this is an... more »

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International Feminism?


In this Advice Goddess blog, Amy Alkon discusses a piece by Christina Hoff Sommers from the Weekly Standard. The Sommers piece beats the old horse, stating that American feminists have blinders on when it comes to helping out women in foreign countries. As the article points out and Alkon foregrounds, it is tempting for American feminists to draw sweeping and inaccurate parallels between the oppression of women in America and the oppression of women in other countries. For example, Eve Ensler compares optional vaginoplasties to female genital mutilation.

My take on this is that yes, American feminists often do have blinders on when it comes to international feminism, but also that engaging in international feminism is more ideologically complicated than it seems for two reasons:

1. Many non-American cultures feel (justly) threatened by globalization. Feminism is often equated with western/white culture. Therefore, adopting feminism can be perceived as abandoning one’s own culture. Many women chose to cling to the old (and often misogynist) ways because it is more important to them to preserve their culture than to gain freedom.

2. Given the above situation, what is a western feminist to do? Let’s say I want to free a community of women from the burka.... more »

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The Veil Has Been Lifted


I’m not sure when it first hit me: the moment my professor announced that she agreed that Muslim women in the UK should have to remove their veils, or later, when she looked directly at me and told me that postmodernism doesn’t exist—that my American education had essentially mislead me down a path of ignorance. Wait, no—maybe it was Tony Blair’s speech on the need to assimilate if you want to live in Britain. Ah, who can keep count… Regardless, it’s been hard to ignore the fact that perceptions on race and nationalism here in the UK are not nearly as advanced as many would like to believe.

As an American living abroad, I expect to become the effigy at times of all things evil. Bush has managed in the last six years to not only reduce the value of our dollar, but to create a stereotype of Americans that is deeply disturbing. And, to be honest, the anti-Americanism I’ve experienced thus far living in Scotland has not been too bad. They’re subtle things, like the gentleman that heard me speaking to a friend the other day and pointed, courteously enough, saying: “You—back home.” What I don’t expect is to see it in academia.... more »

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Semen makes women happy? Utter ridiculousness


I read an article that appeared in the HBC Protocols newsletter that claimed that semen is a natural antidepressant. The article referenced a study led by Gordon Gallup, that “showed that the women who were directly exposed to semen were less depressed. The researchers think this is because mood-altering hormones in semen are absorbed through the vagina. They say they have ruled out other explanations.”

The other explanations they have ruled out include use of oral contraceptives, personality, strength of relationships, and how often they had sex.


According to the study, which appeared in Archives of Sexual Behavior, women who had sex with condoms scored lower on the Beck Depression Inventory than those who didn’t. “The team also found that depressive symptoms and suicide attempts were more common among women who used condoms regularly compared with those who didn’t.”

The claim is that semen contains mood-altering hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinising hormone, prolactin and several different prostaglandins, which are absorbed through the vagina.

In my humble opinion, those other explanations the team has “ruled out” have a lot more to do with overall happiness than how much semen in being absorbed.

Not to mention the fact that they didn’t consider homosexual sex of any kind in... more »

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Schadenfreude: Joe Francis


According to the Washington Post, Girls Gone Wild Mogul Joe Francis is having a hard time of it. First he was charged by a group of women alleging that he got them drunk and videotaped them (or more appropriately their boobs) while they were underage. He was charged for contempt in this case for becoming belligerent and yelling at the defendants, and calling Judge Richard Smoak a “judge gone wild”.

This comes in the midst of news that the IRS is nailing him for tax evasion, and recently a new suit has been filed against him for sexual harassment.

I admit that I have not parsed the “Girls Gone Wild” situation very carefully. On a gut level it disgusts me, not particularly because it is pornography, but because like much pornography, it exploits women by

a) paying them very little for their labor, which has turned out to be very lucrative for Joe
b) does not allow women to have a modicum of control over the final product
c) plays on the double standard of women’s sexual freedom — women are liberated to do stuff like this, no matter how stupid it is, but at the end of the day, they are sluts, and Joe Francis... more »

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Collage of Power or Porn?


The Museum of Contemporary Art in LA is featuring an exhibit entitled “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution.” The cover of the catalogue for the exhibition, co-published by MIT Press, features a collage by the feminist artist Martha Rosler.

The cover is a collage of photos of nude women taken from various advertisements in men’s magazines. The cover has caused quite a stir—feminists can’t seem to agree on whether the art is degrading or empowering. The women in the photos are in sensual poses, smiling, enticing the viewer. Lorraine Wild, the cover designer, noted that each of these women in a photo by herself was meant to be the object of male desire. But grouped together, the cluster of women seem to be the audience, the viewers instead of the object being viewed. Their smiles that individually express playfulness and invitation, when grouped together, signal mockery, playing with the viewer’s desire.

When I first saw the cover, I found it disturbing, and my first impulse was to shudder at the “carnage,” as a commenter on the MoCA blog described. It seemed exploitative. On second glance, it almost seemed too heavy-handed, like the artist was exploiting her own status as a feminist and using it to produce... more »

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Feminist Art


Kudos to the Washington Post for running a feature on feminist art in last weekend’s outlook section. I found the section to be well rounded — it focused on individual artists, like Judy Chicago, the ghettoization of feminist art, and modern female artists as well as the history of feminist art.

Of course, what section on feminist art would be complete without a new action by the Guerilla Girls? This time around, the girls point out the ABYSMAL representation of women in our nation’s art museums, and in the chat, GG Frida Kahlo points out “The Hirshhorn Collection for example is 85% male, 15% female yet the art work on exhibit right now is 95% male and 5% female. Women artists, under-represented in the collections, are being further edited out of the exhibitions. It’s even worse for artists of color. And these museums are our national museums, supported by our tax dollars. Everyone has the right to complain about it.” The stats for white artists vs. artists of color are even worse.

Want to complain? Here are the contact emails for the museums mentioned in the GG Action:

Hirshorn –
National Gallery of Art –
National Portrait Gallery –
American Art Museum & Renwick Gallery –

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Greetings and "Political" Fiction


Hello everyone, and welcome to the Fringe blog! We’re hoping that this area will allow us to interact a little more with our readers, and to discuss issues and other trivia that we’ve been longing to include in our issues. This forum will be run by a mélange of Fringe editors – you should hear from at least one of us every week.

And now on to today’s blog…

Ficton often gets put down for being “political”. In many of my MFA classes, the word has been used as an insult, typically applied to writing that is considered transparent propaganda, such as fables or satires, but is often applied to any story that endeavors to make a political point. The implication is that true art is timeless, and as such must be above the political concerns of the moment. This makes a certain amount of sense – a work parodying the Bush administration will seem more salient now than in, say, ten years. But at the same time, this viewpoint denies the diversity of political literature and forces writers to create art according to the desires of the white heteropatriarchy.

Many great stories include political perspectives. We only need look to Eudora Welty’s “The... more »

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