Tag Archives: feminism

Get your status off my boobs.

[Warning: There are boobs in this post, and they are not happy. Also, Barbara E. said it better.]

Ok, people. I’ve had enough. It is none of your business what color my bra is. It is none of your business if I have, and I quote, “touched my boobs today.” *

(The answer is no. My fibrocystic boobs pretty much always feel like big lumps of cancer, and they hurt this time of month. Too much info? Then you shouldn’t have asked.)

Cancer is not a fashion statement. It is not cute. It is not sexy. Chemo is not cute. Major surgery is not sexy. Dying isn’t either. Losing people I love does not make me want to talk about my underwear.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of raising awareness. Women should not be ashamed of their bodies or what happens to them. I understand the importance of a good marketing campaign. If you’ve got something important to say, it helps to say it well. I have no problem with a campaign that makes women facing breast cancer feel supported. I have no problem with a campaign that makes what was once a shameful disease into something we can face together. I don’t even have a problem with laughing at the things that make us afraid, or by making a movement for change into something joyful.

But this whole “let’s all raise awareness, and it will be really cute because the boys won’t know what we mean,” or “let’s raise awareness by making double entendres – ‘Touch your boobs.’ Get it? It’s, like, funny!” is not amusing. For one thing, it pretends that if we can all band together, all do monthly breast self-exams, all buy enough pink shit, we can actually stop people from dying.

I’ve got news (really old news, but here goes): Breast cancer is not caused by lack of early detection. And it’s usually not cured by early detection either. There is a healthy debate about whether regular mammograms are a good idea, but even the American Cancer Society says that breast self exams “play a small role in finding breast cancer”, and, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition:

There is currently no scientific evidence from randomized trials that breast self-exam (BSE) saves lives or enables women to detect breast cancer at earlier stages. In addition, there are some data that show that BSE greatly increases the number of benign lumps detected, resulting in increased anxiety, physician visits, and unnecessary biopsies.

So we might not know for sure the best ways to detect and treat cancer. We might save lives with this, we might not.

We do know that there are things that cause cancer. Living near hazardous waste sites. Working in factories with petrochemicals. Bovine growth hormone.  Vinyl.  Some pesticides and insecticides. Some water bottles and baby bottles and canned foods. Household cleaners. Cosmetics. Radiation. Even laptops, which means maybe I shouldn’t be writing this.

Save second base

How about lives? Can we save those too?

So, in addition to not wanting to talk about my underwear, I would not like to buy a vinyl pink ribbon magnet to put on my carcinogen-producing car. I would not like to buy a pink teddy bear made with plastic yarn in a sweatshop.  I would not like to buy a pink t-shirt that invites people to concentrate on my breasts that is made with cotton picked by workers exposed to carcinogenic chemicals and manufactured with carcinogenic dyes by women with no health insurance in machiladoras. I would not like to buy pink cosmetics filled with chemicals that jack with my hormones, or buy pink-lidded yogurt made from milk from cows fed non-organic grain and shot up with rbGH.

I would especially not like to raise money for breast cancer research and see that money go to companies that sponsor breast cancer awareness events, manufacture breast cancer drugs or equipment, and, at the same time, make things that cause cancer. (And finding a company that makes breast cancer treatment drugs that doesn’t also make carcinogenic chemicals is so hard it will make you sick in the metaphorical sense too.)

So go ahead and do whatever screening makes you comfortable. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your friends. Talk to the press, if you’re brave. But do not, do not, do NOT make this into one big sexy excuse to make crude jokes, sell shit, and spread misinformation.

If we really want to stop cancer, we need to go to the root causes. Finding a cure sounds flashy, but we could save lives right now, without any more research at all. There are lives we could have saved that we didn’t. We need to read labels and make smart choices about what we buy. We need to make sure all women have access to great health care. We need to fight radiation and carcinogens and corporate pink-washing of health information.

This is hard. Way harder than buying a t-shirt, and rather less fun, because no corporation is spending millions of dollars on an advertising campaign to make it fun and easy for you to hold them accountable. We need to do it anyway. The lives of people we love depend on it. We do not need a corporate sponsor or cheap puns to love each other and take care of each other and make change in this messed-up world. If you want to protect my health, stop talking about my bra and my boobs, and start talking about things that matter.

PS – This post comes with a gigantor disclaimer. I know a good number women who have found the pink campaigns to be an source of support, or at least the occasional laugh, during their battle with cancer, or during a loved one’s struggle. Also, some really fabulous women asked me to post my bra color. Just because I hate pink doesn’t mean I don’t love the hell out of you. But you know that already.

*Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then you haven’t been on Facebook in the last two days.

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Unapologetic Twilight Love. (Ok, maybe a little apologetic.)

[Spoilers, yo.  Beware.]

A large chunk of the feminist blogosphere and press hates Twilight with a passion.* (Here’s lookin’ at you, Bitch and Feministing and Ms.)  So do a bunch of my awesome feminist friends.

I get it. I really do.

The romantic hero is a creepy stalker. Friend-boy is in a testosterone war with stalker-boyfriend over who should control the protagonist’s social life. There’s a subplot with a husband who cuts his wife’s face to shreds one day when he’s mad, but that’s OK, because he did it because he loves her so much. Yes.** There’s plenty to dislike, even before you get to the babies-eating-their-way-out-of-uteri bit, and the oh-how-wonderful-it-is-to-be-an-18-year-old-mom bit. And let’s not even start on the Native-Americans-who-are-so-close-to-nature-they-are-actually-part-critter bit.

I have eight years of all-women’s education under my belt.*** I have read every Bitch Magazine published in the last seven years from cover to cover, and sometimes I get mad because it’s not feminist enough. I hate the patriarchy. So these things alarm me.

As a template for a how young women should see the world, Twilight is lacking. ****

But here’s the thing. I love Twilight. I love it. And not because I think Robert Pattinson is hot. (Robert Pattinson, boys and girls, is scrawny and has weird eyes. Taylor Lautner, on the other hand, is smoking, smoking hot. H-O-T.*****But I’m getting distracted.) And not even because it’s about a series written by a woman with a female hero, which has turned into a huge economic phenomenon driven by women and girls, with a movie directed by a woman, although that helps.

I bought the Twilight from the used bookstore near my house one evening, thinking it might be good evening reading during the business trip I was taking the next day. I decided to read a chapter or two before bed. I went to bed about 2 am. After I finished the book.

I had to leave town at 10:15 the next day. The used bookstore opens at 10. I was waiting in the parking lot for them to unlock the door. I read New Moon and Eclipse in my room at the conference center between lectures and at night. I was at the conference for two days. I finished both books before I left.

Then I was mad. I was mad because I thought it was a trilogy, and, let me tell you, the end of Eclipse is pretty crappy, especially when you are on Team Jacob. (I have not bought the t-shirt. I know Team Jacob vs Team Edward is a cheap marketing trick used to sell shit made in sweatshops. I know I lose. I’m still on Team Jacob.)

Then I found out a fourth book was coming. Thank God. I bought Breaking Dawn in hardback. The first day it came out. I do not buy books in hardback unless they are by Barbara Kingsolver, but there I was, in the children’s section of my local independent bookstore, laying down $26.95 for a big book with a glossy chess piece on the front for no discernible reason.

I told my husband not to talk to me, and I read it in one afternoon. I may have actually yelled “Holy shit!” at one point. I know there were also some “I can’t believe she just did that,” and “Awesome”s in there. At one am, lying in a very lukewarm bath, I finished Breaking Dawn.

I recommend Twilight right and left, to everyone from my writing teacher to my boss to my husband. (He loved them, and only complained a little bit about all the time Bella spends going on about staring into Edward’s eyes. Reason #627 I am glad I married him.) I have gone to see both movies. I have not read the leaked Midnight Sun draft, but only because it’s online, so I can’t read it in the bath tub.

Here’s the thing: I don’t like books without strong female characters. A slow plot, OK. Cheesy prose, OK. Misogynist characterizations, very not OK at all. And by this measurement, I think Twilight actually comes out pretty well.

At the heart, this is a story about a girl who knows what she wants. What she wants is good sex and superpowers.

The men in her life keep telling her she can’t have these things, because those things won’t be good for her. They do all sorts of things “for her own good,” including leaving her for noble reasons, valiantly refraining from having sex with her or sucking her blood, then valiantly refraining from having rough sex with her (good married women only like vanilla sex?), and also kissing her without permission (Jacob, honey, I’m looking at you. Why you gotta be that way?).

All of these things end up being not so good for Bella. As a devoted hater of “I’m leaving you for your own good” romance plots, I found this delightful.

Bella is not too bad on her own, either. I would hang out with her if she were at my school. She’s smart as hell, sarcastic, and she drives a beat-up pick-up truck. She knows the square root of pi. She goes to independent bookstores. She Google-searches things in the middle of the night. She doesn’t want to get married. She says what she thinks. She doesn’t put up with bullshit, unless that bullshit might lead to good sex or superpowers.

A good friend of mine objected to this assessment, because, I quote, “She’s always cooking! And she’s unbelievably clumsy!” To which I could only respond by giving her a long hard look, because, frankly, I resemble that remark. Also, Bella rides motorcycles and goes cliff-diving. I think that makes up for a knack for making good lasagna and a tendency to trip over things. (Strong women sometimes trip over nonexistent things, people. We have bigger things on our mind than where our feet should go.) ******

Her parents are pretty alright too. Mom may be a bit flighty, but she doesn’t forget to talk about safe sex. Dad accepts his daughter’s nontraditional lifestyle, no questions asked. Get off their case, y’all. No one’s perfect.

Best of all, in the end, Bella gets what she wants. And guess what? Not only does she have great sex, and not only does she get superpowers, but she is also the most badass vampire in the history of badass vampires. She doesn’t get all crazy, she saves all the good guys, she defeats the bad guys, she saves the day, and she stops a big vampire war. How? By having a really fucking strong mind. The end.

If she wants to live happily-ever-after with her superpower-wielding daughter and her debatably-hot husband and have amazing sex augmented by her badass superpowers all day long, I say more power to her. If it were me, I might use those superpowers to advance world peace and overthrow the patriarchy, but these are romance novels, so I’ll cut Bella some slack.

One more reason I’m sticking with Twilight – I can’t wait to see how they make a romantic adventure movie out of a book where a baby eats her way out of Mommy’s tummy while Daddy bites Mommy all over and where the big finish involves an invisible telepathic battle.

Until the next movie comes out, I’ll be watching Buffy vs Edward over and over again.******* Because nothing is so awesome that a little feminist criticism can’t make it better.

I can’t wait for Buffy vs Bella. That will be worth watching.


*But some don’t. That makes this one of those opening blanket statements that my sophomore English teacher told me never to make. Sorry, Dr. East.

** Feel free to take a break here. I’ll wait till your nausea subsides. If it ever subsides.

*** Including four years of training in post-modern, feminist literary critique. Boo-yah.

**** Not to rock anyone’s world or anything, but teenage girls are not passive sponges that soak up pop culture. And sometimes, they read trashy shit. Or listen to it. Or watch it. Twilight is just another reason we need to teach cultural critique in middle school, ladies and gentlemen. Just another of many, many reasons.

*****Hot.

******Also, sometimes strong women fall in crazy stupid love, and their friends still respect them afterwards. Just sayin’.

*******And over again.

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