ISIS is a Goddess; ISIL is shit. Literally.

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Aliaa Elmahdy and a Swedish friend show ISIL what they really think of their world-domination plans. Story from EMMA:

For this symbolic protest, they risk their lives: An Egyptian and a Swede menstruate and shit on the flag of the IS-terrorists. The key player is Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, who joined FEMEN in 2012 and outraged the Arab world with her nude photos. Today, she lives in exile in Sweden.

The provocation could not be greater. Or the courage. Aliaa knows her brothers. She knows that nothing could humiliate them more than to stage something like this, which she did with the help of her fellow FEMEN in the network. She (apparently) menstruates with legs apart on the Islamist flag — because nothing is uncleaner to them than menstrual blood.

And the half-veiled woman beside her shits, literally and figuratively, on the flag. And she also holds the stink-finger up (just for that, a woman practically deserves the death penalty, in the eyes of these Islamists). On her naked backside she has drawn the FEMEN symbol: two breasts. Right and left, Kalashnikovs lie at the ready.

The provocation is making the rounds of the western virtual world. In the Arab world, no one dares to distribute the photo of the demonstration. It could, so it’s said, “injure religious feelings”. But even in the west, the demonstration is often only published in censored form: with vagina covered and a black bar over the breasts. Or cropped, as in the otherwise unscrupulous magazine, VICE. Pre-emptive obedience.

Aliaa herself is not available to journalists at the moment; the danger is too great for her. But Inna Shevchenko, one of the leading FEMEN members from Ukraine, now in exile in Paris, gladly gave Paris Match an explanation. She finds the “religious feelings” argument “hypocritical”. “The IS terrorizes the whole world with its photos and videos of executions,” says Inna. “We, however, don’t really kill [anyone]. We only kill through ridicule. We show [them]: ‘We shit on your ideas!’”

Aliaa Elmahdy has long been in danger, but she would surely not survive this demonstration in an Islamically-ruled land. She has been living since 2012 in exile in Sweden. Until now, she has only been able to survive in hiding. Asked if she regrets her actions, she once said: “I won’t change my opinion in the face of death threats. On the contrary!” Today, she would surely say the same.

Translation mine.

Yes, I realize there might be some danger for me in republishing this uncensored photo. Which even VICE, funnily enough, didn’t have the nerve to do; corporatism makes cowards of us all. And in translating the story from German to English, so it can easily be read by anyone anywhere in the world. Well, so what? I’m in a lot less danger than Aliaa, who has already been in mortal peril for two years and counting. I’m just some little blogger. I’m under the radar. I guess I can afford to do this, and to share my thoughts about it.

Whether you agree with the general tactics of FEMEN or not (and I myself am ambivalent; I think their strip-down demos work best when they are protesting prostitution, not religion), a fragmentary or censored message is as bad as none at all. A pulled punch has no impact. I think it’s more important that people be able to see this and consider it for themselves.

Looking at this, I began to wonder if this was even real. It could be, certainly. Then again, that could just as easily be fake blood dribbling in artistic filigree between Aliaa’s thighs. And that turd, so small and neat and perfectly round — does it even stink? Or is it a shellacked prop? Are the guns real AK-47s, or plastic replicas?

At least there is no doubt about the authenticity of the fuck-finger, and no ambiguity about its message.

And whether the image is real or not, the danger Aliaa faces is always the same. Hanged for a sheep or for a lamb, either way you hang. She’s in exile already. She’s been in hiding for two years. And who knows how many fatwas have been issued against her for the rather mild act of being photographed nude?

Inna Shevchenko makes the very good point that beheading-porn ought to be considered far more obscene, by any sensible person, than merely stripping off, shedding a few drops of blood, and pooping on a flag. And it is. I would be far more reluctant to republish that; hell, I’m reluctant to even look at it. And I am not a squeamish little thing. Even worse than all that gore-porn is what lies behind the beheading — of James Foley, and of anyone else ISIL has gotten its grubby hooks into.

And worst of all, it’s all for nought, because the Muslim world itself doesn’t want an “Islamic State”, much less one ruled by some jumped-up schmuck with a fancy watch. ISIL is not Islam, and that dude at the helm is not the Prophet Mohammed. However devout, most Muslims prefer democracy, and have no problem abiding by secular law; as long as they are not asked to renounce their religion, or violate their own values, they are content and at peace with modernity. And more than capable of fitting comfortably into society wherever they are. Muslim women don’t need to have their veils torn off any more than they need to be forced to wear them in the first place. More important to them than re-establishing some mythical caliphate of the distant past are the priorities of the present: food, water, health, education, social welfare, and infrastructure. You know, the same basic things that we westerners also consider non-negotiable. Surprise, we all need the same things! And woe betide any leader, elected or not, who can’t give us those things — or the means to obtain them for ourselves.

ISIL is bound to come to a bad end; it’s only a question of where, when and how. One doesn’t have to be a FEMEN member to see that the ISIL goons, and everything they are trying to establish, are shit already.

It behooves us all to consider what these women have to say. And it behooves us all to remember that half the world menstruates. And everybody shits. And if ISIL’s ideology is so easily injured by harmless biological realities like that, then it isn’t worth killing for, dying for, or submitting to.

Dear men: Nobody owes you “pretty”.

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Nope, nobody. Not even these totally imaginary ladies.

Yes, kiddies, it’s that time again. Time for another anti-boner note to the menz from your ol’ Auntie Bina.

So, this US senator decided to share with us the stupid shit that others (all male, older, and white) have said to her over the years. Most of them with no idea how sexist, condescending and just plain stupid it all is. A representative sampling:

“Good thing you’re working out, because you wouldn’t want to get porky!” – an older male colleague

“You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.” – a Southern member of Congress, while holding her arm

“When I first met you in 2006 you were beautiful, a breath of fresh air. To win [the special election], you need to be beautiful again.” – a labor leader

“Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby.” – one of her favorite members, while squeezing her waist

What do these different dudes’ remarks all have in common? I’ll give you a broad hint: It’s the ENTITLEMENT, honey.

These men are all in effect telling Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that she needs to be pretty for them. Or for the special election. Some are telling her not to gain weight, others not to lose it. But all of them apparently think they have a right to tell her how she should look. Or NOT look. All of them are telling her, in effect, that she owes them “pretty”. And that she would be nobody and nothing without boner-appeal. (Sign this petition if you agree that this is fucked up and bullshit.)

Would they do that to other men? I’m guessing that no, they would not. They’d hold their tongues and keep any judgments on a male colleague’s looks to themselves, right? And they’d keep their hands off each other’s bodies, too, because no homo, bro!

But since Sen. Gillibrand is a woman, they feel they have a perfect right to do all that to her. A perfect right to paw her body and tell her what to do with it, as if she had no right to dignity, autonomy and respect that was not somehow tied intimately and constantly to her good looks. And by implication, that she could have no career if she did not look the way older white men wanted her to look. Because heaven knows that young people, women, and non-whites don’t vote, right? And that nobody votes for you if you don’t look like a strong contender for Miss America.

This sort of thing is disgusting and all too typical. And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, either. It happens in a culture of rape and entitlement.

Right now, in a heartening development, there’s a lot of pushback going on against street harassment. (There’s even an app for that.) And there is, in a disheartening turn, pushback going on against the pushback. Recently, the New York Post (which has never passed up an opportunity to throw anyone’s dignity under the bus for dollars) published some contrarian clickbait in praise of street harassment, by some female sexist idiot claiming that it “empowers” women and makes them feel sexy.

It does nothing of the sort.

Anyone who’s ever been catcalled (I have, enough times to lose count), horn-honked at (ditto), followed around by a strange man (double-ditto) and touched by some dude very much against her will (diddly-ditto) can attest to how much it does NOT make a woman’s day to have to deal with this; it actually ruins it. Because the idea that one’s body is being regarded, and treated, as property by any man with the nerve to claim it, is profoundly unsettling. Don’t I belong to myself? Don’t I have a right to be left alone when every part of my body language is screaming as much?

Well, yeah. One would think so, wouldn’t one?

Funnily, I never hear men complaining of getting similar harassment from women. And really, when’s the last time you saw a construction worker, even a really super hunky one, getting hollered at by passersby in miniskirts and high heels? (Anyone? Bueller?) I’ve never seen it, never done it, and I don’t know anyone else who has, either. It never happens. Know why that is?

I’ll give you another broad hint: Women are not entitled to do that shit.

I’ve never assumed that any man, not even one near and dear to me, has ever showered, shaved, combed his hair or put on clean clothes expressly for my benefit. And if he told me he did, I would think it odd that he saw fit to emphasize the point. I did not grow up believing that they do any of that just for us. I didn’t grow up believing they HAD to. They don’t owe us anything, except (that obvious pipe dream) equality. And basic respect and consideration. And those are independent of how well-dressed and groomed a guy is. I’ve gotten them from big burly biker types, homeless guys, and dudes just as middle-class as I am. Any man can do it. It’s not rocket science, fellas.

Conversely, I’ve been harassed by all kinds of dudes. Black dudes. White dudes. Boys much younger than me. Classmates at school. Guys a few years older than me at university. Men much older than me. Blue-collar, working-class types. And yes, even men in suits. Older, well-groomed, educated white guys. Guys that, by their appearance, one would think they’d know better. Shockingly, they don’t. And the reason they don’t is that they grew up feeling perfectly entitled to do all that, and more. All straight males, regardless of age, race, religion, or class, have been taught to think they are entitled to OWN a woman, if not a very young girl. It’s never formally stated; it’s just “understood” that this is “the way things are”. It underpins every catcall that ever got yelled. It pervades society at all strata.

Once, I tried to impress upon a classmate at j-school that this was a serious issue. He was from Cyprus. He was Greek. Maybe this is some kind of cultural difference, I thought; maybe that’s why he doesn’t get it. So I explained it long, loud and clear. And he still didn’t get it. He spoke perfect, unaccented English, every bit as good as mine, even though it was a second language for both of us. It couldn’t be a language barrier, that much I knew. Maybe he just needed a more graphic example. So then I whacked him on the ass, hard enough to hurt, to show how demeaning that sort of thing is. He merely grinned over his shoulder at me. God damn him, he liked it. He probably figured I was hitting on him, who had a fiancée waiting back home. What I was trying to teach him totally backfired. He never did catch the lesson, and for all I know, he still hasn’t. Well, DUH. In the back of my mind, I knew that the playing field wasn’t really level. The entitlement wasn’t there for me. But it was for him.

And he was so entitled that he could even feel perfectly free to ignore the fact that he WAS entitled. That’s the really insane part.

Every dude, from the lowly hardhat to the bigwig in the Savile Row suit, is tacitly expected to show dominance on the sexual front. And multiple sexual fronts, at that. Long after his own hormones have begun to decline, he’s still explicitly allowed to do all sorts of things no respectable woman could even dream of getting away with. Why do I get all skeptical whenever anyone talks about “sex-positive” bullshit? Yet another broad hint: It’s the ENTITLEMENT, baby. A middle-aged or elderly woman paying for sex with handsome young men would be laughed at and pitied and held in contempt, no matter how high her social rank. A much older man doing that to pretty young women, no matter how low his social rank? Perfectly fucking normal, because he’s perfectly fucking entitled.

Same goes for older men in politics, church and state alike, policing who gets to have birth control and abortions, and who doesn’t. One would think that since it’s not their bodies, it’s not their issue. But they do think it’s their issue, because our bodies, so they think, are theirs to own and control.

Women’s bodies are treated as public property, to be displayed like objects, and pawed at random, and accorded no respect. To be born female is to put up with a lot of shit from entitled menfolks.

And it starts early.

I first became aware of it around the time I hit puberty, just before my tenth birthday. As soon as my breasts started budding — BAM! — instant sexual harassment. Just add hormones. And it had me hunching, slouching, crossing my arms, and wearing baggy, weather-inappropriate clothing for years in an effort to fend it all off. It didn’t work. It’s absolutely amazing how boobs, even ones barely bigger than a little kid’s mosquito bites, will attract unwanted attention. If a girl’s nipples poke up against her top, they will get gawked at, grabbed at, and twiddled like radio knobs. Failing that, there’s always that other, more juvenile statement of entitlement and ownership: the snapping of the bra strap. (Which, boys take note, does nothing to make a girl want you. Oh, she’ll notice you, all right, but not in a good way. Just think how you’d feel if she gave you an atomic wedgie or pantsed you in front of the entire class, and you’ll know how she feels about you doing that to her.)

And then we have the pedophiles, who also feel perfectly entitled to molest girls too young for even their first “training” bra. And who bitterly resent the fact that it’s illegal, and that there is any age of consent at all. But at the same time, they are grotesquely turned on by the fillip of doing something so illicit. Some of them are even willing to travel for the privilege of paying for what no one could even pretend was an encounter between consenting equals. I’ve never been approached by one them that I could remember, but then, maybe I was just plain lucky never to have encountered any. And when you’re too young to know what sex is, how can you even tell?

Now, of course, with the ubiquity of the Internet, one can’t get away from them. Or from guys who disingenuously argue that with the onset of puberty, a girl becomes fair game for any grotty thing a man might have in mind. (It’s worth noting that the Taliban thought Malala Yousufzai was fair game for shooting in the head because she was already pubescent.) There are all kinds of guys who, very “rationally” and “logically”, argue that if she’s old enough to bleed, she’s old enough to breed, and that the age of consent should be dropped in favor of “whenever she’s physically mature”. It doesn’t matter if she’s mentally mature or not; her job, it seems, is to be available to all comers, and to submit “willingly” to their advances. What she wants doesn’t matter. Physically developed girl = Total Slut Totally Asking For It. (It’s also worth noting that the average age for first-time prostitutes in North America is not 18 to 21, or even 16-18, it’s 11-14. Not only are girls that age considered “fair game”, they are highly profitable game. And yes, the johns know how old they are, and don’t give a damn that they can’t legally consent. They demand them that age, after all.)

The “old enough to breed” fallacy is never more glaring than in cases of precocious puberty, where girls as young as five (and some even younger!) have exhibited signs, such as breast development and menstruation, that one normally wouldn’t expect to see before age 11 or 12. Five years old is old enough for kindergarten; it is NOT old enough for sex. Never mind if she can already fill a bra. Not even if she’s getting her periods regularly. But it has been known to happen. I’ve lost count of how many such sickening instances I’ve come across. And there is nothing more jarring than seeing a five-year-old girl with adult-size breasts and a huge pregnant belly, who has no way of explaining how it happened. She hasn’t yet learned the words for all her body parts, and has no clear concept of sex, regardless of how “mature” she may outwardly appear to be. To take advantage of her, just because she looks like a miniature adult, is to ignore her right to a full, safe, unmolested childhood. (And again: How many women do you know of who have taken advantage of a precocious little boy’s accelerated puberty? Even Mary Kay Letourneau picked a kid who was of normal pubertal age and development — and if you’ve ever read her story, and know the arch-conservative circumstances of her upbringing, you’ll know just how messed up she is!)

And then again, sometimes you get wingnuts who just infantilize ALL women. Because they have to feel superior to them somehow.

No, there’s no way of getting around the sexist notion that all women, just by virtue of being female, owe something to all men. And that thing is access to their bodies. And accessibility, it seems, is signalled by conforming to the notion that we owe them “pretty”. And that we owe them “ladylike”. And that we owe them a degree of deference and respect which is merely optional when it goes the other way. And that if we don’t smile, and comply, and above all, remain silent, we’re the baddies in the whole fairytale.

We get insulted implicitly whenever we’re told “But you’d be so pretty if you only smiled!” (So, we’re ugly if we don’t? Wow, what a compliment!) We get insulted explicitly if we refuse to smile. We get flamed, insulted and harassed if we refuse to put up with shit on the Internet. Some of us get chased out of our homes by trolls for it. Some of us even get assaulted for it. We go from pretty princess to ugly hag and wicked stepmother combined. And all for just not complying.

Well, fuck that noise. I don’t owe “pretty” to complete strangers, or “ladylike” to anyone who pesters me. No woman does.

I always make a point of learning the “bad” words early in any foreign language I undertake, so that I can pull them out as needed when travelling or talking on the Internets. I can now cuss like a well-travelled sailor in at least half a dozen languages. It even stands me in good stead in my semi-professional capacity as a literary translator; it’s actually gotten me jobs, because it demonstrates full competence in the language in question. And I don’t take kindly to anyone who considers me “fair game” for sexual harassment or assault because I cuss, either.

I do not smile on command; I only smile if I feel like it. Anyone who tries to make me smile against my will, gets an exaggerated version of my resting bitchface.

If you honk your horn or throw a “nice tits” at me, expect to see a one-fingered salute, held high so everyone else can see it too.

If you harass me on the Internet and I can expose your data to hackers and police alike, I damn well will. And even if I can’t do that, I can still mock and ridicule you, and use my right to free speech against you. I hate trolls because they make the world so goddamn fucking ugly.

I don’t owe compliance to any man. I don’t owe you the time of day. And I certainly don’t owe you “pretty”.

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A few random thoughts on mental illness and suicide

Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King. Parry (Williams), who is homeless and mentally ill, retells the story of the Fisher King and the Holy Grail.

In light of all the ignorant and shitty things being said in the wake of Robin Williams’s incredibly sad passing, I want to say a few things of my own to offset all the ignorance and bullshit. This may be rough and disjointed, but here goes:

Suicide is not an act of cowardice. One of the weird paradoxes of clinical depression is that it tends to cause thoughts of suicide, but also tends to inhibit the depressed person from acting out those thoughts by leaving that person exhausted and devoid of will. Just being alive under those circumstances is an incredible act of courage, so wanting out isn’t “cowardly”, but rather quite understandable. At the same time, it can also be grisly and horrifying just to contemplate…yes, even under those circumstances.

When I was depressed, I was constantly exhausted, yet constantly filled with anxiety, with a sensation of burning in my veins. I had panic attacks, which made me want to flee whatever place I was in, but sapped my physical strength so that I could hardly move. This painful paradox led to a lot of suicidal ideation for me. When my boyfriend took me to Niagara Falls, I couldn’t cross a high bridge without thinking of how much easier it would all be if I only found the courage to step over the railing and let myself fall through the cool air into the waters of the drainage canal, 70 metres below. Yes, I measured the drop…by tossing a stone and timing the splash, then calculating the distance based on acceleration due to gravity. And whenever I passed a railroad track and saw a freight train coming, I felt an almost magnetic pull toward it, and a horrific urge to lay my burning neck down on the nice, cool rail. It was like the world’s most perverse physics class.

These thoughts of suicide brought me no relief; on the contrary, they contributed to the horror and exhaustion of an already gruesome battle. I did not want to die. I only wanted the pain to end. The fact that my illness was suggesting its own “cure” in such a dire manner was a terrifying experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, not even my worst enemy.

I wasn’t being weak when I had suicidal thoughts. It took great strength to resist them, but it would have taken even greater strength to act them out!

The reason why some people on antidepressants commit suicide? Disinhibition. Prozac is legendary for giving depressed people back the energy the disease has sapped from them. It is also notorious for giving them the energy to take their own lives, where the depression had taken that away. This is why some people who are apparently recovering well on antidepressants “unexpectedly” take their own lives. Before prescribing any drug, a psychiatrist must ask them: Have you ever thought of suicide, or tried to commit it? If the answer is yes, any disinhibiting antidepressant is contraindicated.

I had suicidal ideations. I was so paralyzed by my illness that I couldn’t ask for help even though I needed it desperately. I should have seen a psychiatrist, should have gone on medication. Interestingly, one of the books I kept reading and rereading obsessively at the time was Colette Dowling’s You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way?, which was about how antidepressants help treat the chemical imbalances of the brain that cause depression. But I never found the inner wherewithal to call my doctor or ask for a psychiatric referral. I never went on medication. I ended up toughing the illness out, and eventually the grey fog lifted. But when I later learned how many meds are tied to suicide in patients who appeared to be getting better, I wondered if I hadn’t somehow dodged a bullet. After all, Prozac was very much in fashion back then…

No, going on medication isn’t a sign of weakness either. Nor does it have anything to do with a conspiracy to “dope” us all into submission. The right medication(s) can save sanity and lives. The problem lies not with antidepressants, but rather with careless prescribing. And since a lot of doctors here in Ontario are overstressed and overextended themselves, with patient demand outstripping the physician supply, it’s all too easy for prescribing mistakes to happen. Especially if Big Pharma companies aggressively promote the latest drugs to doctors in an effort to boost sales.

And, give me a fucking break, Lionel Fucking Tiger, psychiatric meds are also NOT about “feminizing” boys. Antidepressants are not made of estrogen! A kid who can’t sit still in class, listening and learning, is not a boy being a boy, but a troubled youngster in need of help. If a girl acted that way, everybody would see that there was something wrong with her; sex changes NOTHING. Nobody can succeed in life by simply being left to run amuck. Anyone who thinks medication can’t make a positive difference to troubled kids has never been one, seen one, or had to deal with one. So please, spare me the pop-psych bullshit about the “need” to “bring back masculinity” by avoiding “emasculating” drugs like antidepressants or Ritalin. Masculinity never even left the building, and to equate it with madness is an insult to men, just as equating femininity with tameness is an insult to women.

No, genius and madness do not go hand in hand, either. Being exceptionally bright doesn’t make you crazy. Neither does being crazy mean that you are automatically gifted with rare and incredible insights. Yes, sometimes the two coincide in the same person. But to claim that this correlation somehow equals causation is like saying that having brown hair causes you to also have blue eyes, or vice versa. Plenty of people have the one, but not the other. And the fact that some people have both simply means that mental illness can happen to anyone, even the best of us.

When I was depressed, my normally high intelligence felt remote, like it had abandoned me. My usual creativity was dead and gone. I had trouble carrying out a lot of mental tasks that would ordinarily have been easy for me. I felt guilty and stupid all the time. Later, when the fog lifted, I got those faculties back. But when I was in the fog, even just walking to work or school took all the strength I had. By day’s end, I barely had the energy to lift a fork. It was like my brain had died and gone to hell. I was definitely no genius when I was sick.

Normality is not boring; it is a blessing. My only fear is that it will desert me without warning again, as it has repeatedly done in the past. I have been healthy for twenty years now. It is work, but it isn’t half as effortful as simply trying to survive while in the grip of a major depression.

And finally: No, mentally ill people are NOT in need of a good pep talk. You can’t jolly them out of it. Believe me, my former boyfriend tried. All it did was make me feel worse. And the trip to Niagara Falls, which was meant to cheer me up? It only fueled my depression and anxiety. That city is the worst place in the world to take a depressed person who also gets panic attacks. Especially if, like me, you are already afraid of heights even when you’re perfectly well. And the fact that I found no cheer in the tawdry, tacky tourist attractions made me feel like a total wet blanket on my boyfriend and his buddies, who were determined to have a good time even if I couldn’t.

Don’t try to talk a mentally ill person out of being ill. You can’t do that. All you can do, at the end of the day, is listen. Offering to do just that is often enough. And yet, too many people can’t even do that. It’s because they can’t fathom how badly a depressed friend needs someone else who is willing to hear it. If you’ve never been depressed, how on Earth would you know? So don’t presume to know anything. Don’t try to tell your sick friend anything. Ask.

You have no idea how much your friend is dying to tell.

Quotable: Naomi Wolf on Gaza

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The Internationale kills fascists at U of T

Wow. Amazing what one little song can do…especially when it’s sung by socialist students in the face of a bunch of whiny cowards, eh?

Comrades from the Revolutionary Student Movement, the Proletarian Feminist Front, and the Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee confronted reactionary Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) as they gathered to spread their message of misogyny this past Tuesday at the University of Toronto.

MRAs, organized under the dubiously-named “Canadian Association For Equality” were completely unprepared for the opposition they must inevitably face. After facing the organized resistance of the comrades, who disrupted the meeting by shouting slogans, heckling, and singing “The Internationale”, the MRAs disbanded their meeting and attempted to relocate and reconvene. The comrades pursued them, again forcing an end to their event.

After dispersing entirely, the MRAs scattered like cockroaches and found a hidden corner of the campus in which to collectively lick their wounds. Laughably, they have even attempted to use this fact as evidence that their event was not shut down!

So, there you go. The Internationale, like Woody Guthrie’s famous guitar, really does kill fascists.

As for the MRAs, perhaps they’d like to ask the Mexicans if they can borrow THIS song as THEIR anthem:

Only…oops! It’s a song celebrating the defeat of Victoriano Huerta. The pot-smoking “cockroach” is believed to be either the debauched corrupto Huerta himself, or his beetle-black presidential car, which was famous for belching clouds of smoke and not running very well.

Guess those guys are gonna have to keep looking for a stirring tune of their own, eh?

A modest request

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I really, REALLY need this shirt. So does the entire Internet.

Dear guys of the Internets,

I realize that this is a terrible imposition, but I have a teeny-tiny favor to ask of you:

Can you PLEASE lay off with all the fucking updates from your boners?

No, really. That’s all I ask.

No more long-winded personal ads built around the incredibly detailed specifications of your lonely, bored old penis.

No more hideous blog entries about the same, laughably couched under the rubric of “men’s rights”.

No more unsolicited dickpix.

No more passive-aggressive spreadsheets detailing the number of times some woman has failed to comply with your sexual demands.

And oh yes, you, Ben Fucking Stein: No more rambling articles detailing what turned your worm. No more whiny, entitled harassments of pregnant ladies via text messaging, either.

No more. All of it. Must. STOP.

I realize this is a tall order (she said, resisting the urge to snurk, wink, and make other references to salacious punning). But if we want the world to be a less dickish place, we have to start somewhere. And where better than the Internets, where all these dicks (and the dickheads who do not own them so much as they are owned by them) are just flapping around in the breeze.

Or, worse: standing bolt upright, all bloated and purple in the face, spewing goop in all directions.

Ahem. Sorry. Where was I, again?

Oh yeah.

Guys, I’m worried about you warping the minds of impressionable children. Kids these days are cyber-savvy, and it is your job, as adults, to make sure you’re not leaving sploodge lying around where they could slip and fall in it (ewwwwwwwww). It’s not that I consider sex dirty per se. In its proper place, sex is a mighty damn fine good thing. But you’re dragging it out of place, elevating your own erection to the status of an object of cultic worship, and that’s where we have a problem…

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Your penis: NOT God.

Look: Girls are learning from you that they must be constantly mindful of what your little heads are thinking of them, instead of learning to think and act for themselves. And boys are getting more and more empty in the big head with all this undue emphasis on the irrational demands of the little head. It’s making it hard for them all to learn anything of real importance, and this in an era where wars, global warming, famine and pestilence are threatening to do away with us as a species.

And no, I don’t believe that more sex-on-the-brain is the logical response and panacea to all this. Reproducing like rabbits doesn’t do even rabbits any good when their hutch is already hopelessly fouled and there are not enough carrots to go ’round.

And on top of that, Menz Rightzers’ maunderings about the biotruthy correlation between youth, looks and fertility are just plain fucking gross.

So, here’s my modest proposal to all of you schlong-waving guys:

Put away your dicks. Tuck ‘em and zip up. Never wave them around again. Not in polite company; not in impolite company; and never, ever in mixed company. That means no more boner-notes, no more moaning about your poor hurt widdle boner-feels and boner-sads. And in exchange, I and other women (and our merry feminist men) will never laugh and point at you again.

Do we have a deal?

Oh, for the love of muff…

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Portrait of Ms. Ruby May, Standing, by Leena McCall. Medium: Oil on canvas.

Can you see what’s wrong with this picture? I can’t.

I hear that it was deemed “pornographic and disgusting”, which I’m sure would come as a laugh to anyone who’s actually seen disgusting pornography (and I have). I have to wonder at the delicate sensibilities of the fuddy-duddies who thought this was too much, while allowing another portrait — fully nude, but more conventionally posed — to pass. (And by “conventionally posed”, I mean with the woman model as passive object of the male gaze.)

Perhaps the problem with this is that Ms. Ruby May has what appear to be henna tattoos, draped like tendrils over her shoulders and collarbones. Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s half-dressed in turn-of-the-last-century drag. Heavens to Betsy, a woman in a vest and knickers! (And no, British readers, that’s not an undershirt and panties, that’s vest as in gentleman’s waistcoat, and knickers as in bockers.) Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s wearing a watch-chain, another masculine touch underscoring the drag sensibility of the whole. Or maybe it’s that pipe (an obvious prop, since there’s no perfumed smoke curling daintily from its bowl.)

No, no, that can’t be it. What is it, then?

Oh my gawd, her pants are undone. And what is that I see peeking out? Why, the lady has pubes! Oh noes!

As everybody knows by now, female pubes are a terrible scourge and a menace to society. They must be scraped away, torn out at the roots, and the roots killed with fire, lest they ever sprout again. As everybody knows, lady-pubes allowed to run rampant will molest little boys. And kill babies!

The only thing worse than the scourge of lady-pubes is the terrible curse of the Elderly Vagina. And if we allow women to proudly possess pubes, even if we don’t all go around showing them off as Ms. Ruby does here — why, what’s next? Will we also be proud of our nether hairs when they turn silver — or, in the case of us natural redheads, purest snowy white?

Oh, the horror. Female self-esteem! The HORROR.

No, no, we can’t have a woman proudly showing her pubes. Not even if she’s painted by Gustav Klimt himself.

Oh wait, that’s allowed. Klimt was a man! It’s quite all right for men to paint women in a sexual context. Those who did so a century ago to public outrage and opprobrium are now revered as Great Artists. But for another woman to do so, as Leena McCall has done? Dangerous! Why, just look at that thing. The woman isn’t passively subjecting herself (and her unshorn crotch) to the male gaze, but actively looking back out at us! And worse yet, she’s doing so with a challenging glint in her eye. A glint that is equal parts “hey, sailor” and “fuck you”. Or, if you want to get all stuffy about it, a look that says both come-hither and go-thither.

No, we can’t have a woman undressing us with her eyes, and perhaps contemptuously withering us with that same sexy gaze. It’s too much like she’s looking right through us, and finding us lacking. Lacking in courage for not being able to handle the sight of a set of female genitalia not artificially made to resemble those of a harmless, helpless newborn baby girl. Lacking in the wit to understand what we are seeing. Lacking in the visionary guts to realize that women can, and MUST, have sexual agency, the right to say yea or nay, I-want-you or I-want-you-not, as we will. Lacking, in short, the understanding that a woman is more than a body, and that she is not just some consumable object, but a person in her own right, and as much so as any man. She has will. She has desires. And why should she not have the explicit right to express all that?

Why doesn’t she, already?

Well, here’s why: We live in gormless times. We have never seen the virgin/whore dichotomy quite so polarized as it is today. Even the Victorian era has nothing on the present. On the one hand, we have every kind of porn, depicting every depraved thing people can do unto one another, with literally no holds barred (including the death-grip on the throat, usually of a woman). On the other, we have something ickier, creepier, more spiritually deadening, and more depraved still: purity balls, where fathers take on the role of surrogate husband to virginal girls, and pledge to “cover” them until they can pass them off, presumably while still virginal, to a suitable real husband. We have Rush Limbaugh slut-shaming Sandra Fluke because that shameless hussy dared to put in a good word for birth-control pills, between fistfuls of OxyContin and Viagra — and nary a word about himself jetting off to sex tours in the Dominican Republic, where child prostitutes are dirt cheap and nauseously easy to find. These guys are all running around with total impunity, ordering women to do as they say, not as they do. And, under protest, we let them. Be it in porn or in purity culture, women are both infantilized and objectified, passed around like bongs at a party, and above all, NEVER allowed to be sexual on their own terms. It is always at the whim of a man, whether a creepy photographer like Terry Richardson (and a creepy businessman like Dov Charney), or a porn director…or the “priesthood holder” of the house, dear ol’ dad himself.

That may be why Ms. Ruby is dressed in old-fashioned men’s clothing, but only halfway. And why the sight of her standing there with undone trousers and no perceptible shame is so “pornographic” and horrifying in this supposedly so much more open day and age — when all of us, if we are honest, will readily admit that we’ve seen a whole lot worse.

It was 87 years ago today…

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Paulina Luisi, Uruguay’s first woman doctor, and prominent campaigner for women’s rights — especially the right to vote.

I don’t usually do “This Day in History” pieces, but I’ll make an exception for this one just because it’s so interesting:

The first time a woman was able to vote in Latin America was 87 years ago in Uruguay, according to the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic.

The historic event took place on July 3, 1927, in the central locality of Cerro Chato, whose administration is shared by three Uruguayan departments: Durazno, Florida, and Treinta y Tres.

On that occasion, a plebiscite was held to define which department the locality belonged to, and it was then that the first female vote was cast, by a Brazilian named Rita Ribera, 90 years of age.

The event took place several years before women were first able to vote in the national elections of Uruguay, in 1938.

This year, the Secretariat of Human Rights will commemorate the event on the International Day of Human Rights, on December 10, in Cerro Chato, which currently has a population of 3,700.

The Secretariat, which considers that vote to be a fundamental event for women’s rights, also honors the women teachers who supported school reforms in 1875, describing them as pioneers in the defence of women’s rights in Uruguay.

It was also announced that schoolteacher María Abella founded the Uruguayan sector of the Pan-American Women’s Federation in Montevideo in 1911, and that the first National Women’s Council was founded by teacher and physician Paulina Luisi, in 1916.

Translation mine.

So, the first woman to vote in Uruguay was a 90-year-old Brazilian, of all people. And this more than a decade before the female vote became official for Uruguay in 1938! One wonders how she managed to pull it off. I’m guessing that legal enforcement of institutional sexism in such a small locality wasn’t very strict. Or maybe no one had the heart to bar a little old lady of 90, so they just waved her on through. Or maybe they figured that since there was nothing about women voting on the local books, there must be no reason to forbid it, either. There is so much about this historic vote that I would love to learn. I hope it hasn’t all been lost to the ravages of time!

Posted in Brazil is the Bomb!, Paraguay, Uruguay, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off »

Brazilian women: beyond the media icons

Video in Portuguese (with Spanish subtitles — no English, sorry).

And if the first thing that came into your head when you read “Brazilian women” was a blond supermodel, or a pair of muscular buttocks wiggling in a teeny bikini, congratulations: You’ve been sucked in by a media bullshit campaign. Brazil’s TV stations are owned by just six families, and heavily invested in promoting (or rather, pimping) just ONE picture of Brazilian women: white, rich, with straight blond hair, tall and slim, heterosexual, usually surgically enhanced…and a constant, parsley-like sexual accessory to the menfolks. (In one scene, a businessman is seen talking away to another man at his desk while his bare foot is fondling the rump of a bikini-clad model lying on a lounge-chair next to him. Yes, really!)

But the “icon” of Brazilian womanhood is being challenged…by Brazilian women themselves. Black, brown, Asian and white, they’ve taken up the fight against this media campaign. The Slutwalk movement, which began here in Canada as a response to a Toronto cop who stupidly told women not to “dress like sluts” in order to avoid rape, has caught on big-time in South America, where women — over-sexualized in the media for decades, and in the minds of church and state for centuries — are now marching and chanting slogans like: “Beware, beware, beware, machista! Latin America is turning feminista!” Women are challenging not only their false image in the media, but capitalism itself…for, after all, that phoney image is there to sell things, by presenting an “aspirational” world that ignores reality, and poverty, completely. And when the media in one country — a land with a population in the hundred-millions — are owned by just six wealthy families, it’s glaringly obvious what the real problem is. And so is why women everywhere — in Canada as well as Brazil — are sick and tired of it.

Come see me eat nipples!

Y’okay. Now that we’ve got the silliness out of our systems (and the deliberately bad English translations of Bollywood dance numbers), let’s talk a bit about nipples.

Perhaps you’ve seen the Tata Top, and heard of #FreeTheNipple? Yeah, boobs are in the news again. And it’s all because female mammaries are (a) sexualized, and (b) CENSORED.

Oh yeah, and also because (b) is a direct outgrowth of (a). And vice versa.

And because the Puritans are dead, but small-p puritanism still lives in the US, and Canada too, by extension. Even though it’s legal for women to go topless up here, and has been for decades, most of us won’t do it unless we’re strictly among people we love and trust.

And some of us — me, for instance — won’t even do it in our own backyards.

Granted, I have sound health reasons for not taking advantage of our liberal clothing laws. I’m a natural redhead, and that means fair skin that burns easily. I don’t tan for shit, and I don’t want skin cancer, either. So when it gets hot, I tend to run for cover. And let my big, baggy ol’ t-shirts be my shady tents, especially if it’s too hot for bras.

But even if sunburn weren’t an issue, I’d still be reluctant to go out in a bikini top. Never mind one that’s cleverly colored (and printed) to look like bare breasts.

Now, why do you suppose that is?

Well, for starters, I’m very well endowed. Not bragging, but not ashamed of what I’ve got either. I love my bazookas, even though they complicate my life no end.

And yes, they do complicate it. I’ve been sexually harassed even while fully clothed. By strangers. By acquaintances. By people I thought I could trust. And this has been going on for as long as I’ve had boobs at all. Even tiny, barely-budding ones, at the age of 10. Know what that means? It means that for the past 36 years, I’ve been covering up in a vain and useless attempt to ward off unwanted attention, comments, grabs, and general grossness.

It’s like me having boobs gives random guys some kind of licence to get all yucky with ‘em. And that’s why I can’t have a simple, uncomplicated, happy affection for my gazongas.

And it’s not just me. In fact, it’s not even just women who’ve had to face this sort of creepy censorious/sexualized treatment of their bodies. As Scout Willis found out, men once had to fight for the right to go shirtless in public on hot days. And I recall reading that in Spain, during the Franco dictatorship, newspapers had to hire photo-retouchers just to paint undershirts on prizefighters in the sports section, lest Spanish ladies have their modesty offended by the sight of — gasp! — male nipples.

Well, my modesty isn’t offended by the sight of a man’s bare chest. I’ll gladly look at attractive ones, and even think to myself that cool dude so-and-so sure looks hot with his shirt off. I like guys; love them, even. So why should my modesty be affected by the sight of one running around half naked?

In fact, as I’ve pointed out before, what some call “modesty” is nothing more than our right not to be sexually molested. It exists no matter what we wear, how we act, or where we go. But by putting the onus on women to “keep modest” so as not to be molested, it puts the burden on the wrong person. If I could be harassed (as in fact I was) while wearing a puffy coat, baggy jeans, and Doc Martens — and not a speck of makeup — then clearly what I’m wearing or not wearing is not the issue. (For the record, I’ve also been left strangely unmolested while wearing miniskirts.) The blame should be on the harasser, not the harassed. And since I didn’t harass myself, but guys harassed me — gee, you don’t suppose maybe guys could do with a bit of educating, do you?

Nah, of course not. Men are all perfect. Rape culture doesn’t apply to them. Their bodies aren’t sexualized like ours are. It’s we women who have to cover up, worry about how we look, and second-guess ourselves constantly. We have to do it all for them, so they never have to do it for themselves.

And that, pardon the expression, really chafes my tits.

So, here’s my radical thought for the day: Guys, remember that your forefathers had to fight for the right to walk around half-naked where others could see them. And remember, too, that even though your right to seminudity is fully legal and unremarkable, hordes of women aren’t running after you, catcalling you and pawing your body, no matter how effin’ gorgeous it is. There’s a reason for that: We got Nice Girl training. We are taught from an early age not to be rude, forward and unmannerly. But more than that, we know how gross we’d feel if someone did that to us. And we don’t view you as our property. We don’t think you’re there for us to just wipe ourselves on. We think you have a right to be left in peace — to not be touched unless you make it clear that you want us touching you.

And if you reciprocate, and stop making such an idiotic fuss about our boobs, you might in fact be making this world a much better — and cooler — place.