Category: sexism


Showing off the legs in question

 

At the risk of sounding vain, I love my legs.  A few years ago, when I was complaining to my mom about the fact that I had inherited her nose, she cut me off by replying, “Yes, but you inherited my legs too so stop complaining.”  And you know what?  She was right.  I take a lot of pride in my legs and I enjoy showing them off.

At one time, of course, showing them off would probably have meant being accused of gross indecency.  Most famously, during the Victorian Era, it was considered scandalous for a woman to even show her ankles.  

Fortunately, especially for those of us who live in the Southwest where it’s usually just a little bit too hot and dry to wander around covered head-to-toe in several layers of clothing all in the name of public decency, times have changed.

Now, if you’re like me and you like to show off your legs then you probably know that there’s a lot of advice to be found online on how to wear a miniskirt without 1) looking trashy and 2) letting the entire world know what color underwear you’re wearing. 

A lot of that information is actually pretty helpful.

And then some of that information, like this video that I came across on YouTube yesterday, is from 1967…

That’s right, ladies.  The key to wearing a miniskirt is to make sure you carry your chastity board with you everywhere and try not to distract the men from getting their work done.

You’re welcome. 🙂

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I came across the following AP story earlier today: “Slutwalks” Put Provocative Message On The Street.  The story is by Russell Contreras:

BOSTON – This social movement really gets around.

An international series of protests known as SlutWalks, sparked by a Toronto police officer’s flippant comment that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid being raped or victimized, is taking root in the United States.

Some women and men who protest dress in nothing more remarkable than jeans and T-shirts, while others wear provocative or revealing outfits to bring attention to “slut-shaming,” or shaming women for being sexual, and the treatment of sexual assault victims.

“It was taking the blame off the rapist and on the victim,” said Nicole Sullivan, 21, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and an organizer of the SlutWalk planned here for Saturday. “So we are using these efforts to reclaim the word `slut.'”

The police officer made his comments in January to a group of York University students at a safety forum. He later apologized, but his comments were publicized widely on Facebook and Twitter. They inspired a march in Toronto last month that drew more than 3,000 people, as well as SlutWalks since then in Dallas; Asheville, N.C.; and Ottawa, Ontario.

In addition to Boston, marches are planned in cities including Seattle; Chicago; Philadelphia; Reno, Nev.; and Austin, Texas.

“The event is in protest of a culture that we think is too permissive when it comes to rape and sexual assault,” said Siobhan Connors, 20, of Lynn, Mass., another Boston organizer. “It’s to bring awareness to the shame and degradation women still face for expressing their sexuality … essentially for behaving in a healthy and sexual way.”

The events are similar to “Take Back the Night” rallies and other marches that aim to bring attention to sexual violence. But there are key differences.

SlutWalkers have danced to hip-hop, worn T-shirts with the word “slut” and held signs that read “sluts pay taxes.” Some women have skated around on Rollerblades in lingerie, while their male supporters wore shirts reading, “I love sluts.”

The rallies typically end with speakers and workshops on stopping sexual violence and calling on law enforcement agencies not to blame victims after sexual assaults.

In San Francisco, SlutWalk organizers want to make their protest a family event.

“Singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends,” the SlutWalk SF BAY Facebook page announces. “Come walk or roll or strut or holler or stomp with us.”

Connors said organizers had initially planned for about 100 people to attend the Boston event; by Thursday, more than 2,300 had responded to a Facebook shout-out. Another 2,000 people have similarly committed to attend the SlutWalk Seattle on June 19.

“Everything happened organically,” Sullivan said.

The officer who made the comments, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, was disciplined but remains on duty, Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said Thursday.

“We said at the time that his comments were entirely unacceptable, that they didn’t reflect in any way what we train and teach our people,” Pugash said.

Pugash wouldn’t comment on the movement the officer’s comments have spawned.

The Boston SlutWalk group has had to delete several “inappropriate comments” about women and faced criticism from a group that promised to organize a counter “Pimp Walk” in Boston, Connors said.

“We think it was put there as a joke, but it’s disturbing that a number of young people still feel that way,” said Connors, referring to sexist comments left on the page.

Pages dedicated to other cities’ SlutWalks also deleted inappropriate comments.

Connors said the Boston SlutWalk will start at the Boston Commons with protesters marching around the area and will end with a roster of speakers.

As a matter of general principle, I support the idea behind the SlutWalks.  Far too often, women are told that rape is not a crime but instead, it’s a misunderstanding.  If only we dressed appropriately or watched what we said then apparently, rape would be a nonexistent crime.  When a woman is raped, she is first expected to prove that she’s not a “slut.”

(And, let’s be honest, this point of view is not exclusively male.  I’ve seen firsthand that women are just as capable of being as judgmental and narrow-minded.)

If the idea or the name “SlutWalk” seems to be extreme, it’s simpy a reaction to the extreme circumstances that we find ourselves expected to deal with on a daily basis.

Most of the criticism directed towards the slutwalks is that — by dressing provocatively and embracing the term “slut” — the Slutwalkers are, in fact, trivializing the issue.  And to that I say bullshit.  No, none of the men who show up to leer at a slutwalk are going to have their attitudes changed.  But maybe it’s time that we admit that it’s too late to try to change men.  Maybe it’s time that we, as women, admit that we need to change our attitude that somehow, we’ve brought our victimization on ourselves or that we should be ashamed of who we are. 

Until we are willing to stop playing the victim, we will continue to be victimized. 

At the same time, I do have to say that I have no interest in reclaiming the term “slut.”  You guys can keep the word.  I’m perfectly happy with “independent.”

I love tracking down and watching those old, amazingly sexist TV commercials from the 1960s.  You know the type — these are the commercials where a smug male narrator says stuff like, “For today’s modern girl, staying presentable and ladylike is even more important than it was in the past…”  or “Today’s modern woman knows that when her husband gets home from the office, only Farmer’s House Coffee will do.”

Of course, the main reason that these commercials interest me is that they’re not all that different from their modern counterparts.  For the most part, the commercials have become a bit more flashy and the men act a lot more stupid but the message of “If you want to be a real woman, buy our product and stop thinking so much” remains the same.

Here’s an old one from Pepsi that deals with the importance of remaining “beautiful, slim, and attractive.”  From the patronising tone of the narrator to the “ha-ha-women-love-to-shop” punchline, this is just so 1960s.

(I’ve always found it interesting that a woman shopping is somehow irrational while a man who spends his life savings on decorations for his car is considered to be perfectly normal.)

It’s Election Day and therefore, today seems like as good a day as any to share a few random facts and opinions about the history and role of women in U.S. politics.

(That clicking sound you hear is the sound of a handful of men all navigating away from this page at the same time.)

As I wrote on Women’s Equality Day, American women did not truly win the right to vote until 1920.  Before then, women could (and some were) put in jail simply for trying to exercise a right that we now all take  for granted.  Oddly enough, in most states, women could run for and hold public office.  They just couldn’t vote for themselves.

The first woman ever to be elected to any public office in the United States was Suzanna M. Salter who was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas in 1887.  She was 27 years old at the time.  She served as mayor for one term before retiring at the age of 29.  She lived to be 101 years old and never sought ran in another election.

Nellie Taylor Ross also lived to be a 101 years old.  As well, she was the 1st women to be elected governor of a state.  She was elected governor of Wyoming in 1924, succeeding her late husband in office.  She was defeated for reelection two years later but remained a prominent figure in Democratic politics.

The first woman ever elected to the U.S. House was Republican Jeanette Rankin, who was first elected from Montana in 1916.  She’s famous for opposing (and voting against) American entry into both World War I and World War II.  In both instances, her pacifism led to her either being voted out of or voluntarily leaving office.  While it’s difficult for me to accept her vote against entering World War II, she was a woman who consistently stood by her beliefs even when they weren’t popular and even when she knew they would lead to the end of her career.  That’s a lesson that several of our current government leaders would do well to learn.

The first woman to serve as a state senate majority leader was also the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court — Sandra Day O’Connor.

The first female senator was Rebecca Felton of Georgia.  A Democrat, she was appointed to the Senate in 1922 and served a total of one day.  The first woman to actually be elected to the U.S. Senate was Hattie Carraway of Arkansas.  A Democrat, Carraway was first elected in a 1931 special election to fill the seat that had previously been held by her late husband.  She later shocked a lot of people for running for winning two terms on her own.

Since 1922, 38 women have served in the U.S. Senate.  17 currently serve in the U.S. Senate.  In today’s general election, a total of 16 women (including incumbents) will be running for a Senate seat.  According to current polling, there should be a record number of women in the U.S. Senate after today’s election.  That number will still probably only account for about 20 to 22% of the total membership. 

(Meanwhile, 51% of the citizens governed by this 80% male Senate are female.)

Women have been running for President even before they were legally allowed to vote.  However, the first woman to launch a serious campaign for the presidential nomination of either one of the two major political parties was Republican U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine who ran in 1964.  Smith was followed by Shirley Chisholm and Patsy Mink (two Democrats who ran in 1972), Pat Schroeder (Democrat, 1988), Elizabeth Dole (Republican, 2000), Carol Mosely Braun (Democrat, 2004), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (Democrat, 2008). 

Clinton came the closest of that group to actually winning the nomination and, arguably, was the first woman to ever have a truly serious chance at doing so.  That said, it still wasn’t good enough to convince Barack Obama to offer her the vice presidency.  That role went to Joe Biden, a well-meaning, old school sexist if there ever was one. 

In fact, only two women have been nominated for Vice President by a major political party.  Geraldine Ferraro was nominated by the Democrats in 1984.  Sarah Palin was nominated by the Republicans in 2008.  In both cases, the nominations were dismissed as gimmicks and both Ferraro and Palin were subjected to criticism and scrutiny that had little to do with their qualifications (or lack thereof) and everything to do with the fact that they were women being judged by a male-dominated mainstream media.  Hence, Ferraro was attacked for marrying a charming guy who turned out to be a crook and Palin was attacked for the clothes she wore and her daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that either Ferraro or Palin was a good choice for the Vice Presidency or the Presidency.  Obviously, there are many legitimate concerns about Sarah Palin.  While I’m only familiar with Ferraro from history books, it appears that the same could be said about her.  My only point here is that rather than focus on the legitimate issues about either one of these candidates, the media decided to focus on their gender and judged them less on the issues and more on preconceived assumptions of the “proper” role of a woman in politics.

(That role, by the way, is to be a sexless, opinionless, and humorless cardboard cut-out with absolutely no history beyond the day they were first elected to public history.)

Though no woman has ever been nominated for the presidency by a major political party, many women have run for President on third-party tickets.  The first to do so was my personal hero, Victoria Woodhull.  In 1872, 34 year-old spiritualist, journalist, and free love advocate Woodhull attempted to run for President as the candidate of the Equal Rights Party.  For her troubles, she spent election day in jail.  The election was won by Ulysses Grant who, it is generally agreed, was one of the worst Presidents in U.S. history.

Since Woodhull’s day behind bars, approximately 25 women have been nominated for the presidency by a third or independent party, everyone from the National Equal Rights Party’s Belva Ann Lockwood (the first female attorney to ever argue a case in front of the Supreme Court) in 1884 to the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney in 2008.

The first woman to ever receive a vote in the electoral college was Theodora Nathan, the libertarian candidate for Vice President in 1972.  She received one vote from a California elector named Roger MacBride.

Both my Aunt Kate and my mom were fond of saying that if women were in charge of the world, there would be no more wars.  I don’t agree with that but then again, could Victoria Woodhull possibly have been a worse president than Ulysses S. Grant?

It’s something to consider.

When I’m at work, one of the things I usually look forward is the daily visit of the FedEx Guy.  He usually shows up an hour or two after I get back from lunch.  I’ll sign for whatever he’s dropping off, he’ll ask me how I’m doing, and I’ll smile and laugh at whatever joke he happens to make that day.  It’s a nice break from the usual monotony of answering the phone and telling people, “If you want to have a seat, he’ll be right with you.”

However today, when the FedEx guy showed up, my boss literally ran out of his office so that he could greet him with, “Well, how about them Cowboys!?”

The FedEx guy started to shake his head and said, “Did you watch the whole game?”

Now, I should probably add that, until this afternoon, I have never even seen either my boss or the FedEx guy share so much as a simple greeting.  However, they were soon having a very impassioned conversation that, though they were both apparently speaking English, I could not begin to follow.

Finally, I managed to figure out that neither one of them was happy with the Cowboys.

Sitting behind my desk, I worked up the courage to interrupt them by asking, “Are the Cowboys not doing well?”

As soon as I spoke, both of their heads snapped in my direction and they both stared at me silently in apparent disbelief.

“No,” my boss finally said, “they’re not doing well.”

“Oh,” I meekly replied.

Now, I have to admit.  I’m not a sports fan.  I never have been.  Some of it’s because I associate most sports with having asthma attacks in public school gyms.  A lot of it is because I only had to hear that stupid thing about there being “no I in team” once before I decided that was nothing I wanted anything to do with.  There’s also the fact that I hate the fact that football players always seem to have sweat stains on their pants.  I mean, seriously.  That’s just really gross.  And I like to think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that some people are naturally into sports and some people are naturally into doing something worthwhile.

Of course, I’m not totally ignorant when it comes to sports.  I live in Dallas, Texas and there’s no way you can totally avoid sports around here.  Dallas is an sports-crazed city.  It’s part of the culture and you can’t escape it even if you want to.

So, I know that we have a football team that’s known as the Cowboys.  I know that Tony Romo used to date Jessica Simpson and I know that another player named Miles Austin is dating Kim Khardashian. 

I also know that Dallas has a baseball team called the Texas Rangers and the Rangers are apparently going to the World Series sometime tomorrow.  I’m pretty sure that they have to win four games to win a championship or something like that.

Dallas has a basketball team but, for the life of me, I can not remember what they’re called.  I do know that they’re owned by Mark Cuban who briefly had a really, really bad reality TV show that was a rip-off of The Apprentice.

I’m about 75% sure that we have a hockey team.  I remember that in college, me and my friend Kendra briefly decided that we were going to be hockey fans.  Kendra actually stuck with that plan but I kinda ended up getting distracted by …. well, I don’t really remember what.

Dallas might have a soccer team too.  Who does David Beckham play for?  And another thing — what’s the deal with soccer riots in Great Britain?  Oh, and yes — I know that soccer is called football everywhere else.  I don’t care.  It’s a stupid game.

Oh!  I just realized that I know the name of one soccer player!  Carla Overbeck.  But, I should admit that the only reason I know about her is because she’s in this PSA that shows up on the Lifetime Movie Network every 20 minutes or so.

Shortly before I graduated college, I attended a workshop for women who were preparing to enter the job market.  One of the lectures I attended (and kinda listened to though, I should admit, it was a very long lecture and I’ve usually only got a 7-minute attention span at best) dealt with the difficulty the some women have communicating in a male-dominated workplace.  And one of the main difficulties cited was that men often speak in sports terminology.  I guess it’s their own secret code.

To be honest, at first, I thought that the lecturer was overstating the problem.  How hard, I wondered, could it be to figure out?  I mean, I’m not into football but I know what a touchdown is and I know that “hitting a home run” is a good thing.  I always thought I knew what guys were referring to when they talked to first, second, or third base (though the specifics — especially the meaning behind second — always seemed to vary depending  on which guy was explaining it).  But the lecturer started to reel off all the phrases and terms that had apparently been causing confusion and, as I listened, I felt like I was attending a Latin Mass.  I recognized the sounds that were being made but they didn’t make a damn bit of sense to me.

So, no, I’m not a sports fan and if that means I’m conforming to some sort of stereotype, so be it.  Quite frankly, as I listened to my boss and the FedEx guy suffering such angst over the Cowboys, I was happy to be ignorant.  Seriously, I already have enough drama in my life without concerning myself with whether or not a bunch of strangers can score a certain amount of points.

Life’s too short to get upset about something as silly as sports.  Especially, when someone like Gretchen makes it to the finale of Project Runway while Michael Costello gets sent home.  Now that’s something to get upset about…

I didn’t get a chance to mention it yesterday but October 22nd was International Stuttering Awareness Day.  To be honest, I’m not totally sure how these “awareness” days are supposed to work or how they’re supposed to change the world.  According to Wikipedia, Central Michigan University actually observes an International Stuttering Awareness Week.  However, the problem isn’t that the world is not aware of stuttering.  The problem is that the world continues to mock and stereotype those who do stutter.

People who know me now never seem to believe me when I tell them that, from the age of five to almost twelve, I very rarely if ever spoke.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything I wanted to say or that being quiet was ever, in any way, a part of my nature.  Instead, it was because I knew that if I spoke, someone would hear me stutter and immediately, I would be shunned.  I would be the outsider.  I would be branded as being stupid and damaged and worthless.  I lived my days in terror of being called on in class and forgetting to speak very carefully and slowly because if I actually relaxed and just started to talk the way everyone else did, my stutter would come out.

At home, of course, you couldn’t shut me up.  At home, it didn’t matter if I stuttered.  If anything, I was almost proud of it because my mom had been a stutterer too and it gave me an extra bond to her that nobody else in my family had.  She always told me not to be ashamed when I couldn’t get the words out as perfectly as others. 

I guess that’s why it was such a slap in the face to go out into the “real world,” and to be told that no, I should be ashamed.  I can still remember every time that someone — whether it was a classmate or the occasional adult — replied to whatever I had said by repeating my exact words, all the way down to the stutter.  I can’t remember their names but I can remember the way they hurt me.  I can remember the way they’d smirk when they would do it and the sound of their laughter.  Everyone had an individual laugh but the pain it brought always felt the same. 

I would just sit quietly and try to fade into the background.  For someone like me — who was smart and who did have a lot to say — this was torture.    If you asked me what I mostly remember about my childhood, it was being angry at those who could step into the spotlight and being scared that strangers would discover why I couldn’t. 

My stutter has gotten better over time, to the point where now it rarely, if ever, comes out.  Just as it’s difficult to explain what causes someone to stutter, it’s also difficult to explain why some people stop stuttering and others don’t.  In my case, I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons why I no longer stutter as badly as I once did. 

Some of it, undoubtedly, was due to a lot of speech therapy. 

My own personal theory is that a lot of it is due to the fact that, physically, I was an early bloomer.  Ironically, the discovery that as long as you have boobs, most guys won’t listen to a word you’re saying anyway, actually served to boost my confidence and — though I don’t want to support the idea that stuttering is just a result of insecurity — that discovery did make me a lot more comfortable with speaking to other people (or, to be honest, to members of the male sex).   Even if I did occasionally still stutter, nobody seemed to notice.  And, as I grew more comfortable with the idea that I actually could speak, I found myself stuttering less and less.

(Of course, many years later, I came to realize that this presented a whole new set of problems and frustrations.)

Also, much like my mom’s, my stutter just grew less and less severe as time passed.  Unfortunately, I never realized it was just naturally getting better because, in my mind, I was always that little girl who was so scared of saying something just to have it thrown back in her face of evidence of her own stupidity and worthlessness.  In many ways, that’s how I still see myself and I guess that’s how I always will.  Those years of silence left me with scars of insecurity that I doubt, regardless of how confident I otherwise am, will ever truly heal.

As I said earlier, I’m still a stutterer.  My stutter still comes out occasionally, usually if I’m tired or just unusually flustered.  I wish I could say that it doesn’t hurt to hear it in my voice but honestly, every little stammer — no matter how rarely it’s actually heard anymore —  still feels like a small death to me. 

What’s ironic though is that I’ve grown up to be someone who, literally, can not stop talking.  Not only do I have a job that requires that I spend almost every minute of my workday speaking to others, but I’ve also been involved with various community theaters and I love being in the spotlight.  Now, I spend most of my time actively seeking to be the center of attention even if it means that I might occasionally trip over my words in public.  And it’s all because I spent so many years in a self-imposed exile of silence.

I know the pain of being anonymous.  I know the pain of not having a voice and of being ignored and forgotten.

That pain left me with one goal: to never be anonymous and invisible again.

And I won’t be.

Most people tend to be dismissive of commercials but I think they provide a handy time capsule of society.

For instance, did you know there was a coffee crime wave?

Fortunately, there was always a patriarchal representative around to set us all in the right direction.

I love my Aunt Kate and I know she loves me but often times, we have trouble showing it.  To a large extent, it’s a generational thing.  She’s a part of the generation of women who rebelled against a sexist society by burning bras, protesting outside of the halls of government, and never allowing any man to get away with casually referring to her as sweetheart, babe, doll, dear, or any other term that would have served to diminish her.  Because of the society she lived in, everything she did — from the clothes she wore to the jobs she took to the way she signed her name — had to be done in a way that rejected anything that would have allowed men to stereotype her.  My aunt is part of a generation of feminists that were and are often referred to as being “strident.”  But if Kate was strident, it was because she didn’t have much choice.  Anything less than stridency would have been surrender.

As for me, I’m a part of the generation that can afford not to be strident.  I’m a part of the generation that can be feminine because we want to and not because society is holding a gun to our head and demanding it.  I’m a part of the generation that takes for granted the freedoms that my aunt fought and suffered for.  While I tend to forget that my aunt grew up in a time when women had to fight, I think she sometimes doesn’t realize that just because I might spend a while getting my makeup just right, I’m doing that for me and not because it’s demanded of me by a patriarchal society.  As a result, me and Kate argue way too much and often times, I forget to thank her for making the world a better place for me. 

I’m happy to say, however, that Kate and I have found something that we totally agree on.  We both love Tim Gunn, the former fashion school dean who is best known for playing the role of mentor on 8 seasons of Project Runway and counting.  Apparently, Tim — yes, both me and Kate consider ourselves to be on a first name basis with Tim — was recently in Frisco, Texas on some sort of promotional tour.  My aunt was among the countless women who came to see and hear him.  Kate approached him afterward, told him how much she “respected” him, and she got a hug in return.  She said it was one of the nicest hugs she’d ever received and that doesn’t surprise me at all.  He’s Tim Gunn after all!

Why do we love Tim Gunn?

Tim Gunn knows fashion.  This goes without saying.  The thing that always impresses me about Tim on Project Runway is that he’s definitely a man of another generation yet he still respects the opinions and the fashions of my generation.  He’s that rare older man who doesn’t expect or demand that a woman in her 20s either dress like 1) our grandmother or 2) like we’re posing for the cover of Lolita.

Tim Gunn is gay.  Don’t doubt just how important this one little fact is.  As a woman, you are constantly aware that every guy you meet is, somewhere in the back of his mind, deciding whether or not you are — to put it crudely — fuckable.  Everything a guy says to you, you have to wonder: Is he telling me the truth or is he just trying to get in my pants?  And if he isn’t trying to get into my pants — why not?  Obviously, this can lead to a lot of confusion, stress, and hurt feelings.  But Tim, bless him, is not only gay but openly and obviously so.  We know he is only interested in looking at the clothes on our body as opposed to our body underneath our clothes.  Tim’s a man that we can actually trust and how often do you actually meet one of those?  At the same time, since Tim is a man, a woman doesn’t have to worry that he’s been busy hating her behind her back or that he’s been spreading lies and innuendo just because her ass looks better in skinny jeans than his does.  In short, Tim Gunn is the ideal platonic male friend.

Tim Gunn has been celibate since breaking up with his boyfriend.  They broke up 20 years ago.  In interviews, Tim has explained that he’s remained celibate because he’s still in love with his former partner.  Since I have tendency to go crazy if I’m celibate for 20 hours, it’s hard for me to imagine what 20 years of voluntary celibacy could possibly be like.  That’s not a life I would really wish on anyone but it’s hard for me not to read that and go “awww…” at the fact that Tim would apparently choose to simply be celibate as opposed to just doing it with someone who he doesn’t love.

Tim Gunn could spend hours in a fabric store.  How many men can you say that about?

Tim Gunn is always sophisticated but never a snob.  One of my favorite parts of Project Runway is when the show finally leaves either NYC or L.A. and Tim visits the finalists in their own hometowns.  For whatever reason, each season seems to feature quite a few designed who come from and live out in Deliverance country.  It’s hard to describe the delight I get from seeing Tim, in his perfectly tailored suits and not a hair out-of-place, discussing fashion while surrounded by sagging pants, beer bellies, manboobs, and rampaging cellulite.  In a world where belching has become an acceptable form of debate, there is something comforting in knowing that there’s at least one man out there who still makes the effort.  What’s even more appealing is that, unlike me, Tim Gunn would never (at least not in public) use the phrase “deliverance country” when talking about the people he’s just met.  There’s a lot of be said for a man who can be sophisticated without feeling the need to call attention to that fact.

Tim Gunn has one of the few hearts in reality television.  One thing about most reality TV regulars: they’re very quick to let you know what they think of each season’s group of contestants.  On Survivor, Jeff Probst always lets us know which tribe he considers to be the most pathetic.  Julie Chen often struggles to remember just who exactly is living in the Big Brother house.  Chris Harrison can’t wait for  the Bachelor to screw up his engagement.  Don’t even get me started on those two fascists that seem to be intent on giving everyone a heart attack on Biggest Loser.  However, Tim Gunn is always seems to be sincere when he sends the latest cut designer up to the workroom to clean his or her space.  With is warm hug and his apologetic tone, Tim has probably kept more than a few failed designers from committing suicide after having to listen to Heidi Klum tell them that “We’ve seen it before and, quite frankly, we’re bored…”

Tim Gunn speaks his mind.  Tim may be nice but he speaks his mind.  One of the best things about this current season of Project Runway has been watching Tim put judgmental, catty snobs like Gretchen and Ivy in their place.  Who didn’t cheer when Tim said he couldn’t understand why the other designers were meekly allowing themselves to be “bullied” by Gretchen or when he showed up at the workroom and told Ivy to stop accusing Michael Costello of “cheating?”  There are times when I wish I could have someone like Tim Gunn with me whenever I’m at work and I know I’m going to have to deal with the women who work in the office next to mine. 

Tim Gunn is willing to call the Kardashians “vulgar.”  Somebody had to say it.

Tim Gunn does the right thing.  One of the reasons why my aunt said she “respected” Tim Gunn is because of a recent  video Tim made in response to the recent suicides of several gay teenagers.  In that video, Tim talks about how he tried to take his own life when he was 17 and still coming to terms with his sexuality.  Here’s something else that me and Kate agree on — I respect Tim Gunn too.  It takes courage to talk publicly about something that painful.  While everyone always talks about how tragic suicide is, there’s still a stigma attached to actually admitting that you have ever been in that dark of a place.  That Tim Gunn — who certainly didn’t have to — chose to open up that part of his life says a lot about who he is and why he’s earned the respect of both me and my aunt.

Tim Gunn gave me and my Aunt common ground.  After me and my aunt had spent a little while talking about how much we both love Tim, we came to an agreement.  From now on, whenever she’s tempted to admonish me or I’m tempted to get an attitude with her, we are simply going to ask ourselves, “What would Tim Gunn do?”

Sometimes, life is just strange.

The producers behind Sesame Street have decided not to air a clip in which Katy Perry engages in some sort of weird game with Elmo.

The reason had nothing to do with the fact that Elmo is kinda creepy and the implication of him and Katy Perry potentially doing it is the type of thing that could traumatize a young child for life.

Nor is the issue that, throughout the video, little pantsless Elmo more or less tries to hump Katy’s leg like a dog in heat.

No, the issue is that some concerned citizens apparently felt that Katy Perry was showing too much cleavage.  Here’s the video.  Depending on your own personal tolerance for Katy Perry, turn down the volume and judge for yourself.

After watching the video, all I can say is “Uhmm…really?” 

Okay, first off, they’re just breasts and there’s no reason to be ashamed (or scared) of them.  I usually display more cleavage just going to the grocery store than Katy does in that entire video.  So, I guess I’m a danger to children as well. 

I guess Katy’s cleavage might give a 14 year-old boy dirty thoughts but, quite frankly, I’d be more concerned about the fact that a 14 year-old boy is watching Sesame Street.  Is the target audience of Sesame Street really going to care that much about Katy Perry’s cleavage?  Perhaps if parents simply didn’t depend on television to raise their children, they wouldn’t have the time to waste worrying about the implications of televised cleavage.

It’s odd, really.  American society puts so much thought into our boobs yet it somehow gets offended whenever we do the same thing.  We’re told to keep (or make) them prominent but to somehow keep them hidden away as well, locked up as if they’re some sort of prize  to be won by only the noblest knight of the round table.

I’m sorry but they’re just boobs, not the Holy Grail.

First France bans the burqa.

Now Sesame Street has banned boobs.

Like I said, it’s a strange world.

France Bans The Veil

The French Senate has passed a new law that will ban the wearing of the full Islamic facial veil in public.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, the burqa and all the various burqa accessories has always struck me as being the perfect symbol of repression, oppression, and sexism.  For me, there would be no greater nightmare than to know that every day would have to be spent bundled up and hidden away.  Maybe I’d feel differently if I came from an Islamic background but, quite frankly, I hope not.

Last week, I was, quite frankly, disgusted by an obscure pastor who announced that he was planning on publicly burning the Koran on the anniversary of 9-11.  To be honest, I probably would have been a little bit more supportive if he had been burning a burqa.

On the other hand, I can’t help but read this story and think about my St. Vitus medal.  The medal was a gift from my mom on my 15th birthday.  She gave it to me because St. Vitus is the patron saint of dancers and when I was 15, that was my life.  Nine years later, I only dance for fun and I’m no longer a practicing Catholic.  But I still wear my medal nearly every day and I still feel far more confident when it’s around my neck than when it isn’t.  Whenever I wear it, I just feel more confident and happy.  When I wear it, I feel as if my mom’s spirit is with me.

When I first read about the possibility that France might ban the full veil, I found myself wondering how I’d react if France had banned the wearing of religious medals.  Consider that the one of the arguments for banning the veil was that France is a “secular” society.  The same argument could be used to support banning anything that could be considered to be an expression of religious faith regardless of whether the wearer shared that faith or not.  While I — and many others — view the facial veil as a symbol of oppression, there are just as many people who would make the same argument about the crucifix that I have hanging beside my bed.

I’ve often wondered about why I continue to put that crucifix on the wall.  Why do I still occasionally go to mass?  Why do I wear my Vitus medal?  As I said before, I’m no longer a practicing Catholic or, to be honest, a believer in any sort of higher power.  However, it’s unthinkable to me to throw out all the symbols of my former beliefs.  Beyond any theological belief, it’s the culture I was raised in and when I look at that crucifix, it reminds me of who I am and where I came from.  Regardless of whether I still consider myself to be a part of that culture, it still played a large role — both good and bad — in shaping who I am today.

However, many people would say that Catholicism is oppressive and evil.  Many people would say that by wearing that medal, I’m supporting child molesters and homophobia.  They would say that the fact that I’m an unbeliever doesn’t matter.  They would say that as long as I wear that medal with those words — Pray For Us — I am supporting the Vatican and everything that the Vatican has ever done and will ever do.  Those people would applaud my losing the right to wear it as enthusiastically as others would applaud the banning of the facial veil.

I guess my ultimate feeling about this is that women, regardless of their religious beliefs, should have the right to wear whatever they want.  I would be a lot more enthusiastic about a law that said women could not be forced to wear the veil as opposed to a law that states that women are not allowed to wear them.

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