Archive for September, 2009

I’m pretty sure I won that debate.

Mr. Neil Dan wrote right back yesterday, and we got into a lengthy e-mail exchange, which he eventually quit when he ran out of justifications. His first response called my objections “reasonable and predictable,” and hit several of the anti-feminist posts, including “The woman in the ad also wrote and directed the ad [read: so it must not be sexist],” “OF COURSE women have value beyond their sexuality . . . but the point is to get people’s attention,” and “If this ads save women’s lives, I think it’s worth the minor tremble in correctness.”

I dutifully went through the Feminism 101 spiel: Yes, it can still be sexist if a woman writes/directs. The point is always to get attention, but some ways of getting attention are unacceptable (see PETA ads for further examples). Terming something “politically correct” is an easy way of dismissing an issue without having to think about its very real effects on people’s lives. To which last point Dan wrote back, “I am affected. I personally am sooo tired of being objectified for my beauty and rock-hard abs. I’ve got a brain, you know, ladies!” (He did apologize quickly for that, at least.)

“You’re waving your first-wave feminism at me and I can’t do but shrug helplessly,” he complained. Poor Dan. It must be tough when some bitchy 19th century broad calls you out. A brave soldier, he quickly rallied. “I think this ad actually subverts male objectification,” he argued. “It uses the visual grammar of porn and filmic eroticism not for the gratification of the viewer but as an explicit demand that the viewer act. It also suggests that there are human beings behind the breasts, human beings who get sick.”

O RLY? I called bullshit. “It demands that the viewer act to save that which gratifies him, like putting another quarter in the peep show slot ensures you get to keep watching. It suggests that the breasts get sick, and obscures the human beings behind them.” I suggested that in order to be actually subversive in the way he describes, the ad could juxtapose images of hawt boobs with images of mastectomy scars, or dying young women.

Abandoning his “but it’s subversive!” argument, he returned to The Ends Justify The Means. “Those sorts of ads have been done to death, pardon the expression, and their effectiveness is debatable, esp. when it comes to invincible-feeling young women.” He then pulled the Good Samaritan trump card. “This is just one approach to bring attention to breast cancer. It is, after all, breast cancer awareness month.”

“I’m all for breast cancer awareness. Just not at the expense of those most likely to suffer from breast cancer, i.e. women,” I wrote back.

I haven’t heard from him since. Call me, Dan!


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In which I write an angry letter.

Dear Mr. Neil,

I’m probably wasting my time writing to you about this column, because, let’s face it, you’ve already written me off as a “bluestocking” and “the morals police” (I’m pretty clearly neither a psalm singer nor a family focuser). I’ll just get right to the heart of what irks me here, and you can either listen with an open mind or scoff, whichever feels better to you.

This may come as a shock, but women have value beyond their sexual appeal to men. Breast cancer is a problem because it kills women, not because it makes them less sexy.

You liken this ad to one in which a shot of a woman’s “ample bosom” gives way to an x-ray of her diseased lungs. Good shock tactic, that. So if they really wanted to make a point about the unsexiness of breast cancer, they’d follow up the shot of bouncing breasts with pictures of mastectomy scars. But that would be somehow going too far, wouldn’t it? That’s a little too unsexy. Thus, boobs and statistics it shall be.

“These ads make the equation explicit: More breast cancer equals fewer awesome breasts. Brilliant. Where do I send my check?”

Sincere question: did this ad actually inspire you to send a check? How much did you send, and to what organization? See, that is probably the worst problem with this ad. It’s cute, it’s funny, it plays into people’s comfortable sexism and objectification of women’s bodies, and it won’t do a damn thing to help breast cancer research. Because cancer – even cancer of the ta-tas – isn’t cute and it isn’t funny, and no one is going to laugh at this ad and then sit down to write a check.

“If these sexy cancer PSAs do nothing else, they underscore the notion that we’ve moved beyond blaming the victim.”

You are wrong, sir. If these sexy cancer PSAs do nothing else, they underscore the notion that women’s lives only matter as long as they are sexually appealing to men.

Oh, and kudos, by the way, on this insightful statement: “the earnest, sad-violins spots invoking moms and grand-moms of the past probably haven’t gained much traction among men.” Until I read this, I hadn’t realized that only women had moms and grand-moms.

UPDATE: Mr. Neil Dan, since he’s addressing me by first name, wrote back, calling my responses “reasonable and predictable,” and using an ends-justify-means defense. We are now engaged in an e-mail back and forth. Let’s see where it goes!,

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Forty Days against women’s health care

Those of you who follow Bitch, Ph.D. may already be aware of this, but for those who aren’t, here’s the nutshell version:

Operation Rescue plans on protesting women’s health clinics all over the country for 40 days, starting 23 September. You might wanna call your local clinic, if it’s on the list–mine is–and offer to help in whatever way they need it.

There’s a clinic less than seven miles away from me on the list. I called the same day the above was posted, but the clinic manager was unaware of the Operation Rescue harassment plan. I filled her in, gave her the web address for the list of targeted clinics, and emphasized my desire to help. She said she’d call me back. She didn’t. I called again a few days ago. The manager couldn’t come to the phone, so I left my name and number and reiterated that I wanted to support them. No call back.

At this point, I’m not sure what to do. If there’s an organized counter-protest afoot, I don’t want to undermine it by starting my own thing. On the other hand, how can I find out if there is one at all if no one will call me back? I can’t figure out whether they’re not returning my calls because they think I’m a sneaky pro-lifer trying to get inside information, or because they’re just too busy, y’know, providing health care to women (crazy thought, right?).

What I’d like to do is start a Pledge A Protester website* as a fundraiser for the clinic, whereby people pledge a certain amount – 10 cents, 50 cents, a dollar – per anti-choice protester. The more people who show up for Operation Rescue, the more money the clinic brings in. It doesn’t look too hard to set up (thank the gods for the “view source” button), and it shouldn’t step on anyone else’s efforts if other things are being planned. Does anyone here have any experience with something like this, or want to offer their web expertise in case I need help?

Any other ideas for how to support a clinic that won’t call me back?

*Linked Pledge-a-Picket website is for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pennsylvania. Feel free to contribute to them, or wait until I get the Los Angeles one running – if indeed I can get one running at all. I’ll keep you updated on that.

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