May 2010 Archives

A Redefinition of Family Group 7 Agenda

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This is a letter to the United States Government which is calling to attention the disregard for alternative family systems and their importance in our society. Current members in the government have stated that "Family definitions play a major role not only in programs, but in virtually every policy arena". Our governmental definitions of family not only affect the benefits individuals are entitled to, it also affects the emotional status of unrecognized family members. The plutonic family systems of the 1950's has been proven to only encompass portion of our society and as we see more and more alternative family units emerging we must have new definitions to ensure our support for those families. There are several ways that family is currently defined in our government and our own government affirms this by stating that "Families cannot be defined simply or universally for purposes of Federal programs and policies. Much variation is due to the complex nature of the family itself and to the specific purpose of the Federal program". Although this acknowledgement of the complexity of family we would like to propose a list of inclusions for our government to consider when proposing new legislation that affects any aspect of family.
 Family includes both genetically and non-genetically connected family members.
 Family transcends ethnicity and nationalities, families can have allegiance to many flags and be comprised of many different skin colors.
 Family is needs community, if you protect the family, but harm the community systems around it such as schools, libraries, and parks, then you inherently harm the family unit.
 Families need support and daycare is expensive, and we cannot undervalue the importance of raising our future generations in healthy environments.
 Families may be composed of many sexual orientations. This does not mean that parents that are gay, lesbian, transgender, or other sexual orientations are any less valuable parents. We need to value and support all parents for their hard work as being parents.
 Families may be comprised of single parent households. These parents need extra support for their work and dedication. Child care should be made freely available to these parents as well as government aid no matter their gender.
 Families do not have age restrictions, old and young adults help raise children in many different situations.
 Families are very dynamic and change all of the time and assistance to families should be dynamic and not dependent on social class.
 We should have legislation that speeds up the process for parents seeking to adopt, children who spend long periods of time in foster care suffer extensively. We need to ensure the child's safety and well being.
 Family policy should be written by mothers and fathers, not by accountants. Family policy should not be victim to budget cuts and tax raises.
 WE CANNOT UNDERVALUE OUR FAMILIES!!!!!!


Group 7... I think...

Agenda, group 1: restrooms

our agenda addresses feminist and queer family values concerning public restrooms. here are some exploratory proposals for gender neutral restrooms that are not too radical, and surely not meant to offend or completely disparage traditional family values, but to allow for new possibilities concerning the way we understand "family" or "gender" and relationships between people in public space. our ideas centered primarily around the questioning of prohibitive and ill-conceived constructions of gender and the merging/uniting of gendered spaces, while still allowing for *private* spaces -- thus communal, or collective, restrooms, and private restrooms. we acknowledge that the models depicted have their faults -- and appear to demand quite a large space -- however, they are only models, proposals, and tentative suggestions towards an uncertain, yet optimistic, future of shit-fulfillment....

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group participants: mary, matt, kathryn, carlyn, will, ellen

Group 4 PIC Agenda

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View and download the full size flier here.


DE #10

After reading, I have notice that the difference between the erotic and pornographic.
It seem to me the same. The Author said Erotic is derived from the Greek words eros, which is the personification of love in all of its aspects and creative power and harmony"
Another author Lord said Pornography "is a direct denial of the power of erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling" (570).

Some final thoughts and a note of thanks

As the title indicates, this course has been about contemporary feminist debate. Taking a somewhat unconventional approach, I structured the course around the belief that debate is not about winning an argument or rigidly defending one's position. Instead, it about "living with contradictions" (Jaggar) and staying perpetually curious (Enloe) about problems--what they are, how we frame them, and what strategies we can develop for responding to them.

I selected readings that were meant to highlight the complicated and contradictory ways in which a wide range of feminist thinkers approach key social issues. The readings were also intended to take all of us out of our comfort zone and encourage us to dwell in a space of unknowingness, where easy answers about "what is to be done" aren't possible. While I find this space of unknowingness to be unsettling (and oftentimes exhausting), I also find it be invigorating. Staying in that space of unknowingness allows me to remain curious and fosters my desire to always ask lots of questions about the limits and possibilities of any approach to an issue. In my vision of feminist movement (and my list of feminist values), curiosity, openness and asking lots of questions are central.

Now, I want to be clear here. I am not suggesting that staying in a space of unknowingness is all that anyone, particularly feminists, should ever do. As Anna suggests in her comment to this entry, curiosity, even if it is a feminist curiosity, is not enough. We also need to think strategically and constructively about how to respond to our most pressing issues. But, I wonder, what questions are left unasked and what possibilities get foreclosed when we move too quickly out of our unknowingess? Indeed, what political, critical and ethical value can come out of safeguarding that space? To conclude this reflection, I want to paraphrase, and slightly modify, a passage from Judith Butler in her book, Undoing Gender: While asking questions, remaining uncertain and being curious are not all that feminist movement is or should be, I can't imagine feminist movement without them.

Thanks for a great semester. I truly appreciate how willing you all were to stay curious. And I appreciate how much you all embraced the blog. Have a great summer!

This is a Feminist Issue: Water

I think someone posted about access to safe water a while back, so I thought this article could build on that. "The Burden of Thirst" was a feature story in National Geographic last month. It talks about access to water and how the lack of safe, easily accessible water keeps women out of the public sphere. Girls do not go to school with the boys because they have chores to do. The article says that the average American uses one hundred gallons a day just in their home, and that can be contrasted with the woman interviewed in the article who gets by on just two and a half. If water were more accessible girls would be able to go to school. This is absolutely a feminist issue, and one that deserves more attention. Once again, the article can be found here. You can also check out "Freshwater 101," which is a brief slideshow about freshwater use and includes links to other useful articles.

Prisoner Correspondence

From what we've learned in class I think we can all agree that our prison system does not intend to rehabilitate. The "tough on crime" era was the beginning of a major expansion of the prison system motivated by profit and racism rather than a benevolent desire to "serve and protect." The prison population soared and the crime rate was not affected by the increased rate of incarceration (as we learned in the Angela Davis reading). Because of their size and pervasiveness corporations began taking interest in them and prisons became increasingly privatized. Corporations were interested because money could be made - prisons had to be built, foods, goods and services had to be supplied, and prison labor became an important resource to exploit. The emphasis on money, control and power leaves out the human element and prisoners are exploited and dehumanized. Instead of focusing on rehabilitation people are locked up and forgotten about.

This is where correspondence comes in. As people outside the prison system we have the ability to help restore humanity and hope to a population that many, including their families and friends, forget about. As you can imagine this forgetting happens for a variety of reasons, but part of it has to do with the unwillingness to face something so devastating and overwhelming. When we talk about big problems like this it can be frustrating to hear things like, "if you just do this one simple thing we can..." And it's true, writing letters isn't going to topple the system, but I think it's a good place to start. The dehumanizing nature of prisons can leave those inside feeling totally disconnected from the community. When a person feels like an outsider or a deviant rehabilitation is a joke; it's just not going to happen. Letters from the outside can restore hope, inspiration and will. Many prisoners have been behind bars for years and have not heard from anyone on the outside. Maybe after awhile you start to forget that there is an outside. Writing a letter is a simple and worthwhile way to connect with someone and maybe restore their sense of belonging and worth.

Below are a few websites that offer additional information on prisoner correspondence.

http://www.writeaprisoner.com/homepage.aspx
This is the first result that comes up when you search "prison correspondence." It's a very comprehensive site - they offer a lot more than just a pen pal service (such as ways to donate both money and things like books, legal support, and help finding work for prisoners).

http://www.prisonerlife.com/index.cfm
This is run by former offenders. Their site says they give prisoners a chance "to announce their existence." They have a fact box with prison statistics that changes as you browse.

http://www.ccadp.org/inmates.htm
This site lists prisoners on death row.

By the way, "In 29 years, 1973 - 2002, 103 death row inmates were found to be innocent and set free." Source: http://www.writeaprisoner.com/prisoner-statistics.aspx

Also, if the death penalty or people who were sentenced to death and later found to be innocent interests you, I highly recommend the story of Cameron Todd Willingham. It's a long, heartbreaking read but it does an excellent job of illustrating how our emotions and need for justice can get in the way of a fair trial, which is why something as final as death should not be an option for punishment.

You can (and should!) read his story here.

The Aspects toward Pornography: Positive vs. Negative

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Pornography is a battlefield in U.S. law. For decades, courts have struggled to find a middle ground between opponents of obscenity and defenders of free speech. This debate began to shift in the 1970s as feminists introduced new theories.

Pornography, as defined by Wikipedia, is "the explicit depiction of sexual subject matter with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer". This means it excludes erotica, which some purists insist on, because erotica is different in that it has an interest in doing more than merely providing sexual excitation.

POSITIVE

1. Sexual freedom
2. It allows people to view different sexual lifestyles.

NEGATIVE

1. Porn is a drug that leads to addiction.
-Men often consume more and more porn, which can lead to distancing themselves from their loved ones, losing their jobs, etc.
2. Porn is a form of sexism.
-Women are commoditized and objectified in porn, which puts them on an unequal footing with men.
3. Porn portrays all women in one of four degrading, dehumanizing categories.
-It gives you the most insidious view of women.This can lead to an inability to form meaningful romantic relationships and even violence against women.
4. Porn cultivates a single standard of beauty that no real women can live up to.
-This leads men to be mistakenly dissatisfied with reality as it pertains to sex.

This is a feminist issue because...Godzilla Weeds

Yesterday there was an article in the New York Times about how excessive use of herbicides, such as RoundUp, has caused some weeds to become immune to the poison. Because an increasing number of weeds do not die from traditional does of herbicides, farmers, in turn, are spraying even larger amounts of the stuff. The poisons in herbicides are very harmful to living things. As a feminist, I find it troubling that it will be the poor immigrant farm workers, who are exposed daily to herbicides, and wildlife that will become ill from our society's chronic consumerism. spritze_gross-1.jpg

Today you will get into your groups and develop an agenda for Feminist Family Values or create a response to the Sex Wars. Here are two examples that might inspire you:

ONE: Feminist Family Values
During our discussion of gay marriage, we read the statement by BeyondMarriage.org. Here is their agenda:

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TWO: Sex Wars
In her entry, Anna discusses The Sex Workers Project.. They have a press kit that you can download, which has a lot of valuable information, including a values statement. Here's a blurb from that statement:
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PIC AGENDA FLYER

Group 6: Caitlin, Danielle, Yein, Heather, Ava, and Abby

Our group decided on making a flyer that would address the problem of dehumanizing prisoners; we then decided to present different outlets and resources to create contact, increase education, and ultimately remove the stigmatizing label of "prisoner" and have them be seen as people.

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The Smitten Kitten

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The Smitten Kitten is a feminist-owned adult sex toy/equipment boutique located on Lyndale and Lake in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. SolutionistTwinCities.org describes the Smitten Kitten as, "Valuing "human dignity and the creative expression of gender, identity and desire," the Smitten Kitten is more than a sex toy boutique; it is an open source for information on issues of sexuality, sexual health, and feminism."

Staffed by a team of Sex Educators, the Smitten Kitten is committed to selling only the safest products to its clientele. Jennifer Pritchett, the founder/owner of the Kitten formed the Coalition Against Toxic Toys in 2005, a non-profit that aims to create awareness of the hazardous materials and production practices of the existing sex toy industry. CATT can be found at BadVibes.org.

The Smitten Kitten is an open, accepting environment offering toys, books, zines, DVD's and more to a widely representational audience in the GLBTQ community as well. In addition to their product catalog, their website hosts an events calendar and blog filled with great resources for anyone wanting to explore sexuality in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

The site (and the store!) give a much better look into their mission/vibe/general awesomeness than I could ever do here, so check them out!

The Smitten Kitten

Feminist Issue- Barbie's Dimensions

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The other day, I was having a conversation with one of my friends about girls bodies and how some girls can be so lucky to have such a proportional body. This conversation led on to talking about Barbie's body in relation to our body, since I have heard that the relation was really messed up. If Barbie were real, she would have a 42D chest, 32 inch hips, and an 18- inch waist. This is CRAZY! Barbie impacts so many little girls' lives, and it is disheartening to know that little girls look up to Barbie, and want to look just as pretty as their dolly. I wasn't a huge Barbie fan as a little girl, but thank god I wasn't. My body image could be very distorted. I think this is a feminist issue because no little girl should have that "Barbie looking" image for themselves. I hate that our society is so much about pretty, skinny girls. It's not reality. It's reality to be healthy and happy, and that is all that really should matter.

Single Parent Adoption Summary

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Our group (Sammy, Kathryn, Alyssa) decided to track the issue of single parent adoption because we knew that discrepancies existed in this area but we were unsure of the specifics. We already knew that it is "easier" for a couple to adopt a child than it is for a single. However before we began tracking the issue, we did not know the laws behind single parent adoption, how race and gender play into the issue, or the differences between domestic vs. international adoption or infant adoption vs. foster adoption.

As far as the laws behind single parent adoption go, it is completely legal in every state of the United States for a single parent to adopt a child of any age domestically. This was not always the case however, due to discrimination of single parent families. In 1958 the Child Welfare League of America put out a release stating that adoptive families must be comprised of a mother and a father. It wasn't until 1965 that the first group, the Los Angeles Bureau of Adoptions, fervently recruited single parents nationwide.

The Los Angeles Bureau of Adoptions was also the first organization to seek out single African-American parents, so that they could match African-American children with parents of the same race. Now, when the state places children they tend to place couples with same-race children. Also, according to Adoption Choices of Oklahoma, most adoptions cost between $28,000 and $34,000, while African-American adoptions range from $25,000 to $30,000, and the average waiting time for a potential adoptive parent to be matched with a birth mother is six months, but the wait is much shorter for parents willing to adopt African-Americans. When looking at local adoption agencies, white, middle-class, heterosexual men and women dominate the photos, giving the impression that these agencies mainly cater to this one group of people.

When the state is responsible for placing children, they tend to give single parents "hard to place" children, such as children with disabilities, or who are older, etc. Single parents are responsible for 25% of all special needs adoptions. Often, single parents are recommended to foster homes, as they will have a better chance at being placed with a child in this fashion, rather than being picked by a birthmother to adopt an infant.

Single parent adopters are an untapped resource that should be utilized to place children into loving homes. Single parent adoptions are just as successful as couple adoptions, often because single adoptive parents often seek out resources and build support systems more vigorously than couples do. These resources include finances, which single adoptive parents are able to bring and make ends meet for their family. No significant differences in terms of educational development of the children have been noted between single and two parent adoptive families. Also, single adoptive parents have reported less use of mental health services than two parent adoptive parents.

Overall, the main issue seen in the practices of adoption is how society views different family units, as well as how society places different values on different children (i.e. foster children, African-American children, etc.)

Feminist Issue- Dove Commercial

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http://www.dove.us/?dl=/products/hair#/features/videos/default.aspx[cp-documentid=7049579]

No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.

This is the dove add that was released a few years ago to made us aware of the media and how the gorgeous women and men are portrayed differently than they actually are. This television commercial takes an everyday average girl and puts make- up on her, curls her hair, then takes her picture onto a computer and photo shops her entire face and hair. By the end of the commercial, she looks like a completely different girl than what she started as. I think this is a feminist issue because the media is showing us people who don't really exist, and we are trying to live up to these fake standards. It makes me sad that some people really do feel the need to be as pretty as people we see on ads and magazine covers, when really it is all fake. Why should women (and men) have to be portrayed like this?

End of Year Event: Lavender Celebration & Awards Ceremony

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally (GLBTA) Programs Office on the U of M Campus celebrates 2010 graduates and award winners this Thursday at the Lavender Celebration and Awards Ceremony!

Time**, Date, Location, and more details are in the flier below!

**this conflicts with our class on Thursday (May/6). I am personally committed to being there and understand that most will not be able to make it to the celebration for this reason.


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Prostitution Summary

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The feminist movement is divided on the issue of prostitution and sex work. We chose to explore some of the differing opinions surrounding sex work and prostitution including local impacts, international perspectives, history, and feminist debates. Our interest was sparked by the perspective of Live Nude Girls Unite!, and Chapkis' article The Emotional Labor of Sex, and our own differing opinions as prostitution as a feminist issue. Here are some of the various feminist perspectives we compiled from our tracking of the issue.

• It would benefit everyone to regulate sex work and legalize prostitution. Sex work can be viewed as a legitimate skill set. (Chapkis)

• Women should be able to do whatever they choose with their bodies. We should respect individual choices when it comes to using their bodies.

• Sex work is a choice.

• For those who don't necessarily choose sex work, they shouldn't be treated as criminals, but as victims.

• Sex work is a part of a patriarchal system that objectifies women.

• Sex work can have traumatic effects on the workers through post-traumatic stress disorder or health effects, as such it is not healthy.

Sex work and prostitution are fairly widespread, even in our local community there is a lot that goes on under the radar because it's illegal. While some feminists believe sex work can be a choice and a lifestyle, others see it as more complicated. Is the idea of choice coming from a privileged position? It cannot be denied that many people are coerced into sex work and abused or taken advantage of. Even for people who consider it a choice, they may be influenced on patriarchal opinions of sexuality. Could this be reinforcing the idea of how sexuality should be treated or commodified?
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With its first season coming to an end, "Cougar Town," a television sitcom, has made a rather interesting impact on the economy. The show follows a newly divorced 40 some year old mother in her quest to reenter the dating arena and rediscover her sexuality. According to Reuters, lingerie sales among women above the age of 40 have increased dramatically since the premiere of the show, along with the release of "Sex and the City 2" which also concentrates on women in their 40s and 50s and their relationships.

This is a double edged issue - on one hand, it is brilliant that through these forms of media, women of all ages are reexamining their own bodies and trying to mend their relationships with their own bodies. However, the issue arises of whether or not lingerie is the proper facet through which to reclaim one's body. It would be interesting to see whether or not things like gym memberships and spa treatments among women over the age of 40 have also increased - if this trend is solely related to lingerie, or perhaps related to a larger trend of older women taking the time and effort to take care of themselves and perhaps pamper themselves a little.

Regardless, the facts are facts, and one lingerie saleswoman says "With women's 40s being touted as the new 20s, and lingerie designers stepping up to the mark to feed this demand, it's a market we expect to see grow further in the future."

Tracking the Issue: Raunch Culture Summary

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Our group (Tamar, Adam, Julia) decided to investigate raunch culture as a subset of sex wars.

First, we needed to find out what raunch culture is. Ariel Levy (since she essentially coined the term) gives us an explanation. Raunch culture is the idea that being sexy should be public, and being sexy means some very specific things. The current societal standard for 'sexiness' means participating in wet t-shirt contests, learning how to pole dance for fun, wearing revealing clothing, etc. Things that some feminists critiqued as degrading are now being embraced as the ultimate realization of female sexuality. It's a recent phenomenon - even 30 years ago, the societal reaction to hearing that someone took a pole dancing class would be very different than it is now.

Before learning anything about raunch culture, we were all interested in the idea, but knew very little about it. Researching and learning more about raunch culture has brought up a lot of interesting issues for us, and made us curious about the idea of what our society prescribes as "sexy" and how this affects peoples actions.

There's a fair amount of academic research that has gone into the 'raunch culture' phenomenon, on both sides of the issue. Some people think that it is sexually liberating for women, and a method of escape for puritanical ideals for sexuality - others think that it forces a conformation to one particular type of sexual identity.

Here are the main controversies in the issue:

1. Is acting "raunchy" a way to reclaim female sexuality from the male gaze, or is it playing into a male desire for public, degrading sexual practices? (lap dancing, wet t shirt contests, etc)
2. Can it ever be empowering for women to participate in raunch culture?
3. Does raunch culture narrow the sexual options available to women, or broaden them?
4. Is it "feminist" to ever critique a certain sexuality/way of being sexual? If feminists do critique certain types of sexuality, does that mean that feminists are making a new "charmed circle"?
5. Does the exchange of money make a situation empowering or degrading?
6. To what extent is the rise of raunch culture (in many ways, a product that can be marketed) due to capitalist profit motives?


All in all, the rise of raunch culture is a relatively new phenomenon. We think it's important for people to be curious and critically think about the ways that raunch culture relates to feminism and women's well being, but we think prescribing a certain "solution" is a bad idea. What is empowering and satisfying to one person is different than what is empowering and satisfying to another person, and we think people should strive to find out what REALLY makes them happy, and follow that, regardless of whether or not it has been approved by society.

Oklahoma just passed an abortion law which I find extremely disturbing. It has several parts:

1. Anyone who goes into a clinic to get an abortion, including victims of rape and incest, need to watch an ultrasound of their baby and hear a description of the fetus.
2. Women cannot sue doctors who misinform them about the health of their fetus.

This is shocking to me. No one WANTS an abortion, and no one makes the decision to get an abortion lightly. So people who go to get an abortion in Oklahoma may not be deterred by seeing a picture of their fetus, but they will certainly be emotionally harmed. It's much more difficult to come to terms with "killing" a baby if you can see a picture of it. While it's unlikely to deter women from actually getting a baby, it does inflict a lot of emotional pain and suffering on them. People don't get abortions because they think its fun - they get them because they are in a position in their life when having a baby is not a good idea. Making them go through a strenuous emotional ordeal seems like a dangerous subversion of the hippocratic oath.

Additionally, I think it is totally unacceptable to make it illegal to sue a doctor who misinforms you about the health of a fetus. This demonstrates a fundamental lack of respect for women's knowledge and choices - how can you make an educated, informed choice about whether or not to have an abortion if you don't have reliable information about the health of the baby? If the baby is going to be born with some horrible genetic condition that makes its death inevitable, I definitely think women should be aware that their baby is not going to live long - imagine the emotional devestation of going through the process of preparing for a child and then realizing that your baby has only a little while to live - and your doctor knew this all along. I can think of very few things that would be more difficult to deal with than that.

Fundamentally, I think this law incentivizes fraud and emotional damage, and I think it makes it impossible for women to have a real "choice" concerning abortion - how can they make an educated decision about their body and their future without trustworthy advice from their doctors? Abortion is a moral and religious issue - it should never, ever be made into a medical issue. Doctors are necessary to keep us healthy and safe. We should be able to trust them.

Girl Germs on Radio K!

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I co-host a radio show on the University's student-run radio station, Radio K. It's called 'Girl Germs', and we play "the best in groundbreaking female artists- from rap to riot grrrl, rock & roll to soul". We put an emphasis on local musicians as well as national musicians, from bygone eras up to today. We broadcast each Tuesday from 9-11pm on 104.5 FM in the twin cities and on radiok.org.
A friend and I started this show in February, and we've featured in-studio performances and guest dj sets so far, along with some really awesome music made by ladies (and bands that feature/support ladies). We have previous episodes streaming and playlists available on our blog. If it sounds like something you'd like, check it out!

This is a feminist issue because....Immigration

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Clintion made a good point in this article when she states that the new immigration law in Arizona was made out of frustration. I think she was dead on. However, I don't know if I necessarily agree with changing its fundamental purpose, which is giving the police more of an opportunity to check for documents. I believe the difficult theme of this law is that the problem has ethnic origins. It is how people are entering America from a different ethnicity. How else are to you combat this illegal action without tip-toeing on racial profiling. I don't think you can. And I also don't think it is right for people to get away with committing a crime just because they are a different ethnicity. If I were to go to a different country and they had laws in which I had to register to visit, and I didn't I would accept to be pursued by their authorities and face the consequences. I wouldn't expect it to be alright because they chose to stop me because of the color of my skin. It is what it is.

I do feel bad for the american citizens who are going to be checked for papers simply because of their skin color. It will happen, and it is unfortunate. However, just like in other aspects of society, the innocent sometimes have to bear the consequences and be inconvenienced by the actions of the people committing the crimes. Drinking under the age of 21 is illegal. So why isn't it a problem when people ask other people for their ID? Isn't this the same issue of discrimination, only based on age rather then skin color? If I do recall, both are even protected classes. So why is one form of discrimination deemed acceptable by society while another isn't?

Sex Wars: Sex Workers' Advocacy Groups

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(Tracking the issue: Prostitution)

In tracking the issue for sex work (more specifically, prostitution), I have come upon many web communities that focus on advocacy for sex workers and the rights of sex workers. Like Wendy Chapkis' discusses in her chapter "The Emotional Labor of Sex," these advocates call for recognition of the "labor" aspects of sex work, and demand that sex work be de-stigmatized and recognized as legitimate labor in order to support those who engage in sex work. The following is a PSA put together by Sex Work Awareness, and it is a product of a day-long media training conference they put together for sex work advocacy:

The clip itself and many of the comments shared by users on the site emphasize the well-roundedness and realness of the women who engage in sex work- they aim to de-shame sex work and to break the silence of sex workers.

The Sex Workers Project organization is somewhat less politically charged: their aim to improve rights and protection for any and all sex workers. Their mission statement claims that the Sex Workers Project "provides legal services and legal training, and engages in documentation and policy advocacy, for sex workers. Using a harm reduction and human rights model, we protect the rights and safety of sex workers who by choice, circumstance, or coercion remain in the industry."
Their focus is on improving the rights and safety of every sex worker, but their recognition that people who engage in sex work by choice exist alongside people who are likewise there "by coercion" is a bit disturbing.

Like much of the movement surrounding sex workers' rights, the focus of these organizations is very based upon the individual sex worker. Language about individual rights and freedoms prevail. Because so much of the debate is focused on individual rights, the implications that sex work can have for the broader community are left out. Issues about worker exploitation and the negative impacts sex work could have on clients and workers alike are skirted around entirely. I'd like to see an organization that advocates for sex work address these issues intelligently--not enough evidence is presented about the negative aspects of sex work for their arguments to be convincing.

Further Reading:
http://www.sexworkersproject.org
http://www.sexworkawareness.org

This documentary is, at first glance, just about the movie business. Before I watched it, I assumed it was a documentary on how they decide what gets rated what. Instead, it talked about why movies get rated NC-17 and also talked about how secretive this board that determines what gets produced (basically, an NC-17 ends up meaning that no one will stand behind the movie, because it's not marketable) and who's allowed to watch it, is completely secretive. The members of this group are not allowed to talk about who they are and what they do, and even after they leave, they still are not allowed to talk about how the board rates movies, or they are sued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). That's not so much the feminist issue (I just found it rather interesting), as the reasons why movies are rated R or NC-17. The movies they discuss about getting rated NC-17 specifically get rated as such because of how the romance in the movie is shown. They continually talk about the denial of female pleasure. A few of the movies they talk about were given NC-17 ratings because the orgasm of the female was too long, it's not even that there was nudity, but that when the camera was focused on the woman's face during intercourse, she looked like she was having an orgasm for longer than the MPAA preferred. Another one of the more ridiculous reasons that the MPAA gave an NC-17 to one of the movies the documentary discusses is due to the fact that during a sexual scene in the movie, for a split second, a woman's pubic hair could be seen. The movies that the MPAA gives out NC-17 ratings for are movies that are only portraying what we all know to be true. By the time almost any kid is 15 or 16, they already know all about sex, not just biologically, but also the actual act, the different positions available, etc... The fact that the MPAA is denying those ideas in movies just seems unnecessary. They are much lighter on violence in a film than sex, and I would hope, that most people have seen more sex than violence first-hand. I'm not sure if changing the rating system would change anything, but I think it would be incredibly beneficial to the film industry( and those watching the movies) that violence be seen in a darker light than sex.

I had just gotten off of work and was waiting for my friend to pick me up when I noticed this bathroom and the graphic that was plastered on it.

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I know our unit on family values was a few weeks ago, but I felt compelled to take a picture of this because it sparked some questions in my mind... How are small, everyday actions, visuals, and words perpetuating our views on family? How does this picture create curiosity and destroy curiosity at the same time? It leaves out so many family types... and is even the color white. It leaves no room for variety and is overtly stating what the "real" family is supposed to be. How can other places and organizations be more conscious of what they are really portraying and who they are leaving out?

Through the years, scientific studies have been used by individuals, institutions and governments to support positions on both sides of sex war debates on pornography. Studies have produced seemingly opposite conclusions at times giving each camp ammunition for their own side, and leaving the curious individual to wonder if they can really be used to draw any conclusive evidence about pornography at all.

How to Use a Study:
The first reason for the problem we have in conflicting studies, is because of the tendency to take a study out of its context and draw more conclusions from the results of a study than we are really able to. Epidemiological studies often study the effect of something on a population, but stress that assigning the root cause is a very complicated matter. Over-simplifying the results of a study by making simple one cause-one effect conclusions is an error of logic. But, sadly this is the way that many sides approach studies in an effort to support their arguments. Often, many more follow up studies are needed to determine the actual cause of the result in a study, or to rule out and consider other factors present. For example: "The Effects of Pornography: An International Perspective" was a large study that found that the rate of sex crimes dropped with the legalization of pornography. This influenced the legislation of some governments who then believed that pornography was not having a negative effect on their populations, but this has been critiqued as an error of logic and misuse of the study because other factors were also present at the same time that significantly contributed to a reduction in sexual crime, such as increased targeting by law enforcement. These other factors were not accounted for in the study, and no follow up was done to determine the specific cause and effect relationship.
Not All Studies Are Equal:

The second problem with the use of studies is the assumption that you can compare their results equally. Each study approaches its experiment or question in a particular way. With the question of pornography and violence, scientists have a number of factors to contend with when framing a study.

One: A situation in a lab is very different from a real life experience, so how do scientists get data that will most accurately translate to real life? Experiments vary in their ability to accurately assess real life data.

Two: Because of the nature of the study, (exposing men to varying degrees of sexual content and violence, and then measuring their aggression towards women, and measuring their change in arousal patterns) there are ethical concerns in what the men are exposed to, how to test their aggression to women, and the inability to test on adolescent youth who might be most responsive. These ethical issues inform the studies and limit the studies at the same time from getting the most accurate information. It takes careful thought and creativity to address these issues.

Three: The number of variables accounted for in a study is an indicator of the quality of the study. As shown earlier, the more cause and effect factors you are able to account for the more accuracy you are likely to have. Many of the differences between results in studies on pornography are simply a difference in number of variables. For example: A study linking pornography use to violence will result in high numbers if the sample population is taken from a group of prison inmates. Where as, a group of middleclass white college students might result in a low link between pornography and violence. The study in each case would be flawed and highly unreliable in its ability to give us a true picture of the effect of pornography because of the low number of variables.

Meta-Analysis:
Meta-Analysis is a useful method that combines multiple studies and compares data using statistical analysis to give us a more accurate picture of study results than any one study could give us by itself. Once again, not all studies are equal, so which studies you use are important, but if you put in balanced studies with multiple variables, then you will get the most accurate data from the combined results of all the studies put together. I read the results of a meta-analysis by N.M. Malamuth, T. Addison, and M. Koss looking at the results of 16 experiments on pornography and sexual aggression. They were especially concerned with this issue of inaccuracy in interpreting and conducting studies, and they wanted to know if there really is any hard proof one way or the other on pornography. Their article is called "Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Are There Reliable Effects and Can We Understand Them?" (Warning: this link is to download the pdf, and this is a long dense article, but it is wonderful material).
Results:

There was too much material to include in this blog entry, but I will summarize some of the results of their meta-analysis. First of all, they found over 50 variables that were likely to contribute towards sexual aggression, coercion and violence against women. Pornography (whether it was soft, hard, rape/violent) by itself was the largest single variable contributing towards aggression against women (12%), but this could increase depending on the factor it was combined with: delinquency, sexual promiscuity, child abuse, social isolation, group dynamics etc. Each man has many factors influencing him and some of those combine to result in aggression towards women, while other men who use pornography while having a 12% increase in their likelihood of aggression towards women, never actually display this behavior because they do not have enough other contributing factors. Interestingly, nudity was found to be distinct from pornography, and had the effect of lowering aggression.

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Do you see that thing? It's not a joke. Here is a link to the commercial if you don't believe me.

There several aspects about this that make feminist issue. But at the forefront, its capitalism at its finest. Massive corporations are profiting from slowly killing the people who consume their products.

Some might say that it is wrong to accuse the companies of any wrong doing, after all, they aren't forcing anyone to buy it. "Of course, it's sort of a foregone conclusion, a rigged game. This vile meatwich is crammed like a grenade with sodium, sugar, fat and chemicals. Ergo, the testers, presumably people with taste buds devastated by years of cramming similar compost into their guts, thought it was pure nirvana. And then their colons exploded".

Read Mark Morford's original article from the SF Gate here.