Monday, May 28, 2007

Battered Woman Chic

The United Colors of Benetton have come up with their 'Colours of Domestic Violence' ad campaign, ostensibly to raise awareness of DV. Now, they've had some controversial campaigns in the past - for example, anti-racism:

or featuring death-row inmates:

Apart from the company logo, the focus of these posters is on the issue they're raising awareness for. But let's look at their new one, shall we?

(via Adpunch)

Oh, look at those bruises. At least she colour-co-ordinated her wrap! Oh, isn't she stylish!

Yep. Benetton is hawking their products, and domestic violence sells. They could have focussed on the faces, where the signs of battery are clear, and have provided a straight-to-the-point message. Instead, in all three adverts, the clothing choice of the 'victims' is very obvious. This is just exploitative.

Of course, the first discussion I saw of this didn't see it that way. Nope, the focus was 'what about the men'. Men get beaten by their wives too! UCoB is anti-men! Those women are trying to make as all appear evil!
I'm tired of this.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lazy blogging II: Feministe

Before I go to bed, here's a post for everyone who continues to say that women are treated equally on the internet. Flea at Feministe blogged about a discussion that was had about a father who, tragically, had to make the decision for his dying wife to end a wanted pregnancy, and how different his reaction was from what had initially been expected:

I think about Amy Richards, the selfish, lazy, convenience-oriented slut with a husband who should have put her in her place, or Cecily, the murderer, or Biting Beaver, who struck such a major nerve that her life was threatened, the lives of her three children were threatened, her bodily integrity was threatened by rape, and she was offered, via email, not one, but two recipes for “herbal abortions” that would have killed her had she taken them. And for her the threats began shortly after the condom broke. What was different between his post and theirs? Nothing, really. In fact, his story and Cecily’s story were so similar they could almost have been the same tale, one told by the husband and one by the wife.

Similar experiences, different genders, wildly different responses.

'Sorry to hear of your loss. No parent should have to make such a decision. Our hearts and prayers are with you and your wife.'

'Hey, let's kill the slut before she kills her child - LET'S OFF 'EM BOTH! Bitch has it coming.'

And they say that they're pro-life.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lazy Posting: Here's to Scarleteen!

I've embarked upon exam leave recently and so have a lot on my plate, but during a break I came across a great post on abortion over at Scarleteen* (now added as a feminist site, though if you want a more accurate description, it's humanist and pro-life in the truest sense of the word.) It's written from the editor's personal experience.

I was pro-choice before that abortion. I remain so. Thousands upon thousands of women in the past have died to make that choice, before abortion was legal, and then, and now, those who do not support choice, let me make this clear, do not oppose abortion. They oppose a woman's right to make choices for the quality of her life and her children, and that is not supporting life or any quality of life. It is supporting an ideology and dogma that cannot fit something so subjective and varied as every single woman's choices and set of circumstances.

Being pro-choice is not often or necessarily being "pro-abortion." I do not believe it should be used as birth control, for instance: as a replacement for known reliable methods of accessible birth control. I personally believe that as women, it is our responsibility -- if we do not want children at any time -- to do whatever we can to avoid getting pregnant. However, there are times things happen, we make mistakes, birth control doesn't work, natural abortion doesn't work, when we may change our minds about wanting to be pregnant even in planned pregnancies -- and surgical or medical abortion is an option we may consider like any other, and may easily be our best option. There is no need to apologize for that, and no need to demonize that choice or oneself in any way. It is as valid and acceptable as any other.

Being pro-choice, in my mind, is being pro-child. Anyone who tells you that it is in the best interest of a child to grow up without the most basic things they require, reared into a family that either doesn't want them, or who simply isn't ready, or who harbors anger and resentment towards them is not thinking of the best interests of a child. Anyone who tells you that there are thousands of families just waiting to adopt ALL children isn't familiar with the fact that hundreds of thousands of children every year remain without homes and many will never have permanent homes, especially minority or special needs children. Many saying such things are projecting their own values and morals in the larger sense, and the person that benefits most is themselves: not children, not the women who bear and rear them.

Full article here.

*For those who don't know, Scarleteen is an American site offering unbiased (i.e. without religious or societal values) contemporary sex education for teens, and was of far more use to me in many respects than school sex ed ever was. While a lot of it could be considered 'girl stuff' by some, it does its best to run the full gamut from sexuality to erectile dysfunction to religious views on sex.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Religion and Politics - Making A Bed To Tell Lies In.

Up here in Scotland we have just been receiving the latest news about our local elections, the missing votes, the recounts, the gains and losses. When my parents were readying themselves to vote on May 3rd, my mother an I sat in the living room looking through the various leaflets we'd received from all the hopeful candidates. There was the SNP, giving us a simplified version of their manifesto, and there was Labour, telling us not to vote for the SNP. The Conservatives echoed Labour's actions in the past few years in their own policies, then told us to make a difference by voting for them. Even the BNP tried their hand, with a big red-white-and-blue leaflet telling us that they were just like Labour but without the ethnic tolerance. But hang on, there are more parties than that. Where were the Greens? The SSP? Come, on, there are some gaps to fill in here.
A quick Google search yielded odd results. The Scottish Christian Party called the extra-liberal Greens 'eco-fascists' due to their plan to stop giving government funding to religious schools, and to merge them with non-denominational schools. The SCP says this will remove parental choice. Alright then, let's see what those lovely Christians have to say to convince us that a fully religious education (not just R.E.) is still a good thing. Off I trot to their website. Being an atheist, I have no intention of voting Christian when my chance comes. However, aside from that, the SCP gave me plenty to dislike.

I followed the sound of some cheesy music to a television spot that they had in Inverness, styled like a news broadcast. I was immediately faced with at least two reasons to oppose them:

According to research, teenagers who have an abortion are up to 800% more likely to develop breast cancer in later life, with abortions among under-16s reaching record levels. This spells a cancer crisis for Scotland in the coming decades...

Huh? What study was this? Last time I looked, the overwhelming evidence was that there is no link between having a safe, legal abortion and breast cancer. Look here (emphasis my own):

In February 2003, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop participants reviewed existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.

But wait, there's more! Cut to Dr. Murdo Murchison, former Director of Health for Grampian Health Board:

...There are other problems, much more immediate; there's the immediate psychological problem for the woman concerned, there's [sic] possible fertility problems, and these are all areas of considerable concern.

Where to begin?! Fertility problems are extremely rare - in fact, they're more a problem with unsafe abortions of the kind practised in back-alley terminations, and if abortion is legal and easy to obatain, if doctors are trained to perform them correctly... well. Suffering infertility from an abortion in such circumstances would be almost unheard of. Not to say that women shouldn't know the risks, but it's a risk that is far smaller than the report would have you believe here. There is a risk to every medical procedure out there, including getting tetanus jabs - and early abortions carry a smaller risk than later, surgical ones. The majority of abortions occur early on (I'll link when I find that). As for psychological problems, Feministing covered this one a while back. It links to a ten-page NY Times article that shows a lot of evidence that abortion itself doesn't have psychological implications, and is, in fact, no worse than carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term:

Academic experts continue to stress that the psychological risks posed by abortion are no greater than the risks of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. A study of 13,000 women, conducted in Britain over 11 years, compared those who chose to end an unwanted pregnancy with those who chose to give birth, controlling for psychological history, age, marital status and education level. In 1995, the researchers reported their results: equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.

Studies have also found that harmful psychological effects can actually be created by so-called 'abortion counselling' that basically tells the woman that she has killed a human being and must live with and atone for that for the rest of her life. If I can find the relevant links for that, I'll update this post later. On a related note, if they want to cut abortion rates, they might want to consider educating adolescents about safer sex and the like - from the insider accounts I get, the sex-ed currently on offer in some of the Catholic schools is beyond the pail. However, I doubt that's on the SCP's 'to-do' list.
...It isn't! Here's what their manifesto says on the matter:

The Scottish Christian Party will call for sex education classes to be given only to children on a parental opt-in basis. The Scottish Christian Party will fight for the promotion in school of chastity before marriage, and faithfulness in marriage, as the safest sexual practice, as and when sex education is taught.

What? They abhor abortion, but also don't want mandatory sex education? Does anyone else see a problem here?

So far, so bad... but we ain't finished, oh no. You can't have a party preaching the gospel truth without a hearty dose of sexual intolerance, can we? When telling us to vote for the SCP, the party's leader, Englishman Rev. George Hargreaves invokes Godwin's Law:

In 1933 Adolf Hitler passed a law saying that Kosher food should be banned. Within 10 years he was murdering millions of Jews. Next week on the 30th April, regulations come in that affect Christians. The Sexual Orientation Regulations come into force. We must stop this. Go out and vote for the SCP on May 3rd, it is the only way we can stop the Sexual Orientation Regulations from becoming law, which is the first stage of persecution of Christians in this land.

What, exactly, are the SORs? Well, another site, Christian Concern for Our Nation bemoans them and gives us an outline:

What are the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR)?
Using power they gave to themselves through the Equality Act 2006, the government are pushing through a new law (the SOR) which will make it illegal for providers of goods, services, facilities, premises, education or public functions to discriminate against the recipients on the grounds of their sexual orientation i.e. whether they are homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual.

Oh dear, Christian, Muslim or indeed any religious schools will not be allowed to say that gay children will go straight to hell, and are abominations. B&B owners won't be allowed to turn away gay couples. What is the world coming to, when we can't tell people to be heterosexual or die? Check the manifesto again...

The Scottish Christian Party will also call for the re-instatement of Section 2A, thus calling for the end of the promotion and “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."

In essence, this party wants to turn the clock back on women's reproductive rights and to reserve their 'right' to treat 'undesirable' or 'unGodly' types such as homosexuals as second-class citizens. Then they have the audacity to say that others are persecuting them.

I sincerely hope these people didn't make any major gains this year.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Newt in a Teacup's questionnaire

TCupnewt has created a women's survey on body image, in order to get people to share their experiences in that area and hopefully get people talking. Read the full details (and find the blank template) here.

Name: Mwezzi (internet paranoid!)

Age: 17

Height: 5'7" - 5'8"

Weight: 8st2.

Do you consider yourself attractive?
In a mundane way - I wouldn't say I'm unattractive, but I wouldn't say I'm out of the ordinary.

Do others consider you attractive?
Apparently so - I've been complimented by strangers as well as by my family and boyfriend.

What is your biggest insecurity and why?
I'm a braless wonder because I feel more comfortable without, and also do not really need one, but as I tend to be surrounded by male friends/classmates/dog-walkers when out of the house I often find myself hunching, folding my arms or rearranging my hair to disguise any possible pointiness. I don't like the idea that it could draw people's attention, even if I know that the person I'm talking to won't actually notice.

Have you/Would you consider using plastic surgery? Why or why not?
I'd never consider it. There's a lot to go wrong when resorting to such measures, and I think that my natural dimensions and appearance suits me far better than any modification would.

What is your relationship with make-up?
It's a weekend thing. I'm a bit gothy and like to change my image completely when out of school, but I don't use it to appear prettier or disguise any shortcomings - it's just part of the outfit, so to speak.

How much money do you think is reasonable to spend on your appearance?
Not including clothes, I spend about £3 pounds in total - that's the rough cost of both types of eyeliner. Occasionally, that goes up to a bit under £6 in order to get facewash because I'm an oily-skinned type. I don't like to spend too much on my clothes so looting second-hand and charity shops is my forté, and overall I think I'm being extravagant if my overall appearance on a normal day, including the above, cost me more than £15.

What is your experience of dieting?
I have never dieted - though my mother has always been concerned about her weight (and she is overweight, so it's not all in the mind) and has always tried to exercise regularly and eat healthily.

Have you/ anyone you know tried any specific diet programs i.e. Lighter Life? How did that affect your health? your moods? your relationships?

Do you have any experiences of eating disorders i.e. either yourself or someone you know?
Despite statistical probabilities, I am not aware of anyone I personally know suffering from an eating disorder.

Have you had negative experiences relating to your appearance and people’s reactions to it?
I got a fair few snide comments about my unshaven legs when I took P.E. and I still get a few disapproving stares when in public changing rooms.

What about positive reactions to your body?
My boyfriend has never been anything but positive about my appearance, and I do occasionally draw compliments from people, otherwise complete strangers, who talk to me when I take the dog for a walk.

How has your body image and attitude changed over the years?
I've become a bit more secure about my underweightness; I've come to terms with the fact that it's just the way I am at the moment, and I'm still healthy.

What do you love about your body?
The skin on my tummy. Interestingly, so does my boyfriend. It's very soft.

What is your opinion on the media portrayal of women’s bodies?
One-dimensional, unrepresentative and often downright fictional, to oversimplify my opinion. Don't get me started, I don't want to type out that essay again.

What would you change about the way you/ your friends/ your family/ general people see their bodies?
I wish people would start admiring the positive aspects rather than focussing on what they perceive to be the negative ones. I also wish people would stop worrying about their weight for any reason other than health reasons. Worrying that you're not slim enough is different than worrying that you may be damaging your health by continuing to be a certain weight.

What makes you feel beautiful?
My hair, when it's clean.

and just for fun… Do you shave legs/pits/upper lip moustache?
Nope, except when I'm wearing one specific top I will go baldpits. And I'm phasing that out too.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wrong time of year

The current administration in America may have a depressing record for Women's Rights, but don't fret! They care enough to send out a poorly-timed seasonal card!

From Married to the Sea (image links there, as usual).