Tag Archives: whereas

Our Barbie Vaginas, Ourselves

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

One night not long ago while coming home late from a dinner with friends, I passed frat row near the University of California-Berkeley campus. Groups of girls were clacking along the street in their party uniforms: short skirts, bare midriffs, five-inch heels. One of them stopped and lifted her skirt above her waist, revealing a tiny thong, a flat belly, and some righteously toned glutes. She looked happy and strong, laughing, surrounded by friends, having fun. Then she turned toward a building where two bros, appraising the relative “hotness” of those trying to gain entrée to their party, were posted by the door.

Honestly? I didn’t know whether to be impressed or appalled.

I have spent three years interviewing dozens of young women about their attitudes toward and experiences with physical intimacy. On the one hand, girls would enthuse about pop icons like Beyoncé, Gaga, Miley, and Nicki who were actively “taking control” of their sexuality. Whereas earlier generations of feminist-identified women may have seen Kim Kardashian West’s “happy #internationalwomensday” tweet and accompanying nude selfie (Instagram caption: “When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL”) as something to denounce, many of today’s generation talked about it as an expression rather than an imposition of sexuality—brand promotion done on her own terms.

Young women may not have a million-dollar empire to promote, but they can relate. As one college sophomore told me, she never feels more “liberated” than “when I wear a crop top and my boobs are showing and my legs are showing and I’m wearing super high heels.” She added, “I’m proud of my body, and I like to show it off.”

But a moment later it became clear that unless, through fortuitous genetics or incessant work, you were able to “show off” the right body, the threat of ridicule lurked. The young woman told me that a friend had recently gained some weight. It’s not that she couldn’t wear skimpy clothes, the woman explained. “But she knows how she would feel if there were asshole-y boys who were like, ‘She’s a fat girl.'”

Young women talked about feeling simultaneously free to choose a sexualized image—which was nobody’s damned business but their own—and having no other choice. “You want to stand out,” one college freshman explains. “It’s not just about being hot, but who can be the hottest.”

But as journalist Ariel Levy pointed out in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, “hot” is not the same as “beautiful” or “attractive”: It is a narrow, commercialized vision of sexiness that, when applied to women, can be reduced to two words: “fuckable” and “sellable.” No coincidence, Levy added, that this is “the literal job criteria for stars of the sex industry.” And maybe no coincidence that young people are growing up with far more access to porn than ever before. Which means their early ideas about sex are drawn from fiction that has largely been produced for male masturbation.

Perhaps nowhere is that influence more clear than in the emergence of full-frontal waxing. Once the province of fetishists and, yes, porn stars, the Brazilian moved mainstream in 2000, thanks to Sex and the City. (“I feel like one of those freaking hairless dogs!” Carrie complained after visiting an overzealous aesthetician.) In 2003, trendsetter Victoria Beckham declared that Brazilians should be “compulsory” starting at age 15. She may get her wish: A study of two universities, published in 2014, found that nearly half of female college students were entirely hairless and just 4 percent went fully au naturel.

Most young women I met had been removing their pubic hair—all of it—since they were about 14. They cast it as a “personal choice,” saying it made them feel “cleaner.” Yet, when I pressed further, another darker motivation emerged: avoiding humiliation. “I remember all these boys were telling stories about this girl in high school, how she kind of ‘got around,'” one young woman told me. “And people would go down there to finger her, or whatever, and there would be hair, and they were appalled…Guys act like they would be disgusted by it.”

“There’s this real sense of shame if you don’t have your genitals prepared,” agreed Debby Herbenick, an associate professor at Indiana University’s School of Public Health. Herbenick studies something called “genital self-image“—how people feel about their private parts. Women’s feelings about their genitals have been directly linked to their enjoyment of sex, she told me. In interviews with young women, she found that those who were uncomfortable with their genitalia were not only less sexually satisfied, but also more likely to engage in unprotected sex. Herbenick is concerned that young women’s genital self-image is under siege, with more pressure than ever to see their vulvae as unacceptable in their natural state. She recalled a student who started shaving after a boy announced—during one of her class discussions—that he’d never seen pubic hair on a woman in real life, and that if he came across it he’d walk out the door.

There’s no question that a bald vulva is baby smooth—some would say disturbingly so. Perhaps in the 1920s, when women first started shaving their legs and armpits, that act seemed creepily infantilizing, too, but now depilating those areas is a standard rite of passage. That early wave of hair removal was driven by flapper fashions that displayed a woman’s limbs; arms and legs were, for the first time, no longer part of the private realm. Today’s pubic hair removal could be seen the same way: We have opened our most intimate parts to unprecedented scrutiny, evaluation, commodification.

Consider: Largely as a result of the Brazilian trend, cosmetic labiaplasty, the clipping of the folds of skin that make up the vulva, has skyrocketed as well. While it’s still a small slice of overall cosmetic surgeries, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there was a 16 percent rise in the procedure between 2014 and 2015—following a 49 percent jump the previous year. Labiaplasty is rarely under­taken for sexual function or pleasure; it can actually impede both. Never mind: In 2014, Dr. Michael Edwards, the society’s president-elect, hailed the uptick as part of “an ever-evolving concept of beauty and self-confidence.” One sought-after look, incidentally, is called—wait for it—the Barbie: a clamshell-type effect, meaning the outer labia appears fused, with no visible labia minora. I trust I don’t need to remind the reader that Barbie (a) is made of plastic and (b) has no vagina.

It might be tempting to pass off my concerns as the hand-wringing of an older generation. And if all that sexiness were making for better sex, I might embrace it. Yet while young women talked about dress and dep­ilation as things they did for themselves, when they talked about actual sex, that phrase disappeared. Virtually none of the women I met had been told what (or where) a clitoris was. Sex education tends to stick with a woman’s internal parts—uteri, tubes, ovaries. Those classic diagrams of a woman’s reproductive system, the ones shaped like the head of a steer, blur into a gray Y between the legs, as if the vulva and the labia, let alone the clitoris, don’t exist. Whereas we talk about male puberty and the emergence of a near-unstoppable sex drive, female puberty is defined by…periods and the possibility of unwanted pregnancy. When do we talk to girls about desire and pleasure?

Few of the young women I met had ever had an orgasm with a partner, either, though according to one longitudinal study, the percentage of college women who fake it is on the rise, from less than half in the early 1990s to 69 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, a researcher at the University of Michigan found that when asked to talk about good sex, college men are likely to talk about pleasure while women are likely to use their partners’ satisfaction to measure their own.

It’s not surprising that young women feel powerful when they feel “hot”: It’s presented to them over and over as a precondition for success. But the truth is that “hot” tells girls that appearing sexually confident is more important than actually being confident. And because of that, as often as not the confidence that “hot” confers comes off with their clothes.

This article is adapted, in part, from Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Girls & Sex.

Link – 

Our Barbie Vaginas, Ourselves

Posted in alo, ATTRA, Everyone, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Our Barbie Vaginas, Ourselves

House Republican introduces resolution to protect … magic

House Republican introduces resolution to protect … magic

By on 15 Mar 2016commentsShare

Magic is in the air!

Along with six other House Republicans, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas introduced a resolution on Monday that recognizes “magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure.” His resolution reads like a Tumblr poem:

Whereas magic is an art form with the unique power and potential to impact the lives of all people;

Whereas magic enables people to experience the impossible;

Whereas magic is used to inspire and bring wonder and happiness to others;

Advertisement – Article continues below

Whereas magic has had a significant impact on other art forms;

Whereas magic, like the great art forms of dance, literature, theater, film, and the visual arts, allows people to experience something that transcends the written word;

It continues. And, please, try not to laugh. This is serious congressional business:

Whereas David Copperfield, introduced to magic as a boy growing up in New Jersey, has been named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress;

Whereas David Copperfield, with 21 Emmy Awards, 11 Guinness World Records, and over four billion dollars in ticket sales, has impacted every aspect of the global entertainment industry;

Whereas David Copperfield, through his magic, inspires great positive change in the lives of Americans;

Whereas people consistently leave David Copperfield’s live magic show with a different perspective than when they entered;

Whereas Rebecca Brown of Portland, Oregon, left a David Copperfield magic show with a newfound inspiration to pursue her lifelong, unfulfilled passion for dance;

Whereas three months after Rebecca Brown attended the David Copperfield magic show, she performed her first choreographed recital in Portland, Oregon’s Pioneer Square …

In addition to recognizing magic as rare and national treasure, the symbolic bill would “support efforts to make certain that magic is preserved, understood, and promulgated.” Whatever that means.

The best (worst?) part about this congressional waste-of-time is that while Sessions clearly believes in magic (and has a big ol’ crush of David Copperfield), he and his colleagues fail to recognize something that is happening right in front of their faces: climate change. Sessions has earned a 3 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters, and has voted against almost every piece of climate change and environmental legislation since 1997.

While we are unable to ascertain the validity of magic, it’s clear that magical thinking is alive and well. And Rep. Sessions, just in case you’re listening — how about a trick or two to deal with climate change? It might work better than waiting on Congress.



enable JavaScript

to view the comments.

Find this article interesting?

Donate now to support our work.Climate on the Mind

A Grist Special Series

Get Grist in your inbox

See the article here:  

House Republican introduces resolution to protect … magic

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LG, ONA, Pines, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on House Republican introduces resolution to protect … magic

Climate change hurts women. Wall Street Journal sneers.

Climate change hurts women. Wall Street Journal sneers.

Shutterstock /

Donya Nedomam

Women in the developing world, many of whom work in agriculture, are vulnerable to climate change.

Apparently the idea of girls being sold off into early marriage and women being pushed into prostitution is fucking hilarious.

Or so thinks the right-wing media machine, confronted this week with warnings about the negative ways climate change could affect women around the world.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and 11 other House Democrats, both men and women, introduced a resolution that aims to raise awareness about the vulnerability of women and girls to global warming.

From the resolution [PDF], via The Hill:

Whereas climate change exacerbates issues of scarcity and lack of accessibility to primary natural resources, forest resources, and arable land for food production, thereby contributing to increased conflict and instability, as well as the workload and stresses on women farmers, who are estimated to produce 60 to 80 percent of the food in most developing countries; …

Whereas food insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health; …

The resolution lists many other threats and goes on to encourage the president to “integrate a gender approach in all policies and programs in the United States that are globally related to climate change” and to “ensure that those policies and programs support women globally to prepare for, build resilience for, and adapt to climate change.”

Heavy stuff, right? And it’s heavy stuff that’s not often talked about. The resolution got some people in politics and the media to consider these issues for the first time.

But conservative commentators decided against spending too much time thinking about it. They jumped right to snickering about the sex references. The Wall Street Journal wrote about the resolution in a mocking piece with the headline, “Baby, It’s Warm Outside,” and the subhed, “The climate is changing. Lock up your daughters.” The first paragraph:

Is “climate change” corrupting the morals of women around the world? That’s a question nobody is asking if ever there was one, yet a dozen left-wing congressmen, led by Rep. Barbara Lee of California, are answering in the affirmative.

The Daily Caller followed right up with “Democrats: Global warming means more hookers.”

Needless to say, Lee has been unimpressed by some of the coverage, particularly by the near singular focus on sex work. She told the Los Angeles Times that “it’s unfortunate that this resolution has been misrepresented as to its goals.”

John Upton is a science aficionado and green news junkie who


, posts articles to


, and

blogs about ecology

. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:



Find this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Climate & Energy



Also in Grist

Please enable JavaScript to see recommended stories


Climate change hurts women. Wall Street Journal sneers.

Posted in Anchor, ATTRA, FF, G & F, GE, ONA, Pines, solar, solar power, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Climate change hurts women. Wall Street Journal sneers.