Herman Cain Says Having More Pizza Toppings Makes a Man More “Manly”

Add this to the ridiculous things Herman Cain has said.  In an interview in GQ, Cain says that “The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is.”  Being a “manly” man, he is also against vegetables: “A manly man don’t want it piled high with vegetables! He would call that a sissy pizza.”  Cain and his supporters (how much more of this can his alleged supporters take?) probably think he is being funny (I prefer thinking of him as a joke politician rather than a funny politician), but all that this shows is the way he feels about gender.  Does this kind of gender-stereotyping language give anyone a better feeling about Cain’s professions of innocence for the sexual harassment allegations?  Obviously not.  It again shows a base set of beliefs about the power of men over women.  For this and many other reasons, Cain should have disappeared from the national scene long before now.

Cain’s use of “manly” and “sissy” reminds me of a previous post I did on the use of the word “emasculate,” in which I argued that the usage should be eliminated.  Similarly, the tired gender-stereotyping words “manly” and “sissy” should also go away.

Feminist Father’s Day

At a panel on Women In The Media that I attended a year ago, sports columnist Christine Brennan was asked who her favorite feminist hero was. “My father,” she responded. Brennan went on to explain that her father, a Republican who voted for Goldwater and Nixon, had been her greatest inspiration and largest factor in her success as a woman in a male-dominated career. He believed women could do everything men could, and pushed his daughter to play sports with boys, and to eventually pursue a career in sports reporting and journalism.

That conversation resonated with me, and caused me to consider my father in a way I hadn’t ever previously framed him– as a feminist.

My dad and I have always been close, but he generally does not share my political viewpoints. He identifies as a moderate, sometimes a conservative, though he tends to be liberal on social issues. Living in Texas brings out some of his more conservative qualities, and he occasionally forwards me emails of what I call “Republican propaganda,” as sort of a running joke between us.

One of the greatest things about my dad is that he’s never treated me, as a daughter, any differently than my brother. My dad pushed me to be smart, to be intellectually hungry and to think outside the box. He sat around doing math problems with me for a lot of my childhood; he taught me multiplication in the 1st grade (though I was at the time a reluctant student). He told me I had the ability to do anything I wanted to do. When I wanted to play soccer, he coached me in our yard, even though I was a terrible athlete– and rubbed my sneakers before games to give them “special powers.” When I was serious about playing the viola, he’d leave work early to drive me to orchestra rehearsal and came to all my concerts. He hung up every award I ever won, academic or musical.He pep-talked me through every breakup, not to waste another ounce of my potential on somebody else. He always told me I was smart and independent, not ‘pretty’ or ‘sweet.’ He reads my blog and occasionally sends me articles I should write about– not because he’s innately drawn to gender issues, but because he supports my endeavors & believes in my ability to make a difference.

As I think about what it means to be a feminist, and what it means to strive for equality between the sexes, I know that laboring for the feminist cause itself is crucial and admirable. But some of the most important work is done by those who simply raise their children to believe that all races, ethnicities & sexes are equal. Fathers who hold daughters to the same standards as sons, and who take an active interest in pushing them to succeed– not as women, but as people.

In the past, we have asked if men can be feminists. I believe wholeheartedly that they can, even those who do not readily seek to claim the label.

Last week, as I wandered through the card aisle in Duane Reade, I realized none of the stereotypes offered by Hallmark fit my dad. All the cards were focused on sports or beer, guys’ nights, reluctant parenting, or nagging wives. That’s not what my father means to me, so…here’s this blog post instead.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, (and to so many like you).

Rabbi Bans Women From Elections

According to BBC, Chief Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of the West Bank has recently banned women from running in elections in his community. After an anonymous woman wrote to him, expressing her interest in running for Common Secretary, Rabbi Levanon said:

“The first problem is giving women authority, and being a secretary means having authority. The second problem is mixing men and women. Secretary meetings are held at night and sometimes end very late. It is not proper to be in mixed company in such situations.”

He also wrote a column in the community newspaper which suggested that ‘women must only be heard through their husbands.’

The response outside the West Bank has, fortunately, generally been negative. Even within the community of Elon Moreh, many have expressed their disapproval of the Rabbi’s ‘archaic’ beliefs. However, prominent Rabbi Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron & Kiryat Arba– largely considered to be one of the leaders of the religious Zionist movement– has expressed suport for Levanon’s position.

In fact, Rabbi Lior recently spoke out against women pursuing careers, declaring that this has led to increased teen violence. Lior also notes that a woman’s ideal position is in the home. He is spreading pamphlets of his positions– in support for Levanon’s ban on women in elections– in synagogues in the West Bank this Saturday.

Israeli women’s groups have condemned the statements of the Rabbis. They’ve requested an apology, but I seriously doubt one will come. The two Rabbis have already made it clear that their beliefs represent the Torah’s intentions– (funny, since millions of others who believe in the Torah feel differently)! These are simply two leaders, among many,  who use religion to tout sexism. In the end, it only hurts their communities.


Feminist Rebuttal to Sexist Dodge Commercial

As many of you know by now, this year’s Super Bowl featured an onslaught of sexist commercials, apparently geared towards men who feel ’emasculated’ by the women in their lives. (For more on the word ’emasculated,’ check out Mike’s previous post). One of the offenders was this Dodge commercial…”Man’s Last Stand,” which features a list of grievances that men supposedly feel while being oppressed in heterosexual relationships:

Now, as a funny rebuttal to this commercial, MacKenzie Fegan has offered this response:

Here’s an excerpt of the script:

…I will make 75 cents for every dollar you make doing the same job. I will assert myself and get called a bitch. I will catch you staring at my breasts but pretend not to notice. I will put my career on hold to raise your children. I will diet, Botox, and wax. Everything. I will assure you that size doesn’t matter…I will get angry, and you will ask if it’s that time of the month. I will watch Superbowl commercials that depict men as emasculated and depressed, and I will feel so fucking sorry for you.

Rush Limbaugh ‘loves the women’s movement’

Rush Limbaugh,  no friend to progressive thought, feminism, or intellectual discussion, told Fox News earlier today that he is “a huge supporter of women.” Limbaugh was being questioned about his role in judging the Miss America pageant, and whether or not it was “appropriate,” given the fact that he does not have a reputation of supporting women.

Denying the accusation, Limbaugh replied that he is a is a supporter of women, just not feminism. In defense of his argument, he said:

“I love the women’s movement — especially when walking behind it.”

Oh, Rush. Not that I expected anything more constructive or intelligent from the man who also said that feminism “was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.” It seems that for Limbaugh, the only noteworthy characteristic a women can have is based on her looks.

Although to be fair, his comment isn’t entirely incongruous with the purpose of the Miss America pageant. I’d love to hear an argument that posits that Miss America, Miss Universe, and the like are productive at much else besides objectifying and reinforcing harmful beauty standards. Yes, they provide scholarships, but these scholarships are awarded based on physical characteristics, which only reinforces the concept that women should be judged and rewarded based on beauty. In fact, I believe Rush is exactly the type of audience these pageants are designed for– people who see women as little other than beautiful objects or poised dolls. Swimsuit and gown competitions serve to titillate, and question-and-answer sessions are a source of ridicule. The whole production reeks of pre-feminism gender standards. Not to mention the scary child pageantry spin-off reality shows like Toddlers & Tiaras or Little Miss Perfect.

Rush’s comment is just one more in a long list of examples of the dysfunctional valuing of women in society.

Don’t Be A Girl– Buy the Droid!

My dad, ever the technologically savvy geekster, forwarded me this article about the ‘masculine’ advertisement campaign for the new Droid phone– the latest and greatest smartphone from Verizon that should encroach on sales of the iPhone and Blackberry. “Do you think this would be good for your blog?” he wrote me.

The ad campaign for the Droid is basically a set of stereotypes about femininity and “cluelessness,” and the Droid’s violent opposition to those qualities.  

“Should a phone be pretty? Should it be a tiara-wearing digitally-clueless beauty pageant queen? Or should it be fast? Racehorse-duct-taped-to-a-Scud-missile fast? We say the latter. So we built the phone that does. Does rip through the Web like a circular saw through a ripe banana. Is it a precious porcelain figurine of a phone? No. It’s not a princess. It’s a robot. A phone that trades hair-do for can-do.

This is the sort of thing that reminds me of what the all-male ad execs would come up with during Mad Men. It’s a complete smack-down on perceived femininity, and it posits that feminine qualities are completely incongruous with intelligence, speed, or productivity.

This is essentially a microcosm of a fairly prevalent problem in society. Women are supposed to be pretty, they’re supposed to be ‘feminine,’ they’re supposed to be princesses. But society simultaneously abhors these characteristics. Throw in any “dumb blonde” stereotype juxtaposed with  the stereotype of a trophy wife, or Disney princess, or other unattainable beauty standards, and you’ve got a completely schizophrenic picture of what it means to be a woman. You’re told you have to be pretty, or you’ll never become a wife or mother; but you’re told you’re not smart or a productive member of society if you’re a ‘beauty queen.’

Additionally, this type of hyper-masculinity is what leads to the pervasive LGBTQ inequalities in society. Check out the scene where a man throws stuff pretty violently at some male mannequins dressed up in ‘effeminate’ fashionable clothes.

I realize this is “just a commercial.” But it’s a commercial with a clear purpose and an outlined campaign that reflects serious problems imbedded in society. And check out the tone– it’s just mean.

Style over substance is one thing– but calling users of iPhones prisses or sissies is just plain offensive. Not necessarily to the average iPhone-user. But to people whose lives are consistently negatively affected by gender nonconformity or gender inequities.

“The World has Curves”

This book has been out for a while, but I saw a review today.  Julia Savacool wrote “The World Has Curves: The Global Quest for the Perfect Body.”  The review starts with:  World Has Curves

When journalist Julia Savacool asked women from around the world to describe their ideal body, diverging portraits emerged — from a curvy, Coca-Cola bottle silhouette in Jamaica to a linear, kimono shape in Japan. But universally, she found , women’s bodies are economic and social indicators.

The book talks about how the looks of women’s bodies have different meanings depending on the cultural.  For instance, ” thinness typically signals wealth in overweight America, [but] it’s synonymous with sickness and poverty in AIDS-ravaged South Africa.”  And “Western physical ‘ideals’ are constantly being exported by way of beauty products and the images of slim American TV stars” so, that, for example, “strict communist dress codes have given way to a culture in which cosmetic surgery is one of the fastest-growing industries.”

It doesn’t sound as if there are any new insights there.  But I wonder if there is anything comparable for the meaning of body shape for men.  For instance, isn’t being “thin” and being “fat” valued differently for men in certain cultures?  I wonder what the “quest for the perfect body” is for men.  When I read men’s health magazines, all I see if being thin and fit.