“It’s not because [Palin and Bachmann] have breasts, it’s because they are boobs”

I always have a problem with Bill Maher.  I almost always agree with what he says.  And I thought his movie “Religulous” was hilarious.  But I don’t like his “style” as a comedian and he sometimes is unnecessarily “anti” particular individuals.  And his comments on women sometimes (often?) sound sexist.

But, on his HBO show this past Friday, he got it right about sexism.  His “New Rule” was that Republicans have to stop making up “intricate psychological reasons” for why liberals don’t like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.  His (correct) answer was that the reason is because they are “crazy people” and are “not that bright and are full of awful ideas.”  He summarized by saying that “”it’s not because they have breasts, it’s because they are boobs.”

It got better.  He (obviously correctly) stated that it’s not sexist to point out how terrible Palin and Bachmann are, but that it is sexist for the main stream media to plaster their papers and magazines with Palin and Bachmann while providing far less coverage of not so “pretty” people, such as Tim Pawlenty, who have at least some reasonable things to say (if you can ever say that any Republican has anything reasonable to say).  Maher showed six Newsweek covers of Palin and, then, in a great moment for atheists like me, said: “If you want to know where most of this nation’s sexism is really coming from, you don’t have to look any further than the one person who makes the cover of Newsweek more often than Sarah Palin”–and then showed Newsweek covers that have had Jesus on then.

He correctly pointed out that “in America, you’re allowed to justify almost any kind of bigotry, sexism or intolerance if you source it” to “God” or some kind of so-called “holy” book.  I couldn’t agree more.  And, as an example of that, the response by his audience when the Newsweek Jesus covers were shown shows the fear that Americans have of criticizing religion.  The audience, almost surely a vastly liberal audience, was almost silent when the Jesus covers were shown, save for a few nervous laughs.

When people like Palin and Bachmann are harmfully wrong, they deserve to be criticized–if not actually ignored.  The same should go for anyone hiding behind–and espousing– the ignorance of religion.

Here is the clip.

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Sexist Music Videos?: Silversun Pickups vs. Robert Palmer

I’m only about a year behind the times on this, but, when I was in my health club last week, some TVs were showing the video for the Silversun Pickups’ “Substitution” song.  It’s the video where the group is playing and, on the floor in front of them are eight short-skirted, low-cut, high-heel-wearing women playing a game of musical chairs.  Almost immediately, I wondered “Isn’t this offensive?”

But a google search didn’t seem to uncover much concern about the video.  I don’t really understand.  Obviously, there are tons of music videos that are sexist, but that doesn’t stop the occasional outrage about particular ones.  (Or is it only political videos like M.I.A.’s “Born Free” or Katy Perry wearing a “cleavage-baring” dress on Sesame Street that bring on the outrage?)

The Silversun Pickups’ video seems pretty similar to me to the old Robert Palmer “Addicted to Love” video.  The attire is similar, they all have on their “game faces,” they have no relation to the lyrics.  But “Addicted to Love” was the object of much outrage about sexism — and “Substitution” apparently is not.

Can anyone tell me why there was criticism of Robert Palmer but not of the Silversun Pickups?  What’s the difference?

Spirit Airlines Ad Objectifies Women, Mocks Oil Spill

Via Jezebel:

Today Spirit Airlines came out with this advertisement for coastal flights, featuring a greased-up woman in a bikini, with the header: “Check Out The Oil On Our Beaches.”

This ad is particularly tacky for multiple reasons– exploiting women as well as the oil crisis. This time, it’s not just the feminists who are upset. Spirit received so many complaints, it took down the ad and posted this apology on its site:

It is unfortunate that some have misunderstood our intention with today’s beach promotion.  We are merely addressing the false perception that we have oil on our beaches, and we are encouraging customers to support Florida and our other beach destinations by continuing to travel to these vacation hot spots.

I guess it’s really too much to expect from a company whose previous ad campaigns featured a game of “digging for Jimmy Hoffa” as well as the following tag line: We’re No Virgin! We’ve Been Cheap and Easy For Years!

What are your thoughts on this ad?

‘Week After Pill’ Approved

An FDA advisory panel has officially approved Ella, the newest version of emergency contraception. Dubbed the “week after pill,” the drug works similarly to Plan B, but extends the window of effectiveness to up to 5 days after unprotected sex (Plan B currently protects only up to 72 hours). Furthermore, Plan B decreases in effectiveness after the first 24 hours, while Ella’s effectiveness remains the same, whether taken 1 day after sex or 5.

Rates of pregnancy in Plan B users are very low, at 2.8%. But Ella’s are even lower, at 1.8%. And there are few side effects associated with the pill– the only one found in trials has been ‘dizziness’. It’s been found safe, reliable, and effective.

So what’s the problem? Well, anti-abortion rights advocates are fighting against the approval of the drug, insisting that it’s actually an abortion pill. The president of the anti-feminist group Concerned Women of America stated that Ella is “an unsafe abortion pill that men might slip to unsuspecting women.” Although the notion of that occurring is awful, this argument is clearly a cheap ploy to stop the distribution of the drug, while pretending to be concerned about women’s autonomy. The argument also has little legitimacy since the drug would only be available with a prescription, and it’s not even an abortion pill.

The chemical used in both is similar, but the effects are completely different. Ella works primarily by delaying ovulation. Additionally, the approving doctors noted that the drug showed little evidence of disrupting existing pregnancies, already attached to the uterine wall.

Ella could be particularly helpful in cases of rape or sexual assault, where a 72 hour window may be too small for a victim to seek emergency contraception. As this NYT article points out, in the United States, “more than 25,000 [women] become pregnant every year after being sexually assaulted.” Having to deal with the serious emotional consequences, along with navigating the legal system, may leave a rape victim with little time to access Plan B within 3 days.

I fully support increasing all women’s access to reproductive rights services, giving more women the power to control their own bodies. Ella seems to be a promising new option.

PETA Strikes Again

Did Southwest Airlines ban this PETA ad because of its racy nature, or because of its pro-vegan message?

Southwest reports that the ad was rejected from publication in their magazine, Spirit, because it is “too provocative to run.” PETA, however, claims that this advertisement is no sexier than other ads Southwest accepts– and that Southwest’s motivations lie in the fact that their base is in Dallas, “the heart of the beef belt.”

I’m not sure why Southwest decided to reject the ad, but I’m glad they did. Once again, PETA tries to capitalize on the male gaze and anonymous, sexualized bodies of women to sell their point. Not only that, its specifically addressing the airport body scan controversy, an issue that many people, particularly women, have felt is an attack on privacy, because it gives others permission to images of their nearly nude bodies.

I don’t personally have a problem with TSA body scans, but I do have a problem with PETA’s message. That is: the motivation for a woman to go vegan or vegetarian should be to look more attractive to men. It’s similar to a weight loss ad Mike posted about a few weeks ago. Men can go vegan because they want to be healthy and oppose animal cruelty; women should go vegan so that they no longer have to be ashamed of their fat, ugly bodies.

In fact, I think that’s the way PETA normally frames the argument. It’s why they select mainstream attractive, frequently petite, white women for all their ads. You want to look sexy like the women in the ads? Go vegan. Want to get men to like you? Go vegetarian! It’s no different from the way any corporation runs their fashion or cosmetic advertising, but it’s even more sexualized and offensive, particularly because PETA thinks of itself as a social justice organization. Pro-animal, but not pro-woman.

I’m not a vegetarian, but a lot of feminists are. Yet it’s no wonder that most feminists hate PETA. PETA is an extreme organization that relies on sexism and racism to try to get people to stop eating animals. What could have been an allied relationship between two groups supposedly concerned about rights, just feels like a constant battle. Furthermore, PETA is overly concerned with this idea of “Speciesism“– the notion that humans are superior to animals. I’m not even going to bother comment on the merit of that concern in general, but it’s obvious to me that PETA is a speciesist, too. Animals, they think, are deserving of autonomy and rights. But women exist for the purpose of beauty and marketing.


Bristol Palin’s New Ad

I found this new PSA, featuring Bristol Palin on Feministing this morning. The PSA’s message is brief:

What if I didn’t come from a famous family? What if I didn’t have all their support? What if I didn’t have all these opportunities? Believe me, it wouldn’t be pretty. Pause before you play.

Feministing posted a scathing review of it, writing that the commercial’s message is:

“Apparently you should keep your legs crossed if you’re poor, don’t have family support, or are not a celebrity. What a despicable, classist approach.”

I’m not so sure I agree. It seems to be a bold move for Palin to highlight her own privilege in the scenario. Since news came of her pregnancy, the media circuit has helped glorify this affluent, famous white woman for “choosing life.” I even wrote a few months ago that Palin’s life circumstances made her choice much easier than for many women, and she had no right to use her experiences to speak to all unplanned pregnancies.

I think it’s pretty wrong to assume the message of this ad is to go ahead and have unprotected sex if you’re rich. I don’t think this ad applauds Palin’s behavior while shaming poorer women– at least that’s not its point. What I think it means to do is break down the privilege Bristol has that has contributed to the cheery depiction of her teenage motherhood. Strip all the sunny media coverage away, and the reality of being a teenage mother, especially with fewer resources and support, is much different. And there’s nothing wrong in acknowledging that.

The thing I don’t like about the ad is it seems to focus on abstinence, though that’s not entirely clear. The Candie’s Foundation does support abstinence-only initiatives, but the ad isn’t so hard-hitting on that message. On the Candie’s website, the group highlights that “Pause before you Play” can mean a variety of things:

pause to think about your future; pause to think about consequences; pause to evaluate your relationship; pause to delay sex; pause to get a condom; pause to ask “why now?”

“Pause to get a condom” signifies a safer sex approach, not strictly bullheaded abstinence-only propaganda. If I got picky, I’d say I would appreciate some comprehensive sex ed facts in the ad, as well as facts about what leaves single mothers trapped in working poverty. But for 27 seconds, this PSA doesn’t do such a bad job.

Health Reform Bill Restores $250 Million for Abstinence-only Programs

Unbelievable.  Somehow, the final health reform bill restored $250 million over five years for states to sponsor abstinence-only programs.  This came about even though President Obama’s first two budgets had pulled all federal funding from those programs.

Repeatedly, studies have shown that abstinence-only education is ineffective.  And the numbers of births, pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among U.S. teens have begun increasing after falling for more than a decade.  As Emily wrote previously, “abstinence-only is just that– it leaves no room for information about being safe and healthy and sexually active. My theory is: Sex is eventually going to happen, and when it does, I believe that the important question to answer is: will people be equipped with the proper knowledge to make the healthiest choices?”

It is outrageous what the bill says about abortion.  To sneak in this provision about abstinence-only funding is also outrageous.  As is obvious, items of interest to women were trampled in the health care legislation.