Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Warning: this post is about my boobs. If this makes you, don't read it.

Zadie loves my breasts. Really, really loves them. I don't mean just that she loves nursing and shows no signs of being anywhere near ready to wean (though Clare self-weaned without regrets just after a year). I mean, she loves my "mammies." She named them. She pats them. She plays peekaboo with them. She pounces on them like a duck on a junebug, joyfully with abandon and utter shameless enjoyment. She occasionally gives them thank-you kisses after breastfeeding. Sometimes she says "thank you" to them. To them, not me; I'm not sure that she believes they're a part of me, but more like entities in their own right. She. Loves. MyHer. Mammies.

It's a little disconcerting, even for me.

But also? It's awesome.

Because I, too, love my breasts. Remember how Annie Potts in Pretty in Pink exclaimed, "I did! I LOVED my BUTT!" Yeah. That's how I feel. I love'em. They rock.

I did a thing recently for LoveBoldly where I talked about the ongoing process of learning to love my body. There, I talked about first learning to love my sexy body--learning to accept that sexuality was a part of who I am, but also, learning to see my body as sexy, a process which required seeing myself through the relocated gaze of a lover's eyes. And I talked about learning to love my postpartum body, not an easy thing in this culture which teaches us that it's great to have a baby but for goodness sake, don't look like you just did. Part of that is remembering this body is also sexy, and again, that means learning to see my body refracted through the appreciation of another. But sex is not the whole story here, and even within the context of a committed and loving relationship, seeing your body solely as desirable in that single way is to limit yourself and your notions of who you are and what your body is.

So part of this ongoingness is learning to love my breasts in a whole new way, in light of my daughter's fervent love of them.

It's partly analogous to the way that sports teach you to love your body for what it can do. I love my breasts in the same way that I love the strength of my maternal arms that pick up, carry, swing around, support and roughhouse all day long. I love my breasts the same way I love the way my legs can propel me around the park strong behind the new jogging stroller. I love them for what they do. It's what I learned in giving birth to both my kids "naturally"--I love what my body can do.

But neither is this the whole story, and this is my new discovery. From my perspective it's easy to love the nurturing milkmaking function of this body. But Zadie's appreciation goes far beyond the instrumental. And it's teaching me to pay attention to the ways that her love of my body is mirrored in the way I adore hers, and Clare's--not for what they can do, or because they're the cutest kids on the planet, but because they are who they are. I love their toes, their "belly-bees," their amazing blue eyes, the funny wispy baby hair, their snaggleteeth, their dimples, their stinky baby butts when I change their diapers. Because in loving all these things I am simply loving them. There's no separating the body from the person.

So, I love my mammies. Without reserve or qualification. Now, to work on the rest of me: the yucky feet, the growing collection of kitchen clumsiness scars, the spider veins, the stretch marks. This is me. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

my first review!


the Girl Power playlist

The Girl Power playlist keeps evolving. The original playlist was TKP's idea, a couple years ago, a gift of sorts to me and a couple other awesome women who, like anyone I suppose, occasionally need reminders of our powerfulness. I've been tinkering with my version of the original playlist ever since. And in case you would like an audial reminder of your awesomeness and powerfulness, here it is.

Just as a warning...some of my selections are a little, um, idiosyncratic. And not all of them are in any way "feminist." A couple of them may even seem anti-feminist, and indeed might be, in isolation. I enjoy irony. I also believe that empowerment is not simple or universal, and looks different for different people and in different situations. So I'll understand if you don't find "Bertha Butt Boogie" empowering (though I love the Butt Sistahs). Or, "Enormous Penis." For the record, I owe my baby sis for that one. Actually, for both of those. (Wow, she is one twisted powerful woman.) And I'd be happy to have a serious convo about some of the complicated things that this might raise, or...not.

I also am adding a disclaimer as to the, um, musical quality of certain selections...

I'd also love your suggestions! Share the power!!!

Amendment, Ani DiFranco
Superwoman, Alicia Keys
Tightrope, Janelle Monae
Happy Home (Keep On Writing), Kimya Dawson
Gorilla Girl, The Dead Milkmen
Not a Pretty Girl, Ani DiFranco
Bertha Butt Boogie, The Jimmy Castor Bunch
Respect Yourself, The Staple Singers
Sincerely Jane, Janelle Monae
You Don't Own Me, Lesley Gore
I Am the Best, 2NE1
She Works Hard for the Money, Donna Summer
Gonna Be an Engineer, Peggy Seeger
Smoothie, Kimya Dawson
Cold War, Janelle Monae
Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You), Kelly Clarkson
Which Side Are You On?, Ani DiFranco
Come Alive (War of the Roses), Janelle Monae
Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves, Aretha Franklin/Eurythmics
I'm a Lady, Santigold
Ladies of the World, Flight of the Conchords
Little Green, Joni Mitchell
If Yr Not, Ani DiFranco
Zoo, Ani DiFranco
Enormous Penis, Da Vinci's Notebook

Thursday, January 10, 2013

is this modest?

"Where is the line that separates modest from immodest? — We're wondering that too."
Awesome. I'm so glad someone is tackling this deep and important problem, because women and girls need to understand their culpability in men's lustful desires and, unfortunately, even violent acting upon those desires. You can't blame a guy for raping you if you flashed your cleavage at him. Right? They can't help themselves, we all know that.

So, I really think we could use a jazzier tagline for this website. Something like, "because men don't have a rape problem, women have a modesty problem." I'm happy to take your suggestions...and won't it feel good to know that you too have contributed to the important project to making women's bodies the collective property of the male gaze all over again? Let's make Jesus smile! Just not at your boobs, please, ladies. Remember, he's a man too.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

monster high

I'm a HUGE fan of Melissa Atkins Wardy of Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies (there's even a widget in the sidebar; if you have kids, check out her really marvelous lines of kid-affirming, gender-stereotype-defying apparel!) and recently she posted a link to this article, about a new doll from a London-based company which (gasp!) decided to make a doll for girls that looked like, um, girls. They even went so far as to (oh my stars and be still my beating heart) "consult with academics" regarding the proportions of an average healthy 9-year-old. So these dolls don't have "breasts or super-skinny waists." Because, you see, your average healthy 9-year-old isn't (brace yourselves, now) proportioned like Barbie. (!!!)

Brava! Brava! Let's see more of this, thank you! Even if I'd like to nitpick on the details, I will absolutely applaud the impulse that says yes, marketing something other than childhood sexualization is a good idea, for companies, for girls, for boys, for parents, for the making of a better world, for everyone, all around.


The end of the article, as Melissa pointed out, seems to take a weird turn. After celebrating this company for its deliberate attention to the issues of early childhood sexualization, the last two paragraphs turn to a spokesperson for the Canadian Toy Association who also happens to be VP of marketing for the folks who make Bratz:
"More traditional companies also think about self-image and have created alternative dolls, said Laura Wiese, spokesperson for the Canadian Toy Association. She pointed to ones that don’t resemble humans, including Monster High and Lalaloopsy dolls. 
“There’s a fine line between associating dolls and girls’ body images, we have to be careful,” said Wiese, who is also vice-president of marketing at MGA Entertainment Canada, which makes popular dolls including Bratz."
Here's the line that gets my attention, as an academic who does posthuman stuff: "She pointed to ones that don't resemble humans, including Monster High."

I'm sorry, what? The companies that have thought about self-image and body-image issues and early childhood sexualization have created alternative dolls, for example, MONSTER HIGH?!

Yeah, that doll bears absolutely no resemblance AT ALL to a sexualized human being, right. No one would ever call this a Monster-ILF or anything.

Here's what I wrote on Melissa's discussion thread:
Re the last 2 paragraphs--I think I just caught Claire McCaskill's whiplash. Monster High? What? I mean, I'd agree that they don't actually resemble human bodies--actual healthy human bodies. But to claim that as an intentional alternative to "traditional dolls?" Pure BS. As someone who actually theorizes on the monstrous/posthuman in an academic context...Monster High is the perfect example of the ambivalence of such figures. They have the potential to be subversive, but that potential can be unrealized and the power of the figures co-opted back into reinforcing the status quo. And that's exactly what the Monster High dolls are: there is no subversion of gender norms there, only reinforcement of them.
Monster High isn't posthuman in any sort of feminist sense. It is simply MILF with zombie makeup and platform heels. (The perfect companion, really, to the hyper-masculine Terminator-type posthuman with the blazing guns and bulging steel muscles and underdeveloped emotions; uber-feminine and passive and alluring but with the perfect waif-like paleness that says, I don't have the strength to resist you.)


Give me a monster doll that defies conventional norms of beauty, femininity, passivity, weakness, submission, sexuality--and then, maybe, we'll have a posthuman figure that can serve as an alternative doll to Barbie. But a Bratz doll in zombie makeup? That's just bullshit.