Archive | December, 2011

Newsflash: Republican chubby schlub calls Michelle Obama a “fat ass”

23 Dec

Despite the fact that this newsflash is so outrageously stupid that it shouldn’t even be commented on, I still would like to make a few points.

Look at the Jezebel cite, which also provides the initial leak:

Next, let’s take a look at the participants:











Above is the Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner….no words need to be added here.

Below is Michelle Obama:
















Whatever your politics, the objective description here remains that Michelle Obama is NOT fat, Sensenbrenner is; Michelle Obama is NOT ugly, Sensenbrenner is.

But, like Jezebel asserts, it absolutely does not matter what Mrs. Obama looks like. Yes, the whole thing is too stupid, but, the scandalĀ  directly draws attention to the momentously obtuse, contradictory, and chauvinistic standards of beauty and ways of looking at women that still influence opinions, opportunities, and ideologies in the U.S.

Hypothetically, the ugliest, fattest and stupidest man in America feels completely obliged and free to critique any and every woman he comes across.

Several months ago at the wine bar I worked in, I waited on three middle-aged, objectively unattractive white men. As they continued to relax and drink, their conversation became free enough that they felt no compunction about discussing their views on female beauty. I cleared their wine glasses as one man referred to a “2 a. m. date”: i.e. a woman you would never collude with during business or early evening hours; i.i.e.e. she was “ugly.”

This structure of evaluation, wherein the average woman is relentlessly scrutinized by all (including herself), does not transfer over into an equally shrill, hateful, dated, patriarchal, myopic structure of evaluation of the male.

Yes, this whole newsflash is ridiculous, but that does not mean that the attitudes underneath it should not be called out and decimated.



The dangers of protesting while female

22 Dec

In the midst of the continuing protests rollicking Egypt, several female protesters this weekend were singled out by the military police, and were violently and sexually harassed. One woman’s plight, in particular, has shocked people within and outside of Egypt. Beaten repeatedly, stripped of her abaya, and left half-dressed on the street, the woman’s experience has shaken both the protest movement and the military government.

The vibrant blue bra worn by the beaten woman has provoked an enormous array of contradictory responses. Some men were reported as suggesting that, perhaps she desired the attention–violent or otherwise–given her decision to wear such attention-getting undergarments. Others have used the occasion to opine that, had she stayed at home with her father or husband, such things would not have happened.

The Egyptian female response to the incident has seemingly triggered a more coherent response. Thousands of women have descended on Tahrir Square in the past few days, combining to produce the largest collection of female demonstrators and dissenters in the contemporary history of the Egyptian nation. Rather than convince politically and culturally dissatisfied women to stay home, the violent, degradingĀ  and humiliating sexual assault has instead encouraged women of all stripes to join in the otherwise generally male protest movement that continues to threaten the fragile detente between the current Egyptian military government and the people.

Further, this particular image strikes a series of chords connected to personal feelings, cultural customs, and religious traditions situated within Egyptian history in a much more unstable and complicated way than the focus on the Tahrir Square protests would suggest.

The wearing of the veil carries connotations of choice, freedom, restriction, unknowability, autonomy, desirability, chauvinism, orientalism, feminism…I could go on. The point is: the veil’s meanings remain extraordinarily contradictory, complex, and opaque.

An image of a woman protesting: in a veil: stripped down to an electric blue bra: all these singularities themselves carry very strong waves of connotations; the combination they produce together is overwhelming in its capacity to mean so many different things to so many different people.

For the moment, it must be enough to think on the women in the square–angry, in solidarity, and unafraid.

When buried alive, an engagement ring can serve as a useful tool

21 Dec

Michelina Lewandowska and her boyfriend moved from Poland to Britain several years ago. But now, engaged and with a small son, the boyfriend decided he wanted her out. So, one day he tasered Michelina, shoved her in a box, and buried her–leaving a large tree branch on top of the shallow grave for good measure.

Lewandowska, upon awaking and finding herself buried alive, thought fast and used the only tool she possessed: her engagement ring. Using the ring’s edges, she sliced through the tape binding her ankles; using the ring’s convex grooves, she dug her way through the dirt and up to the wood’s open air.

Though Lewandowska and her boyfriend had previously broken up, she continued to wear her engagement ring. Perhaps it symbolized hope, a vague future of possibility, or an end-route in which she had no way out. Well, it turns out that pesky symbol possessed something she truly needed: a weapon for survival.

The politics of marriage

3 Dec

When asked to speculate about the recent historic State visit to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that it was too soon to tell, likening the visit to a “first date, not a marriage.” Such a description is a striking turn of phrase to use, particularly given Clinton’s own famous marriage and its ups-and-downs. Ironically, perhaps the relationship with Burma could best be described as a lengthy dysfunctional marriage, full of withholding, abuse, and tyranny.

Clinton’s meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi took on a very different tone and feeling, however. Indeed, the photos of the women’s two meetings depict a high level of intimacy, understanding, and rapport. Clinton described their first meeting as an encounter possessing immediate connection and emotional affinity.

She spoke of her deep respect and admiration for the long-standing and long-suffering populist figurehead. The women appear to be in the midst of a conversation that began at their first meeting, and will continue indefinitely.

Clinton’s visits with both the official leaders of Mynamar and the long oppressed Burmese freedom fighter suggest a kind of political strategic schizophrenia in approach however, rendering Clinton into a kind of polygamous figure in the meetings. To return to her description of the “first date”: while the meeting with Myanmar’s self-ordained leaders might not lead to marriage, her meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi appears to contain possibilities exceeding those of marriage.