It’s only one day into the Olympics and I’m already feeling put off by the sexism female athletes still face as they compete  in the games.

First, it was the revelation that many countries were flying their male athletes first class while the women’s teams (even those with much more success in their respective sports) flew economy.

Second, Australian newspapers decided to focus on the weight, rather than amazing Olympic career, of swimmer Leisel Jones. Thus reminding us, as Chloe at Feministing points out,

that no matter how accomplished a woman is, no matter how talented, how skilled, how strong, how tenacious, how gutsy, she is not exempt from the rules of modern femininity. Not even during the Olympic Games. She has to be skinny and beautiful before she can be recognized for being any of those other things, and if she isn’t skinny and beautiful, we’ll ignore her guts and tenacity and talent and dedication and waste our time debating whether or not she’s gained weight during the twelve years she’s been in the public eye.

And today I read an article in the LA Times about how Hope Solo, goal keeper for the U.S. women’s soccer team, is in a “catfight” with Brandi Chastain on Twitter over comments Chastain made while broadcasting the U.S.-Colombia match. Because when a woman expresses an opinion involving another woman they are like screeching cats. While the sexist term “catfight” does not appear in the article, it not-so-well hidden in the URL.

Who doesn’t love a good catfight? Erin Gloria Ryan dares to pose this question over at Jezebel in her post, “America Loves a Crying Gymnast.”

America loves a crying gymnast because a crying gymnast cries because she’s beaten someone, or lost to someone, another girl who is probably also crying. They’re the end result of a female-female rivalry — who doesn’t love a good catfight? — and the media loves to manufacture catfights even where they don’t necessarily exist.

Let’s hope this list doesn’t just continue to grow as we get deeper into the Games (it will). After all, this is the first Olympics in which women are represented on every team and the U.S. team consists of more men than women. Let’s cover them as athletes, rather than lady athletes, mmmkay?
UPDATE (7.30.12): Check out this great piece by Meg Heery about sexism in the Olympic coverage: London 2012, Day 2: Women Win, Not Unicorns. It reminded me of the finding that female athletes’ successes are attributed to luck, while male athletes’ successes are attributed to skill by the commentators.

What have you noticed about the Olympics coverage?

I wanted to share an example with you of what I was referring to in my previous post, where people brag about fitting into smaller sized jeans. This example showed up on my friend’s Facebook page two days after Love Your Body Day (with names and faces blocked for confidentiality):

This friend of mine has an eating disorder. We’ve known each other since we were very young and I’ve watched her struggle with it for more than a decade. So to see her ‘friends’ uniformly praising her for losing weight is quite upsetting, though not surprising. Isn’t there one of them who knows, deep down, that her thinness is not a sign that she is more healthy? Isn’t there one of them concerned for her health? Not one who chimes in to tell her she is a beautiful person no matter her size?

In contrast I’d like to share this article that encourages you to think twice before praising someone for weight loss.

So when we actively and publicly praise someone for his or her weight loss (especially young women/girls), are we praising someone for a healthy and balanced approach to living or someone who is facing a critical, mental health crisis? Are we mistakenly encouraging someone to continue a process that has allowed them to lose weight, a process that will, if gone unchecked, lead to their death?

So will you be the dissenting voice on the Facebook thread that chimes in with something other than praise for pounds shed? You may be surprised at the reaction you get (not always positive). But perhaps you’ll awaken someone else who is in the habit of affirming problematic, even dangerous, behavior. It’s fast and easy to click “like” or to chime in with the crowd. But consider what you’re affirming and whether it’s what you value most about your friend.

Today is NOW’s Love Your Body Day. Check out some great posts in their blog carnival here.

In honor of LYBD, I’m reflecting on how lucky I am to truly love my body. I was never one to stare at myself naked in the mirror and pick apart my flaws. But I’ve stood next to friends countless times who have done that. They grab on to a fold of skin or point to a blemish and then they say something about its ugliness. These same friends brag about squeezing into their size X jeans again or waking up before dawn to torture themselves in a boot camp.

To be honest, I don’t know why I’ve never been overly concerned about my body. I think it must come, in part, from the unconditional acceptance I received from my parents. After a dance concert in sixth grade, I overheard my friend’s mom ask her why her stomach wasn’t flat like X’s. At the time I remember feeling mortified for her, but also knowing that I would never hear such criticism from my own mom. As an adult, my mom told me that she was always very conscious of what she said to me with regard to my appearance, knowing that any one comment could stick with me for years.

My comfort in my body must also come from being taught to be a critical consumer of media. For as long as I can remember I have known that the images I see in magazines or advertisements weren’t what women actually looked like. I can’t remember looking at my Barbies or teen magazines and wishing I looked like someone else. My mom explained to me at a young age that trends changed frequently so that people would go out and spend money. I never felt much desire to keep up with the latest fashion and instead looked for clothes that I felt comfortable in.

I attribute my appreciation for my body in great part to playing sports. I have always participated in team sports. As an only child, being part of a team taught me the ups and downs of relying on others and required me to spend a lot of time with other girls my age. Playing sports taught me the frustration of losing, and they helped me learn to cope with unfairness and team politics. They also taught me confidence in my abilities and awe in what my body could do. When I was 12 or 13, I came within one pitch of pitching a no-hitter. I was a leader on the field and my body performed when I needed it to. Research shows that sports can be a mixed bag for girls when it comes to body image. The Girl Scout Research Institute finds “The more physically active girls are, the greater their self-esteem and the more satisfied they are with their weight, regardless of how much they weigh. Eighty-three percent of very active girls say that physical activity makes them feel good about themselves.” On the other hand, many girls refuse to participate in sports because “they do not feel skilled or competent (40%) or because they do not think their bodies look good (23%)”. I am fortunate that neither of those last two reasons prevented me from playing sports.

And finally, my body acceptance obviously comes from a place of great privilege. I am able-bodied and of more-or-less average size. I grew up seeing people that looked like me (fair skinned, blonde hair) in the media, so I was not made to feel that the way I looked was undesirable. My parents could afford league fees for recreational softball teams, and when I was older, travel teams that played year-round. I have decent health care that allows me to care for my body when it is sick and practice preventative care when it’s not.

I am deeply thankful that I can look at my body non-judgmentally. I am thankful that my body gets me where I want to go. It tells me when it needs something. I strive to listen to my body.  I feel strong. I am grateful.

In honor of LYBD, I want to share ‘Phenomenal Woman‘ by Maya Angelou.

University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team won their 89th straight NCAA game last night, breaking John Wooden’s UCLA men’s streak of 88 games from 37 years ago. Congratulations to these world class athletes. Your hard work and dedication is inspiring. Here’s to other teams being compared to you (instead of vice versa) for a while.

My first question is, had you heard about it?

The sports columnist for my local paper wants to assure you that the reason this story isn’t getting much press has nothing to do with sexism or misogyny, but rather, apathy.

Geno Auriemma imagines an enemy that doesn’t exist. Running short of worthy opponents, Connecticut’s all-conquering women’s basketball coach has constructed a straw chauvinist, a mythological misogynist who can’t bear the thought of females surpassing the record winning streak of John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins.

Frankly, your typical testosterone-laden troglodyte is not threatened by UConn’s success because it has barely registered on his brain. He was not ‘having a heart attack,’ as Auriemma put it Saturday, ‘because a bunch of women are threatening to break a men’s record,’ nor did he wail or gnash his teeth when that threat was carried out Tuesday night in Connecticut’s 93-62 thumping of Florida State.

Neanderthal Man is not angry, agitated or anxious. What he is, at his primal core, is apathetic.

Mr. Sullivan admits that it’s a pity that sports fans are uninterested in the Huskies’ accomplishments, but he defends their right to be indifferent. But how can he explain the media’s lack of coverage of this very newsworthy event? Where he goes wrong is his inability to make the connection between apathy (or anger, even though he denies it’s there) and the gender of the athletes. That’s sexism. It’s so ingrained in him that he can’t even see it.

Imagine for a moment that you have a son and a daughter who are both talented musicians. They perform concerts on separate days and the local newspaper only covers your son’s concert. Would you tell your daughter not to worry, that people aren’t angry with her musical talents (or the fact that she’s better than her brother), they just don’t care about girls’ accomplishments. Is this an explanation you would expect your daughter to understand?

Does my example seem far fetched and exaggerated? Tell that to Alissa Johnson, one of the US’s top five women ski jumpers who was forced to attend this year’s Olympics in support of her brother rather than as an athlete, because there is no women’s team. The women ski jumpers were not allowed to compete in this year’s Olympics, despite the fact that the record for the longest jump is held by a woman, Lindsey Van. The gatekeepers, usually men (in this case the IOC), are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy with regard to women’s sports.

As veteran jumper Jessica Jerome, 23, of Park City points out, without being in the Olympics, it’s tough to develop to the level that the IOC seems to want of her sport. “People don’t understand the seriousness of a World Cup title, or a World Championship medal; they just want to see people at the Olympics. So without the Olympics, you’re not going to get the funding. You’re not going to get the support,” she says. “It’s a catch-22.”

The fact is that there are many men, sports reporters even, who feel very threatened by the accomplishments of women athletes. David Whitley of FanHouse wrote:

“Rule No. 1 in determining whether an activity is a sport: If the best female in the world can beat the best male in the world, it doesn’t qualify.”

Mark Potach feels so threatened by the idea that women could ever beat a men’s record that he feels the need to attack the team’s physical abilities, to remind them of their place:

But if Geno wants to continue the charade of breaking the men’s record, he’s going to have to start playing some men’s teams. I think he knows how ugly that would get. There are probably 10 high school teams in the city that could beat the Connecticut women.

David Whitley and Mark Potach are not straw chauvinists, Mr. Sullivan. And that’s not apathy Potach is expressing. These two men are actively working to keep women’s sports less popular than men’s. Perhaps what some don’t realize about apathy is that it can be feigned. If we pretend not to notice women’s accomplishments, we don’t have to admit that they are just as good, if not better, than the men. Another thing he overlooks is the danger in this perceived apathy. The news media makes decisions every day about whose accomplishments matter. Our daughters are paying attention. By accepting the idea that people don’t care about UConn’s record, you’re making it so.

It’s the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Blog for Choice Day 2010!

This year’s Blog for Choice Day question asks us “What does (the late Dr. Tiller’s simply put) ‘Trust Women‘ mean to you?”

To me, trusting women is about believing women. It’s about listening to women. It’s about acknowledging and appreciating women.

Trusting women means you do not presume to know what’s best for them. When you trust someone, you acknowledge that their choices are made with thoughtfulness and care.

A lack of trust is being told by someone you’ve never met what to do with your body. A lack of trust is the assumption that you cannot make rational decisions about your own reproductive health. A lack of trust imposes your religious beliefs on my medical decisions.

Trusting women promotes choice, but it must also promote justice. Because many women do not have a choice.

Miriam at Radical Doula notes:

As Ive talked about before, choice isnt enough.

Choice doesnt recognize that we dont all have a choice. That often times our choices are impacted by what others want, by what we can afford, by what we will allow ourselves to do.

Our choices are mediated by politicians, religious figures, our paycheck this month. Our choices are limited by our family members, our lovers, what we see on TV and who is close to us when we have to make a decision.

Our choices are determined by the color of our skin, the language that rolls off our tongues, the restrictions of our bodies, the gender we identify with and the people we love.


With that in mind, trusting women is viewing us as more than our ability to reproduce. Our health is a much more complex issue than the issue of abortion. Trusting women acknowledges the whole woman, one who is capable of making a whole host of decisions.


h/t watertiger

Oklahoma, you’re seriously NOT O.K.:

On Nov. 1, a law in Oklahoma will go into effect that will collect personal details about every single abortion performed in the state and post them on a public website. Implementing the measure will cost $281,285 the first year and $256,285 each subsequent year.

Under H.B. 1595, the state of Oklahoma is going to spend over a quarter of a million of its taxpayers’ dollars annually to try to shame women into foregoing abortions. Isn’t that special? It’s almost enough to make one long for the martini-clouded days before Roe v. Wade, when women only had to deal with the life-threatening dangers of back alley abortions, without the additional stigma of government-sponsored Internet shunning.

The following is the posted information that the Gilead Oklahoma legislators believe will be generic enough to avoid that irksome HIPAA:

1. Date of abortion
2. County in which abortion performed
3. Age of mother
4. Marital status of mother
(married, divorced, separated, widowed, or never married)
5. Race of mother
6. Years of education of mother
(specify highest year completed)
7. State or foreign country of residence of mother
8. Total number of previous pregnancies of the mother

That’s a whole lotta information about the mother, that, while it doesn’t identify her by name, certainly narrows her identity down, especially in the small towns that dot the Oklahoma landscape.

And another thing: Notice anything missing? Go ahead, re-read the list — I’ll wait.

[whistles, files nails, looks up]

Figure it out yet? Bingo! The father, whom we assume had something to do with the pregnancy in the first place, doesn’t have to account for his actions at all. Way to put women in their place, Oklahoma!

Thank goodness this law is being challenged.

Former state Representative Wanda Jo Stapleton, D-Oklahoma City, and Shawnee resident Lora Joyce Davis have decided to fight against these new restrictions in the form of a lawsuit. ” The lawsuit alleges that House Bill 1595 by Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, and Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, covers more than one subject and thus violates the Oklahoma Constitution ( Tulsa World News) Ranging in areas from abortions based on gender, to the re-defining of several abortion related terms, to creating an entire new job for the OK Department of Health to deal with, this law, is simply doing too much. The bill is set to go into effect on November 1st of this year. However, Davis and Stapleton hope that their lawsuit can delay this law from going into effect until they are able to present their appeal to the Oklahoma courts. This lawsuit comes after the most recent Oklahoma overturn of a 2008 law that would have required women to submit to an ultrasound and description by their doctor of the baby before scheduling an abortion.

Now that’s equality!

Just a taste…

Michelle Obama’s European Outfits: Which did she wear best?

Michelle Obama Makes a Fashion Statement in London

Michelle Obama: Fashion icon?

Michelle Obama: Fashion diva or disaster?

There was also the contrived media drama over Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s “fashion faceoff,” about which Melissa McEwan noted:

Why is it, when any two powerful womenespecially beautiful powerful womenare in the same place at the same time, the media has to treat it like a grudge match?!

Not surprisingly, there was little mention of the male G-20 spouses’ fashion choices. They didn’t even bother to show up for the G-20 spouses dinner (or at least, they missed the photo). I mean, who could blame them?

It can all be quite overwhelming sometimes.

I woke up to this: a reminder that some people have a very different definition than I do of “life,” and skewed ideas about who decides whose lives are worth saving.

Then I stumbled upon this discussion of the sexual assault in the Watchmen and the general narrative of a rape victim falling in love with her rapist. Apparently, some people laughed at the rape scene in this movie. I worry that some of those people that laughed may live near me, or may even be people I know. I also worry what message this movie sends to young people, especially boys, about sex.

I not only found the scene not funny, but felt that it was rather explicit rape apologia and victim-blaming. Dr. Manhattan was evidently violating Laurie’s trust and expressed wishes in a sexual context, and then justified his actions by pointing to her alleged failure.

Last night at dinner, the waiter joked with my friend that if she wasn’t careful, he might have to Chris Brown her. Because punching your girlfriend in the face until her mouth fills with blood is hilarious. Yet the discourse surrounding that incident managed to allude to the fact that Rihanna was at least somewhat to blame as well.

Then I just came across this article, discussing how we’re still blaming women for the violence perpetrated against them.

The findings of the poll, conducted for the Home Office, also disclosed about a quarter of people believe that wearing sexy or revealing clothing should lead to a woman being held partly responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted.

Several reminders of why International Women’s Day is important, Obama’s new post for international women’s issues is necessary, and how far we have to go.

Yesterday was so clearly a day for the history books. It was evident in all the exchanges I had with people yesterday. There was an underlying understanding that we were living through a great “where were you when…” moment.

Some of my hopefulness is dashed as I read headline after headline about yesterday’s events in which the only mention of Michelle Obama deals with her outfits. Really? As the headline over at Feministing so accurately summed up my frustration,

Historic Moment! Michelle Obama Wears a Dress

The historical significance of yesterday’s events somehow exaggerates the offensiveness of reducing this woman to her clothing. Reports could have asked her how it feels to be First Lady, what her plan is for how she will fill this role, or even what she thought of the inauguration events. Instead, we get this:

Who Made Michelle Obama’s Dresses? (ChicagoTribune)

Michelle Obama Wears it Well (BostonGlobe)

First Lady Passes Fashionista Test (ABC)

Michelle Obama Makes Important Statement with Fashion Choice (Bloomberg)

The First Lady Tells a Story with Fashion (NYTimes)

So on a day in which reporters gushed about how we can now tell our children that they can truly be anything they want to be, the message to little girls continues to be: what matters most is how you look.

In case you needed another reason to love Amy Poehler…

Check out: Smart Girls at the Party

Amy Poehler teamed up with producer Meredith Walker and musician Amy Miles to create this unique show that celebrates girls who are making a difference by being themselves. Read more about the show in Marianne Schnall’s interview with Poehler here.

Also, there’s a Smart Girls at the Party blog.

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