Laurie Toby Edison


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Time to Stop Deferring the Dream of Black Women

Laurie and Debbie say:

We’re coming in at the very end of an inspiring project, #HerDreamDeferred, sponsored by the African-American Policy Foundation and a host of other social justice organizations.

Black women have long mobilized against the multiple forms of discrimination they have faced in the pursuit of better lives for themselves, their families, and the well being of their communities. Black women’s activism has been marked by their high levels of civic engagement, robust voting participation, and their leadership of racial justice movements.  Black women have led campaigns against lynching,   segregation, voter suppression and state violence. They have also been at the forefront of movements against sexual violence, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workforce, and have led efforts to expand the contours of reproductive freedom and political representation.  Yet even as Black women’s advocacy continues to reflect commitments to an inclusive vision of racial and gender justice, many of the specific challenges that Black women face are relegated to the margins of racial justice campaigns.   

Acknowledging the centrality of Black women to our history and social fabric while recognizing the uniquely gendered and racialized challenges they face is critical if we are to build  movements that are fully inclusive and successful. 

One of the movers and shakers behind this project, which finishes tomorrow (April 3) with a radio interview on the topic of “Are Racism and Patriarchy Making Us Sick? Black Women, Societal Inequity and Health Disparities,” is Kimberlé Crenshaw. In an interview with Carla Murphy at Colorlines, Crenshaw calls the lack of information about Black girls and women an “information desert.” She says:

The fact of the matter is that our communities are made up of the life chances of men and women. Many of the circumstances that we’ve come to accept as justifying an exclusive focus on men and boys are in fact directly related to the social-economic challenges facing their mothers—and those [in turn] are directly related to some of the challenges facing girls. …

We shouldn’t back into this idea of racial justice by thinking that programs that go to boys will somehow solve the most critical problems and we can allow girls to receive trickle-down impact. Trickle-down racial justice doesn’t work anymore than trickle-down economics….

As long as people believe that black women and girls are doing fine—which they will as long as black women and girls are excluded from public dialogue—then the call for inclusion will be heard by some as a call to exclude or marginalize the boys. We just have to fight back and say that’s a silly argument. We’re the last people that should be endorsing a zero-sum mentality for social justice.

These are important truths, rarely spoken and even more rarely heard. Whether or not black women and girls are “doing fine,”  is difficult to find out, because of the information desert. What’s more, nothing about “black women and girls” is universally or even stereotypically true; looking at real black women and girls is the only way to find out what’s happening across a broad spectrum.

Crenshaw and her colleagues view #HerDreamDeferred as a way to start a conversation that desperately needs to be started. When asked what they hope to accomplish, she says:

We hope to raise awareness about the social and economic status of black women and its relation to the well-being of the black community as a whole. And we’re starting with the assumption that there is a desire to lift up members of our community who need attention, and that the real issue is that people are just not aware of it. So this is a beginning.

This assumption is at least as important as the crucial conversation about black women and girls. You can go months in America without ever hearing anyone say that we believe, or assume, or even hope that people care about each other, that there’s a social desire to address this kind of problem, that anyone in the country (except for a few “bleeding hearts”) gives a damn about anyone outside of their own families.

You will hear a hundred news stories about how people hurt each other before you read one about how people work together. If you Google “Detroit water liens deferred,” you will not find this story anywhere, even though it was a national outpouring of phone calls and emails, supporting strong local action, that won this temporary victory. Heartwarming news is “dog finds family,” or “girl selling lemonade gives money to charity.” The big, life-changing ways in which people pitch in every day to make things in their school, or their neighborhood, or their church, or their friend network more fair are kept under the radar. Because we never hear about them, we don’t believe in them. And because we don’t believe in them, we often don’t act in accordance with our impulses to be part of a movement towards fairness. (And, just to be clear, black women and girls have been in the forefront of so many efforts to make things more fair for everyone.)

In fact, that’s what Kimberlé Crenshaw and #HerDreamDeferred are doing right now.

Hidden Zackheim Social Justice Murals

Laurie says:

I had a rare opportunity to see Bernard Zakheim’s murals at UCSF in San Francisco. They are on all the walls of a lecture hall that’s for medical students and so usually not available. When I read that they were open to the public for three days this spring.  I made sure to go on the first day.

Zakheim was a social justice artist who studied and worked with Diego Rivera. He’s best known for his murals at Coit Tower in San Francisco. Three of the four photographs here are mine. I was really glad I shot them but if I had realized that there was so little on the web I would have shot more extensively.


From the article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Carl Nolte:

The murals, painted over four years by the celebrated — and controversial — artist Bernard Zakheim, had kind of an underground reputation. They cover much of the walls of a large lecture room at Toland Hall. The 10 murals, which show the history of medicine in California, are colorful and vibrant.

Mural: Bernard Zakheim's History of Medicine in California (1937-39) - UCSF Toland Hall


…They are in the classic Mexican muralist style in the tradition of Diego Rivera,” who Zackheim worked and studied with. The UCSF murals, …are part of a tradition of mural fresco art that flourished in San Francisco during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Other examples are the murals at Coit Tower, in the lobby of Rincon Center, on the ground floor of the Beach Chalet at the western end of Golden Gate Park and a huge mural painted by Rivera himself that is now mounted at the little theater at City College.



The murals begin in an era before European contact and run up until the mid-20th century.

It is clear that Zakheim had strong views — the Spanish missionaries, for example, are presented in a harsh light. And he shows a different side of the Gold Rush of 1849 and later — a man amputating his own leg, a shooting involving a medical man and a quack doctor, a panel showing the great San Francisco plague scare of 1906.


Zakheim’s heroes are medical pioneers, among them Dr. Hugh Toland, who founded the medical school that eventually became UCSF. The villains are crooked politicians and other enemies of good medicine. It is powerful stuff.

They were covered up as “distracting” for may years… The late ’40s and ’50s were the height of an anticommunist hysteria, and Zakheim had been one of the left-leaning muralists who worked at Coit Tower, a piece of art regarded with suspicion by the political right. They were finally uncovered in 1963.

The amazing part of the experience is being in the small lecture hall surrounded by these vivid powerful political art.

They are at UCSF in Toland Hall, 533 Parnassus (Room U-142), up a flight of stairs and down a hall. Though the building is open to the public, there are no signs to indicate the artistic treasure inside Room U142. They can be seen Friday, April 17th:  3 – 5 p.m and Friday, May 22nd:  3 – 5 p.m.

Afro-American Women’s Tennis: Beyond Venus and Serena

Debbie says:

Laurie and I have blogged a few times over the years about Venus and Serena Williams, so I was especially interested to read about Margaret and Roumania Peters, two sisters who aced women’s tennis together in the American Tennis Association, the first black sports league to include women.


It’s not surprising that many people don’t know much about black women’s tennis before Althea Gibson, since the black sports leagues didn’t accept women, and the white women’s sports leagues didn’t accept blacks. Where was a black women player, let alone a pair of talented sisters, to go?

According to Steven J. Niven, posting at The Root (link above):

The Peters sisters grew up in a predominantly black, working-class section of D.C., a few blocks from the Rose Park playground at 26th and O streets, an area described by one historian as central to black community life in Georgetown between the world wars.

It provided a rare communal space where young men and women played basketball and volleyball, and where the Peters sisters played on one of the few tennis courts open to African Americans in the city. As an adult, Roumania Peters Walker recalled that the court was covered in “sand, dirt, rocks, everything. We would have to get out there in the morning and pick up the rocks, and sweep the line and put some dry lime on there.”

After doing well in a tennis tournament at historically black Wilberforce University, the sisters were recruited to Tuskegee University in Alabama.

During their time in Alabama (1937-41) and for a decade after leaving, Margaret and Roumania would dominate the women’s game at the end of the Jim Crow era. Their victories at the ATA were shown at black movie theaters, including the Mott in their home city of Washington, and they became local heroes back home in Georgetown. … their fame on the tennis court largely derived from the 14 doubles titles they won between 1938 and 1941 and between 1944 and 1953. Roumania also won ATA national singles titles in 1944 and 1946. In winning her second title, she defeated the up-and-coming Althea Gibson, who later won 10 ATA national singles titles.

The Peters sisters apparently weren’t still playing when Gibson desegregated the Grand Slam tournaments. Maybe their names would be familiar now if they’d had a chance on the courts of the wider tennis world. They died in 2003 and 2004, and Margaret lived to see herself and her sister inducted into the Mid-Atlantic Section Hall of Fame of the U.S. Tennis Association.

From now on, I’ll be thinking of them in the same breath as Venus and Serena. A quick internet search reveals no famous pairs of tennis-playing sisters who were not of African descent. Am I missing some?

Thanks to Maya Dusenbery at Feministing for the pointer, and to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham’s monumental African-American National Biography for the source material.

How to Suppress Women’s Clitorises–And How Not To

Laurie and Debbie say:

Although we are almost a decade apart in age, both of us learned a lot about female anatomy during the surge of feminist knowledge in the 1970s. In that period, Betty Dodson, the artist, became a well-known sex educator and teacher of masturbation skills for women; consciousness-raising groups everywhere encouraged women to examine their own vaginal anatomy with a speculum and a mirror, photographer Tee Corinne published The Cunt Coloring Book. If you were around the feminist world, cunts and labia and clitorises and vulvas were discussed, and examined.


Under constant barrage from a masculinist culture, feminist language and discussion never went away, but in the mainstream, women’s issues were dismissed, trivialized, and suppressed. Joann Loulan’s Lesbian Sex, published in 1984, had the first diagrams of a clitoris that really explained how you feel your orgasms so far away from where you thought your clit was, and it came out from a small feminist press and was pretty much available only through small women’s bookstores.

When AIDS became an epidemic, we started hearing phrases like “anal sex” and “fisting” in at least semi-public discourse, and male sexual choices became the subject of subway billboards.  In the mid-1990s, thanks to the bizarre husband-maiming performed by Lorena Bobbitt, “penis” became an acceptable mainstream news word.

While all this was happening, cunts and labia and clits and vulvas never made the news, never were permitted in public discourse. And, as a result which the male culture is perfectly happy with, women have to work hard to learn anything important about our bodies. That’s why Amanda Chatel’s article at connections.mic, “Here’s What the Clitoris Actually Is … and What It Isn’t,” is still important more than thirty years after Betty Dodson started her crusade.

While there are plenty of spots on both men and women that serve as pleasure points (oh hello, penis), they serve other purposes, such as means for reproduction. The clit, on the other hand, does not serve a reproductive purpose at all; it’s just there to give women pleasure. 


Among other things, scientific knowledge about the clitoris has grown (slowly) in those thirty-plus years. And your clitoris has grown along with the knowledge.

it has been suggested that the smaller the clit, the more difficult it is for women to achieve orgasm. However, even those with a small clitoris can have hope for the future, because unlike the penis, the clit grows with age. At 32, a woman’s clitoris is four times the size it was when she reached puberty; after menopause, it’s seven times the size was when a woman was born.

That’s the fact in Chatel’s article that neither of us knew. But it does explain some things …

Although there hasn’t been a lot of scientific clit study (wouldn’t you think it would be irresistible?), a 2009 French study performed sonographic studies on five women who stimulated their “quiescent clitorises” with “voluntary perineal contractions and with finger penetration without sexual stimulation.” Conclusion? “The special sensitivity of the lower anterior vaginal wall could be explained by pressure and movement of clitoris’ root during a vaginal penetration and subsequent perineal contraction. The G-spot could be explained by the richly innervated clitoris.”

Each time a new set of clitoral studies comes into the light, three things happen: we learn more facts, more people gain access to the facts, and the masculinist culture gets more nervous. Every time we learn more about how our bodies–and particularly our sexual bodies–are put together and function, we learn more about how to notice, recognize, and appreciate what we like … and what we have a right to expect. And thanks to the internet, it’s going to be a lot harder to keep this information out of women’s hands.

Remarkable Portraits Of Older Transgender and Gender Variant People

Laurie says:

I recently saw these very impressive portraits of older transgender and gender variant people in photographer Jesse Dugan and scholar Vanessa Fabbre’s project To Survive On This Shore.

As an artist who believes in the importance of the words of the people she photographs, I really appreciate their use of text. (Only for some of the pictures – click on pictures and check the bottom to see if there’s text.)

From a post by by Jorge Rivas on

There’s something really powerful about portraits, especially when the subject is staring right back at you.
And even more so when that subject is “rarely visualized,” to use the words of photographer Jess T. Dugan. Starting in the fall of 2013, Dugan traveled the country taking photos of a group of people she says deserve to be seen more often: transgender and gender variant people over the age of 50.
Dugan’s work—a collaboration with Vanessa Fabbre, a scholar and professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis—comes as older trans people are just barely beginning to break through into mainstream culture.


From To Survive On This Shore:

Representations of older transgender people are nearly absent from both photography and social science domains, and those that do exist are often one-dimensional. To survive on this shore combines photographs of transgender and gender variant people over the age of fifty with interviews about their life experiences in regards to gender, identity, age, and sexuality and provides a nuanced view into the complexities of aging as a transgender person. By combining our experiences working as a photographer and social worker within the transgender community, we hope to create a project that is simultaneously highly personal and socially relevant.
Our project seeks to complicate the ways in which transgender older adults are portrayed and perceived in the arts, humanities and social sciences by combining formal portrait photographs with excerpts from biographical interviews. Within scholarship on aging, LGBTQ issues- especially transgender issues- have received little attention. Within the photographic realm, representations of the transgender community are lacking, and those that do exist tend to focus on the younger generation. Like any community, the transgender community is diverse in many ways, including across the spectrum of age.



We combine text with images in our project in order to more fully tell the stories of our subjects. We intentionally seek out subjects whose lived experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and geographic location. Though everyone in our project identifies somewhere along the transgender spectrum, there is no single narrative that captures the varied paths that lead to gender discovery or transition. Thus, we have chosen to conduct biographical interviews in a conversational format that allows subjects to prioritize the topics of identity and aging that are most salient in their lives. We then make selections from those interviews that elaborate on these topics and pair this text with the image so that these may be experienced together. The interview selections serve to facilitate an emotional and empathic connection to the person portrayed in the image and to highlight the diverse ways in which transgender adults think about and experience aging.


When you go to the site and click on the images, many of them have text below them. Read the texts – together with the photos they have created an important story.


Breast Obsession: From Games to Hard Decisions

Laurie and Debbie say:

Melanie Testa’s “Shirts off, Underwear on:, Play Out, Breast Cancer and Gender Expectations” is superb.


Perhaps I am an anomaly in the world of breast cancer, having chosen against reconstruction while also choosing not to wear prosthesis. I was certainly made to feel as if my choice was abnormal by my doctors when I was asked to see a psychiatrist to make sure I was of sound mind in my ‘contralateral decision making process’. At that same office, my fellow sisters who chose reconstruction were not asked to justify their surgical choice to a psychiatrist, regardless of their contralateral choices. Perhaps my doctor wanted to be entirely sure that that they would not be removing a breast that I might come to miss, and regret my decision. I could have chosen to keep the unaffected breast. There was no question that a unilateral mastectomy was medically necessary, but I chose a bilateral mastectomy – a decision I have never regretted.

This bias is unacceptable, and clearly illustrates a preference for reconstruction to the shape of a breast and breastedness in general. It also serves to make it difficult for women to choose otherwise.

Testa’s observations both inform and are informed by Patricia Anderson’s post on Kotaku about “breast physics” and how and why video games gets breasts so wrong.


Plenty of people theorize about why games often feature bad breast physics, but there is little hard information about the actual breast-creation process. After looking into it a bit, I found that many amateur developers seemed to genuinely have a problem figuring out how to tackle breast physics in their games. There are a startling number of forum posts and tutorials where people discuss the best ways to achieve good breast physics online. One person even created a four-part Powerpoint presentation titled “The Quest for Boob Jiggle In Unity.” People have developed specialized tools for other developers to use, to help demystify the enigma that is “how do breasts work.”

For an excessively jiggly set of videogame breasts go here.

Anderson basically says that animating bones and rigid body action is easier than animating soft tissue body action. After explaining why realistic breasts are expensive to animate, she concludes (surprise!) that “absurd breast physics aren’t always unintentional.”

“Ultimately though, I sort of suspect that when a developer doesn’t get breast physics looking right, it’s because, for whatever reason, somebody wanted them to look that way,” [Tim Dawson, an indie developer] said.

So what does this have to do with Testa, and women with breast cancer?

As many as 58% of women who have mastectomies after cancer either do not reconstruct or do reconstruct and then later deconstruct, either out of choice or because of failed reconstruction. I pondered just how many of those breastless women disliked wearing prosthesis and presenting an image of a woman with breasts. Prior to my diagnosis, I had never knowingly met a single-breasted or bilaterally flat-chested woman. I imagine there are many women who don breast forms with hesitation, annoyance, or even resentment. Why do we feel that we need to promote the false impression that all women have breasts?

The bulk of her piece concerns the pressure on women to get reconstructive surgery and/or breast forms and not to “go flat,” including substantial medical and psychiatric pressure. She has had a lot of trouble being believed when she says: “Wearing fake breasts would do nothing positive for me, physically or emotionally; I quail at the idea of presenting two body types, a breasted public image and a flat private image.”

Rhylorien from Laurie's  Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes

Rhylorien from Laurie’s Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes

Reading these two pieces together, we can’t help but see that the psychiatrists and surgeons trying to force Testa into a false-breast look are influenced by, and themselves reinforcing, the game developers who like implausible breasts enough to keep making them. Of course, neither the medical establishment nor the game designers are working in a vacuum: they are both reflecting an obsession which is everywhere in the Western world, from billboards to fashion runways and everywhere in between.

In other words, Testa is talking about real breasts: why we want them, what they mean to us, what losing them means, what visibly losing them means. Anderson, to some extent, and the video game industry and breast surgery industry to a large extent, are talking about breast fantasies.

Both industries will come of age when women without breasts become part of their mental landscape. Testa says: “The sooner doctors and researchers collectively agree that women sometimes choose flat or bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, the better. Get out of our minds.” She could also be talking about animators.


Gravitas, by Lynne Murray

Debbie says:

Our co-conspirator (well, regular guest blogger) Lynne Murray has been pretty quiet around these parts recently, and one reason is that she’s been working on a new short science-fiction novel, Gravitas, which is now available on Amazon and in other e-book formats, for $2.99 per copy.


I had the privilege of reading Gravitas in manuscript, and I want to recommend it to all of you. It is that rare bird, a novel which embraces fat power while not being about fat power. Instead, it’s about the troubles and travails of Val-Sybilla, who is burdened with a huge amount of the perfume Gravitas, a scent which has the power to cloud people’s minds (well, to turn people on and heighten their other emotional reactions). Val-Sybilla is carrying more Gravitas than most women ever carry, because she expected to get rid of it fairly promptly. But she is forced into an unexpected detour … onto Earth. Val-Sybilla’s people admire large bodies, so Earth is a bit of a surprise:

Before we could enter the building a vehicle cruised past us and someone stuck his head out the open window and yelled, “Get dressed, pig! No one wants to see that!” He tossed a large cup at me. Crushed ice and dark liquid hit me, but I managed to raise a hand to bat the cup back to hit the side of the car.

Every cell in my body seemed to contract in a new reflex. An arc of lightning followed the trail of tossed liquid back to the car, which sank a few inches lower on its suddenly flattened tires. A smell of burnt rubber rose in the air.

As the car settled down in the roadway and began to creep away, the driver yelled. “What did she do to my car?”

His companion said, “Don’t be stupid, how the hell could she do that? You hit a nail or something.”

Josu pulled me into the glass-doored building and the muffled cursing faded. He put an arm around me and turned us away from the window into the store itself. “I’m so sorry you had to endure that insult and the one on the highway. I hate to tell you how often this kind of attack is endured by women of abundant flesh on this planet.”

I stood for a moment half stunned, cold, sticky liquid trickling down my leg. “I thought the Great Mother was worshipped on Earth.” I whispered.

So, fat power, sex (influential women on Val-Sybilla’s planet are expected to have several husbands), adventure, suspense, and goddess worship. What more could you possibly want?

Colour by Significance

Laurie says:

As someone who has been a black and white photographer for most of her photographic life, I’ve always considered color both easy and difficult. Easy because it reflects the way we think we see the world. (Although photography is always a particular vision or/an interpretation.)

Black and white for me is simultaneously abstract and intimate. It creates a reality that is not the way we see and asks us to look harder.

Color creates the reality of familiarity, unless the photographer incorporates color in a way that is essential to the art. That’s hard because the color creates a kind of ordinary beauty that is seductive without depth.

Zsolt Bátori, of the ph/21 Gallery in Budapest, recently had an exhibition of Colour Burst that discuses aspects of color photography brilliantly. This is the gallery that I had work in earlier this year in their Body exhibition.

There are two kinds of photographs with respect to the significance of their colours. On the one hand, ever since colour film technology became widely available, colour has become the default in most photographic practices. In other words, some photographs are in colour not because their colours bear some special significance (compared, for instance, to their possible black and white counterparts), but simply because the available film or digital technology has long turned colour to be the common method of capturing photographic images. We may think of these photographs as colour by default. On the other hand, colours are often central to the meaning of photographs for their emphatic, symbolic, psychological, social, compositional, etc. significance. These photographs would not work in black and white at all; that they are in colour is not merely a technological given, rather, it is an integral, formative and significant aspect of their photographic meaning. We may think of these photographs as colour by significance.

I love the phrase “colour by significance”.

A long time ago, Ctein and I did a series of landscape collaborations of my black-and-white darkroom photographs and his dye-transfer photographs. They were, among other things, a fine art discussion about black and white and color.

Monterey Kelp is an example of our work.


Monteray Kelp_ Edison_Ctein


It was hard to choose images from the Color Burst exhibition. Its conversation about color work is broad and complex.


The Dive_Eva M. Brown

The Dive

Juror’s choice The Dive by Eva M. Brown is, indeed, one of those images whose complex communicative content is based on the colours of the photograph. Colours in this case are not accidental or automatic features; they are not in the image merely because it is technically possible for them to be there but because they must be present in order to create the meaning of the picture. As we begin to study the photograph we notice some components that we recognise as flowers, perhaps petunias. Then we realize that they are considerably more subdued in colour than an ordinary petunia flower, so we may decide that they are likely to be something else. We are also a bit uncertain about their location and context. Are they in water? Do we look at them from below as they float around from the perspective of a diver as suggested by the title of the image? What is the bluish green substance that provides the background of their floating dance made of? Their pattern is most unusual, different from the familiar flowery arrangements. As our recognition is becoming less and less precise and certain, we are letting ourselves be carried away with the sophisticated dance of the colour patterns emerging from the swirling arrangement. The forms and patterns are themselves captivating but it is the colours of this image that mesmerize us, that make recollection effortless and most rewarding.


Yazoo, 2014

Untitled by Thomas Pearson


Untitled Margarits Mavromichalis

Untitled by Margarits Mavromichalis

See the whole exhibition here.

No, Mr. Congressman, It Doesn’t Go There

Laurie and Debbie say:

By now, you have probably heard about Idaho Congressman Vito Barbieri, who (apparently seriously) asked during a committee hearing on (yes, still more!) abortion restrictions  if a woman could swallow a small camera to conduct a pregnancy exam. Dr. Julie Madsen, the physician witness politely told him that swallowed pills “don’t end up in the vagina.” Congressman Barbieri later said that his question “was rhetorical and intended to make a point,” although the intended point is, to say the least, unclear.


If in fact a swallowed camera (or pills) ended up in the vagina, what else would be true?

1) In heterosexual penis-in-vagina orgasms, as women, we could expect semen to come out of our mouths.

2) In heterosexual oral sex orgasms, we women could get pregnant, as the semen slid down through this “tube” from our mouth into our uterus.

3) Maybe there would be some kind of road sign to tell food to go to the stomach, intestines and colon? If not, we would have either food or shit coming out of the vagina, and quite possibly have small cameras intended to examine our uterus going through our colon. (Imagine the confusion of doctors trying to figure out just what they were looking at!)

We might never finish making fun of this level of ignorance, but there’s a more important point to be made.

The main reason for the existence of Body Impolitic is to call attention to body image issues. Mostly that means either how we feel about our bodies or how other people feel about our bodies. But all body image depends on a basic understanding of anatomy, both our own and the anatomy of everyone else. No, not everyone has to understand how ATP feeds cells, or how neural signals get from the brain to the extremities. Not everyone has to understand what the hypothalamus is and does.

Everyone should understand the basic internal and external conformation of the body, not just the organ systems that drive gender and sexuality, but what the spinal cord is and why snapping your neck can result in paralysis, what the pathways are from the mouth to the urethra and asshole, what the difference is between muscles and tendons. Not knowing those things is like not knowing where the light switches are in your house, or where the exits are in the theater.

Knowing your environment starts with knowing your body. And knowing your body should, in a sane world, be an absolute requirement for anyone who sits in judgment over other people’s bodies.

Congressman Barbieri, if you would like a basic human anatomy tutorial, the Internet is full of them. Here’s one place to start.

Swimsuit Issue Makes the News … Twice

Debbie says:

Sports Illustrated is in financial trouble, and the magazine’s famous swimsuit issue is apparently what’s keeping it afloat.

This is almost certainly why they put (no! I know you’re shocked!) a controversial photograph on the cover.


Tracy Moore at Jezebel reports on the controversy over whether or not model Hannah Davis is “showing too much” here. Moore’s basic point is that Davis is coming in for a lot of criticism and no credit, while the magazine and the industry are getting a free pass.

Our culture is awash in pornographic imagery and Sports Illustrated is just another try-hard trying to keep up. Which isn’t to say that we should all sit back and smile for our facial, but rather, that there are probably better uses of our energy when it comes to critiquing the industries that breathlessly try to out-pornifying each other. We should target them by examining their motives, not the motives of the models in question, who are simply going after the work that exists.

Instead we slobber; we salivate; we ooh, we ahh—then we demand that the women defend doing it—to make it make sense for us. You know what you’re doing right? we seem to ask. You’re…titillating us. Isn’t that the point? Since we’re titillated, isn’t it…naughty? And what does it say about you for being so naughty? Well, what does it say about us? And then the model or actress with the sexy photo or nude scene must say: No, it’s no big deal. It’s totally not. It’s the most normal thing in the world. Nothing scandalous about it.

Moore doesn’t quite get to the difference between semi-nudity as softcore porn and actual nudity as reflective of real bodies, but she’s very close. And I can only stand up and cheer at her defense of Davis, and her analysis of the impossible position of a swimsuit model.

… these sorts of pictures in mainstream, ubiquitous places make us squeamish. That’s pornographic! And it’s not over there with the porn where it’s supposed to be! What’s she doing there, making me uncomfortable?

And this is the weird rock and a low-slung bikini place we put women in when they traffic in their own sexuality as a commodity.

But that’s not the only story about this year’s issue. SI isn’t quite ready to feature a plus-size model, but they’ll take Swimsuits for All‘s money, even if the ad shows Ashley Graham (size 14) in a bikini.



Size 14 isn’t my idea of plus-size, and I wish it wasn’t even anybody’s idea of midsize, but you can definitely see Graham’s curves and shape. And we are dealing with an industry where size 4 can be considered “too fat.”

According to Liz Dwyer at TakePart, this is part of an apparent trend of greater visibility for plus-size models (some of them truly plus-size) in 2015.  Dwyer cites Tess Holliday’s new contract as a clear example. The magazine agreeing to run the ad may well be another sign of the trend; you’d be surprised how often ads like this are turned down as “offensive,” or “unacceptable to readers” even by publications in financial trouble.

Who knows? Maybe someday there will be a swimsuit issue which shows real women’s bodies and has the models choose their own poses. A girl can dream.

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