Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

The Only Black Woman in (Republican) America

Laurie and Debbie say:

Under the #IAmRepublican hashtag, the Grand Old Party is trying to advertise its diversity and the wide range of people who support it. Unfortunately, apparently they couldn’t find a single African-American woman to pose for the pictures, so they took an effectively free stock photo from istockphoto.com’s “happy portraits” series. And here she is …

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And here she is as a Georgia Black Woman attorney with no party affiliation …

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And here she is as a payday loan customer …

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Why is this a body image issue? Because the Republicans would not have done this with a white man, and they probably would not have done it with a white woman. The nature of racism in this country in particular is such that any individual African-American person stands in for all black people. This is true of President Obama, of the woman in the stock photo, and of Michael Brown (among millions of others).

Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields, writing in Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life say:

Even as commentators at the time of Obama’s election claimed to discern the coming of a “post-racial” era, their very harping on Obama as a “black president” reprised an ageo-old feature of racecraft: the turning of one person of African descent into a synecdoche for all. The classic historical instance is Booker T. Washington, anointed by powerful white persons to speak on behalf of all Afro-Americans, because disfranchisement had robbed them of the democratic prerogative of choosing spokesmen for themselves.”

Reducing an entire population to a single real person is shameful; reducing that same population to a nameless, uncredited, falsified figure is even worse. What the Republican party is really saying with this advertisement is,

“We want you to believe that this happy woman is an American citizen, an African-American, and a Republican. We want that in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with who she is, what matters to her, or why she’s happy.”

That’s what the Georgia Black Women Attorneys and the payday loan people want, to reduce all of black America to one smiling anonymous woman.

Links on the Brink of October

Debbie says:

I was struck by these very diverse images of women giving birth around the world.

Midwife Dorothy Igoro Chinyere examines a patient immediately fo

The photographer, Alice Proujansky, gave birth herself in 2012.

Although she didn’t set out to become a natal photographer, Proujansky is interested in working on projects about women and said for one reason or another, she finds herself photographing in the delivery room.

“It’s so interesting to me,” she said. “It’s so exciting to be part of a transformational process; it has a rhythm to it in that there’s a probable series of events … but every time it’s different.”

***

On a related note, Tracy Moore has something to say about what she teaches her four-year-old daughter … even if the child’s schoolteacher doesn’t approve:

HOLY SHIT WHY IS NOT OK TO SAY BABIES COME OUT OF VAGINAS? To be clear, I haven’t told her how the baby is made via a penis and vagina, or artificial insemination, or by reading The Secret. And to be extra clear, I could’ve also told her that babies also come out of stomachs sometimes, too, and via adoption, but we just haven’t gotten that complex about it. Apparently she simply said at school that babies come out of vaginas, and was told to only speak of this with mommy or daddy. And she got upset, because she now believed she was in trouble.

It happens in state senates, and it happens in pre-schools. What is so wrong with using the correct words?

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It must be pregnancy-and-birth week here at the link source. In March of this year, I wrote a post about breast pump (and durable medical goods) design, and now there’s highly positive action on that front (pun intended):

10 harried but happy teams of hackers shared their inventions in Shark Tank-style five-minute presentations. The goal? To reinvent a clunky necessity of modern parenting: the breast pump.

Engineers, healthcare workers, students, moms, and lots of babies gathered at the MIT Media Lab hackathon to tackle this sticky problem. The vibe was motivated, inclusive, and positive, but that’s not to say anyone was shy about explaining the problems with the breast pumps on the market today—even with manufacturers like Medela, Lansinoh, and Ameda present among the sponsors of the event. …

When kicking off the event, Catherine D’Ignazio, one of the event’s organizers, encouraged the teams to think bigger.

“Rethink the spaces where people pump, and how they feel when they are pumping, and who supports them and their pumping and breastfeeding,” she said. “Hack more of the systemic problems that new families face, like the lack of paid maternity leave and early childhood education.”

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Moving away from baby-making, here is an extremely interesting report on a study of sex worker experiences in Canada.

Canada’s first nation-wide survey of sex workers has some interesting findings the government should, but probably won’t, listen to. Over the five-year study, which was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, researchers interviewed 218 sex workers, 1,252 clients, 30 spouses or intimate partners of sex workers, 61 managers of escort or massage businesses, and 80 law enforcement officials in six cities throughout Canada. The study did not, however, look at undocumented sex workers or children, and probably captured neither the best nor the worst of the industry. 

the study found that 82 percent of workers felt appropriately rewarded, 70 percent were satisfied with their jobs, and 68 percent felt they have good job security. According to [Cecelia Benoit [one of the study's lead authors], “Sex workers are average Canadians. They’re Caucasian, in their 30s and 40s, and have education and training outside of high school. Most of them don’t feel exploited, they don’t see buyers as oppressors…. They are people trying to do the best they can with the tools they have to live their lives.” Researcher  Mikael Jansson added, “They talk to us about the amount of control they have over their work situation… They have a lot more control over the timing of their work, the pace of their work than journalists.”

The sex work debate is usually oversimplified, often on the two leading “sides.” I appreciate the authors pointing out that they didn’t capture the worst of the industry. The study could be bigger, though it is reasonably substantial within its limits. Nonetheless, it’s good to have some numbers to toss into the generally highly opinionated but not very quantitative conversation about whether sex work is exploitation or not. (Answer: it’s both. Depends on where you look and what you look for, like almost everything else.)

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I usually stay away from sexual assault response articles, just because the subject is so huge, and there is so much to say. But a regular reader sent this link, and I agree that both Roberta Smith’s article about Emma Sulkowicz and the artwork are outstanding:

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You can, for the moment, call Emma Sulkowicz a typically messianic artist, and she won’t object. I used the phrase, sitting in her tiny studio at Columbia University on Thursday, as we discussed “Carry That Weight.” This is the succinct and powerful performance piece that is her senior art thesis as well as her protest against sexual assault on campus, especially the one she says she endured.

“Carry that Weight,” which is beginning its fourth week, involves Ms. Sulkowicz carrying a 50-pound mattress wherever she goes on campus (but not off campus). Analogies to the Stations of the Cross may come to mind, especially when friends or strangers spontaneously step forward and help her carry her burden, which is both actual and symbolic. Of course another analogy is to Hester Prynne and her scarlet letter, albeit an extra heavy version that Ms. Sulkowicz has taken up by choice, to call attention to her plight and the plight of other women who feel university officials have failed to deter or adequately punish such assaults. The carried mattress also implies disruption and uprootedness, which call to mind refugees or homeless people.

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And finally, if you ever wanted a superhero women’s bathing suit designed for a real human and not a male comic artist’s wet dream, Suckers Apparel has you covered (well, partially covered):

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Each suit is hand made to order and they also do plus size and custom orders with no additional charges.These are temporarily available now, but will be generally available next year.

Most common link sources: Feministing, Feministe, io9, Shakesville, and Sociological Images, plus assorted other blogs I read. Thanks to Lisa Hirsch for Emma Sulkowicz’s story.

Voluntary Puberty Delay for Transgender Pre-Teens Looks Promising

Debbie says:

Until I saw this rather brief article, I hadn’t heard about hormonal puberty suppression as an alternative for young transgender people. I am especially interested because I have a (very) young transgender person in my life, and it has been fascinating to watch how completely this child is committed to a gender identity different than their physical conformation. And, of course, I wonder how puberty (many years in the future) will affect them.

Dutch scientists closely monitored 55 young adults who had been previously diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” which meant that they identified as transgender and were experiencing mental health consequences as a result, such as anxiety, emotional distress, and body image concerns. At an average age of about 14, they each used hormones to block puberty and prevent the development of sex characteristics. The study found that this gave them “the opportunity to develop into well-functioning young adults.”

Lead Author Dr. Annelou de Vries explained to CBS News that puberty suppression is a “fully reversible medical intervention” and the extra time allows the young people to work out their struggles related to gender dysphoria before taking permanent steps toward a transition. As a result, they “have the lifelong advantage of a body that matches their gender identities without the irreversible body changes of a low voice or beard growth or breasts, for example.”

As the champion of calling out junk science, I will start by noting that 55 test subjects is hardly conclusive, and the Netherlands is a small country, increasing the likelihood that the sample of young people was not very diverse. Further, although Dr. De Vries is calling this “fully reversible,” when I follow the links to more information, I learn that she is aware that she did not study side effects of puberty suppression. If this was something I or my own child was considering, I would want to do a lot more research on side effects and what “fully reversible” means. It would also appear that all 55 subjects elected gender reassignment, which is something else that would benefit from more attention. Nonetheless, instead of explaining something about human behavior based on a small sample, these researchers are exploring a possible intervention, and reporting positive early results.

One issue here is that the Endocrine Society and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health recommend that gender-dysphoric or transgender teens do not take hormones before age 16, which pretty much ensures that they will experience puberty as a person of their biological gender rather than of their identified gender. De Vries’ study leads the way to earlier intervention, which makes it possible to delay puberty until after gender reassignment surgery, and never develop in a body that they experience as wrong. (Yes, transgender experiences, teenage and otherwise, are much more complicated than “growing up in the wrong body,” but then not every trans teen will need, or choose, this path even if it turns out to be as positive as these early indications imply.) Another positive feature is that many trans people who start hormones later in life experience a second puberty, and have both the fun and the no-fun-at-all experiences of puberty twice; some people might be delighted to only go through that once.

For now, I’m filing this study under “good to know,” “needs more information,” and “hopeful for good experiences for trans children and teens.” And that’s good enough for me.

 

Elder Sexuality Is Funny or Gross Because It’s Transgressive

Laurie and Debbie say:

aging sex

The extraordinary s.e. smith has a predictably excellent post on elder sexuality:

… what is so gross about older adults being sexually active? And what’s so funny about it? Because I don’t see anything particularly remarkable in it, and thus I’m either missing something — or my cohort is. The frankly juvenile attitude towards older adult sexuality doesn’t do us any credit, and if anything is gross in this conversation, it’s the disdain for sexually active elders. As long as everyone is consenting and enjoying themselves, who cares? Why are we so fixated on this?

Smith elaborates on this at some length, and as with everything on this ain’t livin’, you should read the whole thing.

However, Smith does not answer the title question, and we thought it was worth examining.

The media, and particularly the advertising industry, spend an inordinate amount of time and money convincing us that we can stay youthful-looking and youthful-feeling forever. If we take the right drugs, we can play with our grandchildren as athletically as we want, and everyone will think we are their parents, not their grandparents. If we use the right skin products, we can keep the wrinkles at bay. If we have the right medical procedures, no one will ever know that we are (*gasp* *choke*) over 50.

But that is all a lot of work. It’s also expensive, so you can’t have it all unless you have economic privilege. It’s time-consuming, so you can’t have it all unless you don’t have to work two jobs, or work 9 hours a day, or raise kids with insufficient support. People have to be afraid of getting–and looking–older or they won’t do the work or make the financial sacrifices. Along with the “stick” of fear of aging, there also has to be a reward–a carrot–for all the time and money and effort. And the reward is that you get to stay attractive. And “attractive” means “sexually attractive.”

So if you can’t pull together the time, money and effort to keep yourself youthful or–and they don’t ever even hint at this part–when it stops working, then the carrot of being sexually attractive gets yanked away, and you are thrown out of the sexuality sweepstakes. You just don’t get to be a person who has sex any more.

When anyone shows that, by having a good time in bed with a wrinkled, spotty body (or having a good time in bed while disabled, for that matter), they pop the balloon. They confuse the simplistic message. They break the illusion. And the Good Consumer might, just might, notice that she or he is spending time and money for not much. So elder sexuality must be mocked, or the advertising, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries could suffer.

Like everything else about appearance, this happens sooner and more dramatically for women than for men–a woman with mild signs of aging is as far out of the acceptable age range as a man who is unmistakably elderly; also, an older man having sex with a younger woman is way less funny or gross than an older woman having sex with a younger man. This is why the whole concept of predatory “cougars” was born.

Shining a light on sexuality among older adults is yet another way of making the invisible visible, showing (and telling) us what’s really true, rather than what the corporatized culture wants us to believe.

 

Mid-Week Links

Debbie says:

 

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Any fan of “subvert the dominant paradigm” (like me) will be delighted by Tampon Run, a new online game, created by two high-school students, Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Houser, who met at a Girls Who Code summer program. They say, “”Although the concept of the video game may be strange, it’s stranger that our society has accepted and normalized guns and violence through video games, yet we still find tampons and menstruation unspeakable.” I’m lovin’ it.

If they’re not playing the game in India, at least Indian women have Menstrupedia. Priti Salian at TakePart has a feature article on Aditi Gupta, an Indian woman who started out with a “Menstrupedia” comic book for Indian women who are shamed into not talking (or learning) about their periods, and has now built it into an amazing online resource. India is a big country, but I hope Gupta is in touch with Arunachalam Muruganantham, whom I wrote about in a links post earlier this year. And if the two of them connect with Gonzalez and Hauser, well, I sense some world-changers on the horizon.

***

African-American artist Kehinde Wiley has mostly done paintings of black men in poses from Western paintings, but recently he has turned his eye towards paintings of women.

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This one is “Juliette Recamier,” a 19th-century salon hostess, taken from a painting by Jean-Louis David.

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I really appreciate how some things in the two paintings are very similar, and others are very different. Wiley makes me look, and look back, and look again, which I suspect is exactly what he wants his viewers to do.

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On a related note, Vanessa Willoughby and Stacia L. Brown both have things to say about the “white beauty myth.” Willoughby writes both about her own life, and in the naming of actress Lupita Nyong’o as People Magazine’s Most Beautiful:

To be “colorblind” is to adopt a non-confrontational method of deflection and denial. The ideology of “colorblindness” encourages the persistence of colorism and Western beauty standards. Based on her speeches and the progression of her career thus far, Nyong’o understands the unspoken implications of her success and what it means to have achieved such widespread visibility. She is not an exception to the rule. She is a woman that has defied the rule. Her presence in the film, fashion, and beauty industries decimates the idea that black beauty can only mean a light complexion and/or white physical features.

Brown is thinking about Vogue, black history, and erasure:

“Vogue” writer Patricia Garcia seems to think that Rihanna’s arrival at the CFDA Awards with her backside exposed was made possible because of J.Lo. She does not account for the hundreds of thousands of black women in the history of the world who were stripped of their agency, placed “fully on display” against their wills, and sold to enslavers who used their free labor to feed the textile industries that have fueled the fashion market.

Representation and historical context matter. The ways in which black women and their bodies are discussed in mainstream, predominantly white media matters. “Vogue” isn’t the only publication to frame conversation like this poorly. Just this month, The New York Times published a … multi-paragraph missive about the “new” trend of white women eschewing hair-straightening and “cultural bias” against white women with curly hair. One line is given to the discussion of black hair …

Especially if this topic is new to you, read all of both Willoughby’s and Brown’s articles; they go especially well together.

***

I hope no women are holding their knees together waiting for male birth control, but this is the most encouraging news I’ve seen on the subject in a very long time. According to Maya at Feministing, Vasalgel, a long-term reversible form of birth control that blocks sperm after a single injection, is entering human trials and could hit the market by 2017.

Of course, it may just fail in the clinical trials, but there are other, less defensible obstacles.

Long-term treatments like Vasalgel often don’t get much funding in a pharmaceutical industry that maximizes profits by selling us uterus-having folks hormonal birth control that must be taken regularly. “Why sell a flat-screen television to a man, after all, when you can rent one to woman for a decade?”

We can only hope that good sense and market demand will prevail, especially since Maya says that Valsagel “does not mess with testosterone.”

***

Binary This is always nuanced and thoughtful, as are a large number of feminists on the web, but no one is funnier. Here’s her take on Yang Liu’s Man Meets Woman.

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While looking through Liu’s work, I couldn’t help bristle at many of the reflections on offer. It seems to me that there is a fine line between reflecting stereotypes, and reinforcing them through replication. Liu dances on that line, and I’m still not sure whether I really like the project. Part of the problem is that Liu’s motivations are somewhat difficult to deduce – she states that the images are reflections on a world that she perceives, yet it is not clear whether she is challenging these stereotypes, or merely describing them (and perhaps, reasserting them).

But how are we to ensure that Liu’s book gets taken up in this way – as a challenge rather than a reinforcement of stereotypes (already there are a number of blogs reflecting on the “charming” and “witty” reflections of the book). Never fear – here’s a handy guide to using this small book to smash the patriarchy:

STEP 1: Visit parliamentary question time. Throw copies at the heads of known misogynists politicians. 
STEP 2: Go on a guerrilla mission Valerie Solanas style – throw the book at all known misogynist pop artists.
STEP 3: Get someone to bail you out of jail.
STEP 4: Reflect on the stereotypes of the book, and realise that we live in an unjust world where men and women are socialised differently and driven apart.
STEP 5: Become a revolutionary gender warrior. 
STEP 6: Use the book for kindling if you get cold while smashing the patriarchy. 
STEP 7: The book also doubles as a nice coaster if you need to stop for a refreshing drink.
STEP 8: Show other people the book and talk about how it doesn’t need to be this way. 
STEP 9: Work with others to fundamentally reassemble society into a world where gender is plural and fluid, not binary, and doesn’t separate us from each other. 
STEP 10: Read the book again, as a bizarre historical artefact capturing an inequitable time.

I’m starting the program as soon as someone gives me a free copy of the book.

***

In the “some people have too much time on their hands, and the evolutionary psychologists are lying in wait” department, we have the idea that online matchmaking can be done by smell. (What? You thought you couldn’t smell people through your computer? We have an app for that.)

Researchers had 44 men wear the same t-shirt for two consecutive nights without bathing, washing or otherwise preventing their stench from thoroughly seeping into their clothes. A group of lucky women then rated the pleasantness (or chose the least awful) of the shirts – and the study did indeed find a preference for men with dissimilar MHC-genes. Good news for Singld Out and their customer base, right? Well, no.

See, the researchers found a preference for dissimilarity, but only sometimes. It turns out that women who were using an oral contraceptive while assessing potential mates’ body odour were actually more inclined to prefer similar MHC smells. Further research has, if anything, only complicated interpreting how odour affects attractiveness.

If this ever comes to anything at all reliable or worth taking seriously, I’ll eat one of those t-shirts (with a clothespin over my nose).

***

And for a last bit of (not body-image-related) fun, check out the Taxonomy of Mansplainers Tumblr, which gets more hilarious every time I look at it. Here’s just one recent one …

If I were a woman I’d feel differently…

Him: If I were a woman, I don’t think I would feel that way.

Us: That’s an impossible statement.  You don’t and will never know what it’s like to be woman.  Your opinion on this topic simply doesn’t matter.

Him: You are excluding my voice.  Everyone deserves to have their voice heard.  I just want you to hear my side.  Any good feminist ideology should include everyone’s voice.  You can learn something from me.

Us: All we are hearing right now is the dry heaves of patriarchy, gagging out rubbish all over this intelligent conversation.

I get most of my links from Feministe, Feministing, io9, Shakesville, and Sociological Images, plus assorted other blogs I read. Special thanks to Lynn Kendall for the Menstrupedia link.

 

New Work From The Portraits

Laurie says:

I’m excited about the changes in my vision that create these new photos.

When we made Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes, the book included small images that were created from the larger photos. They were complete compositions in themselves as art.  Since Familiar Men was about masculinity, they were also part of its complex commentary.

Recently I decided to create photos (“framings”) that were composed from within the portraits and were not about the conceptual aspects of my work, but simply existed as fine art compositions.

This work is much more abstract than previously, and closer to my artistic origins. I was raised in museums in New York at a time when abstract expressionism was considered the pinnacle of art. It was the first art I was exposed to. There is a level of abstract composition that overlays everything I do.

You’ll see “framing” images below and a link to the original portrait they came from.

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Segel Violin frame

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Hall frame

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Joan Rivers: Icon, Mean Girl, and Feminist All at Once

Debbie says:

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I never liked her performances; I’m allergic to mean comedy–I see plenty of meanness out there without intentionally adding more to the mix. At the same time, I understand the role of mean comedy–for other people–as catharsis, as outlet for feelings otherwise repressed. So I try not to write off the Joan Rivers, and Richard Pryors of this world, especially when they come from some kind of marginalized, one-down perspective.

I certainly never liked her plastic surgery, but I always liked the way she was open about it. Since she died, a lot has been written about the documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (full film available for free at the link). When Roger Ebert reviewed the film in 2010, he said:

She’s a woman who for various reasons depends on making audiences laugh. They walk in knowing all of her problems, knowing her age, eagle-eyeing her for the plastic surgery, ready to complain, and she forces them to laugh, because she’s so damned funny. I admire that. Bernard Shaw called it the Life Force. We see her in the film’s first shot, without makeup. A minute later, ” Joan Rivers ” is before us. Her life is a performance of herself.

Yes, she’s had plastic surgery. Well, why not? I think it’s wrong for most people. But show business is cruel and eats its old, and you do what you have to do. She talks about it. She talks about everything.

We’re short on women who talk about everything. We’re short on women who tell the truth about their own relationships to their bodies. And most of the ones we do have are political people with fairly small platforms, speaking mostly to audiences who already agree, or come close to agreeing. Rivers had the national stage. As a household word, she could tell (problematic) jokes about aging and millions of people would hear them, and some would think about them.

No more Botox for me. Betty White’s bowels move more than my face.

Nasty (or at least intrusively personal) to Betty White. Honest about Botox. Honest about bowels. Kind of funny.

My vagina is like Newark [New Jersey]. Men know it’s there, but they don’t want to visit.

Heterosexist. Racist and classist, since many or most East Coast people know how black and poor a town Newark is. Honest. Funny.

My breasts are so low now I can have a mammogram and a pedicure at the same time.

Honest. A little bit privileged (pedicures are a token of affluence, which may be part of why millions of women scrimp and save to get one). Quietly encouraging women’s health. Funny.

Philip Maciak wrote a fine piece about her at Slate.

But if show business was cruel to Joan Rivers—and it was—Joan Rivers was cruel right back. In 1994, just two years after Leno took over for Carson, Rivers founded the institution with which she will likely always be associated. The format of Fashion Police has evolved, it’s jumped around to various networks, and the fawning foils surrounding her have been cast and recast, but the basic idea has remained the same: Joan Rivers has a TV show where she mercilessly, gleefully denigrates what other celebrities look like. For 20 years the show has proven to be the perfect platform for Rivers’ one-liner-at-a-time battle with show business. Like Rivers herself, the show has a weird insider-outsider perspective. Is it the party organ of Hollywood’s systematic war on women? Or is it a suicide attack from within Hollywood itself?… At its best, Fashion Police was a fun, backhanded celebration of all the forms beauty can take in Hollywood from America’s premier insult comic. At its worst, the show was mean-spirited fluff. …

For her whole career, Rivers has been self-consciously pushing boundaries. In recent years she’s often spectacularly pushed the wrong ones, but we shouldn’t forget that, at one time, she was pushing the right ones—and doing it virtually alone.

After reading around to write this post, I’m going to make time to watch the whole documentary, which is a huge surprise to me.

I may not like mean girls, and maybe you don’t either. Writing Rivers off as “just a mean girl” isn’t a whole story; one of the things she did is forced us to see her as a whole, complex person who could not be easily written off or pigeonholed. I wonder what she would have to say about the fact that both writers I found to quote about her are male.

Thanks to Alan Bostick for insisting there was something worth writing about following Rivers’ death.

Women Cartoonists Draw Their Bodies

Laurie and Debbie say:

We were absolutely delighted with this feature by Kristen Radtke at Buzzfeed, in which she asked 23 cartoonists to draw their own bodies, each followed by a short statement from the artist. Radtke obviously made brilliant choices. You have to look at the entire linked page to see the phenomenal variety, both in artistic style and social statement.

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“In my early comics, all of my girl characters were super idealized and cute — they looked how I wished I could look.”Megan Kelso

Here’s most of Radtke’s text for her article:

…The comic’s industry was and remains exceedingly male-dominated. From R. Crumb, one of the most celebrated comics artists of all time, and his often violent depiction of women, rendered as grotesque, over-accentuated commodities, to the hypersexualized, bra-breaking breasts and quivering thighs of superhero comics, most female bodies in graphic form are enough to make Barbie look realistic.

So what happens when women draw their own bodies in a medium that has represented them so poorly? While graphic books published by men each year still outnumber those by women, the exclusionary landscape of American comics has been called into question. From blockbuster successes like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, to rising indie artists and vibrant online communities, female cartoonists are producing some of the most exciting work in the genre.

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“I’m just trying to draw people in a humane, mostly unsentimental way that reflects the tone of my stories. I find it hard to draw people ‘pretty’ for the most part. I like all the lumps and bumps.”Lauren Weinstein

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“It’s challenging to be part of an industry where it’s still a novelty that women are cartoonists… Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the media they consume.”Nicole J Georges

We can’t remember when we’ve had a harder time picking a few representative images out of a gallery. Virtually all of the choices are awesome, and awesomely different from each other. They make you want to spend hours exploring the websites and work of the cartoonists whose work you know and the ones whose work you don’t know.

When women are encouraged to draw, comment on, and represent our own bodies, amazing things happen. And when the women whose work is shown are this talented, it’s even better.

Hey, Kristen Radtke! What do you think would happen if you did the same thing with male cartoonists drawing their own bodies?

Post-Labor Day Links

Debbie says:

The whole world is talking about the release of nude celebrity (women)’s photos and everyone has a different take on it. In the Atlantic article at the link, Jessica Valenti spins it (accurately) as violation and discusses it in terms of consent. In California, Representative Jackie Speier moves to the context of revenge porn, and is sponsoring Federal legislation against the practice (eleven states have already adopted anti-revenge-porn legislation). I’ve also seen conversations about the NSA and privacy, and how that linkage is not generally being made.

Really, it all comes down to one thing: our bodies are not appropriately used as entertainment, they are not appropriately used as currency, and they are not appropriately used as vengeance. Until we can develop a culture in which all bodies, and especially women’s bodies, are appropriately used, be very thoughtful about who has custody of your nude photographs, and how you trust the people who have them.

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Hijabs, like all covering choices, raise the question of “what’s underneath?” In this three-year-old photo essay, Francisco Guerrero spoke to and photographed several Malaysian Muslim women who wear the hijab some but not all of the time.

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Guerrero said:

“What most of these women wanted to express is that wearing the Hijab was mostly their personal choice and this would vary depending on the social context. One of the women explained it by comparing it to wearing one’s ‘Sunday best’ when going to church of more formal family occasions.”

***

Here’s another years-old essay, this one by renowned historian Tony Judt. Judt died in 2010, not long after it was published. It’s as evocative a description of severe immobility disabilities as you are ever likely to find.

With extraordinary effort I can move my right hand a little and can adduct my left arm some six inches across my chest. My legs, although they will lock when upright long enough to allow a nurse to transfer me from one chair to another, cannot bear my weight and only one of them has any autonomous movement left in it. Thus when legs or arms are set in a given position, there they remain until someone moves them for me. …

During the day I can at least request a scratch, an adjustment, a drink, or simply a gratuitous re-placement of my limbs—since enforced stillness for hours on end is not only physically uncomfortable but psychologically close to intolerable. It is not as though you lose the desire to stretch, to bend, to stand or lie or run or even exercise. But when the urge comes over you there is nothing—nothing—that you can do except seek some tiny substitute or else find a way to suppress the thought and the accompanying muscle memory.

But then comes the night. …

I am then covered, my hands placed outside the blanket to afford me the illusion of mobility but wrapped nonetheless since—like the rest of me—they now suffer from a permanent sensation of cold. I am offered a final scratch on any of a dozen itchy spots from hairline to toe … and there I lie: trussed, myopic, and motionless like a modern-day mummy, alone in my corporeal prison, accompanied for the rest of the night only by my thoughts.

***

Fashion in the discount stores makes a whole lot of sense … if it comes in your size. Plus-size fashion blogger Chastity Garner Valentine is starting a boycott of Target’s new Altuzarra line:

Dear Target:

For so long, I loved you.  I always went above and beyond in our relationship.  I’ll visit you to get a couple of items and more than a couple hundred dollars later and a cart full of products, I have left giving you way more than I ever planned to. No matter how much I give, you never seem to appreciate me.  All I want is the clothing you offer all your other regular sized customers, but you always leave me out.  With that being said, I have to end this relationship.  It’s you, not me and for my own well-being and my self dignity I have to sever ties between us. 

This may seem a little dramatic, but the recent release of the photos of Altuzarra for Target collection has me feeling slighted. … Literally 50 pieces of beautiful (and I mean beautiful) affordable clothing and none of it will be remotely close to the size that I wear. The collection consists of deeps hues of burgundy, fabulous snakeskin prints, and fall worthy silk-like maxi dresses…enough to make any fashion lover lust.  My heart sinks.  You have once again made me feel like a second-class customer and because of that I’m going to have to discontinue my relationship with you altogether.

You go, Chastity!

***

Did you know that men’s and women’s bathing suits used to cover just about exactly the same amount of skin?

… the fact that the man in the ad above is covering his chest is evidence that there is a possible world in which men do so. I can see men in bikinis. Likewise, women go topless on some beaches and in some countries and it can’t be any more ridiculous for them to swim in baggy knee-length shorts than it is for men to do so.

***
My instant reaction to this nasty story was “Well, this will make the news when she commits suicide.” I hope I’m too cynical in this case.

A New Jersey middle school is refusing to allow 13-year-old Rachel Pepe to return to her school unless she dresses and identifies as a boy.

Actually, I hope her family finds a way to get her out of that school and into someplace where she can find some respect. Like yesterday would be good.

***
I enjoyed this essay by Dave Smeds about the beauty of karate.

As a muse, competition is flawed. It requires a person to measure his or her skill using an external gauge. That has always felt false to me. If I do well in a session of jiyu kumite (freestyle sparring), is it because I was great, or was it because my opponent’s performance sucked? Do I deserve credit in those instances when I just happened to be the player who was bigger, stronger, faster, or younger? If I do poorly, is it because I slipped up and used lousy technique, or was I simply matched up against a stronger, faster, younger opponent against whom I didn’t really have a chance?

If I’d hadn’t found a way to measure my progress that I could believe in, a way that felt real to me, I would’ve quit.

Beauty was what hooked me.

***

We all know that computers are transformative tools, and here’s an especially dramatic example.

Nobumichi Asai (leading a team of high-tech folks) used projection mapping and real-time face tracking to transform and retransform this model’s face. I think the work is fascinating, and I cannot help but note the named artist/scientist and the un-named model. I hope she was well paid, and that she enjoyed the process.

Sources: Feministing, io9, and Sociological Images, plus assorted other blogs I read.

Sharing The Walls

Laurie says:

I posted here about my work in LGBT: Our Common Wealth, an exhibit currently at the Commonwealth Club Gallery in San Francisco that runs through September 19th. It was curated by Pam Peniston.

I wanted to also post about the work of some of the other artists who shared this beautiful exhibition.  They include Kim Anno, Lenore Chinn, Tina Takemoto, Bren Ahearn, Jeremy Sanders, Indira Allegra, and Preston Gannaway

Tina Takemoto has an impressive small installation from her Looking for Jiro Onuma project

Looking for Jiro Onuma explores the hidden dimensions of queer sexuality during the incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II. Jiro Onuma immigrated to the U.S. from Japan in the 1920s at age 19, and he was imprisoned in Central Utah during WWII. Jiro worked in the prison mess hall and liked muscular men. He was also an avid collector of homoerotic male physique magazines. This project tries to imagine how Jiro Onuma survived the isolation, boredom, humiliation, and heteronormativity of imprisonment as a dandy gay bachelor from San Francisco.

The Japanese word “gaman” means enduring the unbearable with patience and dignity and the “art of gaman” refers to artworks produced in the prison camps using found materials. Gentleman’s Gaman reengages the craft practices established during incarceration and infuses them with a queer sensibility.

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Gentleman’s Gaman: Tarpaper Portrait of Jiro Onuma and Friends

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And work from Kim Anno’s stunning Water Cities series

I am interacting with science, performing hydrodynamic experiments in tanks, creeks, rivers, oceans, and various other bodies of water. Sometimes I stage the photographs both as a puppet master and a director, other times I use underwater equipment to record water light, and animal and human phenomena as it interacts with the camera. I use a tapestry of sound elements as a tool of commentary.

Over the past four years I am involved with making multi-media public art works that are collaborations with actors and composers. In the great outdoors, I am working with new digital cinematography and its interaction with sound in strange, abstract as well as familiar ways.

Currently, I am making a work: Men and Women in Water Cities. This work is in progress, and involves actors, and filming people in predicaments underwater. The work is inspired by Robert Longo’s paintings: Men in Cities, but takes off in unexpected directions. The most recent chapter, Water City: Berkeley, is completed as of 2014.

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And Lenore Chinn‘s powerful portrait Before The Wedding.

… For the painting of Kim and Ellen, I had actually been toying with the idea that it would be kind of nice to do an image of women. I like the idea of doing an image of two women who had very different personalities, and whose appearance was also very different. They also come from different ethnic cultural backgrounds. Kim is of mixed ethnicity, part Asian, part Native American, and I believe Polish as well. And Ellen comes from a Jewish background. So what I wanted to do was something that incorporated their background and their interests. This is the way I approach all of my paintings of figures, but particularly if I’m doing something that is thematically about a relationship or partnership. I like to see if I can incorporate a variety of these different elements and bring it into a cohesive design… “

“We decided to set the stage for this project in Kim Anno’s studio over in Oakland. We talked about things that might be included as design elements, props if you will, that would fit the bill for what we had in mind. And so in a way it was somewhat of a collaborative effort, even though I was staging the things that we decided to use. I said I would like to have Kim’s artwork in the background, and she had some very interesting works on paper which we could include, and I told her that I also recalled seeing a Chinese screen in her studio, and liked the idea of incorporating that somehow. And then the rest were things that we had thrown together as we were going through their home, before we got to the studio.”

“We spontaneously set things up, moved things around, and tried out different things. We had candles which included a couple of metal candlestick holders æ like little winged angels æ and we thought metaphorically they would be really good to include because they stood for their relationship. We had a lot of texture and light. We had had a fan, but it didn’t work very well, because it blew out the candles! So that’s how that painting came to the surface. – from a video interview Rudy Lemcke
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I’m delighted to be in an exhibition in my home city with such fine work.

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