Monthly Archives: June 2005

June Wrap-Up

The biggest thing that we did together in June, of course, was start this blog! Neither of us really knew how much we were going to enjoy writing together, or just how much we’d look forward to your comments and feedback.

Laurie: “Jose Ramon Lerma came to lunch and we spent a lovely afternoon. I first met Jose when he bought two of my photographs at the Chatterbox Gallery exhbition. Then I traded more photos for one of his acrylic paintings. Jose is a very well-regarded abstract painter ( he works marvelously in other styles as well) whose new work really knocks me out. He has been on the California art scene since the 40’s. He knew many of the photographers I admire, and tells me wonderful stories about Imogen Cunningham. It’s also great for me to know someone who is passionately doing new work in his mid- 70’s.”

Laurie’s never-before-exhibited new diptych nude portrait of Marlene Hoeber was in the transgender “Fresh Meat in the Gallery” exhibition at San Francisco’s ODC Gallery in June. Laurie also went to one showing of the four-evening transgender performances. Laurie: “I especially thought Scott Turner Schofield’s “Debutante’s Ball” was fabulous.”

We’ll let you know when Marlene’s portrait goes up on the website.

Debbie is putting together The James Tiptree Award Anthology 2, coming before the end of this year from Tachyon Publications. The Tiptree Award is given every year to the work of science fiction or fantasy that best “explores or expands gender,” and Debbie is the chair of the award’s Motherboard. She’s taking off tomorrow for Boston for the annual Tiptree Award ceremony, and will blog from Boston over the weekend.

Jill Lee, curator of the Chatterbox Gallery, where she exhibited our work, brought the Women of Japan project to Shanghai last March. Now she is planning a trip to China and Vietnam as the Curator of the State of California for Asia. Her mission is to create a crosscultural exchange through a diversity of artistic expressions, bringing emerging and established artists across the ocean to exhibit their work, host workshops or seminars, and participate in artist and community interchanges in the USA and Asia. We expect to be involved in this work going further.

Richard Dutcher teaches at the Oakland Community Day School, a small alternative school “of last resort.” The school is in the Oakland Hills, in a very pretty setting except for the cyclone fencing. Half the kids have parole officers. Laurie went to their award day, where kids were recognized for being dauntless, persistent, and inquisitive, among many other characteristics. Laurie: “I had a great afternoon! The students presented science projects, danced, and performed short theatre pieces. I may be teaching belly dancing there next year.”

Professor Rebecca Jennison is both a model and an active participant in the Women of Japan project. You can see her picture (soaking in the hot tub) here. Becky spoke at Womens’ World 2005 in Seoul, Korea. She spoke about Women of Japan and showed slides. Between this presentation and Jill Lee’s work, Women of Japan reached both China and Korea. Several other women involved in the Women of Japan project also presented.

Virgins and Anorexics

Amanda at Pandagon writes about the Rolling Stone article on the “new chastity,” which got us to thinking about people who take pride in denying their bodies.

In fact, the distinct impression I got from this article is that the virginity crowd contextualizes sex in much the same way that anorexics and other people with eating disorders contextualize food and weight control. It’s all about the body disgust, especially disgust for the female body and an irrational belief that self-denial will somehow help a person rise above his/her physical self. … I find it telling that these virgins stick together and compete to see if they can find new, interesting ways to up the ante of self-denial and advertise their success. It strongly reminds me of how anorexics stick together and compete to see who can eat the least and lose the most weight.

Amanda is onto something here and, as always, it’s more complicated than it looks. Both anorexia and this determined sexual abstinence share a tone of “Look what I can choose not to do!” with other behaviors such as extreme dieting. These behaviors also all relate to obsessive controlling the body and to bonding with peers while excluding oneself from the larger society.

The kind of chastity Amanda is talking about is neither asexuality nor the individual decision to be chaste. We know a woman who chose chastity 25 years ago because of the time her sex life took away from the other things she wanted to do–and it worked. These young Christian virgins seem to be taking pride in their power over their sexual impulses and their ability to control the role and timing of sex in their lives. They are quoted as saying that waiting for the right circumstances requires enormous self-control.

While we agree that sex is a basic human need for most people, sex is different from food because not getting it never killed anyone. The young virgins described in the Rolling Stone article are making a public and proselytising statement and generally getting approval from friends and family, even if the wider world is skeptical. Although they may be mocked or teased, they can make their obsession public without fear. Similarly, obsessional dieters and orthorexis (people who only eat according to a very finely drawn set of semi-arbitrary rules) may be disrespected, but they ca have normal lives. Anorexics, on the other hand, live with the constant threat of the hospital or the asylum. By necessity, theirs is a private obsession.

The young virgins wear symbols of their behavior which publicly reinforce their sense of accomplishment. When they look in the mirror, they feel good about how they are living their lives. Anorexics look in the mirror and see disgusting bodies that need to be pared down even further. When scientists show anorexics pictures of their own bodies without their heads, the anorexics generally think the bodies are just fine: add their own heads and they will see their bodies as bloated and repulsive.

Depending on how, where, and when you grew up, your experiences around chastity, sexuality, body image, eating, and not eating will vary immensely. Our experiences are limited; we’d love to learn from you.