Much has changed in my life over the last few years. One change is that I've become very active with Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. Another is that I've become even more active with my union. This latter change has created a problem for Sex In The Public Square: I have very little time to maintain this site. Fortunately, the former change provides the solution: I will now be blogging at Woodhull's web site. You will find my blog featured on the home page at http://woodhullalliance.org and it will have its own page at http://www.woodhullalliance.org/category/sex-in-the-public-square/.
I'm excited by the move. I'll be joining folks like first amendment attorney Larry Walters, sexual freedom and education scholar-advocate Marty Klein, and the folks at AVN in providing commentary for Woodhull.
This site will remain here as an archive. Comments will be turned off and new content will not appear. Please join us over at Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and be part of a bigger conversation!
Two stories about gender and children caught my eye, over the last couple days. They are not at all connected to each other, but the more I thought about them, the more I realized that they illustrate very different responses to gender inequality, and that those different responses say a lot, potentially, about the structure and culture of gender in two different societies: Canada and India.
The first story was making the rounds a few days ago on Yahoo! News. It tells the story of the Witterick-Stocker family, of Toronto, who have decided not to share the sex of their 4 month old baby Storm with anyone other than immediate family and the midwives who assisted with the delivery.
The second is a story I read in the New York Times yesterday morning, and it tells of increased rates of sex-selective abortions among well-off, well-educated women in India. Specifically, it reports on a study recently published in The Lancet, documenting the spread of sex-selective abortion practices across India over the past 20 years. The study placed particular focus on the decisions made about second children when the first child was a girl.
What a world apart, both literally and figuratively.
From page A18 of the May 24 edition of the New York Times
What do you think? This Bloomingdales ad for Rag & Bone Jeans ($165.00) and silk Equipment top ($178.00) contains the tag line "MEET YOUR NEW MUST-HAVE" and depicts an Asian model staring into the camera with her lips parted. It accompanies an article with the headline "In Oakland, Redefining Sex Trade Workers as Abuse Victims" which, among many things, criticizes the 'exoticization' of Asian women in the US.
The article can be found online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/us/24oakland.html
Ten is the number of bodies that have been found on Long Island's southern beaches since December. The first four, all found between December 11 abd 13, were confirmed to be the remains of women who had had some experience in sex work. The next was found on March 29. Three more were found on April 4, and two were found today. The identities of those most recently found have not been determined, and police have not made a definitive statement about whether all of the murders are connected.
So far, none has turned out to be Shannon Gilbert, the search for whom turned up these other victims.
I suspect they will turn out to be related, victims of a serial killer who targets women who, among all of the other things that they do in their lives, also exchange sex for money.
SWOP-NYC has responded with a statement that rightly reminds us that the dangers of sex work are the dangers of stigmatization and isolation, and not particular to the exchange of sex for something else of value.
I just spent three days at my statewide union's Representative Assembly where health and safety was one of the key concerns.
Are you a union member, or a friend or family member of a union member? If so, please come out. Please identify yourself that way in conversations. Please stand up for unions and for the basic worker rights that they protect.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010, only 11.9 percent of workers in the US were represented by unions, and that number is only as high as it is because about a third of public sector workers are union members.
What does this have to do with sexuality? First of all, without unions there can be no economic justice in a capitalist society, and without economic justice, sexual freedom is impossible in any meaningful way. To fully realize our sexual freedom we need basic economic security.
Second, there is a lot to be learned from the coming out campaigns of the LGBT movement. When we are visible we reveal ourselves, making ourselves vulnerable, but we also become three dimensional human beings to those who have previously seen us as one-dimensional stereotypes.
Exactly one week ago I was preparing for a workshop at Creating Change in Minneapolis. The session was led by Ricci Levy, Executive Director of Woodhull Freedom Foundation, and consisted of a panel and story telling exercises.
Our goal was to show how powerful story telling is for building empathy and connection with a group of people and communicating about the kinds of change that you care about. Robert Perez, of Fenton (a stellar communications firm) talked about story telling in general terms and offered examples. I talked about the problems of jargon and identity politics. Ignacio Rivera, performance artist and educator, talked about the need to introduce new language and educate people. Carmen Vazquez, long-time activist and advocate for sexual liberation and human rights, talked about the need to communicate about desire, sex, and connection. Then participants had a chance to identify changes they wanted to see, and to begin to create stories that would help them talk about those changes. It was a powerful session.
This is what I said.
Talking about sexuality does not increase sexually transmitted infections, despite what non-experts report.
Contact: Megan Andelloux
Contact: Aida Manduley
In yet another attempt to shut down access to quality sex education, South-Eastern New England conservative advocates hit the sex panic button in a multi-state, email and phone campaign to colleges all over New England last week.
On February 3rd and 4th, certified sexuality educator and sexologist Megan Andelloux (AASECT, ACS) received word that numerous colleges and university faculty received a document stating that colleges who brought sex educators such as Ms. Andelloux onto their campuses were linked to the increasing rate of transmission of HIV in RI. Furthermore, among other misleading “facts” that were “cited,” the author of this bulletin claimed that Brown University was facing an HIV crisis, which is false.
File under "Horror Movies I don't Ever Want to See". Mattel is marketing it's new Barbie-as-concealed-video-camera by telling kids they can make movies "From Barbie's point of view". I don't know what you did with your Barbies when you were a kid, but I don't think I'd want to see movies shot from the point of view of my own.
I'm also pretty sure that kids don't need concealed video cameras. And while the FBI is apparently concerned that kids will be tricked by creepy grownups who use Video Girl Barbie to take surreptitious kiddie porn shots, I don't think there is a girl within Mattel's advertising reach who isn't very much aware of the new doll.
I watched the Mattel demo video ("About the doll") and found this image, which I found troubling for the way that Mattel is again uncareful about the images it creates. Does anybody remember the "Math is hard!" debacle?
Am I the only one who sees Barbie on her knees ready to be shot? The hole in her chest isn't helping me any (though I realize that is the camera lens). Again, maybe it's just that I don't want movies from the perspectives of my own childhood Barbies, but still ;)
Sara Dopp, founder of Genderfork and longtime brilliant blogger and social media mobilizer extraordinaire has a very important new project and I want you to know about it. The idea is this: creating an online marketplace where people can sell clothing and accessories to each other and share ideas and tips about how to look the way they want to look without being constrained by department store fashions. The idea is particularly important for those of us who don't find clothing that both represents our gender expressions and and also fits our bodies at the same time. In Sara's words this would be:
a genderplayful, body-positive, fashion-savvy online marketplace. This would be a space where people sell to each other (like Ebay and Etsy), with a focused emphasis on solving all of our wardrobe problems. Together.
We’d pull in a mix of indie clothing designers, body-savvy tailors for custom alterations, small business clothing shops, crafters, and folks who want to share things from their closet. All with a celebratory and problem-solving emphasis on creating clothes that fit our genders, styles, and bodies.
If you prefer video explanations, I think you'll enjoy this one:
I love community-driven solutions to real people's actual problems. There are too many manufactured "solutions" to artificially constructed problems. Are you interested? Let Sara know. This can't be done without evidence that people want and need it. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, check out the genderfork post about the marketplace, comment here or there, or make a video of your own explaining why you need this kind of marketplace.