Saturday, February 23, 2008

Belly up

After returning to Bikram yoga last week, I picked up Yoga Journal at the grocery store. It's a cool magazine packed with a lot of information about life in general as well as yoga (there was financial advice and information on SAD to name just a few things I wasn't expecting in a yoga magazine).

I always like to read the letters to the editor in magazines (actually, I have a tendency to get in trouble with friends when they send me links to things, because they want to talk about the actual article and I want to talk about the [often ridiculous] comments about the article). In the Feb 2008 issue of Yoga Journal, Alice Stevens of Atlanta, Georgia writes in about an article on prenatal yoga. She writes,
...I would have preferred to have seen your suggested poses photographed in better taste. Yoga honors and respects the body. I don't think that showing a bare pregnant belly is respectful or appropriate in a magazine---not even in a prenatal yoga class.

Within the letter section there's a shrunken image of the magazine spread that accompanied the prenatal yoga article. It's a smiling woman sitting in a tailor seat, in a sports bra and yoga pants. Her hands are on her ankles so her arms are framing her belly. It looks something like this:

[This image comes from Birth Roots Doula Collective, Inc.]

Am I missing something? Is there something inherently disrespectful to the body about showing a pregnant woman's belly?

Remember when Demi Moore posed naked and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair? I remember there was controversy at the time, but I can't remember it's exact nature. Now, looking at this image, I see Moore gazing out at the viewer proudly and aggressively. We often see nudity connected to sex in magazines images and, often in more sober content, sex connected to pregnancy. This image of Moore directly connects nudity to pregnancy and, in doing so, brings sex to the forefront. While Moore explodes the idea that a pregnant women is not a sexual being, her defiant gaze out from the glossy cover, also says that she is looking at us. The roles are not reversed, but the playing field is leveled; the "object" of our gaze, is looking back.

In Yoga Journal, however, the pregnant model (student?) sits smiling happily for the camera and in the image above, the model has her eyes cast downwards. And they both are at ease in yoga poses. Rather than forcing the reader to confront the sexualization of women, while simultaneously challenging imagery of pregnancy as scrubbed clean of sex, these images really are squeaky clean. It made me wonder what Stevens' point was. If just showing a naked pregnant belly is offensive, then perhaps having one is a shameful thing, in Stevens' mind. I hope not though.

Monday, February 18, 2008

To my fellow viragoes

Everyday I get a "Word of the Day" from The February 16th word was "virago"
1. a loud-voiced, ill-tempered scolding women; a shrew.
2. Archaic. a woman of strength and spirit
Synonyms - scold, nag, termagant, harpy, Xanthippe.

Note that there are no synonyms listed for the second definition (and see the linked word for more synonyms). I suspect that this is probably because the second definition, identified as archaic, is no longer used (by the way, the 2002 Oxford American college dictionary, also identifies the second definition as archaic, but is slightly different: "a woman of masculine strength or spirit; a female warrior" [emphasis mine]), but I have to say other than maybe "amazon" I can't really think of a synonym for the "woman of strength or spirit" definition.

So I looked up amazon to see if would lead me to any interesting synonyms. Amazon pops up in the synonym lists for "women" and for "mean lady." The synonym list for women is particularly interesting; it includes (among other words), "babe, cupcake, hussy, lady, madam, mama, she-stuff, shrew, temptress, and weaker sex [emphasis mine]."

First of all, "she-stuff"? WTF? She-stuff is like what Buffalo Bill would have called his victims in Silence of the Lambs.

Second, isn't it sad that we lost a word like virago when there are so few words that are defined as "a woman of strength and spirit"? When I see those two definitions of virago side by side, all I can think of is how often I get the message that strong women are bitches, smart women are unattractive, and opinionated women are just loud.

I'd take the world where virago is an honor rather than an insult, any day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dear Fourth Years at UVA,
I am you. I have come from the future to warn you. Two years from now you are most likely going to be (1) dropping out of grad school, (2) starting grad school, (3) sitting in an office at 5:01 pm willing the next 29 minutes to pass quickly.
Please get drunk immediately.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

To B

Why does it affect
and comfort me
the little scar
where, years ago, you cut your lip
shaving when half drunk
and in a hurry
to play drums in public.

We step now to rhythms we don't own or understand,
and, with blind, dog-like diligence,
we hunt for scars
in tender places.

-Moya Cannon, Scar

And this and this.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The gift of Ear Candy to remind you that you're fabulous

I may have linked to these two bands/singers before, but I really like them so I thought I would share.

Peggy Sue and the Pirates (my favorite of theirs is "the new song") are two women from Brighton, who twist up their voices around a guitar. Adele is from South London and reminds me a little of Regina Spektor.

On a completely different note, as some of you know, I am going to be a Bridesmaid this summer. Just for fun I typed "Bridesmaid" into google to see what the top hits would be. Second down on the list was a which featured a blog (or something that poses as a blog while helpfully linking to a bunch of stores. Also it's addressed to the bride, which I found weird).

Here's a particularly choice entry:

This week is National Singles Week, which means there’s no better time to take a moment out of your aint’-love-grand stupor to celebrate with the eligible single ladies in your life: your bridesmaids. Whether that means writing them a special note, assuring them once again that their bridesmaid dresses do not make them look fat, or blessing them with special bridesmaids’ gifts to remind them of their worth, there’s no better time than Singles Week to remind your bridesmaids that they are single and fabulous.

I'm not even going to touch that whole "make sure to tell them they're not fat" tip.

I assume that I would react with appreciation if someone gave me a gift at any time, but I find something just a teensy bit patronizing in a bride giving her presumably single bridesmaids a gift for National Singles Week. Am I the only one who would read receiving a present from a soon-to-be married friend during National Singles Week as having a tinge of pity attached to it (which would defeat the purpose of celebrating National Singles week [ahem, it's actually called National Single and Unmarried Americans Week])? I don't think single people are waiting around for affirmation from married people that they are "fabulous."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

February's Give plus two things I like

This month I've decided to give my monthly donation to the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. On their website they state that their mission is to:
  • To help elect more young women to elected office so that young women have an equal voice in shaping public policy.
  • To build the seniority of women in Congress by electing women at a young age.
They also have a sister organization called "Running Start." Check out the info under the "Young Women" tab on their website, which includes a map of where young women are running for office, what they bring to the table, and links to other resources about young women and politics.

Also, if you're sick of all the election coverage and need something to do, please checkout the Philadelphia Free Library Podcast, which broadcasts (podcasts? streams?) the author lectures that have taken place recently at the library. I have particularly enjoyed Micheal Pollen and Robert Kamenetz's lectures. Also, via Feministing, I came across the Library of Congress's photostream on Flickr, which is absolutely amazing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Dollars and Sense

I meant to write about this when I read it, but I've been having computer trouble at home and I've been too busy at work. (When I'm having busy days at work I want to spend my lunch hour away from the computer.)

I've noticed this all over, but last Sundays this paragraph from a New York Times article about Obama's South Carolina victory caught my eye:

"A heightened anxiety about the nation’s economy was at the center of the primary fight here. More than half the voters said it was the most important issue facing the country, overtaking health care or the war in Iraq." (Emphasis mine.)

From this quote, I assume pollsters/reporters were asking voting South Carolinians, "What issue do you care the most about, the economy, health care, or the war in Iraq?" This question (or the quote that results from it) fails on two counts: (1) It perpetuates the idea that the economy, health, care, and the war in Iraq are separate issues and (2) it is practically empty of meaning as I don't know what aspect of each issue they respondents are concerned about, leaving me to fill in whatever I am concerned about with that issue.

There will always be buzzwords summing things up into neat little categories that allow everyone to think that we're talking about the same thing when we're not. What concerns me most is the first failure. The economy, health care, and the war in Iraq are connected to each other, not separate issues.

Dwight Eisenhower said, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

If you're looking for the actual numbers the American Friends Service Committee (via Iraq Today) spells it out for us here.