Archive | June, 2013

Kim Kardashian Pregnant: So What If She’s Fat?

12 Jun

by Erin Riordan

This article was originally published on Policy Mic as part of their feminist skillshare. 

Comparing Kim Kardashian to a couch, as most of the internet did following her appearance several weeks ago at the Met Ball in a floral dress, is not OK. Judging women’s bodies, pregnant or otherwise, is never justified and perpetuates dangerous standards of beauty and physical perfection. While Kim Kardashian has made the choice to place herself in the public eye, the consequences of the media constantly fat-shaming her reverberate throughout our culture, and reinforce the message that being fat is just about the worst thing you can be.

Since Kardashian first announced her pregnancy, tabloid and celebrity blog coverage of her weight gain has been incessant and astoundingly cruel. Many magazines made claims that she now weighs 200 pounds and that Kanye West finds her body so repulsive he is considering leaving her. People have defended these attacks by arguing that she made the choice to live in the public eye, and now she is facing the consequences of that choice. Never mind that she is pregnant, and is growing another human life inside her body, one that is relying on her as a source of nutrition, food, and growth. This is seen as no excuse for her to gain weight and change the shape of her famous body; a body the public feels it has ownership of.

When media sources criticize Kardashian’s weight gain they send the message to all women that it is not OK to be fat or out of shape, even during pregnancy. This anti-fat messaging, perpetuated throughout our culture, reinforces the cultural value of thinness and normalizes fat-shaming.

Our cultural value of thinness is unhealthy and causes immense harm to women, and undermines concerns of health for concerns of beauty. Fat shaming and weight bias impact overweight and obese people by increasing their risk of depression and anxiety as well as encouraging low-self esteem and body image. Negative attitudes around weight also contribute to the prevalence of unhealthy eating behaviors and discourage overweight children and adults from engaging in physical activity.

Overweight individuals are less likely to be hired for a job due to their weight, and are more likely to face discrimination based on weight from their doctors. Recent research has also shown thatmale jurors are biased against obese women in court. Stereotypes of the laziness and unhealthiness of overweight people persist, and create a reality in which weight-based discrimination is a part of everyday life for overweight Americans.

While it may seem that Kim Kardashian is just a silly celebrity who should buck up and get over the weight gain backlash, this commentary has real impact on our culture and our images of overweight people. By consistently presenting fat as a negative quality and shaming the bodies of people we feel take up too much space, we create biases and double standards that cause real harm in our society. Anti-fat bias undermines access to healthcare, and inhibits the promotion of healthy relationships with food and nutrition. Rather than promoting health and well-being, fat-shaming and anti-fat bias perpetuate patterns of harm and contribute to, rather than alleviate, our country’s weight problems.


Chick Lit

11 Jun

by Kayla Corcoran 

Here’s a story for you: there’s this twenty-something girl—let’s call her Jane Everygirl. Jane lives in a major metropolitan city, which more than makes up for her slightly-less-than-glamorous job. She is funny and clumsy, and by clumsy, I mean that Jane occasionally trips over her own feet in way that’s still cute enough to attract James Toogoodtobetrue, her hot neighbor over in Apartment 6B. James is smart and just a little too successful (and did I mention that’s he’s uber hot?). “I can’t believe my luck!” Jane says wistfully to her friends Suzie Hasitall and Kate Rollswiththepunches over drinks, “He’s just so perfectly amazing!” Cue Jane’s daydream about their classic wedding and blond-haired future children.

Here’s where the story takes a twist (hint: it’s not really a twist at all). James Toogoodtobetrue does something dumb that proves exactly why he just can’t be trusted. In to sweep up the pieces is Charlie Obliviouslycute; he’s the shy guy who’s been lingering in the margins the entire time, gorgeous and secretly harboring the gosh darn sweetest crush on Jane Everygirl. He’ll stand there, looking at his feet, and say something like, “Jane, I love the way you always eat your pancakes with a spoon/pronounce your “j”s like “g”s/cry when you see pink balloons!” Fill in the blank with whatever annoying quirk it is that is supposed to make Jane endearing (preferably something that no one actually cares about). Suddenly, Jane Everygirl is now Jane Charliesgirl, and they’re dreaming together about their blond-haired children.

In a recent article for The Atlantic “Chick Lit is Dead, Long Live Farm Lit,” Emily Matchar argues that these types of books, with their “hot pink covers featuring martini glasses and Manolos,” are a dying—if not, dead—breed. Replacing them, Matchar writes, is a new genre of farm lit books, where Jane Everygirl and her fellow archetypes abandon Manhattan “in favor of slower, more rural existences, scrappily learning to raise goats on idyllic Vermont farms…instead of pining after Mr. Big, they’re falling for the hunky farmer next door.”

Maybe chick lit as it was originally conceived in the early nineties is no longer the chick-lit-du-jour, but it’s certainly not dead. Replacing Jane Everygirl with Jane Farmgirl and relocating her to upstate New York or a sleepy beach town on the coast doesn’t change the basic structure of these plots or hide the fact that the genre as a whole does a lot of generalizing about women’s experiences.

According to the most reliable of sources, Wikipedia, the term “chick lit” originated as slang for “female literary tradition,” eventually coming to stand for a kind of second-wave Feminist understanding of the female experience. It’s a genre that’s home to many famous and well-loved books: Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada, and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, among others.

Let’s talk about the term “chick lit.” The implications of this categorization are problematic for so many reasons, but here are my top three: 1) By branding itself as “chick lit,” the genre lumps all women together, never accounting for diversity of experience; 2) For a genre called “chick lit,” the books that belong to it certainly revolve a lot around men and; 3) By naming one particular type of genre as “chick lit,” there’s a subtle (or maybe not-so-subtle) snub that other literature is not for women.

Chick lit is the women’s genre, right? Wrong. I doubt that all women like reading these types of books. These books are filled with cookie-cutter women: oftentimes young, white, average-sized women who have large enough salaries for it to not be a prominent factor in the book’s plot. Occasionally Jane Everygirl will gripe about her rent or having to use mismatched dishes, but when’s the last time a chick lit novel featured a heroine who was poor or living below the poverty line? Rarely do these books feature women of color or women who identify as LGBTQ. We almost never read about heroines who are in the Peace Corp, women who are running the magazine for which Jane Everygirl works, or women who are struggling with balancing work and home life. Chick lit very rarely features women who are marginalized or who are in high positions of power. Somehow these experiences don’t scream, “Beach read!” and are therefore discounted as light-hearted and fun. Ironically, making the chick lit heroines as “average” as possible in order to appeal to a wider reach of readers only limits the genre. If chick lit were really a genre for women, then it would at least pretend to appeal to a range of women’s experiences.

And then there’s this issue: for a genre proclaiming to be all about women’s experiences, there is sure a lot of talk about men in these books. The women that populate the pages of chick lit books are usually smart and fairly successful (if a little boring). But they are not independent. As much as it takes independence to live alone in Manhattan or on a farm (if you’re reading Matchar’s version of chick lit) milking goats, these women are always pining after men, convinced that their lives will be complete when they find “the one.” Frustratingly, these women will often be mildly attracted to every man that comes across her way in the book. Why do the women in chick lit books fall apart at the first sight of any guy with dark hair and rolled-up shirtsleeves? Besides making the assumption that all women are attracted to the same two archetypal men (James Toogoodtobetrue and Charlie Obliviouslycute), chick lit books perpetuate the false idea that women lose control when confronted by these men (or all heterosexual men). The larger problem is that snagging Mr. Hotstuff is often the climax of the book (no pun intended). Newsflash, Jane: finally hooking up with him doesn’t mean that all of your other problems are solved or that they magically disappear. These books make it hard to believe that women care about things other than men.

Let’s not forget that chick lit is marketed as literature for women, by women. What does that mean for all of the other books floating around out there? Are women not meant to relate to the themes that crop up in Emerson’s poetry, Stoppard’s plays, Zadie Smith’s novels, and Tom Clancy’s books? Come on now. I learned more about myself from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried than from Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed, and that book is about War! This is not to deny that some books will resonate differently with certain kinds of audiences, but The Great Gatsby is just as much for women as is The Devil Wears Prada. Chick lit presents a limited scope of what kind of material women are capable of reading: light, fluffy books filled with less-than-complex issues that can be read on the beach and then forgotten about. For a genre with roots in second-wave Feminism, it doesn’t have a lot of faith in women’s abilities to do much, be it the reader or main character.

And yet I keep reading these books, and so do thousands of other women, and it’s evidenced in the fact that writers keep churning out these nondescript books every other month. I understand that by buying these books, I’m only perpetuating the existence of a genre that I think is mediocre, but I don’t necessarily want to advocate for the disappearance of these books altogether. What I don’t understand is the necessary existence of the term “chick lit”—why can’t we just stick the books under the “Fiction” section and call it a day? Sure, it doesn’t alleviate the fact that these books don’t do a lot to advance the modern feminist plight, but it’s certainly a start.

Generation Gap: Proudly a Feminist

6 Jun

by Claire McDaniel

I’m not sure when I first described myself as a feminist.

In high school, my wonderful French teacher mentioned in passing that I was the class’ resident feminist thinker and I felt so very proud of myself. I read Chopin’s The Awakening, and I put it down on the table afterwards, nodded that Edna Pontellier had the right view of the world, and went off to get a calming glass of red wine. For my second theology course, I signed up for a feminist theology course in a heartbeat, even if it was egregiously early in the morning.

Sometime in there, I decided that I was a feminist. I liked being a woman, I especially reveled in being free to make whatever decisions I wanted, and I wanted all women to have the same freedom. It was that simple for me. Unfortunately, the simplicity of that definition doesn’t quite fit into the aging societal paradigm of what constitutes feminism.

I’m not sure what there is about the word ‘feminist’, but it is so utterly polarizing. People throw around the word “feminist” like it’s an insult. It’s on par with calling President Obama a “socialist”. It’s something to be sneered at, ridiculed, made into a farce. I’m positive I’ve heard Fox News use them both together. But, it’s no double-whammy. Our generation simply doesn’t care about an out-dated conception.

I have never lived a day of my life during the Cold War, and an epithet like socialist means nothing negative to me, it’s merely a system of government that I think is impractical. For my parents’ generation, who became adults in the Reagan years, the word means something a little more malevolent. For Joseph McCarthy, it meant the devil incarnate. But what held true for the baby boomers half a century ago isn’t the case today, and those who cling to old definitions are about to be left in the past.

We are no longer in an omnipresent global struggle against the communist Russians, and we are no longer in an era of scorn for feminists. It is time to realize that there is a generation of teens and college students who read Caitlin Moran and learned quite a few new curse words with a touch of feminism on the side. There is a new generation of American women who have never known a world where there wasn’t the choice of birth control, Plan B, condoms, or access to legal abortions if they so desire. There have been generations of women who are doctors, lawyers, groundbreaking researchers, and some of the most powerful people in the world. These are things that are now ingrained into the very fabric of our lives, and they’re here to stay.

At twenty years old, I see the world ahead of me and know that I can do anything I set my heart on. I know that as I enter the professional world, I deserve to work in an atmosphere free from strangling sexism. I know that as a woman, I deserve to live in a world where there exists true and constant condemnation for sexual assault from all quarters, across geographic borders and generational gaps. I know that as a young woman in college, I deserve to have access to contraceptives, abortions, and whatever reproductive medical care I might ever need. I know what I deserve, and it’s about damn time that what I—and all women—deserve is not denigrated as feminist folly but is respected as a permanent truth.

Feminism is a permanent fixture in the minds of a generation of young women. It imbues us with hope, and steels our nerves against obstacles thrown in our path. At once a unique perception and a supportive togetherness, being a feminist is no longer an epithet. It is something in which our generation should be proud.

I can’t be sure the exact time I knew I was a feminist, but I sure as hell am one now. And I’m proud of it.

Do it for the Children: Challenging the Male Breadwinner/ Female Caretaker Model

4 Jun

by Alissa Orlando

Last Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released a report revealing that mothers are the sole or primary providers in 40 percent of households with children.  Four (male) correspondents on Fox News lamented about these “disturbing statistics” and cried out that “something is going terribly wrong in today’s society.”

What these men fail to do is segregate the two VERY DIFFERENT groups of breadwinner moms: 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers, and 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands.

Let’s focus only on two-parent households.  What is the problem that college-educated women are out earning their husbands?  Saying that this is a ruining the social fabric of America is sexist.  There is no INHERENT risk to women making more than men.  Families where the woman out earns the man make an average household income of $80K, significantly more than the national median of $51.7K.  So financial risk is not an issue.  But what about the social risk to children?

Let’s assume that a child is better off if one parent stays home (which is a huge and potentially false assumption). Erick Erickson, Editor of RedState, says that it’s impossible for women, especially middle class women, to work 12 hours a day then come home and be a good full-time mom.  Therefore, he advances, it is our duty to our children for mothers to stay home.  According to the Pew survey, 51 percent of Americans agree that a child is better off with the mother home, and only 34 percent say that a child is just as well off if the mother works.

Why is this problematic?  The same survey reveals that only 8 percent say that a child is better off if a father is home, and 76 percent say that the child is just as well off if the father works.  Also, the men who are so quick to criticize working mothers frequently have their own children – and illustrious (at least 12 hour a day) careers.  Take the example of billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, who said at the end of April that a woman trader’s career was over the moment she became a mother. Specifically, he said, “As soon as that baby’s lips touch that girl’s bosom, forget it.”  The irony?  He has three daughters.

So the overwhelming double standard is clear.  The same men who advance that children are better off with a parent home full-time have decided to devote their lives to providing for their families financially.  They do not demonize their fellow men who have made this decision, and do not view working fathers, such as themselves, as distracted.  After a woman no longer has to breast feed, there is no biological reason that she has to be the primary caregiver for the children. The recent study reveals that 84 percent of women in two-parent households are just as or more educated than their partners.  As the number of women who out earn men continues to rise, the male breadwinner/female caretaker model will become increasingly obsolete.  Public attitudes and public policies must change accordingly.  C’mon – it’s for the children.

Hijacking #ExposePP: Best 20 Tweets

1 Jun

by Kat Kelley

Disclaimer: While the author of this post is one of the co-coordinators of this blog, her views do not speak for the blog itself.  Feminists-At-Large respects the voices of all feminists. 


As I logged into Twitter this morning, I found that Planned Parenthood and #exposePP were both trending. To my delight, by the time I checked out the top tweets for each, #exposePP had already been reclaimed by the pro-choice feminists of twitter.


1. Planned Parenthood pronounces .gif like “jif” 


2. Planned Parenthood put your name in the Goblet of Fire. #exposePP


3. Planned Parenthood is so vain it probably thinks this song is about it. #ExposePP


4. Planned Parenthood voted for Bobby Newport


5. It Was Planned Parenthood’s idea to get rid of Google Reader #exposePP


6. Margaret Sanger was racist! Down with PP! Thomas Jefferson owned slaves! Down with America! Wait… #anti-choicersbeforgetful #ExposePP


7. While four Americans were being killed in Benghazi, Planned Parenthood sat and did nothing to save them. #exposePP


8. Planned Parenthood canceled Firefly! #ExposePP


9. Planned Parenthood made the IRS investigate AP over Benghazi. #exposePP


10. Planned Parenthood has FAILED to stop the #outsourcing of American jobs to China. #exposePP


11. My former employer covered Viagra but not my birth control pills. #exposePP


12. Gays don’t cause hurricanes. Pap smears do. #lgbtqfacts #exposepp


13. Planned Parenthood lets women make their own health choices without consulting their husbands or fathers, whose property they are. #exposePP


14. Planned Parenthood tries to help women with MEDICINE, when we all know PRAYER works better. #exposePP


15. I think Planned Parenthood ate that yogurt I left in the fridge even though I wrote my initials on the bottom AND the lid. #exposepp


16. Some people believe even poor women deserve reproductive freedom. #exposePP


17. Read the bible. It forbids abortion 34 times, government welfare 81 times, and Obamacare 37 times. Jesus was very clear on these. #ExposePP


18. Planned Parenthood created the Comic Sans font. #exposePP


19. Planned Parenthood thinks “irregardless” is a word. #exposePP


20. Planned Parenthood secretly decreases abortions in their communities with comprehensive sexual health services!! OMG!! #Shock #exposePP