Gay Marriage Leads to Polygamy: The Trouble with Engaging the Argument

January 15, 2010

Anyone who’s done much activism or kept up with the academic debate regarding gay marriage in recent years has come across the insulting “gay marriage is a slippery slope that leads to polygamy, marrying animals, etc.” argument.  Now, this is a stupid argument.  Of course it’s stupid.  But why is it stupid?  And what should the response be?

I think one common response to this argument highlights a larger problem regarding our culture’s attitudes towards sexuality.  The thing is, a lot of people have a tendency to respond directly to that argument by saying “of course this won’t lead to polygamy or marrying animals!  Gay marriage is clearly different from these things, and let me tell you why.”  The problem is that if you argue that way, you’ve already accepted the premise.  You’ve accepted that there is a category of bad things that includes polygamy, marrying animals, and presumably other practices as well, and that this category < gay marriage. Read the rest of this entry »


Feminine Feminism? Part II: Challenging Perceptions

November 24, 2009

Here it is! This is Part 2 of 2 on challenging our conceptions of feminism and femininity. Part 1 may be found here.

In Part 1, we discussed how femininity and feminism are not antithetical to one another, as inspired by this Feministing post. Here, I want to discuss the image and presentation of femininity, and how it influences our perceptions.

One of the tumblrs that I follow is La Douleur Exquise by Miss Wallflower that is basically a celebration of all things feminine. Every day dozens of pictures are uploaded that reflect the general theme, emphasizing fashion photography, bon bons, woodland creatures, books, tea and inspirational quotes. I am acutely aware of its flaws. The majority of women featured are white and waif-like. It emphasizes traditional gender roles and promotes women’s sexuality and aesthetic appeal as their primary quality. But for its artistic merit, it also forces me to confront these images, and question how their meaning is received today.

My feminist theory professor was also really into art, so receiving the presentation and questioning the meaning of these images goes hand in hand with cultural feminism for me. For example, here are a few photographs that piqued my interest:

Girl kissing boy on bench Read the rest of this entry »


Feminine Feminism? Part I: Challenging Definitions

November 17, 2009

This is Part 1 of 2 on challenging our conceptions of feminism and femininity. Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next day or so…

I read an article the other day that I found through Feministing that has brought to mind a lot of questions about femininity. The article written by Karen Salmansohn is titled ‘Are You a Feminist, or a Feminine-ist?’. The title of the article immediately set off some warning bells, but I gamely read on. Salmansohn is basically highlighting her theory behind and solution for the modern discomfort with the word feminism. Here’s how I read the article:

“…Almost from the introduction of the word “feminism” into our world, the definition has become corroded to mean something less than complimentary than its original intent. Somewhere along the line, to be a feminist started to mean a woman who’s basically unattractive both in looks and spirit.”

Okay, I would strongly disagree, but I understand that this perception exists…

“I find this negative connotation to be shameful and highly unhelpful. Women could truly benefit from finding a more inspiring word than “feminism” to stand by, as well as stand for, when seeking to become our most powerful and successful selves.”

Really? I agree with the unhelpful negative connotation, but ‘feminism’ is pretty damn inspiring to me…

“We don’t have to make a choice between feminine or powerful and successful. We can be all those things.”

OOH! OOH! Bingo! I definitely agree with this point! Okay keep going…

“With this in mind, I’d like to put forth that starting today, the word ‘feminism’ be updated to become the new word ‘feminine-ism.’”

Wait, WHAT!?!? Eff that.

And so the article goes on. I mean, I understand where the writer is coming from. In our exploration of independence as women, the sacrifice/rejection of traditionally feminine things was necessary at times in order to challenge society to redefine its norms. It also opened up incredible new avenues for women who felt restricted by these gendered roles and images. Today, we are in a much better place to reclaim some of these so-called ‘feminine’ practices. Read the rest of this entry »


Masturbation, Sex, and the Single Girl

October 7, 2009

Today, I would like to talk about female masturbation.  (Oh, goody!)  Why?  Well, I think there are some misconceptions out there, and I think it’s time that we talk about them, rather than leaving masturbation in this nebulous, sort of taboo, sort of appropriate but only in certain lights place.

I think that by now, the population at large knows that women masturbate.  The cat’s out of the bag on that one.  But there’s still a gender-based difference in how masturbation is referenced in popular culture.  Men, we assume, jerk off all the time.  They jerk off to porn, they jerk off when a woman doesn’t satisfy them, they jerk off at strip clubs and in bathroom stalls.  Etc., etc.  Women also masturbate, but it’s framed differently.  The idea seems to be that we do it as a journey of self-discovery: to learn how to have an orgasm, to learn how to have a better orgasm, to find the g-spot, to learn to have multiple orgasms, to explore the body, to prepare for sex.  It’s all about this magical, mystical, vaguely girl-power exploration.  Well I’m sorry, folks.  My vulva is not the Serengeti, and I’m not on a fucking safari. Read the rest of this entry »


On the age of consent

September 30, 2009

Let’s start with a brief history of the age of consent law in Canada.  Since 1892 the age at which a person was considered capable of consenting to sexual activity has been set at 14. In the spring of 2008, this was raised to 16, with the exemption that “sex between peers under 16 is okay, as long as neither is in a position of authority and they are 12 or older. Likewise, under a “close-in-age” provision, if a person under 16 (and 12 or older) has sex with someone less than five years older, they can be considered to have consented unless the older person is in a position of authority.” (emphasis mine) (source)

The law was changed in response to growing concern over international tourists visiting Canada to take advantage of the low age of consent. In short, Canada was becoming a child sex tourism destination. (source) In particular, take a read about Dale Eric Beckham, a 31-year old American who met a 14-year old Canadian boy on the internet, and flew to Canada to have sex with him. The boy’s parents alerted the police, who arrested Beckham. The boy testified that it was consensual, and so Beckham was released.

Now let’s get topical. Roman Polanski raped a 13 year old girl. She was underage, and didn’t consent. There are some people who seem to think that this shouldn’t be a criminal offense, or that he should be pardoned, etc. If those people are here, may I direct you to Kate Harding’s response at Salon.

I was talking with some roommates yesterday about Canada’s age of consent laws. It started when I brought up a family I know with a 16 year old daughter who moved in with a 25 year old boyfriend. I brought it up as an example of why I think the age of consent should be 18 (with near-age exemptions in place). The roommate disagreed. He thought there shouldn’t be an age of consent at all, because as a libertarian, he is against self-harm laws.

I argued that children don’t have the capacity to make certain decisions.

Read the rest of this entry »


Roundtable: Thoughts on the Omega Women + Power Conference

September 19, 2009

Welcome to the F-Wave Blog!  This is a space for seven young women to talk about issues of importance to our lives and communities, and to learn from each others’ experiences (and have a little fun while doing it.)  We met last weekend at the Omega Institute’s Women + Power Conference, and so we thought it would be appropriate for our first “roundtable” post to be a wrap-up of the conference.  You can learn more about us on the “About” page.  You can also follow this blog using the RSS Feed link to the right, or follow us on Twitter @thefwave. We hope you enjoy reading, and always feel free to give us your feedback in the comments section, or by e-mailing us (e-mails found on the About page).

Val:

This was the feminism my father warned me about.  Or more specifically, these were the feminists my father worried about.  Gloria Steinem and her bra-burning gang of man-hating , castrating, abortion-loving Feminazis.  This is not to say that there was any bra-burning (just bra abstaining) or castrating (that I know of) at the Women + Power Conference.  But these were women of all ages, who threw around words like “heteronormativity” and discussed female power and subjugation with flagrant abandon—and they were certainly more than this OC girl had ever seen together at one time.  Perhaps that is what struck me most about the conference.  Sitting on the shuttle, winding through the mists and the mountains of upstate New York, I was electrified with excitement at my realization that I was sitting on a bus full of young women JUST LIKE ME.  And not like me at all.  Dozens of women from all backgrounds who were brought together because we believe in Feminism, not as an antiquated study of generations past, but as a living and vital force in our own contemporary culture.  We are not too distracted by our iStuff to notice that women are still not receiving pay equal to men, that we are still afraid to walk the city streets alone at night, that we still feel the eye of the male gaze.  And not only that, but these we young women see the injustice of a world where heterosexuality is the standard by which all else is judged.  We see that people of color continue to be treated as second class citizens, even in states like my own, where they are the majority.  We see all of these things, and we will not stand by.  That refusal to be complicit, to be silent, to be complacent was the bolstering impression that I took with me from Omega.  Yes, there were shortcomings.  White, middle-aged, upper-middle-class women still comprised the majority of the participants.  Young women (meaning under the age of thirty), were given a shockingly small voice.  Issues of gender and sexuality went largely unmentioned.  But the truly young women were not of this nature, and coming from a generation who has supposedly tuned out from the pressing issues of the day, it was exhilarating to find that we are everywhere, and we are fighting.

Lisa:

So much of my feminist learnin’ comes from reading books and blogs. The conference really reminded me that discussion and actually making opinionated statements are much more valuable than sitting at a computer screen, nodding your head in agreement with the text you’re reading.

Becky:

Omega was a transformative experience for me. I’ve been feeling very burnt out this year, and was even questioning my commitment to my program and school in general. Spending this weekend with all these wonderful women was just the kind of energy boost I needed. Everything seemed more than I could possibly dream, like getting to speak to Gloria Steinem, meeting and hanging out with the wonder women of Feministing.com, hearing from women across the board on issues of interest to me. Most of all, getting to meet some new best friends from all over Canada and the U.S. was my absolute favourite part.

We spoke a lot of the communities that feminism creates among women. And even though we had only just met hours before, and we had very little in common as a group other than our feminism, we were able to connect on a level that allowed us to share our thoughts, voices and experiences without any fear of judgement, reprisal or rejection. One of my most overwhelming experiences was getting to talk about body issues in the sauna. For the first time in my life, my body was just a body, not for anyone’s consumption, and I loved it so much. It made me realise how important these woman-woman connections are to understanding and accepting ourselves. And in light of the inter-generational dialogue theme of the conference, I think it’s reflected in our need to interact with and hear the stories of women of all ages, from all backgrounds and experiences. There was an energy on that campus, and it wasn’t just the estrogen permeating the air, lol. There was an air of possibility and hope and power. Sure there are a lot of issues we still need to work on, like the representation of non-hetero sexualities, but overall there was a feeling that no matter what, we can overcome any obstacles in our way. The movement is strong within us. 🙂

Mary:

The Women + Power conference was kind of attitude-altering for me.  Having the privilege of seeing some of my heroes (Gloria Steinem, Samhita and Jessica of Feministing) and finding new role models (Sakena Yacoobi and Helen Thomas), and making friends with other young women who relate to me geeking out over powerful interesting, motivated at talented women of all walks of life really made me realize I am much more interested in being PART of the feminist movement.  I might not end up protesting down the streets of DC with a bullhorn and a battle-cry (which is awesome) but I do think that being active in some way, verbally on a blog, politically by voting, etc, or socially by simply making waves when someone in my home says something racist or sexist is imperative.  I like the idea of being more conscious and feminist in my daily life even if I don’t make a career of it.  As a young, broke, brown woman from a different walk of life than many of my fellow conference attendees, I feel getting my perspective in the mix on the general blogosphere is an important step in creating a holistic community.

Judith:

For me, the conference was a mixture of feeling very empowered at times and dealing with a lot of anger at other times.  On the one hand, I had a great feeling of being in this “safe” space.  Not only was it safe in the sense of not worrying about the negative energy that comes from being stared at on the street, or safe in the sense of being able to express my views, but also safe in funny little ways like not having to worry about accidentally eating meet in the dining hall.  It was wonderful to get away from my life, to recharge, to do some yoga, to meet some amazing women, and to assess where I am in my life and where I’m going.  I also enjoyed connecting with women of different generations, even though some of that experience was colored by the heteronormativity and privilege of it all.

On the flip side, I found myself frequently questioning my own reactions, especially to the women on stage.  Interspersed with wonderful wisdom and insight from Gloria Steinem, Helen Thomas, Isabel Allende, etc. were some comments that sat funny with me.  There was a lot of talk about how women, while trying to empower themselves, have become too aggressive, not embracing their “feminine,” caring side.  This was often linked to children and family and (sometimes) men.  There was also lots of talk of mentoring, which I think is great, but where does one find a mentor on the street?  So I reacted to a lot of this with a mix of “hmm, maybe I do need to allow myself to be more emotional” and the more abrasive “fuck that shit.”  The juxtaposition of these groups of traits as “masculine” and “feminine” was especially troubling.  I felt some essentialization of “woman” creeping in, and it made me feel like an outsider at times.  That said, the conference has given me a lot to think about, and I’m so excited about blogging with these amazing women.