This Week in Your Vagina
So the controversy over two Michigan state representatives being censored for saying V-words (“vagina” and “vasectomy,” while sayers of “vellum” still roam free) still rages on, and good thing, too. Because while there is much dipwaddery going on, it’s really shining a national spotlight on said dipwaddery, and getting sensible people of all genders mad enough to get active. (To recap: We all suddenly discovered that the Michigan GOP cares a lot about saying “vagina.” We discovered this during debates about their legislation that would make it much harder to care for actual vaginas.)
One of the first bits of dipwaddery came up on Friday, when the press secretary for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) explained that Representative Lisa Brown (D) wasn’t censored for saying “vagina” but for finishing her statement with the phrase “no means no,” which he thought was a reference to rape and thus was insensitive and over the line. Which makes total sense – the dudes who want to ban all abortion after 20 weeks, even in the case of rape, and make it much harder to get the morning-after pill are totally sensitive about the feelings of rape victims – but only if you’re talking about it. Actually helping them, not so much.
By Monday night, playwright Eve Ensler had flown in to join Brown and other female legislators in a reading of The Vagina Monologues, because heaven knows the Michigan GOP isn’t allowing any vagina dialogues. (Now that I think about it, The Vagina Dialogues would be the best puppet show ever!) Wonkette helpfully provided a Children’s Treasury of Impolite-for-Mixed-Company protest signs from the event, and this one made its way around Facebook.
But wait! Not having gotten the idea that he and his colleagues were being mocked from here to Themyscira, State Representative Wayne Schmidt helpfully explained that the feisty lady legislators needed to be put in time out, like you do with a naughty kid. No, that’s not my metaphor. That’s really what he compared them to.
Seriously, women of Michigan: It might be time to give some real thought to Representative Rashida Tlaib’s advice: If they won’t let you say it, don’t let them visit it.
This Week in Not Helping
Were you aware that Adam Carolla is sort of a dinglesack? Were you aware of Adam Carolla? He had a show on Comedy Central for a while that was aimed at guys who watched too much Family Ties and grew up thinking that “funny” sexism was delightfully impertinent and somehow attractive instead of something you roll your eyes at and wait through until the dude in question finally shuts up and moves a foot to the left so you can get to the guacamole. Or maybe it was aimed at guys who were frightened of women in general, so they needed a show that made them feel like at least they were stronger and smarter than chicks, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Anyway, the point of the show seemed to be “Har, har, we’re dudes! Chicks are definitely not as good as us!” Or something – somehow I never seemed to catch a full episode.
Here’s the thing: I personally don’t know any comedians (or improvisers, or comic actors, or comedy writers), male or female, who actually think this. Maybe because I happen to hang out with funny people who have spent a long time working with and watching other funny people. When you’re in the mix, you see (and read) a lot of funny women. I can name 30 women off the top of my head who have made me laugh so hard that my stomach hurt later – and if you ask me to take famous women off that list, it only takes a few seconds longer to come up with the names. Actual funny people who write or perform a lot don’t think like Carolla unless they are Jerry Lewis levels of old or, you know, full right up to their necks of the kind of issues where being interested in someone makes you feel too vulnerable so instead of being a normal human being you have to spend all your time and energy being angry at and dumping crap on an entire gender.
But the people who do listen to that sort of thing are people who write or produce fluff “human interest” pieces, which means transparent dirtball trolling (and/or pathetic soul-bearing) of the kind Carolla does gets a lot of publicity.
Because the very act of asking the question – Are women funny? – throws what should be obvious (“Yes, you idiot.”) into doubt, and before you know it your column is done or you’ve filled that three minutes before the cooking segment with a little back-and-forth hand-wringing, and who cares that you just made life a little harder for the kazillion actually funny women and girls out there who want to make a career out of it or maybe just make a damn joke at a party without someone going “Hm,” and feeling the need to deflate you because you thought of that witty thing and he didn’t so now he’s going to condescend about how it’s interesting that you’re trying to be funny, because women aren’t funny, really, he’s pretty sure it’s been scientifically proven somewhere.
And he still won’t move so you can get to the guacamole.
The reason stories like this ooze around the media like this every few years is because of confirmation bias. People like it when things that already feel true to them get reaffirmed, which means they’re way less likely to actually examine the evidence in those cases. So that’s how you get things like Piltdown man or laughable method-free “studies” on how The Gay is a choice passed around the Internet forever. Old sexists and insecure dudes like to hear that women aren’t funny, so people like Adam Carolla will continue to say that kind of donkeywash and will thus sell a few books to some manly, manly dudes.
The European Union set off a wee bit of a Twitter furor by releasing this video to tease a project to get more girls interested in science. But nobody seems to have asked any female scientists about it.<?p>
Follow the #sciencegirlthing hashtag to watch the discussion. (Oh, and some occasional mansplaining.)
The #RealWomenInScience hashtag is also worth your while.
The EU project is actually well-intentioned and the makers of the video are already claiming it was ironic. But at least one study suggests these kind of campaigns can backfire. And, really: Ask some female scientists next time. And, really, just the home page is off-putting to me. Do we really need to gender-toy science? What’s next, pink beakers?
As an antidote, some real female scientists.
Author Erica Kennedy, who wrote the novels Bling and Feminista, was found dead in her home this week. She was only 42 years old. There’s a nice tribute in the form of a Twitter collection over at Dr. Goddess. Her cause of death is undetermined, but some of Kennedy’s friends believe she was suffering from depression. Vanessa K. Bush wrote a great essay on getting help in Essence.
This Week in Thinkiness
NPR ran a story on the 40th anniversary of Title IX and the continued dearth of spectators for women’s sports. My friend who passed me the piece wasn’t crazy about the tone – she felt it blamed women for the decline of men’s sports. What do you think?
The New York Times had a really interesting article on why doormen and building superintendents are still usually men. Those are, after all, solid union jobs. Also, before this article, I didn’t know about the Nontraditional Employment for Women organization. You go, ladies.
…And Amanda Terkel notes that we may be out of female Democratic governors after the 2012 election. Have I encouraged you to run for office? Because I think you should.
And speaking of the 2012 election, Zerlina Maxwell at Feministing laughed long and hard at a poll that showed Mitt Romney is ahead with women. Uh-huh. Now show me the ones where he’s ahead with the LGBT community, Latinos, and Irish setters.
This Week in Awesome
Lizz Winstead continues to tour in support of Planned Parenthood, and this week she went to Austin. You lucky Texans.
The nuns are back! And possibly heading your way! On a bus! The Catholic Sisters are taking a nine-state tour to voice their objection to Paul Ryan’s budget because it would hurt the poor (and, actually, anybody who isn’t really, really, really rich). This is, of course, in direct defiance of the Vatican, which would rather the nuns stopped with all that dumb old helping the poor and did more gay-bashing.
The nuns aren’t having it and now they have wheels. I’ll say it again: Someone please make this into a crime-fighting show.
Also irritating the Vatican? A group of lay Catholics in Washington, D.C., who are protesting the Church’s hard line against contraception provisions in the Affordable Care Act. I wish I were adult enough to type “contraception” right near the phrase “lay Catholic” without giggling for ten minutes, but I am not.
Jay Smooth has had it with vile sexist Internet pile-ons. A little reminder that you don’t have to be a woman to be a good feminist.
The Mary Sue reviewed Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines and you will want to see it. And in typing that last sentence, I discovered that Word recognizes the word “superheroes,” but not “superheroines.” Shape the hell up, Microsoft.
And I leave you with a little bit of loveliness from Kate or Die. If you’re not already reading this comic, it’s worth your while to go back through the collection – they’re great.
Get out there and have a great weekend. And don’t settle for subtext.