Feminist Friday: Sandra Fluke testifies, Meryl honors Viola, Reese Witherspoon speaks out against domestic violence

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Happy Feminist Friday! Let’s start with the gross and work our way up to the awesome, shall we? 

So. Rush Limbaugh is not so much a human being as a fetid ball of hair, decayed flesh, and toenails vomited up by a mutant swamp vulture. Case in point: You will recall that, after days of being blocked from testifying in the farcical Congressional He-Man Woman Hater’s Club birth control hearings, Sandra Fluke finally gave a moving account of a friend losing an ovary because she couldn’t afford hormonal birth control to help control ovarian cysts. 

Limbaugh, a man who was once detained at an airport for having a bootleg bottle of Viagra on himcalled Fluke a slut and a prostitute for talking about birth control in front of Congress. For talking about it. Because wanting your friend to be able to avoid a painful medical condition makes you promiscuous and a sex worker. 

Walking pustule Limbaugh, in addition to not bothering to listen to Fluke’s testimony before slandering her on the air, is also a grown man (or, rather, a grown pustule) who does not understand how birth control pills work. He suggested repeatedly that women must not be able to afford birth control because they’re having so much sex. Really. He thinks you take more pills per sex act. With that level of sexual sophistication, I can’t imagine why he’s been divorced three times. (So far.) 

When roughly everyone on the planet with a shred of basic decency protested Limbaugh’s scumbag remarks, he came back and demanded that Fluke release a sex tape

All this, of course, is designed to make women too afraid of being publicly insulted and shamed to stand up for their rights in the public arena. Good luck with that, Sparky. 

Virginia backed down on its vile transvaginal ultrasound bill, but the remarkable Dahlia Lithwick points out that the new law is just as bad. It still forces doctors to perform unnecessary (and, in most cases, useless) ultrasounds, and there are some disturbing implications for women who miscarry. 

We also learned that respected third-term Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) will be stepping down at the end of her term, and there is heavy speculation that her decision is at least in part because of the relentless GOP push to force women to hand their uteruses over to big strong male legislators for safekeeping. Snowe herself says it’s due to the partisan divisiveness. 

That doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily be down one female Senator, though. Maine Representative Chellie Pingree (D) seems to be interested in the job. 

Ugh, let’s shake off those politics, shall we? 

Let’s start with the phenomenal Meryl Streep, who after collecting her third Oscar (and a staggering 17 nominations) could have just rested on her Quite Possibly The Greatest Actress of Our Time laurels and maybe gone out for a nice meal or something, and nobody would have argued. 

But instead she donated $10,000 to a struggling Rhode Island school in honor of her close friend and fellow nominee Viola Davis. Not a bad way to celebrate. 

Reese Witherspoon also showed her awesome by appearing at the World Conference on Women’s Shelters and speaking out against domestic violence – and by making it clear that she talks to her daughter and her son about it. 

A step or two away from reality, io9 fed everyone’s Hunger Games cravings with a big, beautiful gallery, including tons of city scenes, and The Mary Sue saluted Katniss’s predecessors – a list of kickass female heroes (who don’t wear costumes or have superpowers). Just clicking through may leave you too keyed up for proper office decorum, so proceed with caution. 

Or not. It’s Friday, after all. Go ahead and get charged up and hurl that stubborn toner cartridge straight through the conference room window. Give them something to think about on Monday morning. 

Speaking of kickass women of the non-costumed variety, can we take a moment to talk about how fantastic Ranae Holland, the Very Patient Biologist is on Finding Bigfoot is? She holds her own week after week as the only woman and the only skeptic in a group of Bigfoot-loving dudes.

Not just ordinary Bigfoot-loving dudes, either. You know how you’ll hear someone say something like “Cats don’t like it when you pet them tail-to-head,” and they say that because it’s a common fact known to anyone who has seen and petted cats? 

The Sasquatch dudes Holland works with use the same tone of voice for statements like “‘Squatches love bacon.” You will note that the show is not called Finding Bigfoot Again Because We Totally Found Bigfoot Before and Thus Have Any Proof at All That He Exists.

Holland manages to maintain immense good cheer in spite of what must be faintly sad and lonely circumstances: She is the only one in her group who understands that they will never find Bigfoot.

And she’s terrific. There is tremendous pressure, week after week, for her to agree that there really is a ‘squatch in those woods to make everyone happy, but she manages to stand her ground, insist on real evidence, and still maintain friendly working relationships with the Sasquatch faithful she travels around with.

Holland is the one who’s going to call two glowing eyes at about tree branch height an owl. She’s the one who will point out that a hypothetical forest creature known for its shyness probably didn’t step out and show itself to a group of people on noisy ATVs. And she’s the one bold enough to mention that if you got footage of a Sasquatch, you wouldn’t turn off your video camera one nanosecond after you got a good shot, so the guy who did just might be a hoaxer.

And Holland is no blowhard or knee-jerk contrarian. If she can’t explain something right away, she’ll admit it. And, like the true scientist she is, if you have a hypothesis, she wants to test it. Holland has gone charging down a hillside to see if a Sasquatch could really do the same thing in just a few strides. You want to put baked goods out on a log or walk around the woods at night making long howling noises? She’s down.

And through it all, she keeps her sense of humor. The guys in the group claim that Sasquatches respond when you take a big wooden dowel and wham it on a tree, because OK, why not? Holland, in a solo expedition, dutifully gave a tree a few whacks and paused to wait for a response. When none came, she looked at the camera and said, “Le sigh.”

Holland makes me wish I knew more kids so I could watch the show with them. She’s a great role model. She shows how important asking tough questions, knowing your own mind, and sticking to your guns can be. Not to mention the ongoing demonstration that both science and tromping around in the woods can be really cool.

Holland is filming more episodes of Finding Bigfoot right now, and I can’t wait. 

Did you want more lady-centered nonhuman primate news? Yes. Yes, you do. 

Because the BBC ran a fascinating article on lesbian chic among bonobos, our sexiest primate cousins. (Be careful before clicking that link. The picture may not be entirely safe for work. It may also cause you to do a quick check-in. If you haven’t been having that much fun lately, remind yourself to do so.) 

Female-female encounters are routine among bonobos. (Well, not routine, exactly. They’re pretty damn creative about it. Let’s go with “normal and frequent.”) Researchers tracking vocalizations during sexual encounters noticed that females were louder during sex when they knew an alpha female was nearby, and low-ranking females in the group just could not shut up when they were picked for a tryst by a higher-ranking female. 

I know you just thought about that one friend of yours, but drawing conclusions about human society based on other species is not considered anthropologically sporting. 

Unless you’re talking about a ‘Squatch. 

Have a great weekend.

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