Feminist Files: Mandela, PETA, Montreal Massacre, Palin, and protests

I don’t know if we could jam more into the past couple of days. Normally each one of these would get its own post, but since I am but one woman, we’ll just have to make do.

RIP Nelson Mandela:

What do you say about one of the most influential people of the 20th century? Nelson Mandela’s legacy will live on in all the hearts and minds he touched. He was a survivor, an inspiration, a politician, a father, and a man. There will no doubt be scores of tributes to him. And, unfortunately, more than one ill-conceived comment, like this one tweeted out by Sen. Harry Reid’s office: In a way, Mandela was both the “George Washington” and “Abraham Lincoln” of his country. We’re so fortunate to have lived in his time. Please stop. You’re hurting America. How about we remember South Africa’s first black president for what he said and for what he did?

Stupid should hurt:

There is no easy way to transition from thoughtful consideration of a great person to talking about Sarah Palin. Let’s just not even try.

So, it turns out that Martin Bashir resigned from MSNBC yesterday following a kerfuffle with the woman who quit being governor of Alaska to fail miserably at being a vice presidential running mate. This news would be bad enough since it involves (a) Palin being news and (b) Bashir resigning. While I don’t particularly care for any cable television channel — they all suck, really — I have on occasion enjoyed Bashir’s brutal, yet intellectual, honesty. But, it turns out, not only does Palin not care for Bashir’s brand of honesty, her philistine followers can’t be bothered to understand what a rebuttal is.

Following comments that Palin made in which she likened the national debt to slavery — you read that right — Bashir took to the airwaves to condemn the howling chasm between reality and propaganda. You can read the entire excerpt (and a transcript of what Palin said) here:

Given (Palin’s) well-established reputation as a world class idiot, it’s hardly surprising that she should choose to mention slavery in a way that is abominable to anyone who knows anything about its barbaric history. So here’s an example.

One of the most comprehensive first-person accounts of slavery comes from the personal diary of a man called Thomas Thistlewood, who kept copious notes for 39 years. Thistlewood was the son of a tenant farmer who arrived on the island of Jamaica in April 1750, and assumed the position of overseer at a major plantation. What is most shocking about Thistlewood’s diary is not simply the fact that he assumes the right to own and possess other human beings, but is the sheer cruelty and brutality of his regime.

In 1756, he records that “A slave named Darby catched eating canes; had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth.” This became known as Darby’s dose, a punishment invented by Thistlewood that spoke only of the slave owners savagery and inhumanity. …

When Mrs. Palin invoked slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms that if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, then she would be the outstanding candidate.

There is no question that the reality of slavery is not only quite different than the national debt, but it is perilously ludicrous and dehumanizing to even compare the two in the same breath. Bashir tells this horrifying story to shame Palin for belittling slavery and for using slavery as a controversy-baiting news peg. Unfortunately, the problem with tangling with professional news-baiters is that you often become the news yourself. Did he take it too far? Eh, I tend to feel like he took it to just the right place. She deserves to get her nose rubbed in the shit she leaves behind every once in a while.

Remembering Montreal, because misogyny:

Yesterday marked the 24th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

For those who don’t know the story, on Dec. 6, 1989 a man took a semi-automatic gun to the campus of École Polytechnique. He stormed the engineering building — at which he had failed to be accepted. Once inside, he separated the male students from the female. And after he had the women alone, he lined them up and shot them. Twenty-three years before the Taliban sought to silence Malala Yousafzai with a bullet to the head, a man lined up the female engineering students to send a chilling message.

When I was in college in the mid-1990s the massacre still felt very fresh. My now-husband was a student in the mechanical engineering program at his school and the story of the massacre was considered a blight on the field of study, a badge of dishonor. Not only did the male engineering students that followed in the wake of the massacre want to set an example (well, mostly), there was  sense that they must all be vigilant to ferret out any would-be assassins in their ranks. Still, we could use less than one hand to count the number of women in my husband’s graduating class in the engineering school.

Nobody wants to remember something like the Montreal Massacre because we want to think that it’s an isolated incident, representing a different time. But as we know from Malala’s story, the danger to girls and women who want the same education afforded to boys and men can be one of the most dangerous things to do. They poison girls who try to go school in Afghanistan.

However painful, we must remember that being a woman can sometimes be the most dangerous identity of all. And that women are sometimes killed for not greater crime than simply being. I don’t want to live in a world that would rather kill a girl than let her learn how to read.

We must remember. And we must fight for things to get better.

PETA’s clean plate club:

Whenever I see the name PETA, I immediately get irritated. (Also, why on earth are you sending me emails or soliciting me for donations, PETA? That is a straight waste of your time.) I can’t even spell out their name, “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,” without a Liz Lemon-sized eye roll. The organization has built their brand through campaigns riddled with sexism (TRIGGER WARNING ON THAT LINK) and racism. And they might not even be all that ethical when it comes to animals, as one investigation found that pets donated to PETA-run shelters were immediately euthanized (warning: graphic photos). Ethical my ass.

You’d think after years and years and years of shitty, sexist, racist, exploitative, and hypocritical campaigns that they basically can’t do anything more to piss me off. You’d be wrong.

First the set-up: Last week Mother Jones broke news that the efficacy of the morning-after pill, Plan B, was diminished in women weighing more than 176 pounds. Now, there’s something important about that sentence. Plan B does not work as well based on weight, not body mass index (aka a measure of obesity). Therefore, a woman’s relative fatness or thinness is not relevant. A tall, thin woman who weighs more than 176 pounds is in just as much hot water as a shorter, so-called “fat” woman.

The important point, then, is not that fatties can’t use Plan B. The important point is that the makers of the morning-after pill (including Plan B, Next Choice One Step, and My Way) have failed women. Why would a drug-maker not test the effectiveness of their drugs on people of multiple weights and body masses? And why, in this modern age, would a drug-maker not offer multiple dosage options to meet the needs of customers? Hello sexism in science! Even in pills made for an exclusively female client base, we can’t get away from the misogyny of our society!

So that would be outrage enough, right? I mean, no need to pile on. But when has that stopped PETA from executing a terrible idea?

Enter PETA with their despicable “Plan V” campaign to fat-shame women:

Yet on Monday, a major advocacy group seized on the notion that women who can’t effectively use Plan B are simply too fat. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a campaign Monday, pegged to Mother Jones‘s reporting, that encourages women to lose weight with vegan diets and “regain control over their reproductive lives.” In a press release, PETA announced that the program, “Plan V” will promote a vegan diet as a “Plan B lifeline for overweight women.”

“If extra pounds are thwarting a woman’s ability to use Plan B, PETA’s ‘Plan V’ could be the prescription they need,” PETA executive vice president Tracy Reiman said in a press release. The release also says that PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk sent a letter to Population Connection, a contraception advocacy group, asking for help promoting “Plan V.” In her letter, Newkirk explains the program “will encourage women to adopt a healthy vegan diet in order to lose weight and so take control of their reproductive rights.”

Where do I even start? How about with the message that IF A PILL FAILS YOU, IT’S YOUR OWN FAULT FATTIE MC-FATTIE-FATTIE. So I suppose at PETA employees fall into a severe shame-spiral every time they can’t zip up pants in a fitting room. Because it’s not that a product has failed to meet the demands of the market. Oh no. It’s that you fucking people are too damn fat. Where have we heard this before recently? Oh right, Lululemon. So there’s that.

Let’s go ahead and jump to what I consider an equally ridiculous part of this campaign — equating veganism with being thin. I can tell you from personal experience — having been a vegan for almost three years — that assertion is a fallacy. Vegans come in all shapes and sizes. While it is possible that some people may lose weight on a vegan diet, others might gain weight or have no change at all. Furthermore, people can attain a healthy weight and lifestyle on many different kinds of diets whether they eat animal products or not. (I know this is sort of blasphemy to some vegans for me to admit this, but let’s keep our eye on the prize here.) Deciding to go vegan should be a choice that comes organically from elements of one’s life. For me that came after a pragmatic search for relief from digestive issues. For someone else, going vegan could be the natural evolution of a philosophical desire to protect animals. Still others may see it as an opportunity to create a smaller ecological footprint. These are just some of the valid reasons people might have to try veganism. Being fat-shamed because a form of healthcare does not work for you? Not only not a valid reason, but  it is very douchey for someone to try to convince you otherwise.

Screw you, PETA.

3 thoughts on “Feminist Files: Mandela, PETA, Montreal Massacre, Palin, and protests

  1. Hi Sin City Siren! We just wanted your readers to know that we at Population Connection have nothing to do with PETA’s “Plan V.” As our President, John Seager, said: “The most important ‘take away’ from all this is that emergency contraception is just that, an important recourse in case of emergencies, which can happen for a variety of reasons. Consistent use of one of the wide array of forms of modern contraception is really the only way a woman in her childbearing years who is sexually active can effectively avoid unwanted pregnancy. As for PETA’s suggestion, it would be unfortunate if the importance of access to and consistent use of modern contraception gets lost in some wide-ranging discussion about everything under the sun, including the many positive benefits of a vegan diet.” — Amy Phillips Bursch, media relations manager, Population Connection

  2. Pingback: The fat strikes back: On #fatmicroaggressions, Victoria’s Bullshit, and more | The Sin City Siren

  3. Pingback: Why it’s time to dump diet resolutions | The Sin City Siren

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