Polyamory on Susie Bright’s Blog

January 2, 2008

Susie Bright is known as a sex-positive feminist. I like a lot of the stuff she says and does. Not all of it, mind you, but a lot.

I know polyamory/non-monogamy/having more than one partner (there are varying opinions as to if these are different things and to what extent) is a point of contention in some Unitarian Universalist circles, and I don’t want to reignite some sort of dramatic blogosphere discussion (as happened in July). But I did want to point out a recent posting on Susie Bright’s (possibly not work safe*) blog, “Peppermint, On The Strange Credibility of Polyamory,”* which LINKS TO THIS BLOG. Susie Bright is sort of famous. And her blog links to a posting on polyamory right here on this very blog. This is almost as exciting as being mentioned in UU World!

So, if this is a topic that interests you, I suggest you read the post. And just look around her blog. Remember, I don’t agree with everything she says (please don’t post comments pointing out what you believe to be the problematic things she says and does) and you don’t have to either. But she does say a lot of important, good stuff that we need to hear in a world where sex-negative, embarrassed, sad, and shameful feelings are way too common when it comes to sexuality and our bodies.

Afterthought: While Rev. Debra Haffner (sexologist, minister, and the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing) and Susie Bright have quite different approaches to promoting healthy attitudes about sexuality, and likely many points of disagreement, I thought that I would point out Rev. Debra Haffner’s blog Sexuality and Religion: What’s the Connection? because Rev. Haffner also strikes me as a very sex-positive person that we are lucky to have as part of Unitarian Universalism. Take a look. Her blog is excellent.

*It really depends on how sensitive your work is about what is “work safe”. Breasts are on the page. But as Susie Bright herself points out in the comments, it isn’t anything more than you would see in Vanity Fair or Vogue.

*Correction: In my excitement about being linked to on Susie Bright’s blog, I failed to read carefully and originally thought Susie Bright wrote the post On the Strange Credibility of Polyamory, but it is in fact a reposting from another blog by another author, PepperMint. Still, it is on her blog and still worth the read.


What’s up with down there? Tyra Banks talks about vaginas.

November 2, 2007

So Tyra Banks has her own talk show, which I didn’t really know, and apparently there is going to be a whole show on vaginas (or, as they say in the advertisement “down there”). As some of you may remember, Harvard Divinity School put on The Vagina Monologues a few years ago, which is where my passion for talking about and feeling comfortable with the idea and the word and the actual vagina was nurtured. (Side note: I am shocked that I didn’t post about it on my blog, but apparently, I didn’t. Luckily Philocrites did and you can read about it here (and on the HDS website). Our slogan was “God Loves Vaginas” which I still think is brilliant. We even had t-shirts made. Very fun. But I digress.) Anyway, my point is that I was excited to hear that a mainstream TV show was going to talk about vaginas. I first read about it here at People magazine where they use the word vagina in the article.

But, in preparing this posting, I went to the Tyra Banks show website here and watched a clip that made me wonder if this was something to be excited about. The clip from the show seems so dramatic and exactly the opposite of what I would want. Based on this little clip, it seems more like “Ohmygod we’re totally going to talk about down there. Dum da dum dum dum,” rather than “Let’s talk about sexuality and sexual health and our bodies” in a way that acknowledges that this is a difficult issue, has baggage, but also celebrates and tries to demystify our vagina and our sexuality. Clearly you can see why I am not a talk show host. Not exciting. Not dramatic.

Is it better to talk about “it” some even in a weird talk-show sort of way, or not at all? I guess I would fall on the side of better to talk about it some, even in a talk-show sort of way. Although I would have to see the whole show to really say. If any one watches it, let us know. Maybe it is a step in the right direction. I wonder if you can actually say vagina on network TV? They certainly made sure not to say it in the clip on the website.


Safer Cosmetics and “beauty” products? Organic, Natural, and Methylchloroisothiazolinone

November 1, 2007

There is an article in the Times this morning informing us that “There is no evidence to conclude that natural or organic cosmetics produce extra healthy skin.” Really? Because I wasn’t using organic stuff because it would make my skin or hair be “extra healthy.” I was thinking more about my brain, since, for instance, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recently found that “a significant proportion of lipstick manufactured in the United States and used by millions of American women contains surprisingly high levels of lead” (via CNN).

I just thought that the Times article was a little bit off, or rather a little bit too reflective of what the beauty industry would want them to say. For instance, they write that “representatives for the government and the beauty industry, as well as some environmental activists, acknowledge that there is no published scientific proof to support the notion that plant-based cosmetics are safer, healthier or more effective for people.” I mean, just because there are no studies on something, should we assume that it is probably safe? Should we take the risk and go with the “hard-to-pronounce, multisyllabic industrial cosmetic ingredients like the preservative methylchloroisothiazolinone” and just assume it is probably okay because there are not studies the prove otherwise, or go with, say, olive oil and aloe extract? I’m going to go with the precautionary principle here.

As the article points out, the FDA “requires manufacturers to ensure that cosmetics are safe for their intended use. But the agency leaves it up to manufacturers to decide which safety and efficacy tests to perform on ingredients and finished products.” Yeah, and I am totally sure that the make-up companies like Proctor & Gamble are very vigilant about the tests they perform. Um, like the ones for lead in lipstick.

It seems like the main thrust of the article is “hey just because it says organic or natural doesn’t mean it is better.” Which I agree is a good point. Just throwing a “natural” or “organic” label on something does not make it better. That said, I would have appreciated a little bit of an acknowledgment on the part of the Times that companies like L’Oreal and Cover Girl might use too many chemicals and other stuff that isn’t great for our bodies or the earth. And, of course no one mentioned that a lot of the organic/naturalish sort of companies don’t smear lipstick in rabbits’ eyes to test for safety and other things like that. Which I think is important. Always look for the symbol and statement that the product wasn’t tested on animals, or, heaven forbid, doesn’t have animals stuff in them. Gross (at least to me). (Here you can see a list of companies that do not test on animals and the ones with a star don’t use animal ingredients.)

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If you go here to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics here you can find “companies that have pledged to not use chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects in their products and to implement substitution plans that replace hazardous materials with safer alternatives in every market they serve. Several major cosmetics companies, including OPI, Avon, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Revlon, Proctor & Gamble and Unilever have thus far refused to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.” I like how they call them “safer” not “safe.” Which is true. They may not be perfect, but I like the idea that they at least try to avoid products that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation, or birth defects.


Britney Spears

September 13, 2007

So Ms. Britney Spears was all about having a comeback performance at the Video Music Awards. I watched the You Tube version of it and she didn’t do so well.  Fine. I think there are more important things to worry about in the world. BUT, what is driving me CRAZY is all this talk that she had a beer belly or looked fat or out of shape. I have heard this on the radio and rumor has it that places like People or Us Magazine are saying such things (of course, ahem, I wouldn’t know because I would not read those things, even if I was procrastinating on studying for a German exam…). But, HELLO? Look at her picture below. I think she looks GREAT. Just because someone goes from a size 2 to a size 6 does not mean they are fat.  Anyway, I thought that was important to say. Even if only 12 people read it as compared to the millions who read People.

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Special Love Your Life Issue

April 12, 2007

This shouldn’t be funny. But it is in a weird sort of way. Somehow I get Ladies Home Journal (that’s not the funny thing).  I don’t pay for it, it just started showing up one day. Of course LHJ isn’t quite my style, so I just throw them in the “Goodwill” bag and I donate them. I can’t stand to throw away a magazine someone else might read.  But anyway.  The funny thing is that  the May 2007 issue which just arrived today has at the top “Special Love Your Life Issue”.  Yet.  Yet, some of the other headlines on the front cover include “The Best Low-Fat Ice Creams,” “The Most Important Insurance You Don’t Have,” “Sensational Summer Skin: The Safe, Natural Way,” “Win a Free Stress Makeover” and “Deadly Superbugs: How to Spot and Stop Them.”  I guess love your life except for fatty foods (because, really, you know you are too big)… love your life except in that you don’t have the right sort of insurance… love your life except that you could easily be killed by a deadly superbug and your skin isn’t good enough AND you need a “stress makeover” whatever the hell that is.   Thank you LHJ.


Mostly Naked Skeleton-Like Women Looking Almost Dead in Some Sand

February 14, 2007

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I saw an ad/video clip thing about the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition that is about to come out. I didn’t watch the video, but based on the picture that you see here (which was the “cover” to the video clip), I thought that maybe Sports Illustrated would like some help thinking of creative subtitles for the swimsuit edition. If the whole “Mostly Naked…” one doesn’t work for you, please feel free to suggest others. I was also thinking that “Mostly Naked Starved Sickly Women Who Have Collapsed from Hunger In the Sand” might work too…

While I am being sarcastic, I do mean to be quite serious about the issues that such sickly (not to mention drugged-looking) models bring up about body image, sexuality, and women. I find pictures such as the one below simply irresponsible. Magazines, companies, models, Hollywood, beauty companies, etc. are not somehow immune to the moral responsibility that comes with distributing anything to the public or being in the public eye, particularly when it influences younger people who often do not have the ability or will to be able to sort out the messages that something like the below picture c

onveys. I know that I, raised as a feminist, was still deeply impacted by the images of women and beauty like the one below and I know of no women in my culture who was not similarly impacted. But, as with so many things, I can’t think of a good way to legislate moral responsibility when it comes to bodies, body image, and perceptions of beauty. So I am just left to blog about it and do my little part. Which feels so little sometime. Sigh.


May a Curse Fall Upon The House of Pottery Barn: Trying to Want Less

January 14, 2007

I wrote this a long time ago and left it in my drafts folder. It is a good time to revive it given that I have gone the first 13 days of the new year with no clothing purchases, even after walking through and H&M AND a Target. Between now and the start of classes in a few weeks, I will be cleaning out the closets (er, I mean the basement piled high with boxes of useless stuff) and working on my resolution to get less, want less.

I’m sure others out there must have a love/hate relationship with the Pottery Barn catalog that comes to your house with all sorts of adorable furniture and trinkets and wooden tables and perfect looking homes that look NOTHING like my home. If it is not Pottery Barn, I bet a lot of you have some sort of magazine that comes to your house that you love, yet hate. J. Crew? Car World? Book of the Month Club?

One of the things that Elaine St. James, simplicity guru, suggests is that you cancel magazine subscriptions because it just makes you feel inadequate. Partialy true. Yet, I also love looking at magazines (subscriptions and shopping ones).

In the Pottery Barn magazine, there are no piles of misc. stuff in the corner. There is not cat hair covering every imaginable surface. There are not the shelves from IKEA that your husband LOVES and that make the living room look sort of like a Sweedish utility closet. No dirty towels, cat throw-up, or accumulated dishes. I know, I know. Pottery Barn is not real, Elizabeth, just like the women in the magazines with the flat stomachs and airbrushed faces are not real. But that does not seem to matter to my little psyche that longs for a Pottery Barn world in my own apartment, yet at the same time knows that I am being tricked by The Man who makes lots of money off of poor little graduate students longing for the organized world of oak shelves with matching baskets and beautifully placed picture frames.

Be it resolved that I will appreciate my lovely Pottery Barn magazines, but never ever even consider buying something so amazingly overpriced and just enjoy the decorating ideas and remind myself that no normal person’s house should look like a Pottery Barn magazine. Just like I regularly resolve to remind myself that there is SUPPOSED to be a bump on my stomach and it is not supposed to be flat like the women in magazines who do not eat enough and exercize too much.

Amen.