My musings on the mainstream media and culture.

Archive for the tag “feminism”

Feminism and Processed Foods (and Breastfeeding): A Conundrum?


So these days, in my kitchen, I’m making an effort to use fewer processed foods. I’ve read my Michael Pollan and I’m sold on the concept that we should be eating things that would be recognizable to our great-grandmothers as “food.” Moreover, I’m thoroughly disgusted by the ways that the American food industry has transformed the way we eat by normalizing processed, unhealthy foods that are full of fat, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and an array of unpronounceable non-food substances.

1950s Housewife in KitchenBut here’s the conundrum. I’m trying to eat more like people in my great-grandmother’s day. But would I trade places with her? Of course not. My options would be so much more limited than they are today. If I were my great-grandmother, I’d probably be a full time homemaker, whether I wanted to be one or not.

Much of my “decision” to be a homemaker would be dictated by social pressures. But some of this would have to do with food. One hundred years ago, food preparation was a whole lot more time consuming than it is today. I’d be baking breads, cutting apart whole chickens (if not slaughtering them), rolling out pie crusts, canning vegetables, and whole lot of other tedious tasks. I probably wouldn’t even have a refrigerator.

These days, many women work because of changing social norms—but also because of changing domestic duties. Thanks to modern conveniences, taking care of a house and cooking no longer has to be a full time job. My husband and I work full time, and at the end of the day, we have time to cook a healthy meal together. (Of course, the “cooking together” part is one luxury my great-grandmother didn’t get—and that many women today still don’t get!)

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Why I No Longer Love the Bachelor, or, I Give Sean and Catherine Six Months

no rose

Annnnnd we’re done.  I don’t even want to count the hours I’ve spent this year indulging in my guilty pleasure, The Bachelor.  I started this season with a long post explaining Why this Feminist Loves The Bachelor.  It’s great ironic fun, I argued.  It’s a satire of gender roles and whiteness and dating rules.

Now that this season is over, I think I may be ready to take that back.  This show is just plain sadistic.

From a feminist perspective, I don’t think that this show does a great disservice to women and gender roles (although it doesn’t exactly help). While there are certainly “true believers” who watch this show, I firmly feel the main reason The Bachelor has been so successful is because it’s so fun to mock.  If you don’t believe me, just visit the snarky, hilarious weekly Bachelor recaps by Kristen Baldwin at, and the hundreds of pithy remarks in the comments section.

So I’m not terribly worried that this show is brainwashing Americans into thinking that women need to be sniveling, powerless, male-dependent half-wits.  We know better than that.

What I am worried about is that this show messes with the minds of real contestants for the purpose of persuading them to “fall in love.”  It’s good TV when women are crying hysterically for some guy they met a few weeks ago, and this show is all about good TV.  I recently read a Psychology Today article that discusses the manipulation techniques used on The Bachelor to persuade people that they are actually in love with the stranger for whom they are competing, and it made me feel bad about actually watching this garbage.  Producer Mike Fleiss is an evil genius.

Yes, these people know what they are getting themselves into.  They are young, attractive people looking for adventure and fifteen minutes of fame.  Or so I keep telling myself.  But they also are real people who get badly hurt.  The whole premise of this show is built around rejection, which, if memory serves me correctly from my dating days, is one emotion that really, really sucks.

This week, I watched Sean turn down Lindsay at the “altar,” and she was crushed.  For real crushed.  And then I watched Sean propose to Catherine in what was, in TV terms, a beautiful proposal.  But it made me feel sad, because chances are extremely high that these two seemingly nice people don’t have a chance.  (Only three marriages have resulted in 20-plus seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.) These two people knew each other for a period of weeks before he proposed, and the day before the proposal, Sean was still saying he was equally torn between Catherine and Lindsay.  Does that sound like a solid foundation for a marriage?  Combine that with the fact that these two people apparently have nothing in common, other than being very good looking and “goofy” (or so they claim).  Catherine’s a Seattle vegan with a nose ring.  Sean’s a conservative Christian boy from Texas.  Not that people with those characteristics can’t possibly make it, but the pairing doesn’t scream “perfect match.”

I give it six months.  If that.  She strikes me as a former high school nerd who can’t believe that this “beefcake” (which she called him a zillion times) is actually into her.  Puppy love.  I predict two seriously broken hearts.  Because they do seem like unusually nice and genuine people who someone stumbled into a reality TV nightmare, I actually feel bad for them.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to give up watching this garbage.  But I didn’t get much pleasure out of watching the proposal tonight, and I think the sadistic premise of this show may finally be too much for me.

Should a Feminist Mom Let Her Daughter Play with Monster High Dolls?

I am torn. My seven-year-old, Gwendolyn, is crazy about Monster High dolls and the Monster High website. On the first night of Hanukkah, you should have heard the screech of joy out of her when she received a Draculaura doll.

So what is Monster High? It’s a line of dolls, a cartoon, and related products (books, movies, makeup, clothes, you name it). The dolls are like Barbie dolls that can be dressed up. Only these dolls are monsters—zombies, vampires, and so forth—so they’re sort of a cross between Barbie and fantasy characters.

There’s an awful lot a feminist could say about Monster High (for more, check out this Monster High analysis by the fabulous Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter). The most simple reason these characters are disturbing is that their story line revolves largely around clothing and appearance. While the story does include positive messages about being a good friend and being yourself, they’re ultimately dress-up dolls, just like Barbie. I tell my daughter over and over again that “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” but am I contradicting myself when I let her dress up these dolls?

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Why this Feminist Loves The Bachelor, or, Pretty White People Behaving Badly


This Monday, The Bachelor is back! And I can’t wait. Since 2002, I’ve been a viewer of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and even the miserably sleazy Bachelor Pad.

And why do I watch this stuff? Because I’m addicted to romance? Because I have great faith that two strangers will fall in love on an eight-week long reality show and live happily ever after?

No and hell no. I watch these shows for one reason — because they are just about the funniest shows I’ve ever seen on television.

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Embracing My Inner Eponine


Dan and I spent New Year’s Eve watching Les Miserables. I saw it on Broadway 23 years ago, in the cheap seats during my sophomore year of college.

As an insecure 19-year-old, what resonated most for me at the time was the story of Eponine. Perchance you haven’t seen Les Mis, it goes like this: Eponine loves Marius, but he just thinks of her as a friend. Then he catches a glimpse of Cosette, the heroine who represents all that is good and pure in this truly dark narrative.  He instantly falls in love. Eponine joins the rebel group and dies saving Marius’ life. He is grateful for a brief moment. Then a bunch of other stuff happens and he marries Cosette.

Despite liberal doses of feminism at an early age, my greatest fear in the world — to be painfully blunt —  was that I would never find a life partner.  My 19-year-old world seemed full of Cosettes who were far more beautiful and thin and fabulous than me, and they all seemed to have boyfriends who would never even notice a lowly Eponine like myself.  I wanted nothing more than to be Cosette.

Then, twenty-three years later, I watched the movie version with my husband.  And I noticed something very quickly.

Cosette is lame.

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Mr. and Mrs. My Husband, or, I Guess I Didn’t Need that Pesky Identity

Okay, readers.  Let’s assume that like me, you are a heterosexual married woman. Now, let’s assume that someone sends you a holiday card. It is addressed to you as follows, with your husband’s name in place of my husband’s name:

Now, how would you react to receiving a card addressed in this manner? Select one.

  1. I wouldn’t care. I don’t care what people call me.
  2. I would cringe. I have an identity of my own and am not defined by my decision to marry a man.
  3. I would be happy.  When I was a tween, I wrote “Mrs. So-and-So” on my notebooks whenever I had a crush on a boy. My dreams have come true.
  4. I would send the card back unopened to the sender with a note that said, “Return to Sender Due to Sexism.”
  5. I would not do #4 because I have some semblance of manners and have to function as a social being in this imperfect world. But I would certainly consider this.

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