This Week in Butts
Despite a few road bumps, the human rear end, especially of the female variety, is well on its way to pop culture world domination. I, personally, am struggling with deeply mixed feelings about this. On one hand, butts are awesome and shaking them is a good time for the shakers and any consenting shakees in the mix, unless they are Robin Thicke. On the other hand, all this staring at hineys raises some age-old questions about the sexual objectification of women. When is it kosher for ladies to shake that healthy butt? Perhaps two new tush-centric pop culture moments from this week can help guide us toward a better understanding:
Sports Illustrated Tells Us to Remember Mo’Ne Davis’ Name. How Long Until They Forget?
It’s been a big week for Mo’Ne Davis. Since the 13-year-old South Philly baseball player pitched a shutout to send her team to the Little League World Series last week, she’s amassed 17,000 Twitter followers, attracted praise from Billie Jean King and Lil Wayne, been claimed as a role model for little girls across America, and, this week, ascended to the cover of Sports Illustrated. The magazine elevates Davis to legend status: “Remember her name,” the coverline reads. “(As if we could ever forget).”
That's a bold parenthetical for a magazine that's never seemed particularly committed to supporting female athletes in the long run. Davis cemented her place in sports history on Friday when she became the first girl in the LLWS to pitch a shutout, hurling 70-mile-an-hour fastballs that flummoxed the boys. (She's also just the 18th girl out of the 9,000 total kids who have competed in the LLWS, and the first female pitcher to win a LLWS game, period). Landing the SI cover marks an additional conquest of typically male territory. Of the 73 covers SI has published this year, Davis' cover is only the sixth to feature a female athlete. Davis is currently the sole female athlete appearing on the homepage of SI.com, alongside around 50 male athletes or prominent sports figures. The other women on the homepage are an NFL cheerleader, a model wearing a swimsuit, and another model getting an ice bucket dumped over her head. Where are Mo'Ne Davis' role models?
South Carolina: Where Men Murder Women and Legislators Don’t Care
Tuesday evening, the Charleston Post and Courier released a massive seven-part series on South Carolina’s failure to take domestic violence seriously—a failure that has resulted in the state leading the nation in the murder rate of women at the hands of men (currently the best measure we have for domestic homicide). The series, titled “Till death do us part,” is the result of interviewing “more than 100 victims, counselors, police, prosecutors and judges” to create a multimedia story chronicling the failures of legislators, law enforcement, social services, and even churches to do enough to fight the problem of domestic violence. Journalists Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes, and Natalie Caula Hauff unflinchingly place much of the blame on South Carolina culture: heavily conservative values about marriage and gender roles, as well as an enthusiasm for guns that makes it nearly impossible to get them out of the hands of men who want to kill women.
South Carolina, they write, is a state “where men have long dominated the halls of power, setting an agenda that clings to tradition and conservative Christian tenets about the subservient role of women,” leading to “a tolerance of domestic violence.” Even though research shows that the murder rate from domestic violence “declines three months” after a couple has been kept apart and “drops sharply after a year’s time,” power players in the state frequently prioritize keeping couples together over the victim’s safety.
Fark Wants to Ban Misogyny. Is That Even Possible?
Fark—the irreverent online aggregator launched 15 years ago under the tagline “We don't make news. We mock it”—has pledged to ban misogyny from its comments section. “If the Internet was a dude, we'd all agree that dude has a serious problem with women,” Fark founder Drew Curtis wrote in an announcement on the site yesterday, citing a line from Mythbusters’ Adam Savage. As of yesterday, the site’s posting guidelines were “updated with new rules reminding you all that we don't want to be the He Man Woman Hater's Club,” Curtis continued. Examples of inadmissible language include “rape jokes,” calling “women as a group ‘whores’ or ‘sluts’ or similar demeaning terminology,” and “jokes suggesting that a woman who suffered a crime was somehow asking for it.” Racism and “LGBT bashing” are also now off-limits. Wrote Curtis: “This represents enough of a departure from pretty much how every other large internet community operates that I figure an announcement is necessary.”
To All My Catcallers: An Apology
New York Post writer Doree Lewak has graced us with a piece on the totally flattering practice of men catcalling women. Lewak chastises feminists for cruelly denouncing the arduous efforts of cat-callers—those beautiful men with their grunts and their hoots—and credits slobbering construction workers with boosting her self-confidence. “Oh, don’t go rolling those sanctimonious eyes at me, young women of Vassar: I may court catcalls, but I hold my head high,” Lewak writes “Enjoying male attention doesn’t make you a traitor to your gender.”
Lewak goes on to detail how getting catcalled has been great for her self-esteem:
When I know I’m looking good, I brazenly walk past a construction site, anticipating that whistle and “Hey, mama!” catcall. Works every time — my ego and I can’t fit through the door!
“I still get that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling whenever I walk past a construction stronghold,” Lewak continues. “It’s as primal as it gets, ladies! They either grunt in recognition or they go back to their coffee break. It’s not brain science — when a total stranger notices you, it’s validating.”
For so long, I’ve experienced catcalling as a form of harassment leveled by men who use sexual innuendo to dominate and humiliate women. But Lewak’s column, complete with a photo of her standing in front of two male construction workers, lovingly eyeing her ass, has made me re-evaluate my frigid women’s studies response to strangers on the street yelling about my rack. And so, a few apologies:
The Pressure to Breast-Feed Is Hurting New Moms With Postpartum Depression
No one knows exactly what causes prenatal and postpartum depression. It’s a complicated dance of hormones, predisposition to depression, and other factors. A new study, presented at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association this week, explores the cultural pressures that new moms face—also dads, but I’m going to focus on moms here—and how they impact depression.
University of Kansas sociology doctoral student Carrie Wendel-Hummell spoke to 30 middle and low-income moms who had symptoms of “perinatal mental health disorders” (PMADs)—which include prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety, postpartum psychosis, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder—and found that some of the biggest factors in exacerbating their PMADs were breast-feeding troubles, sleep deprivation, and unhelpful partners.
While the public health push for breast-feeding is certainly good overall, Wendel-Hummell’s study, while extremely small, should make us consider that the messaging towards and treatment of new moms who are struggling with breast-feeding might be counterproductive and harmful, particularly to moms also dealing with PMADs. “My research findings also demonstrate how these messages lead to significant mental health stress when breastfeeding does not go well, including internalized guilt for not giving their children what is perceived as the absolute best,” Wendel-Hummell writes.
Immigrant Woman in Ireland Denied an Abortion, Forced Into a C-Section
After the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 from sepsis after she was denied an abortion for a miscarrying pregnancy, Ireland agreed to relax its stringent abortion ban ever so slightly to allow women who are in real medical danger to obtain abortions. Despite that small concession to women’s basic human rights, Ireland has coughed up another horror story of what happens to pregnant women who want to terminate in distressed situations. The Guardian reports that an unnamed immigrant woman in Ireland was forced into a C-section to deliver a baby at a shockingly premature 25 weeks after she was denied an abortion at eight weeks.
Henry McDonald reports:
The woman, who is an immigrant and cannot be named for legal reasons, was refused an abortion even though at eight weeks she demanded a termination, claiming she was suicidal.
After she then threatened a hunger strike to protest the decision, local health authorities obtained a court order to deliver the baby prematurely—at around 25 weeks according to some reports—to ensure its safety. The infant has been placed in care.
Even in Video Games, Women Can’t Escape Rape
A mysterious assailant known as DEEPER_IN_DA_BUTT has hacked the video game Grand Theft Auto V in order to sexually terrorize fellow online players. “He has his pants down at all times and can butt rape you,” one reported on Reddit. “You cannot kill him and there is nothing you can do about it. Worse, when he’s done, you are stuck doing strip dances.”
Plenty of similar attacks have been proudly documented on YouTube, leading The Huffington Post to declare this week that modifying video games in order to rape other players is “a disturbing new trend.” There’s a certain dissonance to calling virtual rape “disturbing” while accepting virtual murder as a reasonable premise for a video game. Still, HuffPo might be on to something—DEEPER_IN_DA_BUTT is not the only video-game rapist to make the news this year. In March, video-game writer Kim Correa described being virtually raped in the multiplayer zombie apocalypse game, DayZ. Correa says DayZ is a ruthless survivalist hellscape in which players will kill one another for a can opener. Nonetheless, her treatment by a pair of male strangers was startling:
Employers Now Making It Impossible to Be a Poor Working Mom
Jodi Kantor published a devastating expose in the New York Times this week, detailing the latest fresh hell visited upon low wage workers by their corporate bosses: erratic work schedules created by “software that choreographs workers in precise, intricate ballets, using sales patterns and other data” to figure out how many hands are needed on deck at any hour of the day. These programs cut labor costs at the expense of workers, who don’t know when and how many hours they’ll be working, and often only have notice of their schedule a couple of days ahead of time, leaving them in a constant scramble to figure out how to work out child care and other life obligations.
Kantor followed 22-year-old Jannette Navarro, a single mom who works at Starbucks. Navarro’s erratic work schedule means her life is in constant chaos. Friends and family members often can’t make plans because they might be called upon to babysit for her at the last minute. She can’t go to school or even learn to drive because those things require scheduling ahead of time, and she has no idea when work might need her. She eventually ends up a homeless couch surfer as the conflicts created by her work schedule ruin her relationships with family and a boyfriend. All to earn a precious $9 an hour at Starbucks.
Robin Williams' Death Inspires Twitter to Crack Down on Online Harassment (Just a Little Bit)
On Tuesday night, Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda took to Twitter to mourn her father’s death, thank fans for donating to St. Jude’s in his honor, and release an official statement on his passing. A few other Twitter users responded to Zelda by blaming her for her father’s death, calling her a “heartless bitch,” and sending her a photograph that appeared to be an autopsy image of her dad. (It wasn’t.) Zelda begged her followers to report the abusive tweets for her: "I'm shaking. I can't. Please,” Williams tweeted. “Twitter requires a link and I won't open it. Don't either. Please.” (Reporting abuse on Twitter requires a user to click on the offending tweet, which reveals an attached photo in full view.) Then she vowed to take a break from the network “for a good long time, maybe forever.”