That Time Cover and the Threat of Fear-Based Headlines

We’ve all seen the now-infamous Time cover of the model-pretty mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old son, looking at the camera as if to say, “what of it, bitch?” Her conviction is actually kind of awesome (my philosophy on mothering is similar to the one I hold for feminism: There is no such thing as “the right way” and every woman reserves the right to make her own decisions for her relationships, career, body and family.) I take no offense to the image of a woman breastfeeding, even if her child is standing on a chair. And the article, its sidebars and even the supporting online content Time produced on the subject, attachment parenting, are great reads. They offer a well-balanced look at this social phenomenon that is certainly worth an expose in the nation’s leading newsweekly. It’s the words next to her that are offensive: “Are You Mom Enough?” the cover screams, presumably, at any woman who’s had a baby or is contemplating having one.

It’s provocative, it got everyone talking and sales and downloads of the issue broke records. Magazines are in the business of selling issues, so, job: done. I get it, I’ve often been tasked with writing headlines to do just that very thing. But this one teeters on an ethical tightrope. Tabloids and tabloid-y news media often prey on women’s insecurities to sell their content. But when the offending hook comes from a source that identifies as a serious, journalistic enterprise, there’s real harm being done. Read more of this post


Feminism vs. Motherhood

It probably goes without saying that I believe feminism and motherhood are not mutually exclusive. But feminism continues to be targeted as the cause of parenting woes rather than the solution to them. Labored rant to come on the new Sexy Feminist sister blog, Stay tuned for launch this month.

I am impressed, however, by the balance and sound arguments in the New York Times‘s latest Room for Debate round table, “Feminism vs. Motherhood.” There’s an attachment parenting advocate who defends being feminist while breastfeeding and co-sleeping; an unapologetic workaholic mom who believes being the best that she can be is the best thing she can do for her children; a grandma who reminds us we need stop judging each other—a mom of a special-needs child echoes that sentiment; that lady who thinks French moms are the creme de la creme; and a mothering traditionalist (think: 1950s housewifery) who blames feminism for pretty much everything wrong with society and its children.

The latter argument is a given in this debate, and though hers is not alone in attacking feminism for causing women to devalue marriage and family, in this debate it’s hardly the loudest. Mostly because for perhaps the first time I’ve clicked on an article with a headline like “femimism vs. motherhood,” (and there seems to be a new one every day), I see  a wealth of perspectives. Though each essay was written and published independently, the series reads like a conversation. It gives me hope that we can have civil, educated, open-minded debates with other women on this topic. Because the one thing we all have in common—whether we sling our babies with us everywhere or formula-feed while working 60 hours a week—is that we all struggle with balancing the demands and importance of raising our children while maintaining our identities as individuals.

Doing both is perhaps the hardest thing about parenting and I believe the most important.

Your Women’s Health Checklist

May is Women’s Health Month. Here’s a checklist for every woman:

Get a pap smear and breast exam.

Get a mammogram if you’re in your 40s—immediately if you have a history of breast cancer in your family.

Have your cholesterol checked and eat heart healthy always to not contribute to the leading cause of female deaths in the country: heart disease.

Support public health programs for women, champion Planned Parenthood and contact your local lawmakers to let them know you’re not down with the government trying to diminish health benefits for women.

Any time you visit the doctor, advocate for yourself, do your research, ask questions and get second opinions. Control the well-being and care of your own body; it’s the only one you get.

SF Talking Points: Mary Tyler Moore Gets Lifetime Achievement Award for Being Awesomely Feminist

TV’s Original Sexy Feminist Makes It After All: Our beloved Mary Tyler Moore will be honored with the Screen Actors Guild’s lifetime achievement award in January. We second the nomination, incidentally: Moore revolutionized the TV housewife as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the ’60s, daring to be a mom and spouse who was not only sexy and smart, but — gasp — wore capri pants instead of house dresses. She went on to make the world safe for single ladies as the excruciatingly loveable Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. (Loveable even as she prioritized career over marriage, took the Pill, and even stayed out all night on occasion.) She proved pretty girls could be funny, then she proved that a funny woman could act the hell out of a part (in her Oscar-nominated role in Ordinary People). Need any more proof? If it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have Tina Fey or 30 Rock.

Can Feminism and Conservatism Ever Co-Exist?: Not if Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin are going to be its poster girls. We’ve gone over both of their feminist shortcomings ad nauseam (for recaps click here and here), but here’s something to add to the top of the list: Bachmann calling the ultimate anti-woman activist, Phyllis Schafly, “the most important woman in the United States in the last 100 years.” ThinkProgress kindly gave us their list of 10 Women More Important Than Phyllis Schafly in response, which includes the likes of, oh, you know, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. And Betty Friedan. And Rosa Parks. We are so totally for Christian women — and all spiritual women, and all women — joining the feminist movement. (Though we’re not so into Chirstian women “taking back the feminist movement,” as the Christian Post says, unless we’re allowed to stay in the movement and still back abortion rights.) But it’s never going to work with Bachmann and Palin leading the charge. Sorry.

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Why We Need Female Spiritual Leaders

I spent the last two weeks meditating for several hours a day, maintaining silence, and chanting a hell of a lot — such is the drill at my Zen temple’s annual summer retreat. It’s 24/7 spiritual development on hyperspeed, thanks to the lack of chatter, the lack of internet and smartphone use, and the endless amounts of time spent staring at a wall to center oneself in the moment. And yet, nothing provoked more thought in me during this particular year’s retreat than two of the tiniest details that have all but escaped me in the past: an occasional chant we do in which we name the female Buddhist leaders of the past (what we call the “Matriarchs’ Lineage”) and a throwaway line in one of our daily services in which the Zen student leading the chant dedicates its merits (we’re very big on dedicating merits) to “the women and men” at the nearby U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

These two little, mundane liturgical occurrences couldn’t help but make me think, this time, of Catholic priest Roy Bourgeois and the chruch’s recent threats to excommunicate him because of he’s been agitating for the ordination of women. The reason our group, the Manhattan-based Village Zendo, made these two tiny changes in our services years ago, of our own accord, was because we were founded by, and are still led by, Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara and Sensei Barbara Joshin O’Hara, both women. Of our top tier of four senior teachers, two are women. None of this is a coincidence; it’s exactly why female leadership is needed in any organization, because women see the ingrained inequalities and right them intuitively. The Matriarch’s Lineage was a Village Zendo creation, and took quite a bit of meticulous research to get correct — but our female leadership knew it was worth the effort. It’s not always men’s faults that they don’t see such slights as the fact that many chanted lineages are completely male, and that women have surely contributed to the building of many religions, whether or not their contributions were recorded as meticulously as men’s. That aside, just hearing “women” before “men” in the bit about West Point always warms my feminist heart a little — what a Zen miracle! Not only do we count, but we can come first sometimes!

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Our Favorite Male Sexy Feminists

There’s nothing sexier than a guy who’s feminist, especially when even our most empowering female role models — we’re looking at you, Beyonce — deny their own feminism. Here, a few of our favorite famous ones:

1. Eddie Vedder: Pearl Jam participated in the ’90s Rock for Choice concerts, and its sexy-grungy frontman even wrote an essay for Spin magazine about why abortion rights go beyond a “woman’s issue.” Vedder makes us nostalgic for the ’90s spirit of music and musicians that stand for something.

2. The guys over at XYonline: A “pro-feminist” site for men that explores gender politics, including recent posts about stopping violence, fighting “male supremacy,” and exploring sexism in the punk music scene? Yes, please.

3. Andy Samberg: We hadn’t realized it until pointed it out, but it’s true: Saturday Night Live‘s king of digital shorts is always making fun of sexist douchebags (i.e. the “Dick in a Box” guys, the “Jizz in My Pants” guys, etc.). He also wears N.O.W. shirts unironically. We’re in love.

4. Mick Foley: The WWE wrestler has been a hugely outspoken advocate for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network for the past several years, and he got involved because he was a huge fan of co-founder Tori Amos’ music. That’s a guy who’s not afraid to be in touch with his feelings or to stand up for what he believes in.

5. J.J. Abrams: He’s given great, unknown actresses instant stardom with the strongest of strong female characters: Think Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) on Lost and Jennifer Garner on Alias … and now he’s got a woman, writer-producer Elizabeth Sarnoff, running his new midseason Fox sci-fi extravaganza Alcatraz, the most traditionally dude territory on TV. Proof we need great men sometimes to help us open up the boys’ clubs.

Can you think of more who we missed? Let us know on our message boards!

Be a Sexy Feminist: T-shirts for Sale!

We’ve finally got official Sexy Feminist T-shirts for sale — and, yes, we’ve already purchased all of our designs from ourselves. Now it’s your turn, fellow Sexy Feminists! We’ve got tees, tanks, and men’s tees, too: Visit our CafePress shop here.