Stone Butches and Lipstick Lesbians: Gender Role Construction in the Works of Ann Bannon

butchbannerBefore the days of Facebook and Twitter, lesbians were largely confined to meeting in bars or in secret, and they had few sources to link them to a broader community. Logging onto the Internet these days, one can literally find thousands of websites and social media groups dedicated to helping lesbians from across the country and around the globe forge a sense of virtual community.

Although we live in an age of hashtags and electronic tablets, many of us still read bound stacks of paper called books. Lesbian pulp fiction still has meaning for both young queers who are just coming out of the closet, as well as with lesbians from an older generation. What is it about these dated stories that both younger lesbians and those who made the journey to Stonewall find compelling?

One explanation is that younger lesbians are turning to these artifacts of the 1940s and 1950s to gain a sense of a separate lesbian history. In particular, what these books teach us about the construction of gender roles within lesbian relationships is a key component in that history. One of the most pervasive questions that helps one to identify her place within the lesbian community is “are you butch or femme?” Although these gender roles are hotly contested (some say they don’t even exist), it is my contention that they still serve an important function for lesbians of all walks of life. Lesbian pulp, then, is a means of tracing the development of butch/femme roles that is difficult to find outside of oral histories. [Read more...]

Feminist Conversations: An Interview With Lesbian Icon Ann Bannon

Ann Bannon, the queen of lesbian pulpFeminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Ann Bannon, in my opinion, is the queen of lesbian pulp fiction. Her books in the Beebo Brinker series served as a roadmap for many lesbians in the 1950s and 1960s. I was introduced to Bannon’s work in a Women’s Studies class at ASU. Bannon’s novels helped me navigate my own coming out process. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I was given the opportunity to interview her.

1. What was your initial inspiration for writing the Beebo Brinker novels?
I began by falling in “fascination” with the first original lesbian pulp novel, Spring Fire, by Vin Packer. It’s a story of two young women who meet in their college sorority house and fall in love—not a terribly original premise these days, but a dangerous and thrilling one then. The consequences of being outed in the 1950s were appalling, and I had been close enough to a similar disaster in my own sorority to empathize with the girls in Packer’s novel. I knew I wanted to write, and it turned out that this little pulp paperback I had found on a newsstand shelf was the creative trigger. [Read more...]

Book Review: Perilous Times by Fran Moreland Johns

fran.johns.cover.rev

Available on Amazon

YBK Publishers has released a new book entitled Perilous Times: An Inside Look at Abortion Before—and After—Roe v Wade, by Fran Moreland Johns. Johns shares the story of her own abortion and uses this narrative to connect with other women who have shared similar experiences. While I was reading Perilous Times, I was often reminded of the film Dirty Dancing, where one of the dancers is taken for a back alley abortion and almost dies. I was also reminded of the film Jane: An Abortion Service, where women in Chicago took it upon themselves to help women receive safe, albeit illegal, abortions before Roe v. Wade. Needless to say, I was very drawn into the book, and couldn’t put it down all weekend.

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Fran Moreland Johns. I hope you find her motivation to write the book as inspirational as I did.

1.  In the introduction you say that you never shared your story with anyone (except for your friend Trish) before you started writing Perilous Times. What prompted you to “come out of the closet,” so to speak?

Trish and I had talked often about how those of us who survived abortion in those grim pre-Roe days are dying off fast, and so many stories will never be told. Then I began to see abortion access being denied – particularly this is the case for women without money or resources – in state after state, and I thought this is all I can do to slow that backward movement: tell the stories of women today who are suffering just as much as we did before 1973.  [Read more...]

Emily Kane Talks About The Gender Trap

GenderTrapImageFeminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Emily Kane, Professor in Sociology and author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls.

1. You have written extensively about gender and childhood. How did this interest come about?
My research had previously focused on how adults think about gender inequalities, and their interconnections with inequalities of race, class and sexuality, mostly in the contemporary United States but with a bit of international comparative work as well. My focus there was on inequalities in the adult world- in workplaces, the division of labor in households, etc. I’d been interested in what kinds of people are more likely to recognize gender inequalities as existing, how they evaluated those inequalities (i.e., whether they thought they were problematic or not), and what- if anything- they thought should be done about them. Then I had children, and that experience brought more of my attention into children’s worlds. As I spent time at day care centers and preschools, on playgrounds, in play groups, and as I visited children’s clothing and toy stores, as I read children’s books and watched children’s movies, I became more and more interested in how deeply gendered young children’s worlds were. And I become increasingly interested in how that early gendering helped build the foundation for gendered patterns in the adult world. [Read more...]

13-Year-Old Accused of Egging on Her Abuser

This past week Rape Crisis England and Wales reported on the treatment of a 13-year old rape victim who was severely victim blamed in court. The 13-year old was described, by the sentencing judge, as “predatory” and was believed to have been “egging her abuser on.” The rapist, despite pleading guilty to one account of sexual activity with a child and two accounts of producing extreme pornographic imagery, was given a eight month suspended sentence and avoided prison.

Apparently the sentencing judge claimed that despite the fact that the child was “egging on her abuser” (stating that this argument was a “fact” when describing her “predatory behavior”) is no defense in the case of a child. Still, the sentencing judge, in a case where the accused pleaded guilty, felt the need to provide some victim blaming while accusing a child of sexualized and predatory behavior.

According to Court News UK the judge also stated that: “You have come as close to prison as is imaginable. I have taken in to account that even though the girl was 13, the prosecution say she looked and behaved a little bit older”.

This might have been the most disgusting comments I have heard in regards to victim blaming and rape culture. Here a child has been abused and the abuser is receiving a lowered sentence, avoiding prison, despite the serious accounts of sexual assault and despite pleading guilty. What we often hear in regards to cases of sexual assault and rape is that it is extremely difficult to prove that rape was in fact rape. The victims also have to defend themselves while their sexual history and past sexual activity is used against them. But, it seems that a guilty plead by the accused is not enough to stop victim blaming and the sexualization of women and girls (often by stating that she really wanted it, was just playing hard to get, or was egging on the abuser). There appears to be no situation in which women/girls are wholeheartedly believed and trusted and are not further victimized by victim blaming attitudes.

Nudity on the Cover

kelly-rowland-talk-a-good-game-artworkMost female musicians, no matter how talented they are, tend to become more sexualized over time from when their career starts to when they “peak.” This sexualization is especially noticeable in photo shoots, magazine spreads, music videos and on album covers. It is therefore interesting to think about how these musicians got started. Many were young when they began singing, such as Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and Taylor Swift. In the beginning, these artists are often less overtly “sexy,” but after a while, they all start looking the same, and nudity becomes a very common element in their performances.

Since CD sales are dwindling, nudity or partial nudity on the covers may be one way to bump up sales, even though you do not see many male musicians nude on the covers. At the same time one can make the argument that showing of ones body is an act of empowerment, self-confidence and originality, one that comes with maturity and self-awareness. In fact, this statement is often made, pointing to women’s sexuality as a tool to be used to gain power. However, it seems as if nudity and “sexiness” are now so routine that all women are expected to embrace these standards.

The female body is beautiful, but does it have to be on display at all times? The trend of sexiness seems to be here to stay, but I often find it tiresome. The saying goes, “sex sells,” and that seems to be true, but the underlying message of that catchphrase is that women constantly need to be sexy, because their talent comes second to their appearance, no matter how successful they are or how hard they work.  [Read more...]

Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws Apparently Misinterpreted

LGBTQ balloonsLately, a lot of media attention has surrounded the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sotji, Russia, where concerns have been raised over the new anti-gay laws recently passed by President Vladimir Putin. These laws make it illegal to distribute gay/bisexual propaganda and information to minors, making the “crime” punishable with a jail sentence.

Apparently, Putin’s laws are being backed by Alexey Sorokin, who is in charge of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, also taking place in Russia. Sorokin meant that the laws are being misinterpreted and that they are intended to protect minors against gay/bisexual propaganda (whatever that is) and thus are not meant to discriminate against gay people and are not therefore really against homosexuality. But, the laws are going to be implemented simply if a person carries the LGBTQ flag or displays a non-traditional relationship with a same-sex person which then means that they will discriminate against gay people since they will not have the same rights as their straight peers do. This is called discrimination. Sorokin, however, defended the new laws by stating that people do not want a World Cup where people run around naked (like gay people usually do?) and market their homosexuality.

How can someone be against the displays of homosexuality but not homosexuality? The very act of being gay or straight (or other identities/preferences) means that you are displaying an identity and often a sexual preference. The laws basically mean that you can be gay if you never “live it”. You cannot be gay outdoors or wear the flag, especially so not around minors, which are basically everywhere. The laws mean that you can basically never have a social life together with a partner and that you can only hold hands or share intimacy at home. If there is not a minor around that is. If there is a minor around, the laws suddenly make it illegal to be gay in your own house around minors, like your  children, since the very act of kissing or holding hands would be enough to prove that you are not in a traditional relationship (I am guessing that a traditional relationship means marriage between a woman and man). How absolutely ridicilous. As if the laws are not bad enough, the pathetic attempts to defend them by stating that discriminatory laws are not intended to discriminate is laughable.

5 Tips On How To Avoid Rape

rape posterWhen I saw a poster outside my apartment complex with big letters saying “5 tips on how to avoid rape,” I thought that this would be further the ideas of victim blaming. Instead, this poster was aimed at men. I truly appreciate this since that removes much of the victim blaming from sexual assaults and rape. Despite the good intentions of the poster and whoever put it up, I still have a few concerns with the information presented and the tips provided. Here is what the poster said (my translation):

Respect a no
Respecting when someone says no is key. It should also be said more often that when a person is unable to give consent, it means no. A person that is intoxicated, sleeping or in any other way cannot communicate a yes, cannot give consent and therefore any sexual act towards this person is sexual assault.

You have a choice
I appreciate the idea, I just think that the phrasing is off. I would have appreciated if the poster said: this choice is only yours or it is only your responsibility. The act of raping someone and the choice involved in that act should not even have to be discussed. Unfortunately, it does. As we have previously experiencened in some of the comments of a post about rape and evolutionary psychology, it is sometimes presented, and believed, that rape is a natural act committed by men against women in order to ensure reproductive success. [Read more...]

Days After Restrictive Abortion Law is Signed, North Carolina Clinic Has License Suspended

Remember how, when  Pat McCrory ran for governor of North Carolina last year, he promised not to pass any new abortion-related restrictions? Don’t worry, neither does he. And barely two days after McCrory signed an anti-choice bill into law, the FemCare clinic–also known as the only abortion provider in Western North Carolina–has had its licensed suspended.

Officials with the state’s Department of Health and Human Services say that the suspension is unrelated to the new law, and cited 23 violations. However, a statement released on behalf of the clinic alluded to the fact that those new regulations may have been a factor in the suspension: [Read more...]

Update: Victim of “Infidelity Check” Receives Justice

Earlier this year we reported on a story in which a man’s sexual assault of his girlfriend, in order to check for evidence of her being unfaithful, was not deemed a rape act and was instead treated as a violent act that lacked sexual intent. Initially, the man was sentenced to 32 months in prison for rape and abuse. After an appeal, The Svea Court of Appeal, however, dismissed the sexual assault claim and lowered the sentence to 14 months in prison in which the man was only found guilty for acts of violence without sexual characteristics.

The Local reported on once again a change in sentencing as the case went to Sweden’s Supreme Court which ruled that the act was indeed rape and stated that:

“If a man forces a woman to tolerate him putting his fingers in her genitals, then the incident has a tangible sexual character that is capable of violating her sexual integrity. It is therefore a question of a punishable sexual act”.

The man was again sentenced to 32 months in prison and have to pay damages of 116,000 kronor ($17,700) to the woman.