All the news that’s fit to print in the Style section.
By now you’ve surely heard that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested for allegedly raping two women in Sweden, and he’s being held in London without bail until a hearing next week. Regardless of whether he’s guilty or not, Jill at Feministe makes an excellent point about how laws concerning rape in the U.S. are so amorphous that many Americans are having a hard time grasping that forcing someone to have sex without a condom is rape:
The U.S. is a bit of a patchwork when it comes to withdrawal of consent laws, with some states recognizing that withdrawal of consent is valid and that it is rape if you keep having sex with someone after they’ve said no, and other states either not touching the issue or not recognizing as rape situations where consent is withdrawn post-penetration. Making the Assange story juicier blog-bait in the U.S. is the fact that we’re deeply wedded to the notion of rape as forcible; despite many of our best efforts, a consent-based framework for evaluating sexual assault is not yet widely accepted. So we hear “she consented to sex but only with a condom and he didn’t use a condom and now she’s claiming he raped her” and we go, “say what?”, because that’s so far removed from the Law & Order: SVU sexual assault model.
Over at The Awl, Sady Doyle writes about the important role that strong, female action heroes played in her life. Pondering a feminist favorite, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Doyle notes that fans got pretty upset when (male) creator Joss Whedon put a woman in charge of the show. Under Maxi Norton, the series got a little darker and included story lines about depression, abuse and rape. This wasn’t the strong, evil-fighting Buffy fans knew and loved:
This is another thing about Strong Women: We like them considerably more when they’re fictional, rather than, say, running a TV show. And we don’t like them to complain. A fetish for strong, spunky women might seem more productive than a fetish for girls who are sweet and harmless, but it can be a trap. “Strong” is often misconstrued to mean “strong enough to take anything.” “Strong” can mean “rough enough to play with the boys,” but it also has to mean “tactful enough to make the boys like you.” (That’s why it’s “strong.” And not, say, “bitch” or “irrational.”) “Strong” can mean anything people want it to mean, but a lot of the time, what it means is that if you get overwhelmed or hurt, you’ve let everybody down.
In the latest edition of “all our articles about people who aren’t cis-males go in the Style section” the New York Times declared 2010 the year of the transsexual. It’s not a perfect article, and we’re certainly uncomfortable calling transpeople the latest trend, but it’s heartening that certain non-gender-conforming people are getting greater societal acceptance:
“The fashion industry is embracing transsexuals as they did in the ’60s and ’70s,” said Katie Grand, the influential stylist and editor of Love, the British alternative fashion magazine. “The difference at the moment is that high fashion has embraced these characters for advertising, as well as Vogue and Oprah Winfrey.”
The stay-at-home-daughters movement, which is promoted by Vision Forum, encourages young girls and single women to forgo college and outside employment in favor of training as “keepers at home” until they marry. Young women pursuing their own ambitions and goals are viewed as selfish and antifamily; marriage is not a choice or one piece of a larger life plan, but the ultimate goal. Stay-at-home daughters spend their days learning “advanced homemaking” skills, such as cooking and sewing, and other skills that at one time were a necessity—knitting, crocheting, soap- and candle-making. A father is considered his daughter’s authority until he transfers control to her husband.
Finally, Lori Adelman of Feministing shares the public response to Decembrow, an initiative she created in which women grow out their unibrows during the month of December to raise money and awareness for various charities. The event – which was started as a “tongue-in-cheek response to Movember,” in which men grow mustaches to raise money for prostate cancer research – has already received a lot of Internet backlash, including claims that extra eyebrow hair will turn women into veritable men. Or man-haters. Or both! Adelman notes:
It’s a good thing Decembrow is a judgment-free zone, or we’d be tempted to call these comments what they are: misogynistic attempts to control women’s behavior by reinforcing outdated and meaningless cultural beauty norms.