Manhattan Mammories

Today’s post is, fittingly, a tribute to New York.

Since 1992, it’s been legal in New York City for women to go topless. But Moira
Johnson (and several other women) have been arrested and otherwise punished for
doing so. So this summer, Johnson took to the streets, breasts bared, to
make a point.

Ok, it’s a little wacky, and I don’t believe the right to go
topless is at the top of the list of things we should be shouting about. But
I’m fascinated by this story for another reason; How I reacted to it.

My first thought, and probably that of a lot of people, was
something like, “wow, what a bad/stupid/dangerous idea.” What’s
bad/stupid/dangerous about it? She’s asking to be assaulted. That’s what I
thought. That’s what a LOT of people would think.

But here’s the thing – that’s victim-blaming. It makes her
responsible for other people’s behavior. I don’t think it’s less wrong to
assault someone who’s topless. I believe every person is responsible for
following the law, even when it would be easy or tempting not to. If she were
to be assaulted, it would be no more her fault than if it happened to a
fully-dressed women, because crime is the fault of the criminal. ALWAYS.

So I’m going continue to question my reactions to things,
because rape culture (and other forms of institutionalized discrimination) is

I do think going topless in New York City TODAY would be
bad/stupid/dangerous. Because the weather isn’t sentient. Big difference. Stay
safe, East Coast Vagina Newsies.

Fifty Shades of Infuriating


The two candidates for US Senate in
New York are women. During their debate on Wednesday night, both were asked if
they’d read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’

Kirstin Gillibrand graduated magna cum
laude from Dartmouth, speaks Mandarin Chinese, and is an attorney who clerked for
the Second US Court of Appeals. She heads the Women’s Leadership Forum for the
DNC and served as special counsel for the Secretary of HUD during the Clinton administration.

In 2006, she beat a 4-term Republican incumbent to represent her district in
the US House of Representatives, and was reelected in 2008. When Hillary
Clinton was appointed Secretary of State, Gillibrand was appointed to fill her
US Senate seat, and won the 2010 special election to keep it. She was the first
member of Congress to publish her official schedule, earmark requests, and
personal financial statement. In 2008, she became the sixth woman to have a
child while serving in Congress, and worked up until the day of her delivery.

Wendy Long has never served in public office, so there’s
less information available about her. But she studied at Dartmouth,
Northwestern, and Harvard. She’s also an attorney who worked for two Senators
and for two courts, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, and
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

So why ask these two candidates, these particular two, if
they’ve read this book? I’ll tell you what I think the answer is. Because we as
a society are still unable to de-sexualize women long enough to take them
seriously as professionals. Because we are both titillated by reminding women
of this, and ashamed of ourselves for feeling that way. We want them to say yes
so we can think of them as dirty, and we want them to say no so we can think of
them as ‘good’. We are collectively caught up in a cultural ‘madonna/whore’
fantasy that leaves us with a political process that’s about as mature as an
episode of Beavis and Butthead.

I dearly hope some renegade debate moderator in the next
week asks two male candidates somewhere if they read Penthouse, and brings this
shit up when people freak out.

“Sperm Deposit”? Sex in New York public schools

Speaking of schools, blue states judge not, lest ye be judged. 

A study of sex ed in New York public schools from 2009-2011 found… A big fat mess. Some highlights:

- Nearly 2-in-3 districts excluded any mention or depiction of external female genitalia from anatomy lessons. One district defined the vagina as a “sperm deposit.”

– Most districts did not teach information about bullying
(63 percent), and many did not teach about sexual harassment (42 percent),
sexual assault or rape (28 percent).

– LGBTQ students are largely stigmatized or ignored
entirely. Less than half of the districts provided any instruction about sexual

– Heterocentric bias dominates. One commonly used textbook
addresses only “traditional marriage,” defined as “an emotional, spiritual, and
legal commitment a man and woman make to one another.” Same-sex marriage has
been legal in New York since July, 2011.