Breast cancer awareness, indeed.

How do you take something as grave and significant as breast cancer awareness and turn it into a shining beacon of repugnant misogyny?

Like this of course! (click on image for larger version)

Behold the imposing feat of raising crucial ‘awareness’ through a boobalicious mouse pad! If fondling gynormous rubber mammaries ensconced in a lacy blue number while surfing the interweb doesn’t make you well, lucidly aware of a pesky life threatening illness such as breast cancer and what it entails, then I can’t possibly imagine what will!

And what pray, is the infantile reasoning behind the achingly enlightening ‘creative’ ideas for this campaign?

This advertisement presents a tridimensional mouse mat with breasts made by rubber which positions females as target consumers. When you put hands on it and drag the mouse it seems like massaging breasts.

[Emphasis mine]

You see, since doing a self examination involves a certain amount of breast massaging, this mouse pad will immediately force people to ricochet off their seats with one gropey mouse click and have them actively massaging their breasts in a frenzied display of breast cancer ‘awareness’!

The clarity. The brilliance. It burns.

Oh, but it just gets better and better. This was made with women as target consumers. Maybe my propensity for being a harridan renders me incapable of anything but cynicism, but I would give my right hand to know what the creative heads at this agency were smoking. I mean, evidently they get their sublime inspirational leanings from your friendly frat-bro’s dudely guide to thrashing about in a cesspit of objectification and misogyny cause its FUN BITCHEZ, YEA! Or maybe they get their cues from manly websites* which are entirely devoted to the sale of mouse pads tastefully adorned with ergonomic boobs and ass cheeks peeking through a not-there thong which would have definitely made Sisqó or at the very least, Sir Mix-a-Lot proud. But oh, they care about you! These classily busty (and assy) pads are made specifically for reducing the risk of bodily injuries like carpel tunnel syndrome, by providing you with an ergonomic wrist rest in the form of the valley between the titties and butt cheeks. Imaginative, useful and exploitative! Now that’s a killer combination, if I ever saw one!

Some samples (possibly NSFW):

If anime floats your boat, then:

Right, so what are the differences between these mouse pads and the one made for ‘awareness’? Really, I’m on a need to know basis here. These mouse pads are marketing to guys who think exploitation and barefaced sexism is a bit o' fun for the bros and shit like this is oh-so-hilarious. So what really is the difference between the ‘awareness’ mouse pad and these uproarious nudge-nudge wink-wink protuberant ass/boobies and how does that translate into highlighting the importance of breast cancer self examination?

One can argue that the intent was noble of course (I think my eyes inadvertently rolled themselves into my skull), but isn’t that a contemptible way of excusing the obviously banal taste and design choices of the creative team behind this campaign? What really fuels my ire is the absurd sexualization of breast cancer in this instance. Because it concerns breasts see? We all know that boobies = sexay! Everyone wins! N.o.t.

And I can practically smell the apologist bull feces defending the mouse pad for its ‘witty’ and ‘subversive’ choices in dealing with a dreadful disease such as breast cancer.

So allow me to list them out myself.

1) But it’s done for a-w-a-r-e-n-e-s-s! Surely because of this righteous reason, the creative heads should be absolved of all responsibility and are above even a shred of criticism, even if they essentially mock and demean the female populace (the majority of folks who actually contract the disease y’all, go figure!) in the process.

2) Why don’t you have a sense of humor? Clearly this product has a sense of humor about it which is indispensable when faced with life threatening circumstances. So lighten up will ya? Jeebus!

3) Well, why do you find it preposterous that the mouse pad is marketed to women? You are a duplicitous bigot and you support heteronormativity because you cannot wrap your mind around the fact that women like breasts.

4) Why are you such a prude? I always knew that feminists hated sex and anything sexual and you just about proved my point. Aren’t you being hysterical about rubber boobs? Stop complaining, massage them and learn something in the process. They are made of rubber after all.

Have I left out anything else that a discerning boob/funbag/titty aficionado might find infuriating about my views on the ‘awareness’ mouse pad? Oh well, I tried.

What have we come to, when even a breast cancer self examination campaign is reduced to debasing women with its noxious objectification of the very body part plagued by the disease it sets out to raise awareness over?

Would it be acceptable to conceive of an awareness campaign for prostate cancer, with a phallic mouse pad adorned with an ergonomic bulging rubber scrotum/nuts/balls peeking out through a sexy not there g-string? No?

I’m just asking.

* No, I refuse to link to those websites.


The 49th Carnival of Feminists

First of all, I want to thank all my long suffering readers/lurkers/odd entities for putting up with my hindrances (ha, like you had a choice!). I do profusely apologize for the delay.

Now then, having drunk enough coffee to keep a herd of elephants comfortably awake for a week or thereabouts, let us dive headfirst into the 49th Carnival of Feminists, shall we?

Pop culture/media:

1. AverageBro guest posting at Racialicious writes about NBC’s patronizing, sensationalist ‘special’ called African-American Women: Where They Stand which ran on Nightly News with Brian Williams this past week, and is miffed (and rightly so) about NBC’s denigrating coverage:

The problem with such coverage is the medium itself. Trying to objectively present the dynamics of such a topic in 3-4 minute vignettes is a surefire recipe for failure. If NBC was so concerned about “the state of black women”, maybe they’d dedicate a few episodes of Dateline. Instead, these short segments, cleverly dropped at the end of each show (to make you watch the whole episode of course) go headfirst into misleading statistics that serve no real purpose other than further discrediting black men and magnifying a rift between genders that exists in every race.

2. Purtek at The Hathor Legacy critically examines the show Dexter in a two part series (which I happen to consider one of the most magnificent shows on television I’ve seen in a long while, even if I do frown upon some of its recent character portrayals) and its theme of trust issues plaguing the female characters when faced with gender violence (specifically male) and male privilege.

The theme that I really liked here was the impact that a culture of violence (both gender-based and otherwise) and of generalized male privilege has on the ability of the female characters to trust other people (specifically men) and to trust their own instincts about any given situation. One thing I really liked was that this questioning was portrayed as a rational, learned reaction to having been betrayed, violated and attacked by individuals (yes, usually men) that they had previously trusted, rather than as a paranoid attitude with no basis in reality.

3. This post at Feminist Allies was made by Jeff to honor the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, but since it was about violence in comic strips (oh how funny har har, not) I thought it was appropriate for this category.

Creepiest part of this strip is that you can't see anything below chest level. And this has a similar problem as the Monty strip, above: We're supposed to laugh at silly men who can't control themselves, who don't understand the signals women give off (even when those signals aren't signals at all, but rather, statements to get the hell away). Ha! Ha! Maybe next he'll follow her home! Or call her at work constantly!

4. Richie at Crimitism compares and contrasts The Wicker Man (1973) with its abysmal 2006 remake starring Nicholas Cage (why is he still allowed to act? Ghost Rider? Seriously?) , and unsurprisingly comes to the conclusion that the remake is one big cesspool of paranoid misogyny.

In the remake, oh Christ in the fucking remake, we get a little coda where two of the hot evil women from the island to go the mainland and pick up two guys at a bar. The implication is that they’ll deliberately get pregnant and then use those children at some point in the future to lure their fathers to the island in order to burn them or beat them to death with copies of Intercourse or whatever floats their man-hating boat that day. I can picture Neil LaBute fighting the studio executives for this scene to be included: “No, it’s vital! The audience might not realise that women are manipulative and evil yet!”.

5. Regulars of this blog will know that I happen to harbor a deep seated adoration for anime. But my feelings on the genre hasn’t blinded me to most of mainstream anime shows' deep flaws and disheartening portrayals of female characters. Sadly, Femtique, while examining a promising sounding show called Gunslinger Girl, exposes its blatant gender stereotypes and also offers ways in which this anime could be more feminist friendly without losing its pop appeal. Now that’s promising.

Gunslinger Girl is the type of anime where little girls are used to fulfill the desired of men. What do the men want? The men who “condition” them (i.e., brainwash) are assassins. That’s right people. Little girls brainwashed into becoming assassins. What a way to train those females! Train them while they’re young so they won’t rebel; that way, they’ll do exactly what they’re told.

6. Rachelle from Living Between Wednesdays has put up a gallery showcasing the Iron Man Annual 1, which features the wholly original premise of going undercover at a strip club. But of course.

Well, I mean, of course they have to go to a strip club. What mission in comics, movies or television doesn't take the investigators to at least one strip club?

Current affairs and violence against women:

Since this edition of the Carnival happens to occur smack dab in the middle of the fantastic 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, most of the following posts are entries made to honor the same.

1. Iconoplastic has an eloquent post up, on the interconnectedness of nomenclature and the sexual violence against girls and women, amongst other things.

everytime charges of sexual assault and brutalization come to light, the nomenclature suitably modifies itself to indicate “maturity” of some kind, sexual preferably. However, the moment they need to portray the female of the species as cosemtically enhanced nymphos with ample amounts of silicone deposits, the sobriquet bestowed is entirely different. ”Girls gone wild”..Anyone?

2. Cara at The Curvature writes about two loathsome ‘toys’ which objectify women in the worst possible way. And I happen to agree with her that they are not ‘funny’ by a long shot, and they blatantly contribute to trivializing a crime as vile as rape.

That’s right. This “toy” is a plastic object that looks like a woman with a gaping hole in her crotch that symbolizes her vagina, and you’re supposed to shove pens into said hole while she screams for help or moans in pain. But hey, that’s only when she’s in a “bad mood.” When she’s not being a massive bitch, she totally loves it. Like all women, of course. Except that — haha — you can’t turn most of the stupid whores on and off at your leisure for your fucking/raping pleasure.

3. Anindita Sengupta at Ultra Violet has a scathing post up on the silence, or worse; the squirm worthy coverage of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, by the Indian media.

Coming back to where I started off from, editors and senior journalists of prominent newspapers obviously do not think this is an issue worth discussing. So there is no series of columns giving insights into the various aspects and implications. No “Lead India”-like campaign in ToI. No railing editorials from aging and mostly senile columnists. (Shashi Tharoor, when you’re done with lamenting the fact that we Indian women are not wearing the sari any more, you think you could turn your attention to this?)

4. Zeynab from Muslima Media Watch speaks about Muslim women of color facing a ‘triple threat’ in addition to being caught between a rock and a hard place, in relation to the recent ruling of 200 lashes awarded to a Saudi gang rape victim, because she dared to speak out against her attackers and openly disagree with her sentence.

You’ve probably heard about the recent ruling given to a Saudi gang-rape victim: 110 lashes added onto the original sentence of 90 lashes because she protested her sentence to the media. It’s a horrible and vindictive sentence, and the callous treatment this woman has received as a victim is insulting to her, Saudi Arabia, and Islam.

Why Islam? What does her ruling have to do with Islam? Well, not much. Technically, the judge who sentenced her went by Shari’a law, but he added those extra lashes from his own judgment because she spoke out about her case. So he punished her.

5. Hops from Be a Good Human writes clearly and honestly about how the 16 Days campaign inspired her to act and do what she can when faced with a real, tangible problem and not hesitate anymore.

I've been feeling a lot of regret about this lately. I know that I can't control anyone else's actions. I can't make sexual predators, wife beaters, and child molesters change their ways. I can't force anyone to pursue an associate's degree. But I never tried. Sometimes sins of omission weigh more heavily than the ones we actually commit.

6. Fannie of Fannie’s Room has a long but comprehensive post about the politics and the reasoning behind hateful, aggressive and often, sexually explicit threats against women online.

What is disturbing to me, however, is that most of the blogs I read or link to have had some experience with internet coward/bullies who attack not the content of the blog, but rather they attack the blogger's gender, sexuality, race, intelligence, etc. in a vicious, aggressive, and shallow way. Blogs of all types have run-ins with internet bullies.

Yet, comments written by men and directed towards feminist women are particularly angsty, sexualized, and aggressive. In fact, women in general are targeted in a sexually aggressive way much more often than men are.

7. In a short post at Texas and Egypt, A.H.K.M succinctly sums up the patriarchal power dynamics and disparities between men and women, by describing an interesting incident in the metro.

8. Vibracobra has a post up at Mind the Gap, where she scrutinizes a question put forth by Julie Bindel in the Guardian which goes thus: “Who can say they’ve never feared rape?”

It’s an interesting question, because most of us do go round with that fear of being attacked by strangers, or of going down dark alleys, or getting into a car with the wrong person. Sometimes it can be founded. I remember an incident when some guy in Strasbourg tried to get me to go into some bushes because he had “something to show me”. I don’t need to tell you that I was very apprehensive about having to walk past the same place on the way home again - although why I should have been afraid of him says a lot too. After all, he was shorter than me and kind of thin and flabby, so I wouldn’t have been in much danger if he had tried to force me to go into the bushes.

9. Bendinggender has written a fluid and glorious piece about silencing and the shutting up of women’s voices in different degrees and contexts.

i may be being extreme in taking off from a drawing room comment and getting on to physical, emotional and sexual violence. yes, there are huge degrees of difference involved here. but underlying all of these instances is the shutting up and clamping down of a woman. the taking away or the attempted taking away of her voice. or the ridiculing of her possession of voice- on pettynesses of tone, pitch and the like.

10. Badly Drawn Girl pens a beautiful poem about the ghastly incident in Guwahati (Assam) where an adivasi woman was stripped, beaten repeatedly and paraded naked on the streets.

She runs on my television screen - while two neat black lines
Follow her, precisely hiding what we must ignore.

Simple mathematics in a glass building shows that it would be easy
For us to imagine her without breasts. A woman without a vagina.

Women and technology:

I may not talk about it on the blog as much as I want to, but regular readers must have obviously gathered by now that I am a gamer. A multiple console owning, game pre-ordering, been gaming from the age of 9 (oh yes, old school awesomeness of the NES and the SNES consoles, anyone?) type feminist gamer who happens to love the action adventure and survival horror genres, with RPGs being a close second. So this section will be solely devoted to something I truly love (and obsess over) and what I consider an indelible part of me (geek pride!)

1. Sexism in the gaming industry? How very shocking! Roy at No Cookies for Me talks about a Playboy December ‘special’ on women in gaming and the larger issue of the intersection of pornography and games.

Despite having to deal with the sale, ordering, and placement of magazines like Playboy for several years, I'd pretty much forgotten about this (nsfw) intersection of pornography and games). I had completely forgotten that Playboy runs an issue every year that features the "girls of gaming".

2. Jess McCabe at the F-Word examines the issues surrounding The Coolest Girl in the School which is being dubbed as GTA (Grand Theft Auto) for girls. Cringe.

When I write about games aimed at girls/women, I very rarely suffer any wish to play them. Yet there is something weirdly intriguing about Coolest Girl in the School, dubbed ‘Grand Theft Auto for girls’, even if it does raise lots of red flags. (Not least of which is obviously ‘don’t girls play GTA?’)

3. BomberGirl of Girl in the Machine, praises the gender ambiguity of one of Final Fantasy VIII's most despicably evil sorceresses, Adel.

In a genre with a deathgrip on its cookie-cutter female characters, the ability to make players question what they know about the binary sex and gender system is a huge plus. Pretty, feminine men are basically the norm in the Final Fantasy universe, but tough, masculine women still have little exposure. Perhaps Adel was meant to be a man, and something got lost in translation; perhaps this was an intentional choice on the part of developers.

Mighty Ponygirl at Feminist Gamers takes a critical look at the number of downloadable songs by male bands and male vocalists vis a vis female bands and female vocalists in the game, Rock Band.

And this is my big quibble with the game: there isn’t a good split between songs for male and female vocalists (with the exception of Sabotage, which isn’t a comfortable range for either gender).

Feminist theory & history/first person accounts & observation/gender roles and socialization:

Nevermind, in a thinking aloud kind of post, extrapolates on various conversations which are reflections of real exchanges, wherein the people participating in the scenarios exhibit narrow, often painfully gender stereotypical attitudes and world views.

“It’s her duty as a wife to live with him and look after him in his old age. What do you mean he was emotionally dismissive?”

Gender of speaker: Male in this case, and family; Context: Very Indian middle class.

2. Natasha at Homo Academicus expands on her reasoning behind calling herself a feminist and not a ‘humanist’ or an ‘equalist’ and works through the pros and cons behind the feminist label.

So, to address my questioners, as well as work through this stuff myself, here are lists of pros and cons for using and identifying with the word “feminist.” Just to be absolutely clear, I don’t need reasons for the fact that I believe women are equal to men, on the contrary I think you need to explain yourself if you don’t! These are my pros/cons for applying the label “feminist” to my beliefs rather than some other label.

3. Anita in an interesting and observational post goes through the challenges that women face in the workplace be it subtle or overt, and suggests sensible initiatives to move towards a more balanced and comfortable working environment for women, without being shortchanged due to their gender.

So men are slowly no longer treating workplaces like an old boys club. Yet we are far from achieving true equity. And in some sense, I would think equity is not just about equal representation of women. It is about women being women and not having to completely change themselves to fit into a professional life. It is about not having to pretend that you were ok with that client’s offsite in Thailand involving massage parlours lest you be seen as a ‘non-team player’.

4. Vidya from The Mountaintop asks if the presence of a divine feminine, irrespective of her representation as being egalitarian or otherwise in goddess worshiping cultures, contribute to an uplifting effect on the status of women; and proceeds to examine the connections between the two.

The Hindus and the Greeks had a rich pantheon of Goddesses. The Abrahamic religions had none (or almost none). Going by these assumptions one would think that the women in India and Greece would be as fearless and free as Kali or Athena, and the Jewish and Christian women would be at the lowest rung on the social ladder.

5. Swatie writes a fascinating post about feminism and Indian nationalist politics. In my opinion, this is an area which is severely lacking in any sort of blogular (eep) discourse, and I’m glad that she has gotten the ball rolling.

Much of feminist theorising in India, with its insistence on historically locating various feminist movements, has felt the need to examine the nature of women’s movements during the struggle for independence from British imperialist rule. What has also, most pertinently, been taken into account has been its relation to the prevalent Indian nationalist discourse.

6. Veronica is dismayed at the transformation of Dora the Explorer from a spunky, adventurous, happy go lucky traveler to the recipient of a sparkly Disneyfied princess makeover, complete with scary, abnormal thinness and the like.

When Dora was princess-ified, I was ticked. NOT because I hate princesses - I eat my Almond Vanilla Special K every morning from a Little Mermaid bowl. Honest. Well, unless I grab the Tigger bowl. I was ticked because Dora was the princess alternative. She flew through trees, climbed mountains, and flew in Tico's plane all without a thought to her hair or how dirty her white sneakers would get. I came to be ok with the princess thing only because Dora kept going on adventures.

7. Cerebral non-matter writes a post I wish I had written, on the barefaced differences in parenting when it comes to daughters in comparison to sons, from an Indian perspective.

Parents' (however irrational) instinct to protect their children from harm is understandable. Also, one imagines that the fact that girls are generally perceived to be more vulnerable to a host of serious crimes such as abduction, rape, sexual harassment or abuse, would naturally augment these protective instincts. Plus, since this is Indian families we're talking about, we have yet another evil considered almost as bad as the abovementioned crimes – the sullying of a woman's reputation! This can potentially arise out of trifles ranging from the clothes she wears to pretty much any lifestyle choice she makes that involves alcohol or men.

Women and science:

This week, the sciences was particularly filled with awesomeness. No thanks to Isha Himani Jain, Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff who walked off with top honors at the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. A big congrats to these girls is in order!

1. Happy at the girls’ achievements in the Siemens Competition, in a post which immediately struck a chord with me, Snarky Repartee reminisces about her own experiences in high school with boys being mollycoddled and encouraged to pursue the sciences while the opposite was true for girls; and an incident revolving around a science talent discovery fair.

I remember the day I first heard about the Intel Science Talent Discovery Fair. Of course the school being what it was, I did not hear about it directly, but a rumor passing around the class that our chemistry teacher had asked two of her favorite students to prepare a project for entry in the fair. These students were, of course, boys.

2. In the wake of the Siemens Competition results, Womenstake challenges the likes of Larry Summers and his ilk about their sexist and woefully gender essentialist statements and beliefs.

3. While Science Woman is thrilled that these young women took the top prizes at this year’s Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, she is understandably tired of the gendered headlines blaring about their win, and hopes that a day will come when gendering of a headline becomes a thing of the past and science headlines are treated as just that- neutral gender-free science headlines. And for the record, I am inclined to agree with her.

That's awesome with no qualifiers. These students are being rewarded for thousands of hours of effort and research that is graduate-level and publication quality. I've got a certain fondness for science fair competitions and their winners, and I wish these women every success as they go forward in college and beyond.

4. Zuska explores the idea of parthenogenesis using Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s vision of a utopian all female society in Herland as a point of reference of sorts.

In Herland, the best that modern science (circa 1910) has to offer is pitted against Gilman's vision of an all-female society where crime doesn't exist and the forests are treasured, manicured sources of nourishment. Three men bumble their way into this Utopian society and adapt to varying degrees. There, they are befuddled by their inability to engage the residents of Herland in the "normal" social dynamics prevalent between males and females in their home society.


And finally, I shall leave you with Aishwarya's post on privilege and the Aaja Nachle lyrics. While not being directly relevant to this carnival, it is applicable when a parallel is drawn to male privilege and the insidious gender disparities prevalent in our society.

Happy reading denizens!


The next carnival will be at The Jaded Hippy on December 19.

For more information, make your way to the Carnival of Feminists blog for updates.


49th Carnival of Feminists: Final call and updates

Attention denizens, as of 12:00 am EST, I will stop accepting submissions for the carnival. You have about an hour and a half, so chop chop!

When do you plan to put up the carnival?

The carnival will be up at 9:00 pm EST on December 5th. I have a final presentation and a fifteen page final paper which I should be diligently working on (ahem), that are both due tomorrow. So once I'm done wrangling with that, I'll post the carnival.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (December 5th):

I have just finished my final presentation, and I have slept for a total of say, two hours in three days. Yeah, you read that right. I said two hours in three days.

So my patient readers, I will have to implore you to wait a bit longer. I really don't want to put up a sleep-deprived, half assed, shoddy excuse for a carnival, just because I said it'll be up by 9:00 pm. I don't think thats fair on you, or me.

So please wait a bit longer and it will be up. I do promise that it'll be up before 12:00 am EST today. You can hold me to that.

Many many apologies for the delay.


The 49th Carnival of Feminists: Call for submissions

(postdated to make this sticky)

I am going to be hosting the 49th Carnival of Feminists on December 5th and before I launch into a hyperactive version of my customary happy dance, I must extend a call for submissions. You can send your own posts if you want, as this is a great opportunity to get your writing linked to this large carnival, or you could tip me off to other fantastic posts by following the instructions below. I do not want to constrict the flexibility of this carnival by attaching a theme to it, but I would love it if you could send me or tip off posts related to privilege and the politics of gender roles or both, but please, other posts are equally welcome! This is in no way an official theme, but more like a guide if you find yourself having a brain aneurysm or something.

How do I submit posts? Is there a deadline?

You can send me your posts to wannabe[dot]punkster[at]gmail[dot]com


You can use the Blog Carnival submission form here.

The deadline for submitting posts is December 4th. Please make sure that the posts you submit are written after November 21st, as they have to be fairly recent.

The carnival should go up on December 5th.

If you need more information, please visit the Carnival of Feminists blog, where you can sift through all the previous carnivals and get a better idea of what this is all about.

And frankly, I am seriously ecstatic that I have this opportunity to showcase great big globs of awesome feminist writing on my blog. I would love to see all kinds of posts on issues affecting women’s lives, so get a move on and start sending!

Post Script: In the meantime, please check out the fantastic 48th Carnival of Feminists put together by Debs at Feminist Fire. Go on, you know you want to!