Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Mix: Idealized Into Powerlessness

Saturday Morning Musical Musings...

This Is What Makes Us Girls - Lana Del Rey

I can't find the album version anywhere I can post for you, but this is still a pretty awesome version of Lana Del Rey, "This Is What Makes Us Girls."

 I love this song for a bunch of reasons, but mostly because it reminds of this quote by Evelyn Cunningham: "Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors."

This is not to say that any one man in particular is the oppressor (though some are), so much as all of them are, to some degree, the unintentional (at at times entirely ignorant) beneficents of the things that are routinely taken as for granted as to be their purview, and to challenge that paradigm is to be at war. As women, our loving relationships with the boys and men in our lives, and even our fairy tale fed aspirations for that kind of life,  often separate us from other women  whom we come to see as taking from our coupled-units/the men we love, instead of seeing the shakes and quakes of change not as a threat to 'our' men, but rather a threat to the systematic dominance of women.

This is what makes us girls:
We all look for heaven and we put our love first.
Somethin' that we'd die for, it's our curse.
Don't cry about it; don't cry about it.
This is what makes us girls:
We don't stick together 'cause we put our love first.
Don't cry about him; don't cry about him.
It's all gonna happen.

If I Were a Boy -  Beyoncé Knowles

Released as the b-side for the hit single, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," "If I were a Boy," was written by BC Jean, and is the only song on I Am...Sasha Fierce that isn't written in any part by Beyoncé. The videos were released simultaneously.  Though very low production, the "Single Ladies" video became iconic.  The Video for "If I Were a Boy," fell by the wayside in the wake of the "Single Ladies" success, though Knowles acknowledges putting more time and money into the latter in interviews. I think the song/video is an incredible commentary, particularly visually, of the kinds of behaviors that seem normal for men but would seem off-putting and inappropriate for a woman.  It allows us to look at the behavior and see in a vacuum, that is inappropriate regardless of the sex/gender expression of the person in that role.

One Girl Revolution - Saving Jane

Yeah, I love this song. This video is a live-performance, which I find particularly powerful.

"Raise your hand if your lipstick
doesn't make you a dumb chick.
Raise your hand if the shape of your hips
Don't compare to the shape of your mind...
I'm here to start a one girl revolution.
I'm not a barbie doll, shopping mall, silicone substitution.
I thought I told ya: I'm a soldier
and I'm not leaving til the battle's over.
One girl revolution."

Stronger Woman - Jewel

This is from one of Jewel's later albums, but proves that even as a pseudo-country rocker, she still has interesting things to say. I like the imagery in this, the official video, (though I'll be the first to admit that the obvious effort to be multicultural may not land in the positive ways I think Jewel was hoping for) particularly the locks on the corset.

No Man's Woman - Sinead O'Connor

Older, but still totally appropriate and powerful.

"Women are the only exploited group in history 
to have been idealized into powerlessness." 
-- Erica Jong.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Perfuming The Hunger Games: Scenty Thoughts and Drawing!

Thoughts, Perfumey and Not, on Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games, Part 2

Part 2: Hunger Games Related Musings, Olfactory and Auditory

So, now that I've said all that about Katniss and YA and Feminism in Part 1, let's talk perfume, a little music, and giveaways, shall we?

I've been thinking about what sorts of scents I would associate with the characters, because if I try to imagine the perfumes that would actually appear in the word of The Hunger Games, all I can imagine is horrible, fake, overly sugary fruity florals scents coating the Capitol, like the worst collection of boring celebrity scents in history. Seriously -- can't you just see someone suggesting to Cinna that Katniss needed a celebrity scent of her own? She's be as offended by that as by the idea of a Katniss Barbie. FN1. FN2.

He smells like food....hmmmmm...
No, instead I'm focusing on scents I think capture some of the spirit of the characters and world. It is hard not to think of L'Artisan Bois Farine when you see fans wearing buttons that read, "I heart the Boy with the Bread." I also think of it when I think about the District 11 gift to Katniss during the games, which sadly did not make the film. FN3. My other option was the intensely sweet marshmallow of By Kilian Love because I always think of Peeta as kind of soft and sugary. I don't mean that in a bad way; softness is a rare and delightful find in any man, and particularly here in a romantic lead. Even if that softness is worn away somewhat by circumstances, it is wonderful to think of the Girl on Fire ending up with the boy who frosts the beautiful cakes for the bakery windows. He isn't even the stereotypical bad boy baker/chef. He's sweet, vulnerable.

As for the Girl on Fire, I skip directly to CB I Hate Perfumes Fire from Heaven, which I once described as possessing a kind of "holy fire" and is therefore connected with my notion of Katniss as a warrior-saint, the Joan of Arc figure Lawrence referenced. Other options I think of are Comme des Garcons x Artek and Crazy Libulelle Encens Mystic, a solid perfume that was once recommended to me by a reader that I have since enjoyed (and can still be found with a little hunting). FN4. I also sometimes think of DSH Perfumes Festive, but that reminds me more of the triumphant girl on fire than the one strapping herself to trees to sleep and running from fireball cannons.

It's possible that in seeing Katniss only as "The Girl on Fire," I'm playing into a media-centered stereotype, and in turn I miss Katniss in her complexity, Katniss the sister, the daughter, even the lover. The Katniss that exists after she finally lays down her arms, and begins to love. The Katniss who hopes. That girl I want to give something vulnerable, something still innocent. But maybe I'll save that for later.

As for Prim, I like to think she smells of the herbal tinctures and salves that she and her mother use to heal the injured brought to their door. Medicinal but general, a little floral sweet, not foodie sweet.  Pretty, but not beautiful.

I think of JoAnne Bassett's Enchant, though that seems a little to adult in some ways, as is Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 EDP, though that also has a sweet/medicinal/earthy quality I'd look for. What little we see of Primrose is so young and innocent in the first book, I want to put her in some sort of delicate rose scent, something young and sweet but possibly edgy, like Juliette Has a Gun Miss Charming?

Speaking of innocence, I have to give Rue a little love, mostly because this will be her only appearance. I love how clever she is, how every part of her life is used to her advantage.  She's a wonderful character, perhaps one of my favorite minor/side characters in all of YA.

For Rue, perhaps, something sweet, smart, acceptably youthful and light but...special. Maybe CB I Hate Perfume Wild Pansy or Borsari Violetta di Parma? I keep wanting to go floral with Rue...perhaps because of Katniss' impulse to honor her with wildflowers.

Generally, when I think of District 12, I cannot help but think it might smell like Olympic Orchid Perfumes Kingston Ferry, because it smells of woods and dampness and hard work to me, though wasn't exactly what Ellen Covey intended, I'd wager. FN5. I guess another way to go would be L'Artisan Al Oudh, which also reminds me of a walk in the woods, but on a dry sunny day...maybe the memory of an almost happy day Katniss spent with Gale hunting, the kind of memory she clings to during the Games?

Which brings me back to Gale. I don't know what to scent Gale as. Is there a scent that captures, in turn, angry, desperate, defiant, lost? I don't know. Maybe Esscentual Alchemy Lumberjack Man? Better to save him for later.

Interestingly, I found a perfumer who has been similarly inspired. SaraWenn Perfume Art popped up in my Hunger Games swag-related searches, and on sheer impulse I ordered some. There are three Hunger Games-inspired scents coming my way: Run Away With Me, Girl on Fire, and The Baker's Boy. And not just for me, dear reader. FOR YOU!

That's right. Once again, it's drawing time here at Feminine Things. Winner will receive a sample of several of the perfumes referenced above, plus a sample of SaraWenn Perfume Art's Girl on Fire, along with a Hunger Games bookmark, mix Cd of songs that remind me of Collin's stories, and yes, even a custom made hammered silver bracelet made by Serenity Storms that reads, May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor.

Perfume! Music! Jewelry! What fan wouldn't want that kind of swag?

So come on: what scents do you associate with Katniss and her band of rebels?

POST A COMMENT ON EITHER PART 1 OR PART 2 OF THIS PIECE talking about Katniss, YA books in general, feminism, perfume, whathaveyou on or before 11:59pm PST on Friday April 6, 2012 to enter. Will ship internationally.

I will leave you now with this, an oldie but goodie, and a song I always associate with Peeta and Katniss.


FN1. This comes on the heels of Lionsgate sending a cease and desist letter to Oxfam/HP Alliance for trying to use the series' popularity as a tool to fight actual hunger because, you know, Hunger is not a Game. And can I just say, thanks HPAlliance! "The Weapon We Have is Love!"

EDITOR'S NOTE:  It appears Lion's Gate has since changed their minds re: OxFam. ('Hunger Games:' Lionsgate relents in charity kerfuffle, LA Times Blog.)

FN2. And before you ask, yes Bella already has a Barbie. In fact, she has two: normal and bridal. Sigh.

FN3. This is what I wore to the release.

FN4. I really need to do a round-up post of solid scents, which I have some of enjoy, and never talk about.

FN5. Reading the books, I kept thinking of The Capitol as being pretty recognizably in the location of Denver and District 12 more like being in West Virginia. Did anyone else think that? I know they filmed in the Appalachia, so I guess Gary Ross did, too. I just wondered.

The Girl on Fire: Katniss Everdeen as Feminist Icon

Thoughts, Perfumey and not, on Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games, Pt. 1

For those of you living under a rock, the first film adaptation of Suzanne Collin's killer trilogy, The Hunger Games, released this past weekend, and brought in the third biggest U.S. box office opening in history. Though I will tread carefully to avoid film-related spoilers, I do want to talk a little about Katniss Everdeen as a role model for young women everywhere.

This post got so long, I'm splitting it into two parts.

Katniss as Feminist Role Model

To start let's talk about Katniss, the role model. I was listening to Jennifer Lawrence talking about why she took the part of Katniss on NPR last Friday morning and I feel like she summed it up nicely.
Q: What draws you to the character:

JL: She's not a hero. She's not a James Bond or Laura Croft that's done this a million of time and she has all the tools and knows how to do it and we're just going to watch her win. There's never really a point in the Games where she thinks she won't die. She's just trying to survive for her family and then becomes this Joan of Arc by starting to fight for her people.

Q: When you think about the young women who are going to be in these audiences, what do you want them to take from this character?

JL: I think the most important message that this movie has and what Katniss has is how powerful one person can be and the power that we have as the people because we're being manipulated by whatever we're being manipulated by -- reality television, the news, the president... And also, on a simpler note, she's just a girl whose standing up for what's right when something's wrong when it's hard and when it's scary.

Q:What were the doubts? If [your mom, who introduced JL to the books,] had said there could be a potential down side, what was it?

JL: I was just worried about, you know there's not a lot of decisions you are faced with that will change your life forever and it'll never go back. I was afraid nobody'd ever be able to lose themselves in another character I did. It would always be, you know, Katniss is doing a period drama, Katniss is doing .... But then I realized that if I was going to known for any character, this is the most incredible character that I could ever... you know, I would be honored.

JL on Katniss' costuming:
"I want to make sure I can run
and jump and climb.
[...] The dresses I don't care about.
Just put them on me.
 It's like Oscar season again."
FN1. "I would be honored."  Just reading that gives me a little lump in my throat.

Listening to Lawrence's interview, I found myself crying. I think what moved me about Lawrence's interview, in part, is that this film is coming out at a time when a lot of power structures are moving against women's rights to autonomy in this country. And whether you are talking about a presidential candidate or a religious leadership council or a state government, it is hard not to feel like your right to make choices about what happens to you physically isn't being increasingly restrained. Speaking out is punished. These decisions are being made for your own good. Dissent will be met swiftly, and with ugliness and, frankly, hatred.

When Lawrence describes Katniss as "just a girl," she's right. Katniss is only a girl struggling to survive. While her situation is far more dire than most first-world women, the principle that no government or religious organization has the right to restrict your autonomy, personal safety, or right to live remains the same.

I know I sound like a boring, broken record lately, and I apologize for that. Believe me when I tell you I want to write about something other than reproductive choice and politics. Hell, I want to think about something other than reproductive choice and politics. But I cannot stop, because I am inundated on a daily basis with the message that my choices are being constricted and my life is less valuable than someone else's and my judgement is suspect. And if I speak out, I will be cast in a negative light because we must never forget that it is wrong for women to enjoy or want physical intimacy and that if women become pregnant, it is always and exclusively, their responsibility, their fault. FN2

Activists protesting for
reproductive freedom in Virginia.
I went to a history lecture last week at my alma mater (yes, I'm one of those people). In it, one of my beloved professors, Dr. David Campion, spoke about feeling lost in your life. "Who am I? Where am I going? Am I making wise decisions? What will happen if I fail? What will happen to those who choose to follow me if I do?" Though he spoke of many extraordinary people -- Eisenhower and Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Tolstoy -- his point, over and over, was this: no one knows when or if they are destined for greatness. Eisenhower, before he was President or Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, was a man with an unremarkable military career headed for retirement. You just never know when life is going to suddenly expect you to be extraordinary. So the best plan is to make decisions based on what you think is right, consult the examples of those who have gone before for inspiration and guidance, and surround ourselves with people smart and trustworthy in case you are called on by force of circumstance or chance or choice to become something less than ordinary.

This is one of the things that makes Katniss an extraordinary example. She doesn't want to be a leader, she doesn't ask to be an icon. She becomes ones because she refuses to lie down and die when she's told to. She acts of love and bravery, not fear, even when it might come at the cost of her life, or the lives of those she loves. That is extraordinary, and I think it is part of what has resonated with a lot of the books' readership.

I'm also pleased the directors chose to include Katniss' aversion to having a family in the beginning of the film and her feeling of responsibility as stand-in parent for her sister. I think it is rare in this world that women who don't want children are portrayed as sensible or likable though given how awful the world, even the first world, can be, sometimes I wonder if these men and women aren't making the wiser choice. Mostly, I'm glad that the sheer work it takes to feed and cloth and house oneself and one's dependents is shown as a real and limiting factor for both Katniss and Gale in the first book, because it is an important aspect of the intersection of poverty and reproductive choice rarely explored in media.  While this was explored more full in the book, I am really glad the film included it.

Gale: "Maybe if I didn't live here."
Katniss: "Yeah,but you do live here."

I like that it is okay for Katniss to express that she does not want to have children and for us to like and understand her choice far more than Gale's reaction to it. I like that the one who seems irrational isn't the person who does not want children; too often, the social norm of 'wanting to have kids' is so overpowering that the idea that no children is a (possibly more) rational choice gets overlooked entirely. FN3.

The other thing I wanted to comment on is that I am thrilled the film reflects one of the things I noticed most in series' first book: if most of the men who make it to the final rounds do so on brute strength, the women survive due to their own cleverness. Rue, Foxface, Katniss -- each has moments of brilliance that keep them alive, and it is because they are smart and thoughtful and clever, not because they are the biggest, strongest, or most inclined to success in conflict. What a great message for young female readers! It isn't your looks or your physical prowess or your ability to be likable and feminine that is your most valuable asset: it is your intellect! FN4. FN5.

I wrote a piece a while back talking about my hope that a result of the current proliferation of women-written, female-character-centered young adult novels would be a generation of women inundated with a message that their voices matter and their strength matters and that they can change the world. Like Lawrence, I hope young women in film audiences will take the message from The Hunger Games that they don't have to be special to become special. They don't have to feel brave to be brave. That simply doing the right thing in the face of fear and difficulty can make all the difference in the world, be it this one or Panem.

It isn't easy, as any fan of Katniss knows. It can cost you plenty.

But in the end (and for those of you who haven't finished the series, you should), it can mean a much better life than any you could have imagined, one that contains -- if not comfort -- love and self-respect.

Stay tuned for Part Two, wherein I talk about perfumes and music I associate with the world of The Hunger Games, and do a give away that contains both, plus so much more [SPOILER ALERT - HG SWAG YOU CAN WIN!]!

May the odds be ever in your favor.
FN1. You can hear the full interview with Lawrence and the director, Gary Ross, here.

FN2. This did not stop me, of course, from offering myself up for criticism as the only pro-choice female speaker an abortion discussion panel at a Catholic University. They could not locate a pro-choice female faculty or staff member willing to do the panel for professional reasons, so a former co-worker and professional associate reached out to me. went because (1) someone needs to; (2) I don't like intimidation used to silence speech; (3) I'm a glutton for punishment. The hate mail in the aftermath has been....challenging. To the credit of the university, it wasn't their community members who attacked me (they were all very respectful), but some audience members who seem unrelated to the school, and whom I suspect are attached to the anti-choice organization who was represented on the panel as well.

FN3. Bella Swan, Bella Swan, Bella Swan.  Sorry. Had to get that off my chest.

FN4. Okay, so yes, there's the underlying current that Katniss, much like Bella Swann of the Twilight franchise, are beautiful and have an effect on men they are unconscious of. (My husband pounced on this similarity before the credits had finished rolling.) Aren't they humble about their looks and isn't that amazing, that they are beautiful but only occasionally engage in using it as a tool and then feel really bad about their guile? I think the difference between them is that (a) Katniss has more to offer than her looks and almost never relies on them, or on anyone else, to solve her problems. In point of fact, trying to be a 'pretty girl' is something she can never grow comfortable with and is an aspect of her personality used more by others than by her.

FN5. Though it is obvious that Panem, as a society, does not value intellect the most, which is made equally clear in the book and the film. Katniss' intellect is a liability, it attracts negative attention, it saves and simultaneously endangers her because her ability to think for herself and to resist mass messaging makes her a target, figuratively and literally. Katniss is only safe when she sticks to scripts that serve traditional male dominance/appeal to the male gaze.

Haymatch: "He [Peeta] made you desirable!"

Because remember, Ladies, it's not your inherent beauty or strength, personal charm or intelligence that makes you attractive to others, it's that the male gaze values you. Peeta makes Katniss 'desirable' (i.e. an object of value within the confines of 'things men want to possess') and that makes her worth sponsoring, not her skill score or anything she does on her own. The only people who sponsor her for her own value are the people of District 11, and they honor one of the best things about Katniss during the games: her ability to maintain her humanity even at the worst times.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A litany of Saturday happy.... AND A WINNER!


Because I have been such a Debbie Downer lately, I decided to show a few photos of the hap-hap-happy happenings in my life while I announce the EnVoyage Perfumes Go Ask Alice sample (plus more samples, 2 mix CDs, the latest issue of Bitch magazine, and MORE!) drawing winner.

I had this delightful birthday pastry last weekend on my birthday trip to the Columbia Gorge (see above -- so pretty!).  The writing is in chocolate, and it made for an interesting counterpoint against the tart lemon.  It made me wonder if someone has made a lemon chocolate perfume, and if so, where I could find it.

I received this awesome t-shirt from my friends Becca and Steven.  Steven is the co-president of the University of Washington's Med Students for Choice.  This is their shirt this year, and despite my lack of MD, I get one anyway!  I am very proud of Steven for all the lobbying work that has been done by his group in Washington state.

While many state legislatures are currently working on bills hostile to reproductive rights, Washington House Reps passed HB 2330, which would require costs for abortions to be covered by any insurance plan (or purchased by any plan purchaser) who also provided maternity coverage. Sadly, the bill never made it to the floor of the Washington Senate before it expired, but I am hopeful it will be revived during the ongoing state budget talks.  As someone who had to terminate a life-threatening pregnancy shortly after I got married, I can tell you that having insurance coverage for that procedure as well as the two days I spent in the hospital and the follow-up care I needed was critical to David and I financially.  We would still be crippled with the cost of my emergency care today had it not been covered by my plan.

Okay sorry -- back to the happy!

Speaking of happy, if you never saw the tragically short lived Aaron Sorkin-penned TV show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, you should know it is available on Netflix.  And now also at my house, thanks to my friend LillieMae. I also got a copy of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, which I am excited to read.  Hillary K., I look forward  to talking about it with you!

 These next two items were purchased by yours truly but I'm including them because they are perfumey and because they came to me a wonderful way. Also, to quote Serendipity, "I always appreciate my own thoughtfulness."

The first is my first scent from the lovely Mandy Aftel at Aftelier Perfumes, the lovely and incredible Fig.  A proper review is forthcoming, but let me say that I adore this scent, and was happy to let it waft me into happy sleep last night. Also, how cute is that packaging?  For realsies.  It's adorable. I am now so excited to try more of her scents.

The second item, also a fig scent (apparently I'm in the throes of a fig run, or something?) is a frankly huge partial bottle of Marc Jacobs Fig. It's a completely different fig than Mandy's, and from any other fig I own.  Nice, though, and acquired at an excellent price from Vanessa at Bonkers About Perfume. Vanessa has got to be the queen of packing and shipping, for nary a drop was spilt on the bottles long journey to me. Her recommendations on the use of bubble wrap for swapping are tried and true. Again, full recommendation pending, but so far, I am one satisfied fig loving customer.

I obtained both these figgy delights from a great little event on Scents of Self, called the Smell Good, Do Good sale. I had no idea the event was happening, but happened to be fortuitously on twitter on my vacay (because David and I have *wildly* differing sleep schedules and I was bored), which still has a handful of items left from the looks of it.  I have at least one other item coming from the sale, all proceeds of which go to benefit  Refuge, a British domestic violence charity that provides safe houses for women and children escaping domestic violence. so for m birthday, I got to help domestic violence survivors in need and get pretty perfume. The sale was a great idea and huge success, and I am pleased to have been able to buy things from it.

Speaking of awesome cause-related birthday gifts, I also received a $25 gift card for Kiva. For those of you unfamiliar, Kiva is
[A] non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. 
Thanks to my gift, I am helping a woman in El Salvador support herself and her family through her small agricultural operation. I also made a personal donation to help a woman in Samoa continuing her food business of three years.  I am pleased to say the latter woman now has a full funded loan from people all over the world. I am really happy to be among them.

If you've never tried Kiva or microlending, but have always been curious, then now is definitely the time. Thanks to generosity of Reid Hoffman (Kiva board member, founder of LinkedIn & co-author of recently released The Startup of You), Kiva has a limited time offer where you can lend $25 to the organization or individual of your choice at NO COST TO YOU. Seriously.  At no cost to you, you can become a lender to hardworking individuals and groups seeking self-sufficiency. When the loan is repaid, you will be able to lend it again, over and over.  Over time, your $25 donation may help people all over the world have a better life.

Can you imagine a better way to spend $25?

So while I'm in the giving mood, let's announce our winner!

List Randomizer
There were 9 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
  1. karen!
  2. Cymbaline
  3. Maureen
  4. solace
  5. Elisa
  6. Doc Elly
  7. Christy
  8. lawgoddess
  9. Ines
Timestamp: 2012-03-18 01:25:48 UTC

CONGRATS TO KAREN! Please email  feminine(dot)things @ gmail(dot)com.  Thanks to everyone who entered.  Don't worry -- I'm doing another drawing next week in honor of the release of The Hunger Games. The incredibly great early reviews of the film and the awesome book it is based on means that next Friday cannot come fast enough!

See you at The Capitol.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

VAWA Reauthorization: A Personal Plea for Action

As some of you know, I spent my 2L summer and 3L year of law school clerking for the local DA's office. Nine months of that life-changing, soul affirming year were spent prosecuting domestic violence offenders. I could tell you one hundred terrible stories from my time there, but for every bad story I have two stories that made me feel better about the world I lived in. It is not an exaggeration to say that the attorneys I clerked with were some of the most passionate and hardworking people I have ever known. They truly worked to give a voice to the voiceless to empower victims of domestic violence of all stripes, to take control of their lives and their safety, to harness a network of resources to lead survivors to a better future.

Some of those attorney's positions were funded (in part) by VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), a federal funding program that provides $1.6 billion to enhance investigation and prosecution of violent crimes perpetrated against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted.

VAWA funds a tremendous amount of good in local communities. It helps ensure individuals fleeing domestic violence can find shelters, food, clothing, job training and support, safety planning and more. It helps fund programs to train police officers and to staff special positions for DV investigators and prosecutors within cash-strapped departments so 'minor' incidents, like protective order violations, are follow-up on and prosecuted before they develop into greater tragedies. FN1. Through VAWA, survivors can get access to:
~ Community violence prevention programs
~ Protections for victims who are evicted from their homes because of events related to domestic violence or stalking
~ Funding for victim assistance services, like rape crisis centers and hotlines
~ Programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races or ethnicities
~ Programs and services for victims with disabilities
~ Legal aid for survivors of violence
FN2. VAWA helps women change the locks on their doors, buy a bus ticket to a family member who might provide them shelter in another state, gives them a hand to hold during a SAFE kit examination following a sexual assault. FN3. It provides funding for programs that allow for the safe exchange of children and supervised visitation. FN4.

VAWA, despite its name, does not only serve women. It provides funding for positions that assist elder abuse victims receive assistance and protection. FN5. It assists those with disabilities, who face special difficulties in reporting but also with safety planning and prosecution. FN6. It helps same-sex survivors get the protection they need, rather than have incidents of intimate violence written off as simple assaults. FN7. It provides appropriate counseling and other resources for additional vulnerable populations, like immigrants and non-native speakers. FN8. FN9. The current bill also seeks to extend those protections to Tribal communities, which are in desperate need of resources and education on issues of intimate violence. FN10. FN11.

Is VAWA expensive? Not in comparison to the money it saves. A 2002 study found that VAWA saved an estimated $12.6 billion in net averted social costs in its first six years alone. FN12. Even small investments in VAWA have been shown to make a difference on the ground. FN13.

VAWA was initially drafted by then-Senator Joesph Biden in 1994. At the time it was called "the greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women in nearly two decades." It has been reauthorized several times, and each time there has been mounting opposition. This latest reauthorization comes at a time when women's autonomy is under attack in a number of ways, and this one is critical to the lives and safety of literally thousands of women, men, and children.

Today, I am a strong, proud and successful woman, but back in 1994, when VAWA was first created, I was a scared sixteen year old girl whose life was threatened on a daily basis. I reached out over and over for help -- for me, my younger brother, my two elderly and disabled grandparents. There were four victims in our house, two women and two men, two young and two old, two disabled. We all needed help, every last one of us, and we were all captives to violence and silence. It is not an exaggeration to say that there were days that I literally begged for my life, for all our lives. I came out of that circumstance with a dim view of government, of whether anyone could have helped me.

Working in the DA's office in the Domestic Violence unit showed me that there are people who spend every day of their lives trying to protect and save people like me. It healed something in me that I didn't realize was broken. It gave me solace. It gave me hope. I believed that, in another time and place, someone might have helped me, could have helped me, if only the could have reached me.  VAWA helps people like the men and women I worked with reach people in need, people like I once was. I am eternally grateful to the wonderful men and women who do that work, and I pray every day for their continuing strength and their success.

VAWA is not a "boondoggle" or "feminist slush fund." It provides critical funding for services desperately needed by survivors. Please call, write, email, text, whatever works for you. Please, contact your Senators and ask them to support VAWA.

I am asking you, today, please, take five minutes of your time, and help those advocates, prosecutors, police officers, counselors, and survivors. Please. I implore you. Especially, if you feel your representative is against VAWA reauthorization and funding. Let them know you care about VAWA, you are watching their votes, and that you will take it into consideration the next time your current Senator is running for office. If your Senator is supporting VAWA, also please take the time to thank them. They need all the thanks they can get, and reassurance in this tense time that they are on the right track.

VAWA could go to the Senator floor for a vote as early as next week. Time is of the essence.  Please act now! You can find out more how to contact your Senators here.

You could be saving the life of someone like me.

Thank you.

FN1. Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders.

FN2. Violence Against Women Act, Wikipedia, [Viewed March 15 2012].

FN3. Sexual Assault Services Program (SAPS).

FN4. Safe Havens.

FN5. Enhanced Training and Services to End Violence and Abuse of Women Later in Life Program. This funding stream expressly states "individuals who are 50 years of age or older" and does not address sex or gender of the abused.

FN6. Education, Training and Enhanced Services to End Violence Against and Abuse of Women with Disabilities

FN7. "Let me put this on the table," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California. "This bill includes lesbians and gay men. The bill includes undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse. The bill gives Native American tribes authority to prosecute crimes. In my view these are improvements. Domestic violence is domestic violence." Ted Barrett, Accusations fly in Senate over Violence Against Women Act, [Viewed March 15 2012].

FN8. Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program.

FN9. Culturally and Linguistically Specific Services for Victims Program.

FN10. Grants to Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions, is only one of several VAWA grant funding streams.

FN11. "One of the provisions in the act would allow tribes to prosecute offenders who are not Native American or Alaska Native when their victims are and the violence happens on a reservation." Tribes seek support for VAWA act, The Jamestown Sun, [Viewed March 15 2012].

FN12. Clark, K. A, Biddle, A., & Martin, S. (2002). A cost-benefit analysis of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Violence Against Women, 8(4), 417-428.

FN13. Boba, R., & Lilley, D. (2008). Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) funding: A nationwide assessment of effects on rape and assault (No. NCJRS 225748). Violence Against Women, 15(2), 168-185.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I disappear in your name, but you must wait for me.

A little fiction, a birthday reflection, a giveaway, & a review of EnVoyage Perfumes Go Ask Alice

First: The Fiction

"It's tough being an Alice.

Being an Alice is about being something more. People think there's no magic in the naming of things, but those people are wrong. Plainly, dumbly wrong. Alice is more than a name. Being an Alice means something.

Some people call it a curse. Some people call it 'a touch of destiny.' Some think the name chooses you, because the universe can see the spark inside you. Some think it's the name that brings you to it, challenges you to greatness.

Me? I think asking that question is like asking what came first: the chicken or the egg? The darkness or the light? The music or the misery? 

There's no point in it. Am I an Alice because I rose to the occasion of the name, or was I christened Alice because, from the moment eyes fell on me, there was no denying that's what I was?

It doesn't matter. Either way, I am one of them. Another girl in the world, one of the strange motley army of Alices, each of us a destiny, a point of fiery potential energy burning against the bleak emptiness of time and space.

No, for me it's not so much a question being an Alice as much as it is, what kind? 

Even the plainest Alice isn't normal. She isn't average. She can't hide in the shadows or fly under the radar.  She's no wallflower or shrinking violet.  It's all there in the name. I say, you hear: Alice. Then world thinks what it wants of me: saint, sinner, madonna, whore. 

I'll never be just me. I'll always be an Alice, some extreme version of the self. The human imagination is obsessed with us, archetypically speaking. Drink me to be tall. Eat me to be small. Either way, I fall out of proportion, my dimensions at odds with the world around me.

Will I be a naive and inquisitive Alice, chasing rabbits? Will I singing songs with the mothering, mean, menacing flowers and be surprised by my own revolutionary acts? Will the powers of the world call for my seemingly none-too-bright head?

Alternately, there's psycho Alice, a more recently embraced archetype. Will I be blood-thirsty and wield kitchen cutlery like accessories, their blades agleam with the reflection of my wild eyes? Will I try be strong and fight against those that would abuse or harm me and, in turn, be thought of as callous, murderous, a fiend?

And still, there are more choices: 

  •  Alice, the innocent, respectable and strangely silent in her woodcuts? She faces the unknown with her hands clasped demurely behind her back, as though she cannot forego the social grace demanded of her station enough to prepare for what might come next? 
  • Alice, the increasingly lost sensualist, a strange girl led down a bad road by a confusing drug trip, an escapist lost too soon who is only trying to feed her own head? 
  • Alice, the Lolita, too big for her tiny girl clothes and the object of inappropriately-aged lust and affection? The kind that inspires her own mythology more because of the perceived effect she has on a man than who she is as a person?
  • Alice, the warrior, her hardness offset by the creature she holds, implying both protection and threat? Is she here to help the rabbit, or help herself to rabbit stew?
When you're an Alice, the world will tell you which roles you get to play. It doesn't matter that the only Alice you want to be is you. The name says everything. 

 So you tell me: who do I get to be today? You kidnapped me, stuck a bag over my head, dragged me here. Now you claim its just for an introduction, but you knew who I was when you came for me. You already knew everything there was to know.

After all,  you knew my name.

~ ~ ~

The Review: EnVoyage Perfumes Go Ask Alice EDP

First, to the perfume. Then to the ranting:

Go Ask Alice is a wonderful scent, particularly for the Spring days growing warmer here. If you like patchouli, I cannot imagine you won't like this scent. If you think you don't like patchouli (I didn't when I first got into perfume), I challenge you to try this one. I'm still a little on the shy side when it comes to the mean green patch, and consequently I sometimes weed out scents that list it as a strong note.  Go Ask Alice is a unusual take on patchouli and one that challenges (me, at least) to reconsider where a focus on patchouli might lead to scent love.  Go Ask Alice was also the first-place winner of the prestigious Martha’s Vineyard Islander’s Choice Award, so you can feel confident it's not just my nose that loves it!

Shelley Waddington, perfumer extraordinaire, describes Go Ask Alice as a "unisex oriental-amber."  Go Ask Alice "con-temporizes the theme of the 1967 Summer of Love, a time when young Americans protested the Vietnam War, sold flowers, smoked pot, and trailed clouds of patchouli, and raises it to the level of a classy, wearable, and versatile perfume.” 

It has top notes of California orange peel, bitter orange Caribe, bergamot from Calabria, Sri Lankan black pepper, and orange flower laced with fresh raspberry and strawberry; heart notes of patchouli leaf tincture, mimosa blossoms, and rose absolue; and base notes of vintage patchouli Sumatra, sandalwood deux, cocoa, vanille, tonka, labdanum Spain, balsam Peru France, and beach-washed ambergris.

What I like most about Go Ask Alice is that, thanks to the patchouli-centered event it was developed for, it isn't an overly sweet or spicy "oriental-amber." It smells of amber, sure, but it also manages to be fresh and green, mildly herbal, pretty and softly sweet. Though it is a unisex and could be worn well by anyone, I find it deeply feminine. Donna at Perfume-Smellin' Things called it "silky smooth" and I agree with that assessment. Moderate sillage, so it was work safe for me and go lasting strength (~6 hours.) You can get .5oz of the EDP for $45.00 or .25oz of the parfum for $65.00 direct from the perfumer.

The mood of the scent is intended to be one of "joyous adventure," and I can certainly say that Go Ask Alice makes me feel pretty damned happy when I smell it. And that's good, because it's been a tough, sad few weeks here at Camp Wienergard. FN1. Which brings me to Part 3 of this post....

~ ~ ~

The Ranting

Sometimes life has a way of kicking you in the teeth when you least expect it. Some days are great. The sun shines, the birds caw, you sit in the warmth, feel the soft grass and warm sand under your bare feet and you think, "Things are going to be okay."

Other days are not like that. Other days you recognize, with a chilling clarity, that there is a good chance this is all there may ever be, just varying degrees of this, sun up to sun down, until there isn't another day.

If you're lucky, that is. If you're not, then someone may slut shame you in the national press for talking about birth control as hormone therapy. Because in case you've been living under a rock in the last two weeks, then the word you are most likely to associate with Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke is "slut." Rush Limbaugh led the charge against Ms. Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute as he stated plainly that she merely wanted "you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex." Then he suggested Ms. Fluke could repay the debt by posting pornographic videos online.

Despite this intense harassment and shaming, Ms. Fluke says she'd do it again. She'd stand alone, the only woman allowed to testify before Congress on the issue of whether religious charities and schools should be required to provide insurance coverage for birth control pills along side things like Viagra, if only so a woman's voice could be heard in the tizzying din that is the discussion of our bodies.
“It can be overwhelming at times,” Ms. Fluke told TIME from Los Angeles, “but what I am trying to focus on is my main goal in the situation, and that is continuing to advocate on behalf of women affected by the contraception regulation and making sure that policy is implemented in a strong way.”
Sandra Fluke makes me feel proud to be a feminist, an activist, and a fellow law school survivor.  I fronted a statewide choice campaign while I was a 1L to beat back a parental notification bill here in Oregon (we won), and the reactions I received to my own abortion story being (literally) front page news pales wildly in comparison to the horrible crap being slung at Ms. Fluke.  She has my deepest respect and admiration.  She is, in my view, a kind of superhero.

How does this relate to Shelley's amazing perfume or the fictional monologue I started with?

I've been trying Go Ask Alice scent over and over in the last few weeks, and it is impossible to try the scent without thinking about the pop culture calls to its name.  There's the Jefferson Airplane song, "White Rabbit."  There's also the popular work of fiction (though initially presented as a real diary) Go Ask Alice.  Both are inspired by Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland, which has inspired other songs as well as film adaptations and video games.

As I was trying the scent, I kept trying to decide which of many representations of Alice it most reminded me. While I was wandering around, ruminating on the various and sundry Alices, people vying to be the leaders of my country were seriously debating whether or not women's contraception should be legal.  And, because I'm me, this all became intensely intertwined in my feminist brain.

When I think about the Alices, it is hard not to draw parallels between their fictional variations and the archetypes the world is most comfortable with for women.  The most recent Alice in Wonderland remake by Tim Burton tries very hard to create an Alice whom, by her nature, means to confound expectations.  She is wildly different from the original Alice of celluloid, whom Disney made a revolutionary by virtue of accident, not intent.  My personal favorite is American McGee's Alice from the incredibly dark video game, a girl so twisted by the dark things that have happened in her life she makes it all the way through a return to Wonderland only to find the evil she seeks to destroy is the darkness in herself.

Awesome and brave
reproductive rights protester
at the Virginia State capitol.

But despite all these Alices to choose from, I never really found one I could relate to the scent.  When I asked myself why, I realized it was because I loved Go Ask Alice enough that I wanted to wear it myself. And I am not a two-dimensional character. I am a real woman, flesh and blood. I'm not a protagonist.  I'm no heroine. I didn't want to associate the scent with one of the Fabled Alices because I feel the scent is some  wearable part of me, and that isn't a cultural archetype.  It's a real person.

And as a real person, lately I've just been overwhelmingly preoccupied by how you have to pretty much be a G-D superhero to be a woman in the world at all, even if you don't feel like one.  Just to take it - the threats, the smears, the snears, the violence that is both dangerously outright and insidiously implicit - and still feel any sense of self-worth or pride? It is a miracle.  Every day.

To be slut shamed for talking about reproductive rights and insurance coverage for BCP as though it is an important part of healthcare for over fifty-one percent of the world's population, and probably ought to be covered accordingly. To accept that your elected officials want doctors to be able to lie to you about birth defects in the fetus growing inside you.  That if you get pregnant when someone rapes you, you should just "make the best of a bad situation," and no, that doesn't mean terminating the pregnancy.

As Libba Bray succinctly put it today: "Seriously, ladies, we better get our shit together and mobilize. The war on women is not just a catch phrase." Or to quote the lovely and talented Beth Revis: "I am continuously boggled by how what I often perceive to be equal rights is labeled as radical feminism."

A War on Women is happening right now, and all I could think about was how we, like the Alices, are an army.  We won't be stopped.  We won't be silenced.  And we are going to take and maintain control of our bodies, ourselves, whether you like it or not.

The Drawing

So who wants to try some Go Ask Alice? In honor of my birthday, which is today, I'm giving a sample away because I had two and I'm ordering some, as well as a few other samples.  Winners will also receive: a couple of mixed CDs of music that helps me feel strong, an issue of Bitch Magazine, of which I am a proud member of the Board of Directors, maybe a feminist button, general feminist-y whatnot.

To enter:  post here by 12:01 AM PST, Friday March 16, 2012. Say anything you like.  Open to everyone, both domestic and international.

FN1. When my husband and I were planning to get married, Wienergard was the joint name highly recommended joint last name meld suggestion from my students at my old job. They even threatened to crash my reception wearing t-shirts that said, "Reconsider Wienergard." These would have been the follow-up to the first round of shirts that said, "I Heart My Wiener" with a photo of me on them. I still have one.

Recommended Viewing: Bad Romance (Suffragette Parody)

Both historical and pop cultural, a fantastic video, and a great reminder that your most powerful tools as a woman are your voice and your vote.

This November, and ever time you get the chance, stand up and be counted. 

Happy International Women's Day from Feminine Things!

UPDATE: Also, this post from Ann Friedman is pretty freaking Feministastic excellent, too!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I know you're late for your next parade.

My birthday is this week and I already got my first present, which was a Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini-Lip Duo from Sephora as part of my membership. Yes, I'm counting that. I love going and getting my free gift, and no, I don't care that it's a trap to get me into the store in the first place. You know what I say to that? "Pop, pop!" FN1.

I also bought myself the Caron sampler pack at Luckyscent, and a few other things I'll be telling you about soon. I'm thinking about getting one of the London Blooms LEs from Jo Malone, so I'll probably have something about those up this week.  I stopped at a counter last week and I can't stop thinking about the Peony & Moss one...

Yesterday at work one of my fellow cubemonkeys brought in a T-Pain mike which autotunes your voice for our boss to use during the staff meeting since she can't talk loud enough for everyone to hear. I don't know what was weirder: that he did it, or that she proceeded to use it. But I digress...

The tulip heads are struggling to emerge on the Hill, despite us having some ice and snow the last couple of days. For the last twelve years, I've known Spring was on the verge of arrival by watching for those tulip shoots. I don't know what I'll be watching this time next year, but I do have a list of scents I will be wearing into the hope of seasonal renewal.

Newly added to the list? Providence Perfumes Co. Hindu Honeysuckle is described as being "From India With Love... Revered for its lush aroma, honeysuckle symbolizes generosity and kindness. Notes of sweet Indian Jasmine Sambac meld with green vetivert, musk ambrette, rose and coriander. Crisp bergamot belies the sweetness of honeysuckle."

Hindu Honeysuckle is a terrific Spring scent. Not overly sweet, this is a nice rich floral scent. It's almost...lemony at the open on me, surprisingly light and cirtusy for the musk base. It's not at all creamy like some of the other honeysuckles I've tried and there is nothing foodie sweet about it. Instead it is reminds me of the feeling of playing on your back against the warm ground as crystalline sunlight falls through the tender leaves of newly budding trees across your face. What I like most is the tartness; it manages to be lemony floral without smelling like astringent or cleaner. I think for me what saves it is the heavy warmth of the musk. A truly fine warmer weather scent, somehow delicate and still strong. Sillage is low to moderate on me, and the longevity was fantastic! I could still smell it on my skin eight hours later.

Available direct from the perfumer, you can get 1oz (33 ml) for $115.00 or a 6ml travel atomizer for $26.00. Samples also available and recommended. 3.5 of 5 nods.

~ ~ ~

Another surprising spring scent? slumberhouse Sana. I was thinking of it just last weekend when I was driving around the Oregon Coast in the freezing rain and loving every minute of it.
If you’ve ever listened to Rachel’s “Selenography” while driving through the crushingly scenic roads that wind through the woods along the Oregon coast late at night you’ll have an idea of the things that inspired Sana. Absolutely gender neutral (though I like to imagine the right woman wearing this), Sana is an atmospheric perfume that revolves around a chord of tagetes syrup, fir balsam and suede. Behind this is an ethereal smattering of magnolia, thorns, honey, red raspberry leaf absolute and sweet birch.
The open smells strong of a medicinal sticky wood resin and dry pencil shavings.  There's something else almost peppery.  I didn't get an honey, really, but a lot of thorns and birch and a little bit of magnolia.  The red raspberry leaf, if you get any, should come in as this faint sweet highlight.  At least it did for me and only when I was mentally looking for it.  It is a strange and lovely scent, but not traditionally oceanic or beachy at all.  Keep that in mind when you try it.  Still, for me it reminds of the cold wet Spring of woods of coastal Oregon, which was strange and lovely. Low sillage on me, Sana wore close to the skin for 4-6 hours.  3 of 5 nods.

Sana is available here 30ml for $75.00. Samples also available.

What are you smelling for spring my lovelies? Has any warmth hit your climes yet? What do you think I should get for my birthday?

Thought I'd make friends with time.
Thought we'd be flying.
Maybe not this time.
Baker, baker, baking a cake.
Make me a day; make me whole again."
~ "Baker, Baker," Tori Amos

FN1. Is anyone else really excited Community returns to NBC on March 15?

Six seasons and a movie!