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I humbly hope that our attractiveness performs a subversive function. First of all, because without “us” in balaclavas, jumping all over Red Square with guitars, there is no “us” smiling sweetly in the courtroom. You can’t get the latter without the former. Second, because this attractiveness destroys the idiotic stereotype, still extant in Russia, that a feminist is an ugly-ass frustrated harridan. This stereotype is so puke-making that I will deign to be sweet for a little bit in order to destroy it. Though every time I open my mouth, the sweetness goes out the window anyway.

Nadya Tolokonnikova, in response to the question, “Does it bug you as feminists that your global popularity is at least partly based on the fact that you turned out to be, well, easy on the eyes?” (bolding added)

I got a needed smile in the midst of an otherwise somber reflection of how prison has been for Tolokonnikova, Masha Alyokhina, and Katya Samutsevich as they serve their sentence.

To be doing feminist work everyday, to live like a feminist, you have to take women’s lives seriously. It doesn’t mean that you have to think that every woman is an angel or every woman is politically astute — that is not what feminists believe. They believe that you have got to take all kinds of women seriously or you’ll never understand women’s relationships to men, men’s relationships to each other, or men’s relationships to different forms of activism and to governments. Taking women seriously is hard to do because it means you have to listen to women whom most people don’t think of as experts or don’t think of as politically aware, including women who seem to be very domestically confined. That’s been the biggest revelation to me in becoming a feminist — to take all kinds of women seriously so I can understand the world better.

Cynthia Enloe, defining feminism (bolding added)

Take women’s lives seriously: it is simultaneously that simple and that complicated to be a feminist.

In today’s edition of thisistruebutsoisthat, I wrestle with the ‘biological clock’ in women and men.

In describing her new novel, the brilliant Zadie Smith comments on how changes in women’s bodies puts them in closer touch with their mortality, in comparison to men:

I think it’s an enormous power and advantage women have, this understanding of time and mortality. It’s only a shame that we often do everything we can to abandon or deny this natural advantage. I always think of the menopause: what a gift it is to women to have, in their own bodies, this piece of time-keeping which allows them to fully understand, in their bodies, that death is coming. They’re not very good managers of time, men. Men don’t have that – you see so many men heading towards their deaths in utter shock and incomprehension because right until the final moments they thought they were going to be given some kind of reprieve. Or all those powerful men who make terrible fools of themselves in old age with girls a quarter of their age . . . They’re not very good managers of time, men. So it’s an odd thing that in my generation this female advantage has been so submerged. The menopause never spoken of among young women, hidden like a curse. Everybody trying to look and be twenty-eight forever…

Fantastic insight, speaking to the interesting cycles in women’s bodies and how they operate as timekeepers for our lives.

But then a couple of weeks ago I also read that, contrary to popular belief, men also have a fertility drop off in their 30s:

Biologically, both women and men are at ideal baby-making age years before completing a liberal arts degree, before the post-graduate malaise sets in, before they ease into staff designer or assistant editor or bartending jobs, before they select photos for their OkCupid profiles, before they register at Crate & Barrel, before they choose a broker. For men, too, the fertility drop-off begins at age 30 and accelerates at age 35. Now that thirtysomethings are the new twentysomethings and it has become an urban rule of thumb that most dudes aren’t going to opt for Park Slope parenthood much before 40, it’s time to stop associating fertility problems with just high-achieving women and dirty old men.

–Ann Friedman, “The Male Biological Clock

Not sure how to reconcile those two ideas, except that it seems that today we’re all running from death. And also, that our generation has so much to sort out whenever we ‘grow up’…

Our results provide new insights about human behavior in life-and-death situations. By investigating a new and much larger sample of maritime disasters than has previously been done, we show that women have a substantially lower survival rate than men. That women fare worse than men has been documented also for natural disasters (Frankenberg et al., 2011; Ikeda, 1995; MacDonald, 2005; Neumayer and Plümper, 2007; Oxfam International, 2005). We also find that crew members have a higher survival rate than passengers and that only 7 out of 16 captains went down with their ship. Children appear to have the lowest survival rate. Moreover, we shed light on some common perceptions of how situational and cultural conditions affect the survival of women. Most notably, we find that it seems as if it is the policy of the captain, rather than the moral sentiments of men, that determines if women are given preferential treatment in shipwrecks. This suggests an important role for leaders in disasters. Preferences of leaders seem to have affected survival patterns also in the evacuations of civilians during the Balkan Wars (Carpenter, 2003). Moreover, we find that the gender gap in survival rates has decreased since WWI. This supports previous findings that higher status of women in society improves their relative survival rates in disasters (Neumayer and Plümper, 2007). We also show that women fare worse, rather than better, in maritime disasters involving British ships. This contrasts with the notion of British men being more gallant than men of other nationalities. Finally, in contrast to previous studies, we find no association between duration of the disaster and the influence of social norms. Based on our analysis, it becomes evident that the sinking of the Titanic was exceptional in many ways and that what happened on the Titanic seems to have spurred misconceptions about human behavior in disasters.

–Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson, “Every man for himself: Gender, Norms and Survival in Maritime Disasters,” p. 8 (bolding mine)

I would be really interested to see some analysis on how these findings complement Cynthia Enloe’s notion of ‘womenandchildren’, who are often perceived as inherent victims in conflict and disaster situations.

Also, there are definitely some connections here to other work that details how leadership and norms set by group leaders (e.g. captains) are more powerful in determining group behaviours than moral sentiments of group members. Slightly tangential, but I’m specifically thinking of Elizabeth Wood’s chapter, “Rape during War Is Not Inevitable: Variation in Wartime Sexual Violence“, which I keep meaning to post about because it is really brilliant analysis. Basically, Wood also argues that internal dynamics in armed groups are linked to immense variation in the use and absence of sexual violence in various conflicts.

Another post on Wood’s work later, but for now, the take away is that captain policy was way more important than (British) chivalry in determining if women survived a shipwreck.

And also, maybe British men may not be more gallant than men from other countries. Sorry, blokes.

Reason 1:

… Nicki Minaj is a curious case. At the onset of her career, she had it all – the body, the lyrics, the co-sign – but she instead predicated her image on eccentricities: alter egos, accents, rhymes about being an alien. It’s that embrace of the bizarre that made her such a captivating figure and pushed her into pop territory, where weird is welcome. Regardless of how her music has evolved, she came from a place that took a tired template and mutated it, taking chances rarely seen across the gender divide.

–Steven Horowitz, The Nicki Effect: The Return of the Female Rap Movement (bolded for emphasis)

Reason 2:

Me?  Minaj hurts my head.  She perplexes me.  I think of her as Trickster, two-faced in her betrayal of global black feminist possibility and powerful in her contradictory elucidation of black woman’s power within the realms of celebrity and hip hop.  

...But I’d argue we’ve never seen anything like Nicki Minaj–or at least nothing like Minaj and her alters.  What she represents, yes even in all of her problematics and misogyny, what she represents is a black gyrl who has chosen.  She knows she can’t walk out the house without falling into one of several boxes.  Which is fine by her because she has a walk-in closet full of handcrafted masks, carved, of course, in the raw material caking the bottom of our worst stereotypes (let’s not be wasteful, yall).  And she has decorated and bedazzled and glitter-taped them all and those masks are no longer theirs or yours but her own.  And she doesn’t walk out of the house; oh no.  She skips or saunters or “twerks and spins away” according to whichever personality she has decided to put on her head.

–Kismet Nuñez, “Scrying Nicki Minaj, Stupid Hoe, and #Afrofutures” (bolded for emphasis)

And reason 3:

“…It’s like, I can’t be all those things at once. I’m a human beinnnnnnnnnnng.” (2:18)

[Plus bonus reason 4: God, I love her with pink hair.]

Do your thing, girl.