The average romance-novel hero hasn’t changed much since the genre’s development in the late 19th century—he’s dashing, arrogant, commanding, hopefully rich, possibly even a prince. But is he an Arab? More and more commonly, the answer is yes.
The rising visibility of trans, intersex, and genderqueer movements has led feminists—and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world—to an increasing awareness that m and f are only the beginning of the story of gender identity. With the release of Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Julia Serano offers a perspective sorely needed, but up until now rarely heard: a transfeminine critique of both feminist and mainstream understandings of gender.
At the turn of the millennium, Bridget Jones and the Sex and the City girls heralded a new era of fun, fearless singledom. Chick lit, accompanied by memoirs and anthologies about single womanhood, made it whimsical for an otherwise-capable woman to be vain, proud of her missteps and mistakes, and heartbroken over her inability to find a man. Now, what happens in the next chapter after Ms. Adorably Quirky has found Mr. Right? She manifests new neuroses and fears as she enters the brave new world of motherhood.
There’s a new Bat in Gotham City. Like Bruce Wayne, she’s a rich socialite by day and a black-clad vigilante at night. And, also like Bruce Wayne, in both incarnations she’s apt to sweep the ladies off their feet. Kate Kane, the new, revamped Batwoman, isn’t the first lesbian character to debut in the DC Comics universe, but she might have the highest profile. Last June, DC Executive Director Dan DiDio issued a press release saying the move was intended “to get a better cross-section of our readership and the world.”
You can’t turn on the television or flip open a magazine these days without encountering an image of a star promoting his or her latest cause célèbre: Oprah handing out makeup kits at a women’s hospital in Ethiopia; Angelina Jolie visiting refugee camps (alone or with Brad Pitt); George Clooney zipping around in his tiny electric car and making speeches about Darfur; Jay-Z and Kofi Annan holding a press conference about global water issues; Madonna performing concerts against a backdrop image of aids orphans—and, more recently, bringing a motherless Malawian boy home with her after making a large donation to his orphanage.
One of the last places I expected to hear an engaging antiracist and feminist critique of the fashion industry was on The Tyra Banks Show. But on a January 2006 episode, there was Banks, sitting couch-to-couch with supposed archnemesis and fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell, discussing the forces that years ago had pitted the two women against each other on the assumption that America had room for only one black top model.
“Bind me as tight as you can, girls, with the biggest ropes and chains you can find!” The woman is smiling in ecstasy, plastered against a large wooden beam, ropes and chains taut against her body, as she begs her captors, a group of jubilant, scantily clad young women, to pull her shackles just a little bit tighter. The girls taunt their captive: “We are, Princess, even you can’t escape these bonds!”
What you think about Fuck for Forest, a Berlin-based website that lets subscribers watch videos of environmental activists doing the nasty, depends in part on what you think about porn as a whole. If you think it’s liberating, empowering, and fun for the folks involved, then you can feel good about supporting an organization that channels its massive earning potential toward worthy antideforestation efforts—unlike regular internet porn, the dollars you spend aren’t paying for the gold plating on some smarmy webmaster’s hot tub.
“Obesity,” declares Charlotte Cooper, author of 1998’s Fat and Proud: The Politics of Size, “is just a word used by people to medicalize fat.” Extra weight, once considered a genetic short straw, is increasingly characterized as a crisis threatening the physical, political, and moral health of our nation—even as large bodies are becoming increasingly visible in popular culture.
It’s a natural, normal part of life. But people hesitate to talk openly about their needs, their desires, and their concerns because they are so fearful of what others might think. But we all have urges, and we all have questions, and the more we can talk about them, the happier and more fulfilled we all will be. It should be a joyful, tender, and esteem-building part of life, not a source of confusion or shame. Yet it’s hard to get a handle on it, because although there’s a lot of information out there, much of it is judgmental, misinformed, or quite simply false.