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Katha Pollitt | The Nation

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Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt

Politics, feminism, culture, books and daily life.

V-Day or P-Day?

Today is Valentine's Day, which on campus means V-Day--over 1,000 productions of The Vagina Monologues will be taking place across the nation to raise funds for battered women's shelters and other projects that fight violence against women. V-Day is popular and successful and feminist--it's even been produced in some Catholic colleges. So naturally the ladies over at the Independent Women's Forum hate it. Every year they go on a tear about how The Vagina Monologues is ruining romance and sending Cupid packing. "V-Day is not celebrated with flowers or chocolates," grouses IWF Director of Policy Carrie L. Lukas. "Young men do not pay graceful tribute to young ladies on V-Day."

What, no chocolate? This sounds serious! Something tells me the folks at Godiva and Hallmark aren't too worried.

For the IWF, feminists just can't get it right: when they're not ruining romance by being puritanical killjoys, they ruin it by being raunchy and gynecological. But V-day isn't the only organization with big plans for Valentine's Day. There's also the conservative Christian Liberty Counsel, which is promoting February 14th as an annual Day of Purity, "when this nation's youth can make a public demonstration of their commitment to remain sexually pure, in mind and actions." You can order Live Pure t-shirts and wristbands, just to let the whole world know you are not, not, not thinking about sex. One question: The website urges young people to see abstinence before marriage as "countercultural"--but, um, how does that fit with the official proclamation of the Day of Purity by the Governor of Ohio? Is he some kind of hippie sex hermit?

(For more on P-day, go to feministing.com)

Band of Brothers--Brother!

Following up on Ari's post about the Band of Brothers, those military veterans running for Congress as Democrats.

The theory is that as former soldiers they will be immunized against Republican charges that Dems are unpatriotic girly-men who are "soft on defense." (As "Mask" points out in the comments section of Ari's post, running as a vet worked so well for Max Cleland and John Kerry!)

One thing the Band of Brothers strategy will do if it succeeds is to help keep Congress white and male. Of the 56 candidates currently marching under the brotherly battle flag, only three are women. (One of the three, Mishonda Baldwin, is also the only African-American).

So I guess the Dems are giving up on that whole gender-gap equality thing. Remember when Patty Murray ran for Senate as a "mom in tennis shoes"? A mother had better wear combat boots if she hopes to attract the attention of the DNC today!

Do we really want to promote the idea that military service is some kind of necessary item on apolitical resume? That personal machismo is a qualification for office? The BOB strikes me as a gimmick, if not an outright pander to militarism and sexism--time for the daddies to retake the mommy party! Chaaarge! And yet more proof, ladies, that the Dems are writing you off.

About that Ban on Drawing Muhammad...

Most comments about the Danish cartoons of Muhammad assert that Muslims believe it is completely taboo to depict him, period. But is the ban on depicting the prophet really so severe? At Zombietimeyou can view dozens of images of the prophet, including some from the Muslim world: medieval Persian miniatures; a portrait of Muhammad as ayouth by the contemporary Iranian woman painter Oranous (okay byShi'ites because he wasn't the prophet yet); posters being sold in Iraqright now.

From the Middle Ages on, Muhammad has appeared in Western art not in frequently--in drawings, paintings, book illustrations, comics, advertisements, and on the covers of books and magazines, including arecent issue of Le Nouvel Observateur.

Muhammad has been portrayed by the cartoonist Doug Marlette and has appeared on South Park. And get this: Muhammad appears on the North Frieze in the courtroom of our very own Supreme Court! He's the man withthe scimitar, between Justinian and Charlemagne.

Some of this art is respectful; some fanciful and playful; some satirical or even crude and vicious. Only once, however, has any of it seemed to bother believers: in 2002 police uncovered a jihadist plan to blow up the church of San Petronio in Bologna, site of a fresco by Giovanni da Modena showing Muhammad being tortured in Hell (this scene,from Dante's Inferno, was also depicted by Gustav Dore, William Blake,Auguste Rodin and Salvador Dali).

I don't know where exactly this clarification takes us. Maybe I'm just irked by lazy pundits who talk about the global uproar as if everyoneshould have known this is what happens when you draw Muhammad: Naturally, believers would go round the bend!

But wait, a solution may be at hand to this whole clash of civilizationsthing. Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly which reprinted the Muhammad-mocking Danish cartoons, says it will publish cartoons satirizing the Holocaust. I guess they didn't want to be upstaged by Iran, where President Ahmadinejad an announced a a contest for Holocaust-mocking cartoons. (This is an advance on his previous position, which was to deny the Holocaust occurred. Now, it happened, but it's funny.). At last Muslim fundamentalists and free-speech-loving Europeans have found common ground: Anti-semitism!

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