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May 10, 2006



Here's my answer to the feminism police.

I had my father's last name. I was born with it. I had no choice. I would rather choose the last name of my husband, a man I love, over a name from a man I don't respect. Of course I could choose my own new last name, but that feels hokey to me. This is the name I chose.

Also, I highly recommend checking out what the sex police at the CDC have been up to - it's on my blog today.

Q Grrl

ssppssssst: I'm pretty sure the "Dr. Igloo" is, in fact, not a feminist, but a troll, or a feminist employing sarcasm. No one who is a feminist says "feminist credentials" without an appropriate eye roll and exaggerated sigh.


Q Grrl, it's possible I'm touchy because I got tremendous flack when I announced that my wife had taken my last name after we were married last year.



That's a crappy answer.

Because a)it's not your father's name, it's *your* name. Men don't go around saying they have someone else's name, it's just their last name.

b) you can change your name at any point in your life to almost anything you want to. There is no reason at all to wait until you're married and then just happen to change it to your husband's name.

Anyway, Hugo, really?? Taking one comment and complaining about 'feminist police'? Are you bitter about something?

I would agree that there's no credible feminist defense of the practice of taking your husband's last name, but I don't see the leap from feminist/non-feminist decision to good/bad feminist.

Verbose Output

I don't see the leap from feminist/non-feminist decision to good/bad feminist.

How else is one supposed to interpret a comment which says taking her husband's name tarnishes her feminist street cred? She's can't be an authentic feminist if she's doing something as patriarchial as changing her name! Sounds like the feminism police to me.


Ooops, that last comment is me. I will resist the urge to make bad jokes about name changes now...


"Anyway, Hugo, really?? Taking one comment and complaining about 'feminist police'? Are you bitter about something?"

Though he hasn't always been kind to us MRAs, I can say that, yes, he has something to be bitter about, and that is how those to whom he is always nice use his kindness as a weapon against him (as he mentioned above with regard to his wife's taking his last name). I hope he's had enough and is willing to stick up for himself when apropos.


Tara -
a) Whether men go around saying they have someone else's name or not, they do. They have their father's names.

b) of course I could have changed my name at any point in my life to almost anything I wanted. I could have changed my name to Bettie Raincloud had I wanted. I *chose* my husband's name for multiple reasons including, I liked the sound of it and it is more ethnically identifiable than my father's.

c) I'm a lesbian, my husband is a gay man. My relationship is complicated and non-traditional and confuses the hell out of most people. Having the same last name whether my father's or his father's is a semantic identification of bonding that nothing else replaces.


It isn't a feminist choice, though. It doesn't someone not a feminist -- everyone makes non-feminist choices sometimes, we live in an imperfect world, we're all imperfect. A single non-feminist choice does not "tarnish feminist cred". It doesn't make it a wrong or bad choice. It's just not a feminist choice. Arguing that because it's a choice it's feminist is a really poor argument.

Q Grrl

If I thought the great institution of feminism would crumble under husband's last names, I'd have hung up my labrys long ago. :)


Okay, folks, I've made an error here -- the point was to discuss the blog and the pictures that Blaine put up, not her last name decision. It's a separate issue, and I'm at fault for raising it. But let's get back on track for this thread, and I'll blog soon about the name change issue (something I've done before and will do again) and we can discuss it there.


Thanks for the post, Hugo.
Your insights are powerful. Many of us need to be reminded to let our lives be the outpouring of our philosophies - we seem to live in a culture of people who suffer from multiple personalities, and, oh, the drama it causes! I applaud you, and Dr. Blaine, for choosing to live in a way which is consistant with what you teach others.

The Gonzman

And here I thought feminism was all about expanding choices (Be they names, flasing boobage, or what-have-you), and being puritanical was in policing such choices and deciding which ones were good and defensible, and which ones were not.

Or is it just the pejoritive term is used when the "other guy" does it, and "different" for us?


I think the most important point for me is the concept of "policing the body" which implies not only the "the public" have some sort of duty to monitor and censor the acts of women, particularly women of a percieved class (as class moderation of behavoir is as important, particularly when applied to women) but also the assumption that the collective public, if it were to have a gender, would be male. This is a male point of view, a male dilemma - whether you want to tie it to America's particularly twisted Christian tradition or simply the implication that women's bodies are commodities, and that views of them, belong to some male, somewhere, and thus need restricting.


I've got to say that I did get a little taken aback when I saw your photo with your naked upper body :) not because of the sight itself, but because you know your students frequent your site and just like you said once that you didn't want to have the scantily clad image of your 'kids' from the youth group in your mind, and hence withdrew from MySpace, I wouldn't have thought you'd want that image of you in their heads either. I know I'm dead careful to avoid dressing in a way that would show my body much and distract my students on the days that I'm teaching, and it made me more careful about wearing e.g. miniskirts when I'm in the parts of town where I may bump into them, even when I'm not teaching (I'm a very junior academic, so I haven't phased miniskirts out just yet :)). Perhaps that's an extreme, I just feel the need both to project a professional image, and to protect them from the image of me as a sexual being being thrust upon them (my normal attitude is that people should deal with it, but with my students I feel the responsibility to avoid putting them into that situation!).
There's the big question of how to mix private and public life... I have photos on my Flickr page from some modelling that I have done, which are fairly revealing, but I've set them all on 'private'-'accessible to friends only' to avoid others stumbling across them.

All this not to criticise you for putting up your photo, or to contest that the attacks on Diana Blaine were not likely to be motivated by the concerns you list; but to say that there is a separate question here about how it is appropriate for a teacher to present themselves in fora that are likely to be accessed by their students, and I think that this question applies to men and women equally.
But call me an overanxious freak if you like:)


yes, another thread about the Great Name Debate could end up being your mosted commented upon...everyone's got a story and an opinion on that one.

i wonder about the circumstances of her students finding her blog (i admittedly haven't clicked through the links yet, so maybe it's answered there)...does she give it out freely to students? did they hunt it out? not that it makes a huge difference, but i just get curious.

i don't necessarily align myself with the general tenets of sex positive feminists (though as i well know, the term means different things to different people), but i'm happy to see how Blaine uses this whole uproar to foster a dialogue about broader issues, and is making an attempt not to let the whole thing get mired in "teacher! tits! shock! horror!" mode.


"mosted commented upon"? gosh, i need some caffeine.


"mosted commented upon"? gosh, i need some caffeine.


Anna, context is everything. If I put up a picture of myself posing shirtless around the house, that would be one thing.

But I am a runner, and I generally run shirtless -- like a great many other male runners in temperate climates. My photos illustrate my life, and I run so rarely with a shirt on that it would be nigh on impossible to get a good picture of it happening. If I played football, I'd put up pics of me in a helmet. Shirtlessness is a runner's uniform round these parts.

I run shirtless around the Rose Bowl -- where I frequently run into current and former students. I would never be shirtless in the classroom, but I'm not going to be uncomfortable while working out merely out of fear of my students or youth group kids catching a glimpse of my very pale torso!

My blog, like Diana Blaine's blog, is not required reading for my students. But I will not present a false image of myself in order to keep my students in the dark about how I live (or work out.) If they have trouble taking me seriously (or Blaine seriously) after seeing our chests exposed, then that's a great teaching moment -- we get to ask why we must be concealed i order to be taken seriously?


Hugo, I could remark on your bare chest if you'd like then both UCLA PhD's could claim to have remarkable chests . . .

In a more serious vein, male and female bodies are treated very differently in our society. “He” is almost non-sexual, “she” is nothing but sex.

Displays of the male body (i.e. Hugo's topless photos) are perceived as functional not sexual or erotic; in our society the perception is "Oh, he was too warm so he took his shirt off." Hence, Hugo’s shirtless photos on this site are perceived very differently by most persons simply because of gender. The male form is not eroticized or fetishized as is the female form. Even among gay men, the variety of fetishes seems relatively limited to constructs of various “ideal” male bodies and images. Male fetishization of the female comes in a wide variety of constructs about behavior, function and ideal. The discomfort with a woman showing her breasts arises from the belief that no woman would show her body without a sexual agenda.

A woman is viewed as being explicitly sexual if she takes her shirt off, often even if she’s wearing a bra underneath. It is becoming more acceptable in our society for women to wear sports bras in certain public settings – much the same spaces in which it is acceptable for men to be shirtless, but generally speaking, a woman in her bra or topless is perceived as sexual not functional. These are outdated notions of female sexuality which in essence hold that men are powerless in the face of female sexuality.

By contrast, shirtless Hugo is perceived as primarily sexual within settings such as gay bars where the male form is objectified and sexualized, where men are cruising other men for sex. Within a gay bar, a shirtless Hugo would be an object of sexual desire for other men and therefore his shirtless state would be perceived as a sexual invitation – a deliberate display of his body to attract sexual attention. The implications about female sexuality are interesting – a female who displays her body is understood to be inviting sexual attention, to be asking for sexual attention. But our society is deeply uncomfortable with female sexual desire. The (admittedly minimal) discussion I heard about the Duke rape case suggests to me the idea that the stripped in that case displayed her body and was therefore making a sexual invitation and was therefore accountable if others “took her up” on that invitation. The desire was to exonerate “good boys” for rape, to suggest that the victim is “bad woman.” If men are largely nonsexual and women entirely sexual, then all sexuality is the responsibility of women. Women are held accountable in ways men never would be for display of their bodies.

Our society remains unsure about identifying the male body as a sex object. Much of the discomfort around gay male sexuality is the perception of the male body as sexually desirable. I could be rude and suggest that many of the men who promulgate such attitudes have bodies no one would desire and so they’re jealous (Has anyone seen Jerry Falwell lately? Puh-leeze!). Even Hugo, who is very self aware, seems to be resisting the idea that being seen shirtless could be an invitation of a sexual nature. The suggestion that a man would and could be sexually inviting is outside our normal discourse about sexuality.

The idea that a man could be sexually desirable is very controlled in our society. I believe the wild abandon by women at male strip shows makes sense when seen that light – there is only one forum for open and honest expression of such desire. The screaming and shouting and wildness comes because there is only one safety valve for releasing female in a socially acceptable way.


Strangely, I have seen little mention in blogs or comments that the boobs are on display with reference to the paintings of nude women that occupy the walls of the house where she's staying. (The TV station cropped the equally boob-filled picture out, showing just topless Diana.) The painting in question may even be a reference to Manet's Olympia, itself a very pointed, critical intervention in the art-historical practice of subjecting female models to the male gaze. So it's strange to see this blogfest about "professor's nudie pics" when she seems to be making an eminently legible visual remark that fits into a long tradition of questioning the role of female nudity is visual culture. Anybody with me?


Glen, I hadn't thought about it, but reading your comment reminds me that in my response to Anna, I was insisting that my body was being displayed in a purely functional manner -- the body of the tired athlete. If I'm honest about my motives, I can say with certainty that I don't intend to arouse sexual desire, but I do want to represent something valuable, which is the very real benefits of working out. I've worked hard to be fit, and among other things, the photos validate that effort.

In my teaching, I want to avoid being an object of desire. I want to arouse passion, yes -- but for the subject I am teaching and the ideas I want to convey. Do I want approval? OF course. Do I want to arouse sexual desire? Absolutely not, but largely for reasons of faith. (As well as my commitment to my marriage.) As a Christian, I'm anxious not to "cause others to stumble." If I were to be convinced that lots of folks were struggling with lust as a result of what I wore (or my running pictures) I would rethink my decisions, my wardrobe, and my photos.

But I get to claim my body as functional rather than sexual in a way that women don't -- you're absolutely right about that.

W Shore, you're right -- Diana hints at herself when she captions the photo (NWS) "I'm competing with the picture."


In the lobby of the law library at school there's a stylized painting of a nude woman. I guess it's different and more controversial when they expect you to *listen* to them too!


w.shore, that's an interesting point. i'm not sure how much of a stretch an olympia reference in particular might be here, but she's definitely referencing that fraught tradition of the female nude in art. it seems very tongue in cheek, which is great, because i think there's a danger of any woman posing for topless photos starting to take herself too seriously!

(oh, and i really didn't click the 'post' button twice on my last comment. really! i swear! freaking typepad...)

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Well, the topless photos themselves (as displayed at MSNBC with enough fuzziness added that you can't really see the breasts) don't look as if she's taking herself too seriously. They look more as if she was having fun with the camera.

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